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Vision Pro review: Apple's first headphones lack polish and purpose| GuyWhoKnowsThings

About 17 years ago, Steve Jobs took the stage at a San Francisco convention center and said he would introduce three products: an iPod, a phone and an Internet browser.

“These are not three separate devices,” he said. “This is a device and we call it iPhone.”

At $500, the first iPhone was relatively expensive, but I was eager to get rid of my mediocre Motorola flip phone and splurge. There were glitches, including slow cellular Internet speeds. But the iPhone kept its promises.

Over the last week I've had a very different experience with a new first-generation product from Apple: the Vision Proa virtual reality headset that It looks like a pair of ski goggles.. The $3,500 laptop, which launched Friday, uses cameras so you can see the outside world while juggling apps and videos.

Apple calls it a “space computer” that combines the physical and digital worlds for people to work, watch movies and play.

Apple refused to provide an early review unit to The New York Times, so I bought a Vision Pro on Friday. (It costs much more than $3,500. with the add-ons many people will want, including a $200 carrying case, $180 AirPods, and $100 prescription lenses for people who wear glasses). After using the headphones for about five days, I'm not convinced people are getting much value out of them. of that.

The device feels less polished than previous first-generation Apple products I've used. Is no better at getting the job done than a computer, and the games I've tried so far aren't fun, making them hard to recommend. One major feature — the ability to make video calls with a human digital avatar that looks like the user — terrified kids during a family FaceTime call.

The headphones are great at delivering on one of their promises: playing videos, including high-definition movies and your own 3-D recordings that let you immerse yourself in past memories, which is both eerie and cool.

In the last decade, companies such as Meta, HTC and Sony have had great difficulty selling headphones to general consumers because their products were inconvenient to use, their applications were limited, and they did not appear attractive.

Vision Pro has a superior user interface, better image quality, more apps, and more computing power than other headsets. But it is a little heavier than Meta's cheapest Quest headphonesand connects to an external source battery pack which lasts only two hours.

The Apple product's ski goggle aesthetic looks better than the bulky plastic visors of the past. But the videos posted by early users walking around outside with headphones (men I call Vision Bros) confirm that people still look ridiculous wearing tech glasses, even when they're designed by Apple.

The Vision Pro is miles ahead of other headsets I've tested by creating an immersive 3D interface that's easy for users to control with their eyes and hands. I let four colleagues use the headphones in the office and watched them all learn to use them in seconds.

This is because it looks familiar to anyone who has an iPhone or similar smartphone. You'll see a grid of app icons. Looking at an app is equivalent to hovering your mouse cursor over it; To click it, bring your thumb and index finger together, making a quick pinch. The pinch gesture can also be used to move and expand windows.

The Vision Pro includes a knob called the Digital Crown. Turning it counterclockwise lets you see the real world in the background while keeping your apps' digital windows in the foreground. Turning it clockwise hides the real world with an opaque background.

I preferred to see physical reality most of the time, but I still felt isolated. The headphones cut off part of its periphery, creating an effect similar to that of binoculars. I confess that sometimes I had a hard time remembering to walk my dogs because I couldn't see them or hear their whining, and during another session I tripped over a stool. An Apple spokeswoman referred to Vision Pro security guidelines, which advise users to remove obstacles.

When you use headphones to work, you can surround yourself with multiple floating apps: your spreadsheet can be in the center, a notes app to your right, and a browser to your left, for example. It's the three-dimensional version of juggling windows on a computer screen. As cool as it may seem, pinching at floating screens doesn't make work more efficient because you need to constantly turn your head to see them.

You could tolerate juggling a notes app, a browser, and the Microsoft Word app for no more than 15 minutes before feeling nauseous.

The least fun part of the Vision Pro is typing with its floating keyboard, which requires pressing one key at a time. I had planned to write this review with the headphones before realizing I wouldn't make the deadline.

There is an option to connect a physical keyboard, but at that point I prefer to use a laptop that doesn't add weight to my face.

Vision Pro can also work with Mac computers, where it can mirror the screen on the headset as a virtual window that can be expanded to look like a large screen. In my testing, there was a constant lag: each keypress took a fraction of a second to register virtually, and the mouse cursor moved slowly. I also instinctively wanted to control the Mac with pinches, even though it's not set up to work that way, which was frustrating.

I then tested the headphones in the kitchen and loaded a pizza recipe into the web browser while I grabbed and measured ingredients. Moving around while looking through the camera, I felt nauseous again and had to take off the headphones. The Vision Pro is more comfortable to use while sitting. Apple advises people to take breaks to reduce dizziness.

Video calls are now an essential part of office life, and here the Vision Pro is especially inferior to a laptop with a camera. The headset uses its cameras to take photos of your face that are stitched together into a 3-D avatar called Persona, which Apple has labeled a “beta” feature because it's unfinished.

People are so embarrassing that people will be embarrassed to use them on a work call. Vision Pro produced an unflattering portrait of me, with no cheekbones and blurry ears. On a FaceTime call with my in-laws, they said the blur evoked '80s studio portrait vibes.

One of my nieces, a 3-year-old girl, turned around and walked away when she saw the virtual Uncle Brian. The other, a 7-year-old girl, hid behind her father and whispered in her ear: “It looks fake.”

Video is where Vision Pro shines. When streaming movies through apps like Disney+ and Max, you can pinch the corner of a video and drag it to expand it to a giant high-resolution TV; Some movies, such as “Avengers: Endgame” and “Avatar 2,” can be seen in 3-D. The image looks much brighter and clearer than the quality of Meta's Quest products. The audio quality of Apple's headphones is excellent, but the speakers are loud, so you'll need AirPods if you want to use them in public spaces.

The headphones' two-hour battery life isn't enough for most movies, but in my experience, this turned out to be moot because I couldn't watch movies for more than 20 to 30 minutes before needing to take a break. neck and eyes due to heavy headphones.

(An advert: Netflix and YouTube applications They are not available in Vision Pro, but their websites work well for streaming content).

I prefer to watch movies on my flat-screen TV because I can share it, but there are situations where headphones would be useful as a personal TV, such as in a small apartment or on a plane, or on the couch when someone else is watching. a television program that you would like to disconnect from.

Videos recorded with the iPhone 15 Pro camera or Vision Pro cameras can be viewed in 3-D on the headset, a feature called spatial videos. While watching a video of my dogs eating treats at home, I could reach out and pretend to pet them. The videos seemed grainy but were lovely.

Not many games have been created for the headset yet. I tried out some new Vision Pro games, like Blackbox, which involves moving around a three-dimensional environment to pop bubbles and solve puzzles. It looked good, but when the novelty wore off, my interest waned. It's hard to recommend Vision Pro for VR gaming when Mission 2 $250 Goal and $500 Quest 3 Headphones have a deeper game library.

The Vision Pro is the start of something, what exactly, I'm not sure.

But the goal of a product review is to evaluate the here and now. As it stands, Vision Pro is an impressive but incomplete first-generation product, with problems and big trade-offs. Apart from being a stylish personal TV, it lacks purpose.

What strikes me most about the Vision Pro is, for such an expensive computer, how difficult it is to share the headphones with other people. There is a guest mode, but it is not possible to create profiles for different family members to upload their own apps and videos.

So it's a computer for people to use alone, and it comes at a time when we're looking to reconnect after years of masked loneliness. That may be the Vision Pro's biggest blind spot.

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