Hardware doesn’t really have an “Early Access” period per se, the way games often do nowadays, but I’ve put off writing about Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headsets for essentially that reason. A half-dozen headsets emerged last October with few games and even less fanfare. To make matters worse, they were locked to the Windows 10 Store at launch, making it particularly unattractive to those who’d already amassed a sizable amount of VR content on Steam.

That sin wasn’t rectified until December when Microsoft added rudimentary SteamVR support—in beta. And it wasn’t officially rectified until about a week ago, when Windows 10’s April 2018 Update coincided with SteamVR-on-Mixed-Reality getting the 1.0 seal of approval.

So I dug out Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality headset ($400 on the Microsoft Store) to give it a whirl. This is, I guess, about as finished as Windows MR’s first generation is going to get. To be honest, not much has changed though. More software has not fixed fundamental problems with the Windows MR hardware.

An old hand

Windows Mixed Reality - Acer IDG / Hayden Dingman

First, let me note: I’m coming to Windows Mixed Reality as a virtual reality veteran. I’ve been covering this wave of VR headsets since the original Oculus Developer Kit.

It’s a bias, and so I’m making it clear up front. I’ve used better VR kits, and a lot. I mess around with my HTC Vive every week, often multiple times a week, and have for two years now. I’ve watched the Oculus Rift evolve from a prototype to a fully fleshed-out product. There’s room out there for the “Windows MR is my first VR headset” viewpoint, and I’m sure someone’s written that review. And in that context, I think Windows MR has some points in its favor.

Hell, as a VR vet there are still some aspects of Windows MR I appreciate. The resolution, for one. The Acer headset I’ve been testing boasts 1440×1440 per eye, a noteworthy increase over the Rift and Vive’s 1080×1200 per eye. Windows MR looks clearer and crisper, and without needing to pony up $800 for the Vive Pro. That’s excellent.

Windows Mixed Reality - Acer IDG / Hayden Dingman

Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality controllers.

I also think the controllers are, for the most part, well-designed. They blend some of the best aspects of the Vive and Rift, with both trackpads and analog sticks, easy-to-grasp triggers and grip buttons, and a fairly slim chassis. Oculus Touch still gets the win in that category, but Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality controllers feel a lot better than the Vive wands.

My only complaints:

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