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2023 could see more VR headsets on the market than ever before. Which devices are confirmed, and which are we hopeful for?
2023 could go down as one of the most eventful years in the history of virtual reality. This year will see the release of both the Playstation VR 2 and the Meta Quest 3. Both devices are likely to leave a lasting mark on the industry, just like their predecessors. If Apple finally steps into the industry spotlight as well, 2023 could be a truly historic year. But that remains to be seen.
Let’s start with the confirmed VR headsets and then move on to the devices that are only rumored to be in development and could arrive in 2023.
Confirmed VR headsets
Bigscreen: Bigscreen Beyond
The studio behind the cinema app of the same name, Bigscreen, unveiled a super-light, wired PC VR headset in February. Weighing in at just over a quarter of a pound, the device is the smallest and lightest VR headset built and marketed to date, according to the manufacturer.
This form factor and weight are made possible by the combination of high-resolution OLED microdisplays (resolution: 2,560 by 2,560 pixels per eye) and pancake lenses. The headset also does without an integrated battery, speakers, or inside-out tracking.
SteamVR tracking is required for operation. Neither the base stations nor the controllers are included in the $999 price. Thus, Bigscreen Beyond is primarily aimed at clientele already in Valve’s ecosystem that want to replace the 2019 Valve Index with a more modern product.
The company also promotes that the face mask of the Bigscreen Beyond is individually tailored for each wearer. This is done with the help of a face scan, which currently requires a newer model iPhone. The result could be a VR headset with unprecedented wearing comfort.
HTC: Vive XR Elite
HTC’s new all-in-one flagship headset combines the strengths of its two standalone predecessors, HTC Vive Focus 3 (review) and HTC Vive Flow. It also expands its technical capacities into Mixed Reality with color passthrough and a depth sensor.
Like the HTC Vive Focus 3, the new headset comes with full VR controllers, runs completely autonomously, and uses the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1 – the same chip that powers the Meta Quest 2 (review) and Pico 4. The device borrows pancake lenses from the Vive Flow as well as the diopter adjustment, eliminating the need for prescription lenses under the headset.
A special feature of the Vive XR Elite is its modular design. The battery on the back can be removed, turning the XR headset into a half-pound pair of XR glasses. The device connects to an external power source via USB-C connection cable. This can be a power bank, a PC, or an airplane seat. The battery can even be replaced during operation via a hot-swap mechanism.
At launch, the native software offering still has room for improvement with about 100 VR apps. The headset also supports wired and wireless PC VR streaming.
The Vive XR Elite costs $1,099 and will be marketed to consumers. Deliveries start at the end of February 2023. You can find a first impression of the device in our test drive of the Vive XR Elite.
Lynx: Lynx R1
The Lynx R1 was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and was supposed to release in April 2022. The company repeatedly postponed shipment due to supply chain issues. Since the beginning of 2023, the first batches have been delivered to Kickstarter backers. By the end of April, all backers should have received their device, CEO Stan Larroque said in a YouTube update at the end of January.
The Lynx R1 is technically similar to the Meta Quest Pro and, like the Quest Pro, is designed for Mixed Reality applications. The Lynx R1 will be significantly cheaper at $849. The headset currently relies on hand tracking, with dedicated VR controllers planned for the third quarter of 2023.
Meta: Meta Quest 3
Mark Zuckerberg talks about the “next generation of our Quest headset for consumers” and Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth talks about the “successor to the Meta Quest 2.” Even though the executives do not mention the new headset by name, they probably mean the Meta Quest 3 (info) scheduled for 2023.
Since Meta usually unveils new VR hardware at Meta Connect and releases it shortly thereafter, we expect a launch in the fall. According to Zuckerberg, the price range will be between $300 and $500.
In October 2022, the design of the upcoming headset (or a prototype of it) reportedly leaked. According to the blueprints, the focus is on Mixed Reality. This is obvious as the Quest Pro (review) also focuses on this technology. Meta hopes that developers use the Quest Pro as a devkit to create mixed reality software for the Quest 3.
VR leaker Bradley Lynch reportedly heard that the product relies on a new generation Snapdragon XR2 SoC, which could bring a big performance leap.
Pimax: Pimax Portal, Pimax Crystal
The Pimax Portal (info) is a handheld console similar to Nintendo Switch or Valve’s Steam Deck that becomes a VR headset with an adapter. VR smartphone adapaters, long believed to be dead, send their regards.
The Pimax Portal is being funded by a Kickstarter campaign and was expected to ship as early as January 2023. Given Pimax’s release history, one should be skeptical of such promises.
The Pimax Crystal is a standalone high-end VR headset with high-resolution QLED displays, eye and face tracking, a display port connector, a removable battery at the back of the head, and optional lens pairs. The targeted price is currently around $1,599 and is thus aimed at enthusiasts.
After many revisions and a delay, the slim and lightweight Meganex PC VR headset will hit stores this spring. They are SteamVR compatible and support index controllers.
The combination of an HDR-capable OLED microdisplay and Panasonic-brand pancake lenses result in a low weight of just under three quarters of a pound . The ear pieces can fold in, making it easier to carry.
Meganex comes in two versions. The Standard Edition is aimed at enthusiasts and costs $1,699 (base stations and Index controllers not included). The Business Edition adds diopter adjustment and a nose pad instead of a forehead pad for faster on-and-off. The price of the Business Edition is not yet known. Both models come with the Lighthouse adapter.
The Meganex offers a Displayport connection to the PC for native PC VR transmission established through an included converter box. Standalone operation is not supported.
Somnium Space: Somnium VR 1
At CES 2023, social VR startup Somnium Space unveiled a PC VR headset for the most demanding users.
It supposedly offers high-quality passthrough with open-source programs and a modular design. Users will be able to download and print 3D blueprints of parts and order electronic components, sensors, and lenses directly from the manufacturer.
We continue to prepare our @SomniumSpace #SomniumVR1 model for #CES2023. Many asked about the actual size of hmd. Here are pics I did today next to Pico 4 (my favorite hmd atm), iPhone 13 & Fold 3. In the upcoming weeks, we will release more info. Feel free to ask questions ⏬️ https://t.co/Sy9esos7Qk pic.twitter.com/aSjYEQwawt
– Artur Sychov | Somnium Space (@ASychov) December 23, 2022
A working devkit was presented at the electronics fair. The device is being developed together with the Czech manufacturer VRgineers, which specializes in high-end devices for enterprise customers.
Sony: Playstation VR 2
The second generation of Playstation VR is technologically up to date, reduces cabling to a minimum, and comes with dedicated VR controllers. The biggest shortcomings of Sony’s first VR system have thus been eliminated. There are also new advanced features like eye tracking and head haptics.
Playstation VR 2 (info) releases worldwide on February 22, 2023, starting at $549. A long list of games for the headset is already available.
Unconfirmed VR headsets
Apple: Apple Reality Pro
Apple has been working on a technologically advanced Mixed Reality headset for many years, and according to well-informed sources like Apple leaker Mark Gurman and supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, it will finally be unveiled in 2023.
However, the gentlemen have made similar claims in the past. Only Apple knows if or when the device will really be released.
The company does not have to hurry. Mixed Reality technology is still in its infancy and is not yet a serious alternative to laptops, as Meta Quest Pro shows. As such, the market potential is tiny compared to Apple’s current markets, which is why the device will likely be marketed as a devkit and will be expensive. According to rumors, it could cost between $2,000 and $3,000.
The latest reports assume a presentation at WWDC 2023 in June.
Pico: Pico 5
There is also speculation about a successor to the Pico 4 (review) with a new Snapdragon XR2 SoC. That would make sense, as Meta Quest 3 is also supposed to use the new generation of the XR2 chip and would thus be far superior to current stand-alone headsets like Pico 4.
Samsung: Nameless device
Samsung made big moves in VR starting in 2015 but completely abandoned the division in recent years. At the end of 2022, rumors started that Samsung wants to launch a mixed reality devkit as early as next year, apparently in response to Apple’s potential market entry.
At Samsung Unpacked in February, those rumors became facts. Samsung announced an XR comeback alongside Google and Qualcomm. No product details or timeline were revealed, but the hardware will likely be based on the Meta Quest Pro and other mixed reality devices.
Valve: Valve Deckard
The Valve Index (review) is still one of the best PC VR headsets, but the screen is a bit dated and the headset has to connect to a computer with a cable.
In September 2021, sources close to the company confirmed that Valve is working on a prototype codenamed Deckard. The device, unlike Valve’s Index, could be partially or completely self-contained, following the trend in recent years toward mobile VR gaming consoles.
Valve CEO Gabe Newell hinted in early 2022 that Valve’s next VR hardware could be an evolution of the Steam Deck toward virtual reality. Patents, code hints, and job postings further fuel rumors about a new VR headset from Valve.
No question: Something is in the works at Valve. The question is if and when Valve plans to release a product. There are no concrete hardware leaks like during the run-up to the Valve Index launch. Further, mobile chips are not yet fast enough for PC gaming on SteamVR. A release in 2023 is therefore unlikely.
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