By the time most Apple hardware is released, we usually know every minute detail of the specs and have a pretty good idea of what using it will be like. That hasn’t been the case with the Apple Vision Pro. Apple conducted multiple waves of demos in the months since WWDC 2023, but those were tightly controlled and limited. Today, however, we’re seeing the first hardware reviews from a range of media outlets and YouTubers who have had a chance to spend about a week testing the device.
There are some excellent reviews that are well worth reading in full, but I thought I’d highlight some of the most interesting tidbits that were either unknown or unclear before now to help give readers a better sense of what this hardware is all about.
My favorite review of the lot is Nilay Patel’s for The Verge, which is packed with the kind of detail about Apple Vision Pro I’ve been craving.
In reality, it might as well not be there. It’s a low-res OLED with a lenticular panel in front of it to provide a mild 3D effect, and it’s so dim and the cover glass is so reflective, it’s actually hard to see in most normal to bright lighting.
He wasn’t impressed with the Personas feature for video calls, which is currently in beta either:
I won’t go into that much detail on Apple’s deeply weird and extremely uncanny 3D persona system here — the best way to understand them is by watching the video review above, which features a FaceTime call between The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern, Marques Brownlee, and me, all using our personas. To quote Marques, personas are really impressive and also really bad. You can see why Apple put the beta label on them; there’s a long way to go before using a persona on a call isn’t distracting at best and, at worst, extremely rude.
However, I was very glad to hear how good Patel’s experience was using Vision Pro with a Mac:
Speaking of the Mac, I know a lot of people are excited about the idea of buying a Vision Pro just to put up giant virtual monitors. There’s good news and bad news about that. The good news is that Mac display sharing works really well, and Apple ecosystem tricks like Handoff and Continuity are pure magic in this context. You can copy on your Mac and paste in visionOS, and it just works. You can open your Mac display in visionOS and drag the mouse off the screen, and suddenly, your Mac’s keyboard and trackpad are controlling visionOS apps. It works just like it does between a Mac and an iPad. I found myself putting a virtual Mac display over my MacBook Pro’s screen and making it look like I had a 50-inch laptop to use Lightroom with — it’s awesome.
Mark Spoonauer writing for Tom’s Hardware says of the keyboard:
The Apple Vision Pro lets you type on a floating keyboard to enter text, but it’s not very satisfying. For one, there’s no tactile feedback, even though you hear clicks as you type. And you can’t type very quickly; it’s more a peck-peck-peck scenario with one or two hands.
Of the apps he tried, Spoonauer was a big fan of Algoriddim’s djay:
The most impressive Vision Pro app I tried is djay, which puts you right in front of a mixer and turntables. I had no idea what I was doing but was still blown away with the realism of the table itself and the fact that I could interact with all the buttons, sliders and needles as if they were there. And there’s wild transparent boxes that you can put your hand through to make special effects. This is nuts.
Scott Stein at CNET liked the Vision Pro a lot but wondered if it would be too isolating in everyday life:
Is the isolation too perfect sometimes, though? I watch movies with AirPods Pro buds in, turning my living room into a movie theater. After a while my son taps me on the shoulder and asks if I’m asleep. I say of course not. But my wife says she doesn’t like this, that I’m so removed from everything. My son calls it a phone for my face. They have a point. My wife also says she’s concerned about me getting lost in digital memories. Part of me thinks this is very real, and another part of me thinks this is an extension of what’s already happened on our phones. While the Vision Pro creates presence by showing the real world through its passthrough cameras, or even replicas of my eyes, it also allows me to close these off, even sealing my audio world completely with AirPods. I can be in my own world, inches from my own family.
Also, Todd Haselton of CNBC found multitasking useful:
I launched more than a dozen apps around me. There’s no point in doing more, because you can’t see it all. I loved setting it up with a browser in front of me, music next to me and a TV screen above it all. But the world is yours to customize. You can open mail and a browser or leave Slack open next to a Word document with your calendar on the other side. Put your text messages on the ceiling if you want. It’s a completely new way to multitask.
Of course, there were also many video reviews posted to YouTube today, including the following, which are among my favorites: