When VR first hit the stage, trying it for yourself was daunting. The computing requirements were high and the costs were even higher. Today, both of those things are more within reach than ever and we at MMORPG.com believe that there are experiences you should be having. Thankfully, Acer is here to help with their entry on the brand new Windows Mixed Reality platform. Coming in at only $249.90 on Amazon as of this writing, it makes for one heck of a way to dive into virtual reality for the first time.
- MSRP: $399.99 ($245.90 on Amazon as of this writing)
- Synchronization Method: Bluetooth
- Minimum Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
- Maximum Refresh Rate: 90 Hz
- Gyro Sensor
- Proximity Sensor
- Field of View: 100-degrees
- Maximum Interpupillary Distance: 2.48"
- Number of Displays: 2
- Display Screen Size: 2.89"
- Maximum Resolution: 2880 x 1440
- Pixel Density: 706 ppi
- Batteries Required: Yes, (2) AA
- Height: 2.9"
- Width: 7.7"
- Depth: 4.3"
- Weight (Approximate): 1.87 lb
- Interfaces/Ports: Audio Line Out, HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0
- Visible Light Constellation LED 6DOF Tracking within HMD Camera
- FOV Sensor
- IMU + Magnetic Sensor
- Haptic Feedback
- Thumb Stick with Mechanical Select
- Touch Pad with Mechanical Select
- Analog Trigger Button
- Grap Button
- Windows Button
- Menu Button
- Operating System Compatibility: Windows 10 Creators Update
Gamers considering VR for the first time have more options than ever. It can be confusing to figure out which model is “best” for our particular needs. The two biggest factors, at least for most of us, are cost and whether our system has enough horsepower to run the headsets at full steam. The second factor is far less of a concern than it used to be, with the Acer Mixed Reality headset even offering support for much lower specced systems. The bigger concern, then, is cost and, if you’ve been on the fence, now is the time to buy.
At the time of this writing, the MSRP on the headset is still $399.99, though Amazon has it on sale for just over $249. For what it offers, that price is an absolute steal. Don’t let the “Mixed Reality” monicker fool you, though that functionality might be there in the future, right now Acer is offering one of the best value virtual reality headsets on the market, full stop. If you’ve been on the fence due to cost, it’s time to hop down because VR isn’t likely to come any more affordably than it is right now - and that’s half the price of a new Xbox One X.
Taking the headset out of the box, the first thing I noticed is how compact it is. The headset makes good use of plastic, which feels a bit cheaper at the outset but is functionally better than the Vive (I can’t speak for the Oculus, though our review of that is coming soon). Since the headset is so lightweight, it doesn’t slip down your face like the Vive does, especially in more intense games like Superhot VR. Over time, this also makes Acer’s HMD more comfortable to wear.
The other big difference is that the headset doesn’t make use of base stations like the Oculus or Vive do. This is because the device uses Inside-Out tracking instead of the Outside-In method we’ve become so used to. On either corner of the headset sits a sensor array with active cameras to monitor the room around you. This works remarkably well and even allows you to take part in full room-scale experiences.
One of the biggest hurdles to VR is simply the time it takes to setup and get situated. By the time everything is plugged in and synced, a good 15 minutes can go by. As an apartment dweller, I also don’t have the luxury of being able to mount base stations to my walls, which means screwing them onto tripods before I can even begin tracing my play space. With the Acer’s headset, the cumbersome build-up/teardown process is a thing of the past.
The AH101 is also SteamVR compatible, which opens you up to the wider Steam library on top of the growing Windows storefront. Most games I tried worked fine, but some have quirks left to be worked out - it is a different approach to VR, after all, but the library is already expansive and growing all the time. The headset is also compatible with Revive, which opens it up to the Oculus storefront too.
The minimum system requirements are modest, requiring only a 7th-gen Intel Core i5 on laptops/6th-gen i5 on desktops and an Nvidia GTX 965M/AMD RX 460 on desktops and 8GB of RAM. These specs will run the system in standard mode, which is natively 60Hz. If you have some extra horsepower, the headset will kick into Ultra mode, running at a full 90Hz with crisper visuals. Our system is well beyond the requirements for Ultra, so I didn’t get to experience VR at 60Hz. This refresh rate has a higher likelihood to cause motion sickness in those extra sensitive, however, so be aware that quick motions might make you queasy below Ultra.
Since the AH101 is newer tech than the Vive or Rift, it benefits from having a naturally higher resolution screen. Those headsets have native resolutions of 1080x1200 per eye. Acer’s WMR, however, runs at a native 1400x1400, which has noticeably less “screen door” effect when looking at still objects. Considering the price differential, the resolution boost is excellent.
The image is crisp and looks good, but uses a less costly LCD panel versus the competitor’s OLED. This does result in slightly less definition and a little more motion blur. That said, having used the Vive for the better part of a year, I didn’t find it to be dramatically different primarily because of the resolution boost. And if you’ve ever spent time looking at still objects on VR, you’ll find the tradeoff worthwhile.
Playing games with the AH101 is remarkably good. Simply removing the mental hurdle of all that setup and teardown inherently makes VR more appealing, which is a huge win for Acer and Mixed Reality in general. But, even without that benefit, I found the tracking, both on the headset and the controllers, to be quite good. The controllers feel good in the hand and they do a good job of standing in for objects you’re holding in the game. From time to time, they do lose themselves and take a second to snap back to responsiveness, but the same is true of the Vive’s much more expensive controllers, so I find it hard to be critical here.
One area that is slightly more troubled is interacting with objects in game. Since the headset doesn’t use base stations, you tend to have to look more directly at objects you’re grasping for to make sure the sensors keep track of your movement. It’s a minor issue overall and one you get used to almost immediately.
The most curious aspect, though, is that the headset really isn’t mixed reality at all and that’s true of all of the “mixed reality” headsets right now. Microsoft has spoke to functionality that may come in the future, and with the two front sensors it’s an exciting prospect. Right now, however, these “mixed reality” headsets are simply VR headset by another name.
I’ve found myself quite impressed with the Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset. For the price, it makes for a great way to experience VR for the first time. It’s responsive and comfortable, and thanks to the compatibility with SteamVR and Revive, has a large library of content ready and waiting for new users. What’s more, the experience you can have isn’t significantly different from its much more expensive cousins over at Oculus and HTC.
The biggest success for me personally is that it’s simply easier to get up and running and into a game. In 10 minutes, you’re online and ready to go - less if you leave it plugged in. By removing that barrier, I’ll definitely be spending more of my free time in VR.
- Cheap - more than $150 less expensive than an Oculus
- Higher resolution than either Oculus or Vive
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Easier setup means easier gameplay
- Few sacrifices compared to dedicated “VR” headsets
- Potential for Mixed Reality in the future
- LCD instead of OLED screen
- 60Hz in standard may be difficult for some users
The product discussed in this article was provided by Acer for the purposes of review.