When it comes to high-end VR headsets with mixed reality capabilities, two models stand out: the newly announced Apple Vision Pro vs Varjo XR-3, the premium enterprise headset. Each reality device delivers exceptional mixed reality performance, but their strengths lie in different areas. Read on to discover which will suit your needs better.
The Varjo XR-3 recently introduced inside-out tracking through its embedded sensors, providing more flexibility in setup. However, its outside-in tracking powered by SteamVR remains significantly more precise and reliable.
Moreover, while the Varjo XR-3 is a tethered PC VR device, offering unlimited runtime, the Apple Vision Pro is a standalone model. This essentially means that the Apple headset provides greater portability and freedom, albeit with a limited battery life.
This key distinction illuminates the areas where the Apple Vision Pro and Varjo XR-3 excel. The combination of inside-out tracking and the potent Apple Silicon M2 chipset, equipped with a dedicated neural chip for AI, enables the Vision Pro to tackle advanced everyday applications with ease. Be it meditation, movie watching, immersive meetings, or working with virtual floating monitors. The Apple headset makes it a breeze and joy to use.
On the other hand, the Varjo XR-3 is tailored for top-tier enterprise applications that demand realistic simulations or complex interactions, such as simulating diverse textures and materials in varying weather and environmental conditions for car design.
As a tethered, advanced VR headset, the XR-3 primarily targets enterprises and industries rather than consumers. In contrast, the Apple Vision Pro offers the finest standalone VR and mixed reality experience for tech enthusiasts within the Apple ecosystem and select enterprises.
The Apple Vision Pro uses the pancake lens, also seen on VR headsets like Meta Quest Pro. Conversely, the Varjo XR-3 utilizes a more innovative aspheric lens. Each lens type carries distinct attributes and drawbacks. Aspheric optics are produced individually, resulting in higher production costs and ultimately, a more expensive headset. However, the aspheric lens compensates for its price tag by delivering superior clarity and minimal visual distortions such as ghosting or color overlap.
But where the aspheric lens offers enhanced clarity, the pancake lens, through its stacked design, reduces the distance between the eyes and the displays, achieving a slimmer and lighter form factor. This difference in size and weight is noticeable when comparing the Apple Vision Pro and Varjo XR-3, with the Vision Pro being smaller, lighter, and more comfortable to wear.
However, the pancake lens’s stacked design has a downside – it darkens the image by bouncing light and redirecting it from the display to the eyes. Fortunately, the Apple headset features micro-OLEDs, the prime display technology for achieving the highest brightness levels. Ultimately, compensating for the darkening effect.
Pioneered by Varjo, the Varjo XR-3 features the Bionic Display™ composed of four displays: two per eye. One micro-OLED delivers ultra-crisp resolution for the center of vision, while an LCD caters to peripheral vision. This unique design emulates natural human vision, offering an astonishing 70 pixels per degree at the center point. The Varjo XR-3’s visual experience is comparable to looking out a window, representing the finest display performance in a VR headset.
While the Apple Vision Pro also utilizes micro-OLEDs, it lacks LCDs for peripheral vision. Despite this, the Vision Pro still holds the crown for best display performance among standalone VR headsets on the market. Early hands-on reviews estimate its field of view to fall between 100 to 120 degrees, yielding a pixel density between 28 to 34 PPD. For context, the Oculus Quest 2 has a pixel density of 17.6 PPD, while the yet-to-be-released Meta Quest 3 is anticipated to offer around 19.8 PPD. Hence, both Varjo XR-3 and Apple Vision Pro lead the pack in their respective categories when it comes to display quality..
The base version of Varjo XR-3 costs between €6,395 and €10,190, depending on the use case and agreement with Varjo. Aligning with Varjo’s focus on specialized enterprise applications, the XR-3 is available in two different versions: the Focal Edition and Focal Edition Non-RF.
The Focal Edition, priced at €19,695, delivers top-tier mixed reality performance. The Non-RF version, costing €23,195, is specially designed to not transmit any radio frequencies, making it ideal for enhanced security and classified environments.
In contrast, the upcoming Apple Vision Pro is set to launch in early 2024 at a price of $3,499. This stark difference in price underlines the gap in target markets between the two mixed reality headsets.
The Apple Vision Pro comes equipped with an impressive 12 cameras, divided between the exterior and interior of the headset. This abundance of sensors is designed to enable a seamless and intuitive approach to its advanced technology.
For instance, users navigate the Vision Pro’s immersive experiences by directing their gaze and lightly pinching their fingers. Early feedback suggests this look-and-pinch interface feels natural and intuitive. However, for the XR-3’s Design & Development and advanced immersive training use cases, the look-and-pinch control method would not be practical.
Another crucial difference between the Varjo XR-3 and Apple Vision Pro is the latter’s face-tracking feature, designed to foster immersive connections in business meetings or family catch-ups. Notably, the Vision Pro boasts an outward-facing display that mirrors the wearer’s eyes, simulating eyeglasses – a feature named “EyeSight.” While Meta initially introduced this technology as neural passthrough, it’s commonly referred to as either reverse or two-way passthrough within the industry.
Varjo’s strategy revolves around transforming “the way professionals work, create, and experience reality,” making the Varjo XR-3 the ultimate solution for any enterprise application. This approach aligns with the availability of three XR-3 versions, allowing corporate clients to customize their solution.
Consequently, despite their premium price tags, these two mixed reality devices aren’t direct competitors. Each device excels in its respective category: standalone VR vs. PC VR, or an everyday device versus a specialist enterprise headset.
Jakob Pii is Writer at VR Expert and currently lives in the UK. He started his career in VR gaming in 2015 and has stayed in XR since, from exposure therapy in VR to 360-degree video documentaries. He is fascinated by how emerging technologies change how we live, play and work.