I've known for a while about a glossy white headset from Dell that worked with Windows Mixed Reality, but in all of my previous interactions at events that headset was sealed inside a glass case like some sort of priceless artifact. I recently got some time to actually touch the headset and its matching controllers, and I have way more to say about the latter than the former.
Everything you're about to read needs to be prefaced by this — nothing I touched in this Windows Mixed Reality setup actually worked when I tried it. Dell's demo station for the press was behind a huge table, which meant the headset didn't have the requisite six feet of clearance necessary for Windows Mixed Reality to behave. I could see the Mixed Reality portal when I put the headset on, but there wasn't enough room to move around without errors popping up.
What you need to know about Dell's Mixed Reality headset
Dell's headset is by far the prettiest of the Windows Mixed Reality headsets I've encountered. No disrespect to the ultra-cheap Acer headset or the super comfy HP headset, but the Dell headset is just plain nice to look at. The glossy plastic feels nice and tactile when put it on, the padding on all sides of the "halo" is comfortable, and the gear on the back to tighten the halo felt substantial and precise. Dell even included a simple sliding mechanism to help direct the cable either behind your shoulder or in front of it, which is a nice detail.
As nice as it is, this headset has all the same internals as every other Windows Mixed Reality headset, which meant I already knew it was going to be great. What I hadn't experienced until now were the Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers. Microsoft unveiled them at its Build conference earlier this year but didn't offer a ton of information on how the controllers were going to be available and didn't have any at the conference to play with.
While these controllers look exactly like the controllers unveiled at Build, Dell assured us they were actually made by Dell with Dell's specs in mind. According to Dell, there wasn't enough time between Microsoft giving the requirements for designing these controllers and needing to have them ready to buy for things like tweaking the design. If this is true, you can expect all of the Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers from all of the first-wave manufacturers to look and feel roughly the same. It's also likely we'll see some variations on this controller design next year.
Having spent a lot of time using the Oculus Touch controllers and the HTC Vive wands, it's not hard to see where Microsoft got its inspiration. Each motion controller features a joystick and a small touchpad, and both are within a decent range of your thumb so there's no concern of accidentally hitting either. There's a primary trigger and a secondary trigger in great placement on the wand to line up with your hand grip, and of course, a big ring up top to make the controllers easier to track.
The only real issue I had with these controllers is the palm area. The controllers are boxy and thin in the palm, which makes it uncomfortable to get a firm grip compared to the existing competition. The angle of the grip felt a little off, as well, making it so I was actually pointing the tip of the controller down slightly when trying to hold it straight out.
At $359 for the headset and an additional $99 for the controllers, Dell has a lot of proving to do here. Is this headset $60 better than the Acer headset? It's probably close. Is this whole kit $60 better than the Oculus Rift? That's on Microsoft to answer before these headsets start shipping in October. If you're ready to put some money down already, preorders should start in December.
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