Apple Vision Pro review: The spatial computing revolution is here, and I love it

This mixed-reality headset redefines the genre

Apple Vision Pro Review
(Image: © Future / Dan Ulanoff)

TechRadar Verdict

There has never been a mixed-reality headset quite like the Vision Pro. It raises the bar on visual quality, eye and gesture tracking, and the overall experience in a way that alters your conception of the real world. Despite the significant caveats of price and weight, and some V1 bugginess (apps do crash), this is a headset you'll want to wear again and again.

Pros

  • +

    Powerful

  • +

    Precise and intuitive control

  • +

    Fantastic visual experience

  • +

    Spatial video is excellent and emotionally charged

Cons

  • -

    I wish it was lighter

  • -

    A battery pack that you can't leave behind

  • -

    Expensive

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Apple Vision Pro: Two-minute review

Apple has spent almost a decade developing the Vision Pro, and it shows. Everything about it is spectacular, from the exquisite design to brilliant visuals that blend the real with the fantastical, to the versatility that puts other mixed-reality headsets to shame.

The fact that, even after all that work, there are still limitations is frustrating. Sure, I want a sub-1lb/500g headset that somehow integrates the battery; and, of course, I want it to cost $500. The state of the art, even Apple’s bleeding-edge form of it, isn’t there yet. None of that, however, makes me think less of the Vision Pro. It's a stunning achievement in industrial design and technology that translates the inscrutable worlds of AR, VR, and mixed reality into an experience that pretty much anyone can understand and enjoy.

Using your gaze and gestures (finger taps, long pinch, pull) to control a computer is the intuitive technology control you didn’t know you were missing – the millimeter precision is more like what you’d expect from a seasoned OS, not the brand new Vision Pro platform, visionOS, Apple introduced nine months ago. Apple got this right on the first try, and it could become as second-nature as tapping, pinching, and swiping on an iPhone or iPad is today.

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

As a new computing platform, the Vision Pro is rich with features and possibilities. The fact that it does so many things so well, and that they work and make sense, is a testament to Apple’s efforts. I’ve been marveling at the attention to detail, and at how a bleeding-edge, V1 product can feel so finished and complete. Apple has created a headset that I’m itching to wear almost every day, and if I did nothing but work in it the Vision Pro would transform my life. I’ve long dreamed of having a 150-inch or larger workspace, but I couldn’t imagine how it would be practical or, more importantly, viewable. With the Vision Pro, I get an almost unlimited desktop that makes me want to never return to the confined space of my laptop.

I’ve rarely tested a technology that has moved me in the way the Vision Pro does. Spatial videos are so achingly real that they instantly trigger an emotion that a flat image might not. Being up close with otherworldly or prehistoric creatures that seem to almost see me is at once jarring and thrilling. To pull this off, you need more than great apps, software, developers, and artists; you need a cohesive system that brings it all to life. The Vision Pro does it time and again, with 23 million pixels of imagery, spatial audio that travels the distance from band-bound speakers directly to your ears, and eye-tracking that knows your gaze better than you do.

There are frustrations and missteps, too.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Apple Vision Pro with the Solo Knit Band (Image credit: Future)

I struggled to find the best fit, and while I can now wear the Vision Pro for hours, my face reminds me afterwards that it’s not built for this. I've struggled on occasion to find a fit that doesn’t cause me some niggling discomfort (although the more immersed I get, the less I feel anything).

I don’t mind the external battery, but it feels not quite up to the task when you want to watch a 3D movie and power seems to drain at double speed. Thank goodness the battery can be plugged in for continued use.

Apple Vision Pro Review

You won't go anywhere without that battery pack (Image credit: Future)

While I think the outside-in pass-through technology that marries the real and computer-generated worlds is among the best I’ve seen, Apple’s attempts to keep you connected to people in front of you and through, say, FaceTime calls, need work. Personas are just this side of creepy, and EyeSight, which shows a video of your eyes to those around you on the exterior screen, looks a bit scary. Then there's the price, which is overwhelming, and will be an instant turnoff for many. I wonder, though, if they might feel differently after their first experience – I’d argue that they will decide they want a Vision Pro, and the only question will be how they can afford it.

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Vision Pro: Price and availability

  • Expensive
  • Price does not include lens inserts
  • No yet available outside the US

Apple announced its Vision Pro headset on June 5, 2023, at WWDC 2023. It's available now in the US, and costs $3,499 for the 256GB model. Preorders opened on January 19, and the headset began shipping on February 2. Availability and pricing for other markets is yet to be confirmed, but Apple says that will follow in 2025.

Value score: 4

Apple Vision Pro: What's in the box

Everything that's inside the Apple Vision Pro box

Here's what you'll find when you unbox your Vision Pro (Image credit: Future)

So what do you get for your $3,499 (Apple sent me the 1TB version, which starts at $3,899 – you can opt for a $3,699 512GB headset)? Essentially, in the box is everything you need to put on and start using the Vision Pro. In order of importance:

  • There’s the Vision Pro system
  • A battery with attached cable
  • USB-C charge cable and 30W adapter
  • The Solo Knit Band
  • A Dual Loop Band
  • Two Light Seals Cushions
  • A fabric cover
  • A polishing cloth

The only thing that's not included, and which you might need, as I did, are the Zeiss prescription lens inserts. These will run you $99 for reading-glass lenses, and $149 for full prescription lenses, which is what I need. The Vision Pro might be unusable for those with particular sight issues – Apple can let you know upfront if that's likely to be the case.

It all arrives in a large white box that has all the hallmarks of containing a high-end Apple product.

You can buy an optional carrying case for $199, and, considering that you just dropped almost $3,500, I think it’s money well spent, although some might argue that Apple should include the case with the expensive headset. Apple sent me the case; it's compact, and has storage space for everything I mentioned above, and I think the hard-shell, soft-surface body will do wonders to protect your expensive new toy.

Apple Vision Pro: Specs

The headgear is, in some ways typical goggle size: it's roughly six inches wide by almost four inches deep from the edge of the Light Seal to the front of the glass, and almost four inches tall. 

Perhaps the most important spec of all, though, is the weight. Depending on which bands you use, the Vision Pro clocks in at 1.3 to 1.4lbs, or 600 to 650g. The external battery, which I kept either in my pocket, on the table, or on the couch next to me (later I got a nice $49.95 Belkin Case, so I could attach it to my belt), weighs just over three-quarters of a pound, or around 350g. Thank goodness Apple opted to not integrate the battery in its first mixed-reality headset.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Apple Vision ProMeta Quest 3Meta Quest Pro
DimensionsEst: 152 x 101 x 101mm / 6 x 4 x 4 inches 184 x 160 x 98mm / 7.2 x 6.3 x 3.9 inches 265 x 127 x 196mm / 10.4 x 5 x 7.7 inches
WeightFrom 1.3lbs / 600g 1.14lbs / 515g1.6lbs / 722g
DisplayDual mico-OLEDTwo LCD displaysTwo LCD displays
Display resolution4K per eye (23 million pixels)2064 x 2208 pixels per eye1920 x 1080 per eye
FOVEst 100-degree110-degree horizontal, 96-degree vertical120-degree
Refresh rate90Hz, 96Hz, 100Hz72Hz, 80Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz90Hz
ChipsetApple silicon M2, R1Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+
RAM16GB8GB12GB
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB or 512GB256GB
Battery life2 hours2 hours 12 minutes 2 hours

Apple Vision Pro: Performance

  • Powerful, proven M2 chip
  • R1 appears to take the visual load
  • Never a lag
  • Could do with more base storage

Apple’s Vision Pro works as well as it does not only because of the design and remarkably intuitive interface. As always, it’s what’s inside that really counts.

At its heart is the  M2 chip, a second-generation piece of Apple silicon, featuring an 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU that powers, for instance, the most recent MacBook Air (MacBook Pros now have M3 chips). In my experience, this is a powerful chip that’s well qualified to handle the demands of virtual and augmented reality.

However, the M2 has the support of a new piece of Apple silicon, the R1 chip, which appears to be primarily in charge of managing those 4K screens, and maintaining a 12-millisecond image update so that what you see is clear and butter-smooth.

The Vision Pro’s dual 4K micro-OLED displays with 23 million pixels are also industry-leading. My experience with the headset is that I get crystal-clear imagery wherever I look, and at whatever size I make the screens.

Apple Vision Pro Review

The Vision Pro's audio comes through a pair of audio pods which are hidden under that white rubber (Image credit: Future)

Apple has placed the stereo audio pod headphones on the stiff white rubber stems that feed into the Vision Pro frame, but they provide excellent spatial audio that’s arguably as good as anything you might get with in-ear buds. If you place an app on your virtual left, the audio will come from that space. At one point, I took a screen that was playing video and slowly dragged it from one side of my space to the other, and the audio tracked perfectly from my left side to the middle and then to the right. There’s also a six-microphone array that does a good job of picking up “Siri” commands. I love summoning Siri because, in the Vision Pro, the digital assistant is embodied as a small floating glass orb.

Apple Vision Pro bottom edge cameras

The Vision Pro's bottom-edge cameras (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

There are numerous cameras arrayed on the outside and inside of the Vision Pro. The two on the front handle the stereoscopic imagery that you can see and capture in photos and videos that you’ll play back later, and sometimes cry over.

The Vision Pro supports Wi-Fi 6 (though oddly not Wi-Fi 7, which in a few years will be ubiquitous) and Bluetooth 5.3, the latter of which allowed me to easily connect the Vision Pro to an Xbox controller, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad. 

Apple Vision Pro virtual keyboard

The Vision Pro is best for a quick message or short sentences; typing anything of length on it is virtually impossible (Image credit: Future)

The Vision Pro also displays a virtual keyboard that you can poke at in space. This can be resized and positioned to your liking, but the lack of physical and tactile feedback makes it difficult, at best, to use. What’s worse is that because you may not be looking at the keyboard when you type, the gaze control system can’t really help you with accuracy. To be fair, I’m a terrible typist and do often look at the keyboard when touch-typing. Ultimately, if I want to type within visionOS while wearing the headset, I find that using the Magic Keyboard Apple sent me is best (they also sent a Magic Mouse that can work across both visionOS and my connected MacBook Pro’s virtual display).

Apple provided me with a 1TB Vision Pro test unit, which retails for $3,899. The base model, which costs $3,499, starts with just 256GB of storage. Apple pitches the Vision Pro as the first “spatial computer,” which makes me wonder why it didn’t start with at least a half-terabyte of storage as standard.

Performance score: 4.5

Apple Vision Pro: Design

  • Exquisite materials and build
  • Good looks hide impressive specs
  • Not that light
  • External battery

I know people joke about the Vision Pro looking like a pair of hyped-up snow goggles. Maybe so, but I’d argue there’s not one false note in this design. Apple, as it often does, chose the best material, with a particular focus on weight. So, it’s a mix of an aluminum body, magnesium, carbon fiber, and woven fabric. It’s virtually all curved, with a gleaming glass front that protects the screen marrying almost seamlessly with the body.

There’s a lot of technology packed into the Vision Pro, but Apple has made some effort to hide it. There are cameras behind the glass, and a set of them along the bottom edge that watch your face and hands. The AudioPod speakers that deliver near-perfect spatial audio are hidden behind stiff, white rubber.

Along one side of the top edge is a familiar piece of technology: the Digital Crown. When I first saw this, I wondered why Apple would pull an idea from Apple Watch and slap it on its newest device. But Apple considers the Vision Pro to be a wearable, so there’s some logical continuity here. Plus, the Digital Crown turns out to be one incredibly useful and important piece of Vision Pro technology.

The 'Top Button' on the top left side, which is mostly used for Spatial Photos and Video, gets far less use.

There are some large vents on the top of the frame, and a grille on the bottom, and these seem to work together to draw air in and flow it up and away from your face. The Vision Pro does get warm, but never so much so that it’s uncomfortable.

The Vision Pro and the Light Shield both curve to meet your face, but the crucial bit that makes this design work is the foamy Light Seal cushion. This rests on and follows the contours of your face, and it’s about as comfortable as such a thing should be, though on occasion during my testing time I've wondered if it should be either thicker or denser.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Once I settled on the Dual Loop Band, I found my Vision Pro comfort zone. (Image credit: Future)

Attaching this spatial computer to your head requires a band, or a pair of bands. The default Solo Knit Band is wide, and can be adjusted via a dial to make it tighter or looser. It’s never offered enough support for me, though.

It’s worth pausing here to remind you that the Vision Pro weighs 1.3lbs. That’s not particularly heavy in itself, but a typical set of eyeglasses might weigh 0.08lbs, and now imagine attaching a pound of ground beef to your head. This experience is far more enjoyable, but it needs support. In contrast to the Solo Knit Band, the Dual Loop Band supports the headset on the back of your head and across the top of it, and I bet most people will prefer it over the more attractive Solo Knit version.

Design score 4.5

Apple Vision Pro: Setup

I would not call any part of the Vision Pro setup process complicated or off-putting. There are several steps to go through, but mostly these are to customize the experience. As for assembling it, there’s the matter of which band you choose for comfort, and fitting the right Light Seal (the thinner one is standard, the thicker one is for glasses-wearers who have those Zeiss inserts). You also need to attach the battery cable, which snaps into the right side (if the headset’s glass is facing you) and locks on with a twist – there’s no chance of it popping off. The cable is long enough for you to drop the somewhat hefty battery into your pocket.

The bands snap on and off metal lugs using small orange pull tabs; I usually put the lens cover on, so that I can tip the Vision Pro on its face while I swap bands. Aside from the colorful screen behind the glass, which is just black when the device is off, that orange is the only bit of color pop on the headset.

If you ordered Zeiss prescription lenses, as I did, you’ll have to put them in before using the headset. They, like most other pieces on the Vision Pro (for instance the Light Seal and its cushion) attach magnetically. They’re also labeled, so you won’t get confused about which lens goes on which side. The box comes with a QR code that you’ll use to register the lenses with the headset.

There’s also a QR code moment when you want to sync your Vision Pro with your phone and iCloud account. None of this takes long, or is even remotely confusing.

The rest of the setup occurs mostly with the headset on. Apple fans will appreciate the startup, which includes a floating Apple logo and then the iconic 'Hello' spelled out in 3D scripted letters floating in your real-world space. It’s just a hint of what’s to come.

One of the keys to the Vision Pro’s technical excellence is its ability to track your gaze (along with the dual 4K micro-OLED screens inside the headset are cameras pointed directly at your eyes). So, the setup begins with pressing the crown to get the pupillary distance – that is, the distance between your pupils – right. The screens mechanically shift position to match your pupils.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Looking at and selecting these dots is an important step in the setup process (Image credit: Future)

Next, to ensure that the Vision Pro fully understands where you’re looking, you go through a series of vision calibration tests, during which a circle of dots appears and you look at each one, and pinch your index finger and thumb together. You do this three times in three different environmental light settings. I’d already tried this five times over the last seven months of demos, so I'd gotten quite good at it.

The system also needs to calibrate for your hands. This process consists of holding them up in front of the Vision Pro. You’ll see a faint glow around the outside edges of your digits, and then you flip your hands over and do it again.

While the system may occasionally ask you to reset the pupillary distance by holding down the Digital Crown, you won’t have to perform any other part of the setup again. For Guest Mode, if you want to let someone else to try the headset, they’ll go through the vision and hand calibration, but the results will not be used by the Vision Pro when their session ends.

As I've said, I found this setup simple, and quite effective in that from that point on the system has seemed to know me every time I've donned the Vision Pro, and it worked as well as the time before. The only step I need to follow now to get started is logging in with a PIN. You can also log on with an iris scan (OpticID) but, while I successfully registered my iris, I could never unlock the Vision Pro with my eyes. I've asked Apple about this issue and will update this review with its reply.

Apple Vision Pro: Software and Interface

  • Excellent intuitive OS
  • A true 'think-do' interface
  • Spatial computing turns the world into an unlimited digital space

You start on the home screen, or Home View, which can be summoned with one press of the Digital Crown. This screen will look somewhat familiar to most Apple fans: there's a grid of preinstalled app icons, many of which match what you’ll find on your iPad or iPhone (Notes, Safari, Photos, Podcasts, Calendar, Mail, Files, etc), horizontally arrayed and floating in your real-world environment. You can use the pinch-and-wave gesture to move through multiple screens of apps. This is where the apps you install will live – you can download many more from the App Store, which now has more than 600 visionOS apps. There’s also access to 'Compatible Apps' folder, which collected all the iOS and iPadOS apps I installed on Vision Pro. Apple claims that roughly a million iOS and iPadOS apps already work with Vision Pro, even if they were not designed for visionOS and the Vision Pro. It's not hard, though, to find ones, like most Google apps, that don't.

Compatibility is a mixed bag. Sometimes it works perfectly, other times less so. NBA2K got stuck on setup screens and wouldn’t let me access the game. In the case of Paramount Plus, which is not officially designed to work on the headset, it played, but I couldn't expand the live video to a full window. Apps that have not been custom-built for visionOS were the ones most likely to crash.

The Vision Pro defaults to a full pass-through mode, although that’s a misnomer; you’re never looking directly at your surroundings. Instead, the cameras on the front deliver a clear video feed of your surroundings to your eyes. It’s the best way to marry virtual information with reality, and it's very effective.