Last year, I had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time with HP’s first VR headset, the HP Reverb. I really thought that HP had done the impossible and delivered a comfortable, high resolution headset that was generally affordable and executed well on its purpose. The Reverb was targeted squarely at the enterprise end user looking to use the headset for enterprise use cases like training and prototyping. It had a simple setup and was comfortable and very compact with minimal setup thanks to the Windows Mixed Reality inside out tracking and software integration.
What really made the Reverb such a big deal was the 2160x2160 per-eye resolution which meant that you could affordably access a high-resolution VR headset for about $599. However, it had some deal-breaking issues including some display/lens issues including some ghosting and some Mura. I also personally had issues with the quick disconnect cable which would disconnect too easily and cause my headset to disconnect from my PC. HP took many of these criticisms from the community in stride and decided to do it over with the HP Reverb G2.
I believe the HP Reverb G2 feels like it delivers on many of the hopes and promises of the original Reverb with a multitude of fixes across the board that I would like to believe fix most if not all the original problems. First, I think HP was smart to go with a new 90 Hz display with improved contrast and brightness which the company claims is ‘Mura-free’ which is a combination of a new display combined with a new lens. The important part of this is that Valve came to HP and offered to help them co-engineer this headset, which I believe many people will agree should lend a considerable amount of credibility to HP’s claims. After all, Valve did design and build the Index headset which is currently the standard for high-end VR headsets combined with SteamVR 2.0 tracking which uses lighthouses instead of inside-out tracking. However, even with new displays and lenses, the resolution and field of view remain the same at 114 degrees, which at this point is still considered acceptable.
Building on the display improvements, HP is also adding manual IPD (interpupillary distance) adjustment to the bottom of the headset, which is a much-needed feature for something with as high of a resolution as the Reverb G2. This was a feature that I thought was missing from the first version considering how much IPD can affect image quality and sharpness. The sharpness and image quality also have an impact on eyestrain as they more in-focus the lenses are the less the eyes have to work to try to bring the image in focus. HP has also changed the controllers for the new HP Reverb G2 with a new version that are more comfortable to hold. HP has also changed the cabling setup for the Reverb G2 now increasing the length of the cable from 4.5M to 6M, making it considerably longer and moving the connector into the headset with a more robust connection to prevent accidental disconnects.
New Controllers and better tracking
For the Reverb G2, HP has worked with Microsoft to overhaul the Reverb controllers, which I would agree were somewhat clunky and uncomfortable and looked like they were ‘stock’ controllers that had previously been paired with less expensive headsets. HP has overhauled the Reverb G2’s controllers and made them more ergonomic and comfortable and did away with the touchpads instead going for a thumb stick and button scheme which seems to point towards a more Oculus Touch-like appearance. One of the big problems with a lot of inside-out headsets is that the controllers lose tracking when they move outside of the field of view of the cameras built into the headset. That’s why HP has included four outward-facing cameras for the headset’s tracking as well as the tracking of controllers, enabling a more robust tracking experience for both the headset and controllers. The original Reverb only had two front-facing cameras which significantly limited the field of view where the controllers could be tracked reliably. This should considerably improve the user experience of the Reverb G2 and make it a much more enjoyable experience. HP says that it enables a more than 2x tracking volume for the controllers which allows for 6DoF and controller tracking (6 degrees of freedom) without needing lighthouses like the Index uses.
More Valve “DNA”
Valve’s involvement was not only limited to the optics of the Reverb G2, but also the audio. The Reverb G2 has spatial audio, which is possible thanks to a new audio setup. The new ‘headphones’ that are built into the Reverb G2 look like they were torn right off the Valve Index headset and placed on the Reverb G2, which is honestly not a bad thing. Valve wants to help grow the VR market and improve the quality of people’s VR experiences, which is why it makes sense that they would help HP by giving them this design. Valve’s earphones or ear speakers do not actually go on the ear but rather over the ear and create spatial audio without fully blocking out airflow or the outside world for safety reasons. They get plenty loud and have tons of range, so they should be a welcome addition here as well. Microsoft has also contributed to the spatial audio capabilities with Windows’ built-in spatial audio which is all important for audio in VR where audio needs to be as spatial as the visuals.
A Pivot on target markets
As a part of HP’s changes with the Reverb G2, HP has made the new headset less of an enterprise-focused device and more of a general-purpose premium headset. The new Reverb G2 is designed to both address the consumer and enterprise markets with the improvements that it makes. HP’s primary competitors in the PC industry do not have remotely competitive headsets and frankly this headset looks considerably better than a Rift S and probably competitive with the Valve Index or Vive Pro.
With Valve’s help and iterative design with this new version, I believe that HP can target both enterprise and consumers because HP is one of the few companies that gets both. These days, both markets are generally looking for the same thing in a PC VR headset and if a headset can satisfy both markets, I do not see why they would not build it. Valve’s involvement in this new headset I believe lends HP a lot of credibility that they have addressed the majority of the issues with the old Reverb in this new model and I am hopeful we will see it soon.
HP is releasing the new HP Reverb at an extremely attractive $599 price point, which is the same price that the original sold for and is making pre-orders available May 28th. I believe that many will question whether HP has really fixed the issues, but I believe that Valve’s involvement will quell some people’s concerns. I think HP could really have a winner with the HP Reverb G2 and I think they are going to give competitors and the rest of the market a run for their money. With improvements across the board, I believe HP could help propel VR into its next phase and help people get their hands on a high-quality VR experience at a relatively reasonable price. People are communicating and collaborating remotely more than ever before, and I think that trend is going to continue even through this current crisis. Pre-orders are going to be important for people wanting to get this headset, which will be available in the fall and considering current supply issues for other VR headsets would be a wise thing to pre-order if you think it’s worth the money.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.