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HP Reverb: best VR headset for viewing 360 photos and videos? Why I didn’t order it

HP Reverb - best VR headset for 360 photos and videos
HP Reverb – best VR headset for 360 photos and videos

HP Reverb, the highest resolution VR headset for consumers, will be released on May 8, and will be available for $599.   (Correction: the release date was pushed back from May 6.)  With a resolution per eye of 2160 x 2160, it has more than double the resolution of even the next-highest resolution VR consumer headsets, including the Valve Index, Vive Pro, Samsung Odyssey, and Oculus Quest, which each have a per-eye resolution of 1600 x 1440.   HP Reverb could be the best VR headset for viewing 360 photos and videos and I was tempted to order it but I decided not to.  Here’s why.

About Windows Mixed Reality

HP Reverb is the latest Windows Mixed Reality VR headset, which are 6DOF desktop VR headsets produced by one of several manufacturers based on a VR headset platform designed by Microsoft.  They all use inside out tracking with no external sensors, using the same tracking technology developed for the Microsoft Hololens AR headset.  They can also be used without a dedicated graphics card, in PCs that have Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated graphics, albeit at a lower framerate.  The controllers combined the controls of an HTC Vive controller and an Oculus Touch controller, enabling WMR headsets to more easily play games for the Vive or Rift.

WMR was originally launched as a third VR headset platform to compete with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and although WMR headsets were priced aggressively, they did not sell well with either consumers or developers.  Starved of support, WMR headsets were sold at firesale prices, reaching as low as $100 in some cases.  Fortunately, WMR headsets gained SteamVR support, and today, they are the fastest growing segment of VR headsets used for SteamVR, with a solid 11% of active SteamVR users as of April 2019, according to the Steam Hardware & Software Survey.

HP Reverb

The HP Reverb is HP’s second generation WMR headset with the highest resolution per eye in a comfortable, lightweight headset with integrated headphones.

Due to its high resolution, the HP Reverb has higher hardware requirements than other WMR headsets, and require a GTX 1080 or equivalent graphics card.

Why I didn’t order the HP Reverb

With its class-leading resolution, the HP Reverb seems to be the ideal VR headset for viewing 360 photos and videos, but I decided not to order it primarily because of the controller tracking.  I already have two WMR headsets: the Samsung Odyssey and Lenovo Explorer.  They are good VR headsets that are extremely easy to setup and are very convenient to use.  The headset tracking does work pretty well, even if it’s not as solid as the tracking on an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

Compatibility with SteamVR and Oculus Rift is also decent.  To use SteamVR games, you simply have to install SteamVR and the SteamVR for Windows Mixed Reality app.  You’ll be able to launch SteamVR games directly from your WMR portal.  SteamVR games I’ve tried have been completely compatible with WMR.  To use Oculus Rift games, you just have to install SteamVR and Revive.  On my system, I launch Oculus Rift games from Steam VR (instead of from the Revive panel).  I haven’t experienced any problems playing Oculus Rift games with WMR headsets except that they seem to require more resources compared to Rift games running natively.

The 6DOF controllers’ tracking also works, but the problem is that the controllers have a limited tracking area.  The controllers are tracked primarily by the two cameras on the headset that are also used for tracking the environment.   As long as the controllers stay in front of you, they can be tracked well.  However, when you move them to your side, or even behind you (as in some games that require you to reach to an imaginary backpack), the tracking is lost.

Sometimes when I’m playing Beat Saber, the controller will fail to register a hit because it momentarily disappeared off to the side.  In boxing games such as Thrill of the Fight, sometimes my virtual hand will suddenly be several feet off to the side or will disappear completely for a few moments, leaving me to fight one-handed.  Because of issues like these, I can’t recommend any WMR headset for fast-paced games.

Who is this for?

HP Reverb and other headsets are perfectly fine for more relaxed games such as Job Simulator, when a controller’s momentary disappearance from time to time will not be a problem.  And if you only intend to use the headset for viewing photos and videos (and not games), HP Reverb has the best quality display in a consumer VR headset.  It is also ideal for commercial or industrial use where high resolution is desirable.  Although I didn’t buy the HP Reverb, its high resolution is still attractive to me, and I may decide to buy a used headset one of these days.

About the author

Mic Ty

11 Comments

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  • Yes yes yes! For WMR headsets needs to increas quanties of cameras for backside. 2 additional cameras will is really good for great experiens and fun. And boxing with 2 hands, not only 1 :)))

    • Yes you’re right. I hope there will be a new version of WMR with extra cameras on the side like Rift S. If they do that, then it can be really good. But i think the chance of that happening is very low, otherwise HP would not have created Reverb. So the next best thing is… Rift S! 😀

    • Thanks Ken. That’s a good idea, but imho defeats the purpose of WMR’s ease of setup. Also I don’t think adding lighthouse will improve tracking of controllers that are outside the WMR headset cameras’ field of view.

      • I don’t think you got what I meant.. I am saying there is a software tweak for those people who want to use the WMR headsets with the HTC Vive light house tracked units… that way you can enjoy the cheaper high resolution headsets that are out now but enjoy the accurate tracking of the light house units with the controllers that come with the light house units from HTC Vive.. I understand that costs allot to but separately but some people that started with the original HTC Vice have the hardware at home already and can use the tweak to utilize the HTC controllers the already own (for great tracking accuracy) and benefit from the new high resolution headsets that are coming out with WMR.. When you use the light house units the WMR camera tracked controllers are not used at all and I think their tracking is even disabled completely.

        • I use this software tweak in my VR setup at my home.. look up the instructions on YouTube on how to use the HTC Vive light house units with WMR headsets, it’s pretty easy to set up. You get the awesome tracking of Light house units all the way around and behind you.. This is mostly for enthusiasts that have already gotten HTC hardware but there are allot of us out there and many don’t know they can use their old equipment for the superior tracking WITH the WMR headsets…

          • ok thanks for the tip. sweviver’s video is very helpful. i’ll see if i can afford it haha

  • So, your reason for not ordering the “best VR headset for viewing 360 photos and videos” has absolutely no impact on it’s ability to accomplish that task?

    I can get a Reverb review for gaming from a million different places. What I need is a review from someone who doesn’t give a shit about Beat Saber (as I don’t), and reviews it “for viewing 360 photos and videos”, which apparently isn’t you.

    • Hi Chris. That’s right — it has absolutely no impact on being the best VR headset for viewing 360 photos and videos, which is why it is the best VR headset for viewing media despite its tracking limitations.

      As for getting one, it costs a lot to buy these headsets so I can’t create VR headset reviews solely for 360 shooters, especially when not all 360 shooters are even interested in them. If I buy one, I need around 50 people to buy from my affiliate link just to break even. So I have to create a complete review, especially since many 360 shooters who do get a VR headset do use them for games. (How do I know? Because I see them online.)

      I’ll see if HP can lend me a headset for review. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Lol better for games like Job Simulator. Are you for real…
    Let me correct that for you. This headset is great for any cockpit game / sim.

    • Hi Qvark. It’s great for any app where your hands stay in front of you all the time, and that aren’t fast paced. Sure it can work with cockpit games. Isn’t job simulator a sim game too? haha

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