HP recently announced its latest VR headset, Reverb G2. It boasts a substantial number of improvements over the original Reverb and clearly represents the next-gen of WMR headsets. We were fortunate enough to get an exclusive hands-on with the headset; in our first article we detailed G2’s standout feature—its high resolution displays and impressive clarity. This time around we’ll be talking about everything else the headset brings to the table.

While the first wave of Windows VR headsets that launched back in 2017 felt relatively homogenous, HP began blazing its own trail with its original Reverb headset (which I’ll call G1 for short) in 2019, and just a year later the company plans to push yet further with Reverb G2.

For a full breakdown on G2’s features and specs, check out the announcement article; this piece will be focusing on the experiential aspect after our hands-on with the headset, and a bunch of other details we’ve learned from HP—everything except the headset’s visuals, which we covered in Part One.

Ergonomics

Image courtesy HP

One of the big changes from G1 to G2 that doesn’t fit neatly into a spec sheet is ergonomics.

For one, G2 now has a physical IPD slider where the original had a fixed IPD. An IPD slider allows users to adjust the spacing between the lenses to be optimally aligned with their eyes. Optimal IPD alignment is important for comfort, clarity, and immersion.

HP confirmed that the Reverb G2 IPD adjustment ranges from 60mm to 68mm. As you’d expect with other headsets, when you adjust the slider on the headset, the WMR software on your PC automatically updates the software IPD setting to match.

Another ergonomic improvement from G1 to G2 is a change to the head-mount. While the original—with its circular rear design—was reasonably comfortable, G2 uses an oval shape (very similar to that of Index), which seems likely to fit a wider range of users.

G2’s rear head-mount has changed considerably in shape | Photo by Road to VR

The shape is made to find purchase on the back of the head—right on the occipital bone—which actually has a sort of horizontal mound under which the lower part of the oval can be tucked for an ideal fit. I didn’t dislike the comfort of the original Reverb, but feels like an improvement still.

While most of the rest of G2 looks pretty similar in shape to G1, HP actually redesigned all the foam padding on the headset (the parts that cradle the back of your head and face), and it makes a notable difference. G1’s foam was a little more firm and not as wide. G2’s softer and wider foam spreads the pressure on your face over a wider area. Additionally, the face gasket is now magnetic, which makes it a breeze to remove to clear or replace. Given HP’s collaboration with Valve, this feature seems inspired by Index, but unfortunately the face gaskets aren’t interchangeable.

SEE ALSO
Exclusive Hands-on: HP's Reverb G2 is the King of Clarity

We don’t usually talk about a headset’s tether in relation to ergonomics, but compared to G1, the new cable on G2 makes a difference. The G1 tether was double-barrel—essentially two cables side-by-side. This caused two issues: the first was weight, as the heavy cable could be felt tugging on the back of the headset, and the second was flexibility, as the double-barrel design reinforces the cable against bending in a certain direction.

G2 fixes both issues by moving to a single-barrel cable which is pretty much the same width that you’d expect from Index or any other major VR headset. It’s surprising what a difference it makes just to have less tether weight pulling down on the back of the headset.

Photo by Road to VR

Quickly, while we’re on the topic of the cable, it’s worth mentioning that G2 has a lengthy 19.5 foot (6m) tether, which is a few feet longer than what you get with Rift S. The extra length is nice just to have more slack for cable management, but there’s an additional unexpected benefit: because WMR headsets have a playspace setup process which uses the headset itself to define the boundary, the extra cable length means you can trace a slightly larger space. That’s nice for anyone who has their PC tucked in the corner, or those with very large playspaces.

Back to ergonomics. I’m not bothered by the available nose-space of most VR headsets. But G1 always felt cramped and would sometimes put pressure on the bride of my nose. Thankfully, G2 has a larger nose-cavity than the original, and it adds some rubber light blockers there to boot.

And even the headphones have ergonomic benefits…

Audio

Image courtesy HP

HP pretty much grafted Index’s excellent headphones onto G2—using the identical, novel BMR drivers—and I’m definitely happy about that. The move from against-ear headphones to off-ear headphones has a number of advantages.

First is comfort. Having nothing touching your ears is just plain-old better than headphones that push against your ears. What’s more, once you get them into the position you want—as long as you don’t bump them later—you won’t even need to adjust them next time you put on the headset. Against-ear headphones on VR headsets pretty much always get pushed around between uses and need to be adjusted every time.

The second advantage to off-ear is immersion. The unique shape of your ear is actually an important part of how you experience sound. Carefully designed off-ear headphones (like those on Index and G2) expose the sounds to a broader part of your ear, making virtual audio sound more like sound that’s coming from the real world.

Photo by Road to VR

In my hands-on time with G2, the headphones sounded good but seemed to be lacking some bass compared to Index. When I asked HP about it, they said that the early prototype that I was testing doesn’t have its final EQ, and assured me that—thanks to to the use of the very same drivers and amp—they will be able to perform identically to Index once calibrated. That’s good news, because Index has, hands-down, the best audio solution of any VR headset out there. And if things turn out as HP says, G2 will have it too.

Continue on Page 2: Tracking & Controllers »

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  • Tummie

    1 question nobody seems to answer: Are the headphones removable??? I need my own over ear headphones to block outside noise of the motion simulator. I don’t need a jack connector, just be able to remove the original headphones would be enough. G1 did this. Does the the G2 does this as well??

  • Alextended

    All these adverticles and still no comment on tracking vs WMR 1.0 and Rift S/Quest…

    • Stew JW

      The two extra cameras on the side will improve the tracking when moving your controllers around but it will still not be as good as HTC Vive/Valve Index base station tracking. I’m personally not a fan of Microsoft’s tracking solution but it’s functional. I first tried it on the original Reverb which had only the standard two front facing cameras. I think for the sit down VR, simming community this will be a nice upgrade but its still a narrow FOV despite the nice higher res. which may bother some.

      • Alextended

        We need impressions as I said, assuming this or that is all well and good but it’s not just the number of cameras that matters as the fuck ups with the Cosmos line proved. For all you know the tracking doesn’t have any meaningful difference to WMR 1.0, especially if this is an one-off HP-only effort and not Microsoft’s own attempt to upgrade the base specs of WMR as a whole for future collaborations. And yes I deliberately didn’t include Lighthouse in my post, that’s obviously always going to be superior to any inside out tracking solution by range alone if nothing else. The bar to beat is Oculus and it does matter if they managed to reach or beat it in practice.

        • silvaring

          I used WMR tracking about a year after release when they issued that big patch, and it worked perfectly fine even when playing games like Superhot. There’s so many use cases that work well with the current WMR tracking, all thats needed now are ergonomics and comfort levels (with a larger sweet spot in the lenses). For example lying down in a virtual cinema (e.g as if you were lying on the couch) simply feels crap in these head mounted style VR headsets. Then the issue with the glasses, if they could make a WMR headset like the recent Huawei Glasses that would be incredible for most users (who probably wear glasses anyway in their day to day lives).

          Id be willing to give up eye tracking for the foreseeable future if those kind of improvements could be made.

          Question, will eye tracking partially solve the vergence accommodation conflict issue plaguing VR?

          • Alextended

            Why’s that a reply to me, it addresses nothing I said, especially with simplehot as the example game.

          • silvaring

            You were talking about the tracking issues, I just shared my experiences with WMR tracking, basically.

        • Mradr

          The best combo of technology will be that of Oculus current tracking coverage in the front + electromagnet tracking for everywhere else. New IMUs will also improve that too with a bit more software tricks.

    • benz145

      You’re right to be skeptical of the information you consume, but this is not a sponsored article and we don’t accept money for editorial content ever.

      As soon as I get access to the controllers I’ll be doing a deep dive with them.

  • Anfronie

    Man I was expecting more information than this followup article. There NEEDS to be a THOROUGH review of the new controllers and tracking. How is the battery life and do they take normal rechargeable batteries. I hear a lot of mixed feelings on what batteries work best. Why not regular rechargeable ones? There is no top camera so please test the WHOLE range of motion that is in various games and applications. Also how the user interface with Windows Mixed Reality is with the new headset?

    • jasonmartino

      I used Panasonic rechargeable batteries on my Samsung Odyssey which was a WMR headset. They worked fine but only for a few hours.

      • Anfronie

        Why do they drain so quickly? Are they not mainly just emitting inferred light? How did Oculus get their one battery controller so efficient?

        • Visible light is used for tracking WMR controller, at cost of short battery life. Oculus use Infra red light which consumes substantially less power.

          I was lucky to get 2-3 hours out of alkaline Duracell, and found many rechargeable batteries didn’t work properly.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/42183724a41b89112745d2631d242558997b15f21beb4e23e664aa738e0dfbbd.jpg

          • Anfronie

            Wow ok thanks that makes sense. Thanks for the info!

          • It’s a shame the original WMR controllers were the weakest part of the system, the headset tracking was very impressive. I did find closing my window blinds and turning on the indoor lighting gave most consistent tracking.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f7f3dcfdbe588971481442630a1b685eca82f0f5eb4bb24bb23346e81caeb407.jpg

          • brubble

            Well FFS, I did not know this about visible light. My entire place is windows and inescapable sunlight, what a pain in the azz….and only 2-3 hours per battery set? Disappointing to say the very least. Oh well, so much for that Reverb g2 idea.

            When are companies going to design something that makes sense? Seems to me all current VR is compromise after compromise ad nauseam.

            (Old man yells at stupid cloud)

          • Current consumer headsets are limited by technology and cost; typical of early phase adoption.

            I’ve been using VR since 1991, so got used to waiting…2016 Vive Pre to 2019 Valve Index…can wait a little longer for convergence of technology and cost.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eee9620ee153fe2d26d092da1ff6cb24319f0f9b0955f1b9f6402162d5649039.jpg

          • brubble

            Yes of course, its pure impatience on my part.

        • Fabian

          WMR controllers are simply buggy when used with standard 1,2 volt rechargeables, the software thinks they are almosty empty while they are almost fully charged. I use 1,5 volt lithium AA rechargeables in my Odyssey+ controllers and they last at least 10 times longer.

          • Anfronie

            Good to know. I have 1.5 volt rechargeables on order so I should be good to go!

    • benz145

      As soon as I get my hands on them!

      • Anfronie

        Thanks a ton! This is my favorite VR news source. Appreciate it! :)

  • get lost

    I already know that the headset has LCD panels and MEDIOCRE FOV, and that is everything I need to know…

    • Sofian

      I found the black levels with the first Reverb to be surprisingly good for LCD.
      At least compared to the Oculus Go and Pimax 8k I owned.
      But I heard many times that all LCD are the same in regards to black levels, this is just not true.

      Now since G2 uses new panels with “improved brightness” I hope the blacks are at least as good and not ruined by brighter backlight.

      • Bob

        Actually improved brightness can harm the black levels because in almost all cases these LCD panels are uniformly lit (there are no dimming zones).

        This will affect contrast ratio so in this case HP may have had to sacrifice black levels to pump out higher brightness.

        • Sofian

          I hope not, or I ll stick with G1 and just get the controllers.

          • Bob

            Best thing to do is wait for a next generation headset with OLED, and at least Valve Index levels of resolution and FOV.

            Samsung is your best bet right now provided they didn’t cave in to industry pressure of using cheap LCD panels. Which I don’t they think they will.

          • Sofian

            I was waiting for Samsung but I am getting skeptical.
            I am not going to wait for something that is nowhere in sight.

            Try to get your hands on a Reverb and see by yourself how the blacks are, again nothing like with the other LCDs I tried.

          • Bob

            “Try to get your hands on a Reverb and see by yourself how the blacks are, again nothing like with the other LCDs I tried.”

            Yes I know but they have changed some things with the way the panel is used for the G2 which may lead to poorer blacks.

            No way to know for sure until someone gets their hands on this and gives an actual verdict.

          • Hivemind9000

            I’m surprised that the HMD manufacturers don’t quote NITS/Luminance and Contrast Ratio specs for their screens. Not all LCDs are created equally, and a high luminance + high CR LCD can give a decent perception of light/black areas.

            But as you say, proof is in the hands-on experience.

          • From Redditor Eagleshadow:

            Luminance in nits:

            Index 95
            Vive Pro 143
            Vive 214

        • Anfronie

          I thought they said they increased brightness, clarity, AND contrast.

      • Charles

        “I found the black levels with the first Reverb to be surprisingly good for LCD”
        I found them equally horrible to the Pimax 5K. Unacceptable for VR immersion.

        • Trip

          YMMV. I’m all about immersion, to an extreme. I never even noticed the black levels between my CV1/Vive and the Index until it was pointed out. After that it annoyed me a little LOL, but I find image quality trumps OLED blacks.

          • Sofian

            Then we have a disagreement on what “image quality” is.

    • asdf

      its hits a market for a pice point… just because it doesnt have the best of everything doesnt mean its worthless… try using your brain next time

      • get lost

        I did not say it is worthless, and I don’t care about your useless opinion. Next time try NOT using your brain because it still stink around here, shit head

        • brubble

          Boy, someone sure didnt get their junior juice and pudding cup.

  • CallMeJay 360

    In the time you had with testing the tracking, did you try to put the controllers close to the headset to see if it would track just like the Rift S (which is basically perfect), and if so, did they lost tracking, or just like the Rift S, retained tracking?

    • benz145

      I really only had time to jump into some general gameplay, so I didn’t get to specifically test those challenging scenarios. I will definitely look carefully at that situation when testing the new controllers.

      • CallMeJay 360

        Thank you :)

      • Sofian

        Could you ask HP if the new panels brightness affects black levels negatively, and if so will it be possible to tweak the brightness like with the index?

  • Kevin White

    Wonder about battery life, haptic technology, and tracking volume / coverage of the controllers.

    Setting up the perimeter with the Odyssey was messy, and I had a ten foot extension which made it in total lengthier than this G2. Maybe they’ve cleaned the software up but I found it buggy and somewhat frustrating.

  • Trip

    If I didn’t have a Pimax 8K-X on order I’d have pre-ordered this HMD after the first article. For me this HMD is a win on all points but two: FOV (and that’s a big one for me) and lack of Lighthouse tracking so I can easily use my Knuckles. The importance of various specific strengths and weaknesses will vary a lot from user to user, so it’s important to consider that when critiquing hardware like this. Image clarity, comfort, audio quality, and FOV are the four most important for me. This HMD apparently has three out of those four nailed down.

  • Andrew

    How is this going to work with Voiceattack? The last thing I need is my headset mic picking up speech from the headphones and reacting to it. I still think that if speakers next to my ears were a good idea, why didn’t the headset industry do this 20 years for regular headphones – because nobody wants this.

  • mfx

    What the rift-s should have been…

  • El Derrico

    Should I be concerned HP hasn’t finalized the product yet? Should I be concerned HP is only letting one human being preview it? Should I be concerned WMR is basically a dead platform with dated technology (it needs visible light to track?). So many should-I-be concerns.

  • Great job as always, Ben! As all other people I would like to read some more details on the controllers’ tracking…

  • I like what I’m seeing. It doesn’t appear to have any major deficiencies, and I’m usually quite the critic. If Oculus doesn’t show something soon, this might be my next headset.

  • VRcompare
  • Morgan Pike

    “HP confirmed that the Reverb G2 IPD adjustment ranges from 60mm to 68mm. As you’d expect with other headsets, when you adjust the slider on the headset, the WMR software on your PC automatically updates the software IPD setting to match.”

    It was my understanding their were 2 screens and the slider would physically adjust the screens. Meaning this is not a “software IPD” adjustment. The Rift S has software IPD adjustment as it has only one screen so IPD is handles through software.

    Am I wrong? Does the G2 have one screen or two?

  • Nick Wallace

    Ben Lang, great article, I’m curious though if you can check when you do your testing if it’s possible to use the Vive Wand Controllers in conjunction with the headset with the Valve Lighthouses setup. I’d be very interested in using these as a drop in upgrade for my current Vive headsets but want the controllers to track accurately in all situations.

  • Nick Aspros

    This headset is nice and all that but why is it still stuck at 114° FOV? Can’t all the VR manufacturers over come this barrier and make FOV increases? Pimax has done this some degree but still has distortions and they’re a shambles of a company owing backers still.
    Only StarVR One has perfect human FOV but they only cater to enterprise not consumers and costs $3200US.

    • Michael Hudgins

      Because FOV is not a good compromise to sacrifice PPD. This headset is meant to replicate the maximum visual clarity possible. Other headsets focus on FOV, and are available for people to buy, but this is the first headset that focuses on the highest visual clarity possible. The niche of this headset is different than Pixmax and StarVR.

      As performance increases I would rather HP use the additional headroom to get 120hz on this resolution than increase the FOV. 110 degrees is fine tbh. FOV should come last on the list imo.

  • phillypro

    im concerned about tracking honestly
    everything about this headset sounds amazing EXCEPT

    that its missing that fifth camera above the head….that could be a huge mistake if it doesnt at least have tracking parity with the rift S which has been out for so long now