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2019’s Review of the HP Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality Headset with Motion Controllers

You are ready to take the next step in your virtual reality experience. You want something good, but don’t want to waste money doing it. There are so many VR headset options; it can be hard to know what will work best for you. You could easily get a piece of garbage or spend hundreds of dollars for no reason.

Don’t worry. We’ll help you figure this out. In this article, I’ll not only review the HP Mixed Reality headset but compare it to several of the competing headsets so you can determine what headset is right for you…and your budget.

Things to consider before buying an HP Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality Headset with Motion Controllers:

If you are excited about trying out virtual reality or stepping up from a VR system based on your phone, you are probably ready to jump right in.

However, there are a few things you should consider before making your purchase to make sure your new virtual reality headset gives you everything you want.

1. Do you have a decent gaming computer?

There is a wide range of virtual reality headsets available. The higher-end systems currently require you to be tethered to a gaming computer which supplies the needed computing power for high-quality games.

If you don’t already have a decent gaming computer, keep in mind that getting a tethered system means you also need a new computer.

2. Do you have a PC or a Mac?

If you are thinking a tethered VR system is for you, know that not all virtual reality headsets work with Macs. The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift do, but the Microsoft Mixed Reality systems (like what we are reviewing in this article) do not.

3. Are you more interested in VR experiences or active gaming?

Tracking is a significant difference in many of the middle to high-end VR systems. While some use external sensors, others use inside-out tracking (cameras on the headset), and still, others only have orientation tracking (only tracking your head turns).

If you want to be very active in your virtual environment, moving around and being able to move your hands freely while they are tracked, you are better off with a system that uses external sensors.

If you plan to stand or sit in one position and not be too active with your hands an inside-out tracking system should work fine for you (as will the external sensors).

Presenting the HP Microsoft Mixed Reality Headset with Controllers:

HP - Mixed Reality Headset and Controllers (2018 New)
  • You need a decent gaming computer to run this device. Please, make sure your computer is compatible and has the necessary specs prior buying
  • Recommended PC Specification: NVIDIA GTX 965Ml / AMD RX 480M(2GB) equivalent or greater video card for notebook and NVIDIA GTX 980 / AMD RX 480(2GB) for PC; Intel Core i7 /AMD Ryzen 7 1700 equivalent or greater CPU; 16GB+ RAM memory.

Last update on 2019-12-15 /  Source: Amazon Affiliates

The HP Microsoft Windows MIxed Reality Headset (HP MR Headset) is similar to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

So, don’t let the name fool you. This is solely a virtual reality headset and does not do augmented reality. The cameras on the front of the headset are infrared, not visual, and are used for tracking, not for augmented reality.

Mixed Reality is Microsoft’s augmented and virtual reality platform which is built into Windows and works with Microsoft Hololens as well as their VR headsets. Thus, the confusing name of the headset.

Also, Microsoft has released the reference designs and mixed reality platform code to several third-party companies. So, just like you can find several brands of Windows PCs, you can find several brands of Mixed Reality headsets. This review is for HP’s headset.

The HP MR headset/controller bundle comes with both the VR headset and two, battery powered, hand-controllers. It runs on Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (or later updates). It requires a PC (sorry no Macs) with the following minimum specs:

  • Notebook Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 965Ml / AMD RX 480M(2GB) Or PC Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 980 / AMD RX 480(2GB) CPU: Intel Core i7 /AMD Ryzen 7 1700 RAM: 16GB
  • Or PC Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 980 / AMD RX 480(2GB)
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 /AMD Ryzen 7 1700
  • RAM: 16GB

Like all PC-based virtual reality systems, the better the system the better the performance. So, I recommend the NVIDIA RTX graphics cards and the 8th gen Intel Core i7 CPUs along with as much RAM as you can get.

Unlike other VR systems, like the HTC Vive, the Mixed Reality headset does not use external sensors for motion tracking. Instead, it uses the infrared cameras built into the headset to identify distinct objects in the room and use them as reference points for tracking.

The cameras also track the hand-controllers. This makes for quicker, easier setup, but causes some issues with tracking, particularly with tracking the hand controllers.

You can get games and other VR software from the Window’s Store or Steam (with a little tweaking).

Pros
  • High-resolution graphics
  • A robust library of games and software
  • Quick and simple setup
  • Good motion tracking
Cons
  • More complicated to use Steam than other headsets
  • Tracking sensors can easily lose hand-controllers
  • A smaller field of view than other equivalent headsets

Features & Benefits:

A relative newcomer, The HP Mixed Reality headset with controllers is one of the top tier virtual reality systems on the market. It has several great features which make it stand out, though it also has some areas that could use some improvement. Let’s explore the HP Mixed Reality VR system.

Design:

The HP MR headset is a well-designed virtual reality headset with a futuristic and stylish design. It has a single band headband with two cameras in the front (infrared) used for tracking which allow for 6 Degrees of Freedom. One of the unique features of this headset is that the VR goggles are hinged to the headband, allowing you to raise the goggles to view the outside world without having to remove the entire headset.

Comfort:

HP had comfort in mind when it designed this headset. Its weight is comparable to other PC based headsets, but the rigid headband design holds the headset comfortably on your head with good padding on the front and back. To adjust the size of the headband, you turn a knob in the back of the headband rather than using velcro for straps.

Unfortunately, with all the padding, the headset can get a bit warmer than other similar headsets which can be a little uncomfortable with extended use.

Controllers:

HP’s hand-controllers are lightweight and comfortable. They have ergonomic controls, though some of the buttons which are associated with Windows (rather than the game you are playing) can take some getting used to.

The hand-controllers are battery powered, so have a few extra AA batteries laying around just in case. They also use Bluetooth to connect to your computer. So, you need to have a computer with Bluetooth built-in, or you need to get a Bluetooth dongle.

All in all, the controllers work well and are some of the best on the market.

Tracking

This is where the MS Mixed Reality systems set themselves apart. Unlike other PC-based VR systems, the HP MR systems use inside-out tracking, meaning they have cameras on the headset to track motion rather than using external sensors. This makes setting up the MR systems easier and allows for better portability, but it does have some downsides.

The camera-based sensors detect unique items around the room, like pictures or your TV/monitor. As you move, they track where those unique items are and determine your motion. While not perfect, this system works quite well so long as you are not in a room with things that are moving a lot (other than you). Too much external movement can cause glitches.

The other thing that can cause glitches is the tracking of the hand-controllers. Since the tracking is done entirely with two, forward-facing cameras which have a limited field of view, any time your hands move out of the range of the cameras, the system is unable to track them.

As long as your hands are in front of you, the tracking works great. However, the inside-out tracking can cause issues when you need to move your hands behind you or even down by your side.

Display Quality:

The HP MR headset has 1440 x 1440 resolution LED per eye which is better than Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, though not quite as good as the HTC Vive Pro. This gives a clear, crisp image. The screen has a refresh rate of either 60Hz or 90Hz, depending on your graphics card. It’s well worth getting the higher-end graphics card to have the 90Hz refresh rate as slower refresh rates can lead to nausea.

The headset also does not have any physical adjustments for the distance between your eyes. This can be adjusted to some extent in the software settings, but can also lead to some blurriness if your eyes are farther apart than average.

The field of view is either 90-degrees or 100-degrees depending on your graphics card. If you have a higher-end graphics card and get the 100 degree field of view, it’s pretty good, but not quite the 110-degrees of its competitors. The lower-end 90 degree view is pretty poor for VR headset standards.

Audio:

The HP Mixed Reality headset comes with a built-in ⅛ stereo/microphone audio jack. They can create spacial audio where you hear sounds from the direction they are supposed to be coming from, but the audio isn’t quite as advanced as other systems.

To get the best experience, I recommend getting something better than a base model set of headphones. You can find more information about choosing headphones here.

Requirements:

We have already written about the required specs for your computer. In addition to a decent graphics card, CPU, and RAM, you also need a free HDMI port, USB 3 port, and Bluetooth capability.

If you are already using your only HDMI port for your monitor/TV, but you have a free DVI port, you can use this adaptor to give yourself another HDMI port. If you are short on USB 3 ports, you can get a USB 3 hub here. Lastly, if you don’t have Bluetooth on your computer, you can pick up a Bluetooth dongle here.

Setup:

You’ll have a hard time finding a VR headset with an easier setup than the HP Microsoft Mixed Reality headset. You simply take the system out of the box, put some AA batteries into the hand-controllers, plug the included wire into the headset and then into your computer’s USB 3 and HDMI ports, and you are ready to get started.

You’ll need to do some calibration, which includes showing your headset around the room so I can learn the room for tracking, but there’s little else you need to do to use games from the Windows Store.

If you want to use your headset for apps on Steam, it takes a few extra steps. First, you will need to get the Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR app off Steam. Then, you run it through the Mixed Reality’s Cliff House or Skyloft environments. It’s a little cumbersome, and this arrangement uses more RAM than if Steam natively ran on the HP MR system, but it works for the most part.

Performance - The VR Experience:

All the specs, features, and dongles are great, but what really matters is your VR experience. Some aspects are great. The headset is comfortable to wear. The image is clear and crisp, as long as your eyes aren’t too far apart.

The controls and the tracking work well, though the controls when playing games in Steam may take a little getting used to. Also, the ability to raise the goggles without removing the entire headset is very convenient.

On the other hand, you’ll have a smaller field of view which may reduce your sense of immersion in the virtual world, and the hand-controller tracking issues can make some games almost unplayable.

Content - Apps and Games

The game and app library for all the PC-based VR headsets are quickly becoming indistinguishable both due to overlap from the various app sources (Steam, Windows Store, and Oculus Home) and the fact that the headsets have access to each of these sources. For example, all MS Windows Mixed Reality headsets can get access to Steam and Oculus Home…with some tweaking.

There is one exception, though. Microsoft has said they won’t allow the Vive and Oculus access to the Windows Store. So, any games or apps that are exclusive to the Windows Store are only accessible by Mixed Reality headsets.

So, technically, right now, the HP MS Mixed Reality headset has the most extensive library.

Opinions

So, how does the HP Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality headset with controllers combo perform out in the wild? I read through several customer reviews and found the experiences to mostly positive.

The HP is generally viewed as a good VR headset, especially for the price.

Here are a few of the reviews I found: https://www.amazon.com/HP-Mixed-Reality-Headset-Controllers/product-reviews/B077MF8TQ7/

Alternatives:

The HP MIxed Reality VR headset has some good competition out there. Depending on your situation, it may be the best option, or you may be better off with another system. Below are some brief comparative reviews of some of the HP MR competitors to help you decide if the HP is your best option.

HTC Vive

HTC Vive Virtual Reality System
  • FLEXIBLE PLAY AREA - Use VIVE seated, standing or in a space up to 11'5" x 11'5". SteamVR Tracking provides the most ideal experience possible, so play the way that works for you.
  • FULLY IMMERSIVE - Realistic movement and actions from precise, 360-degree controller and headset tracking with realistic graphics, directional audio and HD haptic feedback in the virtual world

Last update on 2019-12-15 /  Source: Amazon Affiliates

The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are the current market leaders for the PC-based VR headsets. The Vive has very similar computer requirements as the HP. Any of the PC-based systems are going to need a decent gaming computer to get the most out of them.

While the HP has slightly higher resolution (1440 x 1440 compared to HTC’s 1080 x 1200), the Vive has a larger field of view (110 degrees), and both have a 90Hz refresh rate. If a higher resolution is what you want, the HTC Vive Pro beats out the HP with 2880 x 1600, but you’ll pay for the higher resolution.

The Vive has an OLED screen, where the HP has an LED screen. LED screens can cause some blurring, especially with quick movements.

Where the HTC and HP really differ is in the setup. HTC uses external sensors that you mount to a wall or put on a high shelf. This is a more difficult setup, but provides better tracking, especially for the hand-controllers.

If you only plan to play in your home (one location) and want better tracking and a more immersive experience, then the HTC Vive may be the better choice for you. You can learn more about the Vive or purchase one by clicking here.

Similarities
  • Tethered to a PC
  • Requires a decent gaming PC
  • No built-in audio
  • 90Hz refresh rate
Differences
  • 3 strap, velcro headband
  • 110-degree field of view
  • Outside-in tracking (external sensors)
  • Lower resolution

Oculus Go

Sale
Oculus Go Standalone Virtual Reality Headset - 64GB
  • Personal Viewing: The littlest, big screen. Crystal clear optics and state-of-the-art 3D graphics make your headset feel more like a personal theater
  • Viewing with Friends: Watch with friends. Meet up in VR with friends and fans from around the world to catch live sports, concerts, or just your favorite TV show

Last update on 2019-12-15 /  Source: Amazon Affiliates

I’ve mentioned the Oculus Rift several times in this review, and it compares very similarly to the HTC Vive mentioned above. So, I thought I’d mention the Oculus Go here, instead. The Oculus Go is the lower cost Oculus option, but it has a feature neither the HP Mixed Reality or HTC Vive have. It’s not tethered to a PC. That’s right. You can take it anywhere. You get freedom with the Go (thus the name).

The Oculus Go has all its computer processing built in, so it doesn’t require a PC or a phone like other virtual reality headsets. However, that built-in computer has nowhere near the computing power as a decent gaming computer (or even a not so decent one). So, you are much more limited in the apps you can use. You also have limited disk space.

The Go has a high resolution LED screen (1600 x 1440), but only a 60Hz refresh rate, which may cause some people to get nauseous when using it.

The other distinction is that the Oculus Go only has orientation tracking, meaning it can track when you turn your head, but it cannot track you moving through virtual space. This has a major impact on the immersive experience you can have with the Go.

The Oculus Go may be the headset for you if you want a VR system you can take with you anywhere. You can check out the Oculus Go by clicking this link.

Similarities
  • High-resolution screen
  • LED screen
  • No built-in audio
Differences
  • 3 strap harness
  • Not tethered to a PC
  • Only has orientation tracking
  • Limited computing power, apps, and disk space

Lenovo Mirage Solo

Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream, Standalone VR Headset with Worldsense Body Tracking, Ultra-Crisp QHD Display, Smartly Designed Mobile Headset
  • STANDALONE VR HEADSET: Stow away the phones, expensive PCs and cumbersome cables and just experience awesome VR--without the extra hassle. With Worldsense technology, you can move naturally and truly explore your virtual world, free from external sensors
  • COMFORTABLE DESIGN: Lenovo Mirage Solo's engineered to be so comfortable, you’ll forget you were wearing it. Artfully weight-balanced and coated with breathable, thick padding, it's adjustable to your precise measurements. Mirage Solo sports a stand-out look that begs to be worn, while gesturing to the future. VR has never been so appealing

Last update on 2019-12-15 /  Source: Amazon Affiliates

The Lenovo Mirage Solo is another stand-alone virtual reality headset. Like the Go, it is not tethered to a PC, making it mobile, but suffers from a lack of computing power and disk space.

The resolution of the Lenovo is similar to the HP at 1280 x 1440 per eye. It has a 75Hz refresh rate, splitting the difference between the HP and Go.

Tracking is another significant difference and, much like the refresh rate, the Mirage found a way to split the difference between the HP and Go. Whereas the Oculus Go only has orientation tracking, the Mirage has two cameras in the front that give it inside-out tracking.

While that sounds like the HP, it’s a much more limited form of inside-out tracking which is only able to track your surroundings without a 3’ x 3’ space. So, while you can dodge and move your hands, you can’t move around much, or the Lenovo will freeze until it reorients itself or you move back into your little 1-meter box.

Finally, the Lenovo Mirage Solo runs on an Android OS. So, your games are limited to what you can find in the Google Store, which is pretty limited in number and quality.

Are you the type of person who wants mobility, but also some motion tracking? Then you may want to try Lenovo Mirage Solo.

You can find more info on the Mirage Solo here.

Similarities
  • Similar resolution
  • Both have inside-out tracking, though the Mirage’s version is much more limited
  • Neither have built-in audio
Differences
  • Not tethered to a PC
  • Limited disk space and computing power
  • Google Play Store is the only source for apps

Conclusion

The HP Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality Headset with controllers is a quality virtual reality headset that delivers an excellent VR experience. In some areas, it outshines its competitors, while in others it lags a bit.

In the end, you’re probably not going to go wrong. You merely need to decide which features and benefits are most important to you and go with the VR headset that best gives you those features and benefits.

If you’ve decided you think HP Microsoft MR headset is the best option for you, you can check it out or purchase it here.

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