As HoloLens vanishes from view, XREAL steps up and takes 51% of the augmented reality market

(Image credit: Windows Central | Tom Burns)

What you need to know

  • XREAL (formerly NREAL) creates AR glasses that look almost as subtle as regular glasses. 
  • Complete with prescription options, the XREAL glasses function essentially as an external monitor, able to extend or duplicate a Windows PC or Android phone display. They also work seamlessly with Samsung DeX (or Windows 10 Mobile's Continuum... RIP). 
  • As part of CES 2024 news drops, XREAL announced that it has taken more than half of the AR market to date, and is growing rapidly. 

Once upon a time, Microsoft was experimenting heavily with consumer-facing augmented reality. Whether it was HoloLens or the leaked "Project Fortazela" from back in 2014, Microsoft thought augmented reality was an opportunity to create new paradigms for Windows devices, while potentially extending its UWP app platform. Fast forward to 2024, and we have most of the HoloLens division winding down, kept on life support only by an outstanding HoloLens contract with the U.S. military (which has been in danger of being shut down for years, according to reports). Microsoft also just killed its entire Windows Mixed Reality platform just recently, conceding the entirety of the future of augmented reality platforms to companies like Meta and Apple, both of whom who are struggling to truly mainstream the tech. Perhaps another player will have more luck?

Today, XREAL announced at CES 2024 that, according to IDC, it has cornered an impressive 51% of the nascent augmented reality market, with its stylish and subtle AR line up. 

XREAL co-founder and CEO Chi Xu described the firm's ambitions in a statement, “Having secured a major foothold in the global wearable display market, XREAL is now in a stronger position to embrace market momentum and reaffirm its position as the leading, best-selling AR glasses and spatial computing brand in the world today, who’s trajectory is outpacing the rest of the industry combined.” 

XREAL has shipped 350,000 AR glasses to date, according to the press release, combining sales of its XREAL Air and XREAL Air Pro glasses. 

I've actually been using XREAL glasses, and they're pretty great


(Image credit: XREAL)

While I have a full review of the XREAL Air 2 Pro on the way, I'm confident to say now that this device is truly impressive. The entry level kit is down to $300, which is a universe away from HoloLens' $2000, or Apple's absurd $4999 for its Vision Pro. The Meta Quest 3 is the most obvious competitor, but it's also bulky and huge, designed for the living room. What makes the XREAL truly special is how unassuming it is — they look and feel exactly like normal sunglasses at a glance, and it's only upon closer inspection that you'd even notice they were anything but. 

Related: XREAL Air vs. Lenovo Legion Glasses

The XREAL Air 2 Pro that I have has some refinements over its predecessor, mostly around ergonomics. They use micro OLED displays from Sony, complete with clever (and optional) prescription inserts for those of us with bad eyesight (me). 

In ideal conditions, they absolutely body slam devices like the Meta Quest, HoloLens 2, and any other VR or AR device I've ever used. Minimal aberration, TV-sharp displays, and completely without fatigue, owing to their light weight and adjustable dimming capabilities.

Naturally, these aren't full-bore computers like the Meta Quest or HoloLens were, but they needn't be really. We're always carrying our phones around, and these seamlessly incorporate any modern device with a USB-C port. Plug them into your phone, and immediately you can watch Netflix, YouTube, or use full-blown Samsung DeX for productivity. The next event I cover, I won't be taking my laptop, I'm going to travel light with the XREAL, my phone, and a folding Bluetooth keyboard/trackpad combo instead.

Stay tuned for the full XREAL Air 2 Pro review, and drop any questions you might have about them in the comments.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!