We found out yesterday that Lenovo’s (still unnamed) VR headset is said to be surprisingly light and low cost, but after checking out the device ourselves, we found a hidden function that we wish was on every headset.

With the PSVR-like ‘halo’ head-mount of the Lenovo VR headset, the display enclosure hangs down from the forehead rather than being pressed against your face like a pair of ski goggles. Not only does that make it quite comfortable, but it also opens to door to a flip-up function that will make life wearing the headset much easier.

The Flip Factor

Putting on a headset only to realize you need to pick up a controller, find a pair of headphones, or answer your phone, is a pain. Sony’s PSVR has a retractable display enclosure which at least lets you peek out the bottom easily, but pointing your eyes downward at that angle gets uncomfortable after little more than a few seconds, and tilting your head (along with the heavy headset) up at an awkward angle to look at someone in the eye to talk them is no fun at all. The HTC Vive took at stab at the problem with a pass-through camera which lets you ‘see through’ the headset into the outside world, but the single-camera view lacks stereo depth (and is for some reason filtered with a silly stylized outline). In the end, the best solution to far to the ‘I need to look at something outside of my headset’ problem has simply been to remove the headset entirely.

As we got our hands on a design-prototype of Lenovo’s VR headset at CES this week, we found a handy feature that we hope to see replicated on headsets of the future: a simple hinge that allows the enclosure to easily flip up and down.

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Design and Fit

The prototype we got our hands on was non-functional, but the industrial design appeared surprisingly mature. The rear of the headband had a ratcheting tightener (similar to PSVR) to make sure the headset fits snugly as it rests mostly atop your forehead, using the back of your head as an anchor. Compared to other headsets out there, the Lenovo VR headset was surprisingly small; closer to Gear VR in size than PSVR or Vive. The fit was comfortable, but as a non-functional prototype—that probably isn’t equal to the final weight—it’s hard to say how representative it is of the finished product. Generally, we’ve liked the ‘halo’ head-mount design, and hope Lenovo can make it as comfortable as the PSVR.

lenovo-vr-headset-windows-holographic-1Bring Your Own Audio

Sadly, the headset uses the BYOA (bring your own audio) approach, rather than an integrated audio solution like the Rift. The wrong pair of headphones could compromise the headset’s comfort. Whichever pair you decide to use, you’ll have to connect them to a 3.5mm headphone jack that’s on the bottom of the display enclosure. That seems like a fairly awkward place for the connection, as it puts the dangling cord possibly in the way of your hands. On the Vive, the audio connection is found behind the head, while PSVR places it on a small junction box along the headset’s tether.

Cameras and Connections

Thanks to the two cameras on the front, the Lenovo VR headset has inside-out positional tracking (so you won’t have to set up external sensors), but the headset still needs to be powered and get data back and forth to the computer, which is why you’ll find an HDMI and USB plug at the end of the cable. So far it seems these will go directly into the computer without any sort of breakout box, but Lenovo has been tight lipped on details beyond showing us the design prototype, though they have let spill that the headset will use dual 1440×1440 displays, besting the present resolution of the Rift, Vive, and PSVR. It’s unclear if the front cameras will be used for anything beyond positional tracking (like pass-through vision or gesture input).

Lenses and (lack of) Adjustments

lenovo-vr-headset-windows-holographic-2Inside the display enclosure are two large lenses. We didn’t have a chance to inspect them up close—and for that matter the design-prototype may not have been using the final lenses that will end up in the headset—but they appeared to be non-Fresnel lenses, which (if final) means the headset won’t see the same sort of Fresnel-induced light ray artifacts as found in the Vive and Rift. Situated between the lenses we spied an infrared sensor which will detect when your head is or isn’t inside the device, allowing the screen to turn off and applications to pause when you pop the headset off (or flip the enclosure up).

Beyond the ratcheting mechanism on the back of the headband, we found no other adjustments on the headset (like lens separation or eye-relief). The compact enclosure means the Lenovo VR headset might have a challenge fitting glasses inside.

Lenovo hasn’t announced a release date for their VR headset yet, but have said it will be priced between $300 and $400. From what we’ve seen so far of the hardware, the headset is quite appealing, but the real test will come once we get to try out a functional version of the headset to see if the company has nailed the rest of it.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Richard Hoffmann

    Remember the good old VFX 1? It had one too, and this was in the 90’s! Oh, I’m old… Glad someone remembered this too and bringing it back! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0n5B3fl-bU

    • mellott124

      Exactly what I thought of when I read the title. Nice.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        And you’re not the only one.. Still think the VFX1 is one of the most comfortable headsets around. Someone should take that design and just fix the shortcommings..

        But the flipup from this Lenovo headset seems to be to low, it should flip up much higer..

        • mellott124

          Agreed. Looks like it’s just a flip-up so you can see your keyboard, not nessecarily anything else.

  • VRgameDevGirl

    I might want this when it comes, only for the comfort. I have both vive and rift, vive hurts my face, rift is comfy, but it lacks big enough room scale even with touch. Cant wait for the hands on review of a working product.

    • Get Schwifty!

      My big concerns with this headset are the lack of inter-pupil distance settings and lens distance controls, and the question of controllers… it feels like a design attempt to test the market interest in a general media consumption VR HMD more than one focused on gaming, especially since there are no controllers even mentioned.

      I sincerely hope VIve and Rift decide to drop their current designs and go with the hanging-headset design used here in the future, it just makes so much sense, and include the flip-up design too!

      • VRgameDevGirl

        Agreed. I would for sure buy the next iteration of VIVE if it has the hang style and flip up design.

        • I wouldn’t unless they also improved the controller size/ergonomics/functionality. The Touch controllers where what sold me on the Rift when I tried them at PAX – they are far and away the best VR controllers on the market. Future Vive and Windows Holographic controllers are going to have to step up their game. Having a standardized controller on par with the Touch (as good as the current Vive controller would be bare minimum) will be the make-or-break for Windows Holographic in particular.

    • burzum

      What? How big is your room!? The article here on this site some time ago has shown that the rift can cover a huge area even with just two sensors and improve the tracking with a third one even more. I still doubt that the majority of people has more than 2 – 5m² available except they have the luxury of having a dedicated big enough VR-room, which the majority clearly has not.

      • Get Schwifty!

        As someone with Rift+Touch with three sensors I can tell you the 10.5′ x 10.5′ area is definitely a maximum for decent tracking with the Oculus cameras. You will not get that large an area with two sensors, at least not with tracking you’d care to use, maybe 6’x6′ with some sacrifice close to the ground. Given that VRgameDevGirl is a developer, I suspect she has to build for room-scale and needs the largest play space to test which means Vive distance of about 12’x12′, or even up to 15’x15′.

        • While quite true that it makes more sense for developers, it’s impractical to develop for a space larger than 10×10 unless you are doing VR development for commercial/industrial purposes where you might have purpose-made spaces to use the equipment. For end-users even a safe 10×10 space is quite rare (and worse outside the US market). In many ways designing for that large of a space is actually shooting yourself in the foot.

          • Armando Tavares


        • Frogacuda

          I’ve seen larger areas than that work on Rift with four sensors, but I think larger areas than that are pretty uncommon regardless of hardware anyway.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Id like to know how that is all setup (connectivity on ports, system specs etc), I have four but I and others have had issues with it, and there isn’t even true support from Oculus right now for four sensors, the support board is replete with people trying four with no luck which is why I am using just three.

            Officially, the support with even four is still 10.5’x10.5′. Not to call bullshit, but I am highly suspicious of claims that four sensors give any substantial boost in area without a loss in tracking past the 10.5’x10.5′ area, even just based on results using 3 sensors currently. Unfortunately I cannot test it out currently, and am awaiting Oculus to get this working correctly before I do.

            If it is correct that four will work with good tracking and down to the floor, I am thrilled, but I would have to see it for myself ;)

      • Armando Tavares

        Room tracking is yet another mistake made by Oculus/Vive while designing their devices.

        Sooner or later it will turn out to be a niche experience. A few users will favor it. Most wont/can’t.

        You just need to ask yourself something:

        1. What will be the percentage of users for whom it is possible to ‘waste’ room in their houses for VR only? Look at average new home size around the world: http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/how-big-is-a-house

        2. Then, even within that group of users, how many will ACTUALLY be willing to waste that space?

        Fyi: Motion controllers will probably turn out to be the same. A niche experience most wont bother with. Right now motion controllers are being forced down our throat via content, but once a wider content pool is available I believe this kind of controllers will fade away to favor ‘something’ else.

        • burzum

          Thanks for that link. That’s a good argument against all the people who think everybody has a private VR hall available. “Roomscale” just doesn’t matter in the home user market – IMO.

          I don’t think a certain level of “roomscale” is a bad idea for industrial users like entertainment parks, nor do I think “standing” in a ~2.5m² area and using motion controllers is a bad idea. I think the market will serve both kinds of games and flavours in the long run. I just wish there would a proper working shooter with singleplayer similar to Onward WITH motion controller support. ;) Ravenshield Rainbow 6 would be awesome in VR or Arma3 in CQC. For long distance fights the resolution of the HMDs is still to low and probably has to go over 4k. Actually I wouldn’t want ever go back and play Doom3 BFG with anything else than motion controllers.

    • Mike Handles
      • VRgameDevGirl

        Hehe already looked at that!!! Can’t wait!

  • VR Games For

    Would it support some HTC Vive or Oculus Rift games?

    • Frogacuda

      It’s not known yet, but given the way Steam/OpenVR is structured, I think it’s highly likely we’ll see SteamVR support. Oculus Home I’d guess not, since Oculus is pretty hard-headed about these things.

  • It’s a very interesting design factor. The problem is that I’m afraid that rising and closing too many times, it can become loose.

    Anyway, we’ll see at CES how these Microsoft devices will perform…

    • Frogacuda

      It appears to have a locking mechanism with a button.

  • “they appeared to be non-Fresnel lenses, which (if final)”

    Isn’t it virtually impossible for them to be non fresnel lenses and this headset size? It seems like there isn’t enough distance between the eyes an the screen to use conventional lenses without significant distortion issues (unless this is actually using a small FOV like hololens, in which case that introduces a different major negative).

    “The compact enclosure means the Lenovo VR headset might have a challenge fitting glasses inside.”

    It looks impossible for most glasses, the cavity is too small vertically, and horizontally because of the curve, and there is no accommodation for the temples on the sides. This is highly disappointing and a complete deal breaker for me and many of my friends. Lenovo is shooting themselves in the foot by not making the design accessible. Lower price doesn’t matter if you can’t use it.

    • Gary Kohout

      “Isn’t it virtually impossible for them to be non fresnel lenses and this headset size? ”
      I don’t think so. Pretty sure my gear VR uses a regular lens.

      • ✨EnkrowX✨

        PSVR and OSVR also use regular lenses.

  • ummm…

    looks like us vivers and rifters are going to have a lot more people to argue with come 2018

    • Bob

      Flip-up design is great and really usable although I did find that the Oculus Rift’s baseball cap style fit was actually better at eliminating most of the jiggling of the visor during the most active moments.

      • ummm…

        vive is about to release a new headstrap right? im guessing it is plug and play. rift can do the same. i will say the “visor” style looks promising, although ive never tried a psvr.

  • “the headset uses the BYOA (bring your own audio) approach, rather than an integrated audio solution like the Rift” Why not “Rift and Vive”? I keep reading things that imply the Vive doesn’t come with a custom, high-quality headphone solution when the reality is that the Vive is the best of both worlds (includes a good solution AND allows you to use your own) and this may be a sign that Lenovo is doing the same. To me, Rift is the trailing system because a user’s options are limited to only the two provided by Oculus.

    • ✨EnkrowX✨

      The rift allows you to detach the included audio and use your own if you’d like, but you have to plug into your PC.

      3 people I know have vives, and none of them have come with any kind of audio hardware.

      • Perhaps you’re referring to the pre or devkits, but they only lacked the ear-buds and didn’t require anything to be plugged into the PC directly other than USB and HDMI like the Rift and neither does the retail Vive which comes with headphones as well.

        The retail unit photo is mine (just took it) and the devkit is from htcsource.com because my devkit is out on loan right now.

        You can clearly see the audio jack in the dev kit (exposed as a usb audio device in windows, though HDMI audio is exposed as well). On the retail unit, you get that jack along with a short breakout cable as well as HTC earbuds with short cords.

        As I said, I don’t know where people keep getting the impression that the Vive doesn’t include audio.

        devkit: http://htcsource.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/HTC-Vive-3.jpg
        retail: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e7b30c79fe7cf2f9682cb0d1b50007515a2b4dd8d02c9d85f35febd21b0df122.jpg

        • ✨EnkrowX✨

          Neat, I didn’t know that it came with earbuds.

  • OgreTactics

    Head-rest band: check. Flip mechanism: check. Foldable headband: absent. Not there yet. Also where are integrated docks and pouches?

  • Luke

    does it have the ability to do room scale VR as Vive and Rift? thanks