Virtual reality is still in its infancy but over the past couple of years, it has rapidly been increasing in popularity and the technology used in headsets. When Microsoft announced Windows Mixed Reality along with headsets, they are essentially paving the way to bring virtual reality headsets to the masses.

Especially since Windows Mixed Reality doesn’t require as powerful of a PC as say an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. I’ve been using HP’s Windows Mixed Reality headset for the past couple of weeks and it’s easily one of the best headsets out there for Windows Mixed Reality.

I tested the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset with the Asus ROG Strix Scar Edition which has a 7th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1060 and the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (which is required to use Windows Mixed Reality).

Design & Hardware

The HP Windows Mixed Reality headset had a plastic build but one that doesn’t feel cheap. The display in the headset is 1440×1440 with a 90Hz refresh rate.

When wearing the headset, the display can be flipped-up, since it’s front-hinged. The headset has a double-padded headband which made it very comfortable to wear, especially for long periods of time. To help adjust the fit, there’s an easy adjustment knob on the back of the headband.

The HP Windows Mixed Reality headset has integrated motion tracking which is powered by Intel RealSense technology with inside-out 6-degrees of freedom positional tracking. That means that there is no need for external sensors like you have with the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. This is probably the best part of the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset, since you won’t need a huge play area and have to worry about sensors. The front of the headset is where the cameras are housed.

To hook up the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset to your PC, it uses an HDMI and USB 3.0 cable. There’s also a quick release cable, so there’s no need to worry about tripping over the cable and there’s only on cable plugging into the headset and splits into an HDMI and USB cable to connect to your PC.

The cable connecting the headset to your PC is a good length but there were one or two occasions where I got slightly tangled in it.

The HP Windows Mixed Reality headset, as well as other Windows Mixed Reality headsets, comes motion controllers, they look like akin to the Oculus Touch controllers, and they connect via Bluetooth to your PC. One thing to note is that when I used the HP motion controllers with the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset, I found that the wrist straps would tend to get loose when in use, so just be wary of that.

Each motion controller has a clickable touchpad, Windows button, Menu button, Triggers and an analog sticks. The controllers use two AA batteries each.

One issue I did find with the headset is that the visor chamber can sometimes get steamed up, making it a bit harder to see, especially since I wear glasses with the headset on. Other than that, the headset did fit fine with glasses, although there were a few times that I couldn’t get the headset to properly around my eyes and glasses.

While the 7th Gen Intel Core i7 in the Asus ROG Strix Scar Edition could easily run Windows Mixed Reality, Intel’s 8th Gen Core processors can offer a more premium performance.

To be able to use Windows Mixed Reality, you’ll need a 7th Gen Intel Core i5 processor and later, 8GB of RAM, 10GB of hard drive space, USB 3.0 port, HDMI, Bluetooth 4.0 and an Intel HD Graphics 620 or newer. There is also something called Windows Mixed Reality Ultra which can offer better performance and 100-degrees field of view, compared to 90-degrees for standard Windows Mixed Reality.

For Windows Mixed Reality Ultra, you’ll need a 7th Gen Intel i5 or an AMD FX-4350 and later, Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU or AMD RX 460 and later. The Asus ROG Strix Scar Edition was easily able to run Windows Mixed Reality Ultra since it has a 7th Gen Intel i7 and an Nvidia 1060.

One advantage to Windows Mixed Reality is that each of the headsets are cross-compatible, meaning you don’t need to use an HP PC with HP’s headset. Like I mentioned earlier, I was using the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset with Asus laptop. Most headsets have similar specs but where they differentiate is display resolutions, build material and built-in headphones etc.

The HP Windows Mixed Reality headset is available now from the Microsoft Store, BestBuy.ca and HP’s website for $599 CAD.

Software

When you first step into Windows Mixed Reality, you’ll be greeted with a little setup process to get your gear calibrated. Then you’ll be put into a Cliff House, which will be your hub while in Windows Mixed Reality.

To get around your virtual home, you use the joystick on your motion controller and you’ll teleport around. You can customize your hub with either shortcuts to apps or with objects like globes or penguins.

As for games and apps, there is a good selection available for Windows Mixed Reality. You can also run SteamVR games on your Windows Mixed Reality. I tested out a few games, including:

  • Skyworld, which is a tower defense game and is a lot of fun to play
  • Fantastic Contraption, which is a puzzle game that has you creating contraptions
  • Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, which is a VR game based on the show (I played this game via SteamVR for Windows Mixed Reality)
  • Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay, which has you repairing droids such as BB-8, on a ship
  • Minecraft, a sandbox game that allows you to create stuff in a blocky world, the game has the option to play fully immersed or in a virtual living room

Because of the ability to run SteamVR games in Windows Mixed Reality, it brings a wider selection of VR games beyond what’s available in the Microsoft Store (formerly known as the Windows Store).

One thing to note about SteamVR for Windows Mixed Reality, the game or app doesn’t necessarily have to say it’s compatible with Windows Mixed Reality in it’s Steam Store page, for example, Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay said it required an HTC Vive but it easily worked in Windows Mixed Reality, this may not be the case for every game.

You can use Cortana to navigate in Windows Mixed Reality but it doesn’t work all that well. Meaning that Cortana doesn’t really answer when I said: “Hey, Cortana.”

One minor annoyance was that there was no real way to launch SteamVR from within the Windows Mixed Reality interface, even though you can access apps installed on your PC.

You can navigate through the Windows Mixed Reality via the motion controllers or use a gamepad such as an Xbox One controller.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really liked the HP Windows Mixed Reality headset, it’s comfortable and is made well. Windows Mixed Reality is a great way for those who want an immersive VR experience but don’t want to pay the high cost of an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift plus a high-end gaming PC.

With WMR, you won’t need a super powerful gaming PC and could eventually bring VR to the masses.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Immersive experiences
  • Cross-compatible with other Windows PCs
  • Inside-out tracking works well
  • Doesn’t require a super powerful PC
  • Comes with motion controllers

Cons

  • Takes a bit of adjusting to get the fit right
  • Visor can get fogged up easily
  • A bit heavy

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