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5 reasons to buy Windows Mixed Reality and 2 reasons to pass

Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) has been available for awhile now, and it's proven itself as a cheaper alternative to Rift and Vive that can nevertheless deliver a similar experience. If you're thinking about getting into VR and you're considering WMR, I've put together this list of five reasons to buy a headset and a couple reasons you might want to pass in lieu of the other PC-based VR systems.

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Reasons to buy Windows Mixed Reality

There are a lot of solid reasons to invest in the WMR ecosystem.

Windows Mixed Reality is available at a cheaper price

Depending on which headset you choose to checkout with, you can get started in VR for a lot cheaper than with an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Headsets made by HP, Acer, Dell, and Lenovo are regularly discounted, and chances are you should be able to find a headset and motion controller bundle for a price between $200 and $250 (opens in new tab).

Compared to the $400 price of a Rift with Touch controllers (opens in new tab) or the $500 price of a full Vive setup (opens in new tab), those with a limited budget can nevertheless experience a quality VR experience.

See WMR at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Windows Mixed Reality headsets have a higher resolution

Samsung HMD Odyssey+ (Image credit: Windows Central)

WMR headsets all have a higher resolution display than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. In the case of all but Samsung's headset, you're looking at 1,440 x 1,440 per eye, whereas the Rift and Vive are set at 1,080 x 1,200 per eye. Samsung's headset has an even higher resolution at 1,440 x 1,600 per eye, which is on par with HTC's new Vive Pro.

What does this mean? In most cases, the image is clearer, making it easier to see small details. Reading text isn't as difficult, and you'll notice an all-around crispness when comparing WMR to the Rift and Vive.

As for field-of-view (FOV), both the Rift and Vive sit at about 110 degrees. Again, WMR headsets differ, with Dell and Samsung offering up the same 110 degrees. Lenovo's headset sits at about 105 degrees, and the rest are at about 95 degrees. If you want to have the least amount of tunnel vision, you'll want to stick with either the Dell or Samsung headset.

Windows Mixed Reality has SteamVR integration

How to play Oculus Rift games on Windows Mixed Reality (Image credit: Windows Central)

Alongside the VR games and experiences available from the Microsoft Store, SteamVR integration has also opened up the enormous Steam library of games to WMR. Though not all games available from Steam have the official WMR symbol, every one that we've tested has worked across platforms.

If a SteamVR game or experience doesn't have the official WMR logo, your best bet is to do a bit of digging before purchasing to ensure the game works properly. You can always ask in our VR forum!

Windows Mixed Reality is much easier to set up

Whereas the Vive and Rift both have external sensors that must be connected to your PC and set up before playing, WMR is essentially a plug-and-play VR experience. You connect the headset and controllers, and from there you're free to enter VR without having to worry about external accessories. If you're moving around often or like to switch between VR systems, not having to set up external sensors and run through room setup can be especially convenient.

Windows Mixed Reality offers a room-scale VR experience

Considering WMR doesn't use external sensors, you might be wondering how well it fares in a room-scale setup. Fear not, it's nearly on par with what the Rift and Vive have to offer. The headset — and your virtual body inside the experience — does a great job of keeping track of your position, and even if it's not quite the same as with the Rift or Vive, it certainly does an excellent job.

Physically moving around your VR space translates well in-game, and your motion controllers do, for the most part, keep up.

Reasons not to buy Windows Mixed Reality

If you're interested in getting into VR, there are a couple of reasons why you might want to pass on WMR and check out the other PC-based VR systems instead.

Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers don't quite track as well

Yes, the WMR motion controllers work as intended most of the time, but they're actually tracked by two cameras in the front of the headset rather than by any external sensors. This means that moving the controllers out of your view also moves them out of view of the built-in sensors, and tracking can get a bit wonky in this case.

Likewise, attempting to play games that require quick precision movements — like Beat Saber — in a room flooded with sunlight will no doubt cause problems due to the tracking system. If you want the absolute best tracking experience, it stills comes down to the Vive's wands or the Rift's Touch controllers. Not only are they tracked more accurately thanks to external sensors, they're also more comfortable and seem a lot sturdier.

How Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers compare to the competition

Windows Mixed Reality doesn't yet have wireless support

Though official wireless solutions for Rift or Vive have yet to see the light of day, TPCast has stepped in and created third-party options. They're not cheap — the Vive version costs about $280 (opens in new tab) and the Rift version about $320 — but they remove the need for cables from your PC to the headset.

TPCast did announce that it plans to release hardware support for WMR, but there's still no sign of an official release date. If you're looking for a premium PC-based VR experience that can run wirelessly, you'll want to check out the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift and their TPCast accessories (opens in new tab).

Bottom line

There's no denying that WMR can hold its own with the Rift and Vive heavyweights. It's quick and easy to set up, SteamVR integration opens up a ton of games and experiences, and the headsets are, for the most part, cheaper. If you're looking for external tracking or wireless VR, though, you'll still want to check out the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

See WMR at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

39 Comments
  • As a gamer Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive has better Steam support compared to WMR, that alone makes WMR a non starter for me.
  • Oh, whatever. I have had zero issues with Steam support for my Acer rig. There's no reason not to get a WMR rig. The value for the price makes it far and away a better investment. And I'm sure we'll see wireless options for them as well.
  • same with my Lenovo explorer, played everything with ease:
    Arizona sunshine
    The lab
    Rec room
    Serious sam 3
    Space pirate trainer
    Superhot VR
    Vrchat
    Job simulator
    Echo arena
    Face your fears
    nextVR
    bigscreen
    Halo recruit
    Theblu: season 1
    Eleven table tennis vr
    Rez
    to name a few.
  • Now take a look at the ones that support HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, there's a massive difference: HTC Vive has 104 pages of games on Steam, Oculus Rift has 62 and WMR has 17, most if not all of the ones WMR supports also work on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift as well. Not only that but some of those you mentioned are only available on the Microsoft Store.
  • That's the official support. The games that have targetted the platform. Which games can you actually not play on WMR?
  • I think I have around 80 something VR titles I own both HTC Vive and a Lenovo Explorer. I haven't run into a single compatibility issue yet except for LA Noire which was HTC Vive timed exclusive for a bit. If the game is on steamVR it will work fine, you are more likely to run into issues with the rift than you are WMR the reason why is because HTC Vive is the official steamVR platform device and it has the little touch pad that isn't on the Oculus touch controllers only an analog stick is. The WMR controllers have both the touch pad and the analog stick which was an example of Fallout 4 compatibility that leaned heavily on the touch pad and oculus users couldn't scroll through menus as a result. Tracking would be a better excuse if you don't want to buy a WMR device at least it is more justifiable.
  • Or how about the fact that Microsoft could just cancel WMR at any time like they did with the Microsoft Band or even Windows Phone or Zune. They are quite within their rights to do so but where does that leave consumer confidence.
  • Wow completely unrelated products. Especially when they supported phones and zunes for years. Just wow
  • Sales of WMR have been terrible if Steam usage is any indication. There certainly is a chance mistake Microsoft could can it.
  • when all else fails throw in a "MS could cancel at any time" and run for the exit
  • all games I have played that do not have the WMR logo or "official support" as it would be, in steam, have worked just fine. there was only one nvidia demo that I could not play on the oculus store because it did some type of device detection. skeptical as I was at the beginning about some games not working I've been very pleased to see that 99% have and it's been out long enough it's an easy lookup if there's a concern of a specific game not working. I think only 3 of those are exclusives to the windows store.
  • You do realize that the "official" support for WMR on steam just means that they've added the controller models and whatnot? Any oculus game will work with WMR
  • Well we'll see which is the better investment when Nadella decides that the world doesn't need three VR platforms, won't we!!!!
  • Not putting the effort on 'soon to be forgotten' (smartphone) platform is a wise strategy. Mobile can't improve or advance any further, a paradign shift is necessary and that's where Windows 10 Core OS enters. I believe in the future MSFT is headed.
  • Every Steam game I tried works with WMR. So WMR can run games from both Vive and Oculus, plus Steam, and Windows Store games. It's the platform with access to the largest amount of titles.
  • Windows Store games are generally locked to WMR anyway, can you play Halo Recruit on HTC Vive or Oculus Rift for example?
  • So technically there are a few exclusives. Not enough to make it a bragging point
  • Are you kidding? They just sent out a bunch of performance updates to the WMR steamVR app. How are you measuring your rate of support?
  • Updates to the SteamVR app doesn't equal supported games though, does it!!
  • All steam games are supported. Those with the logo just have the assets to represent the controllers.
  • I've had the Samsung odyssey for months now and have never had a problem even before the steam for wmr left beta. Shouldn't complain about something that's not very valid.
  • And Microsoft supports support for a platform had been sketchy. Let alone the refinements that will come in a second Gen platform if they continue with it.
  • How has it been sketchy? It's been updated regurarly.
  • Until Nadella decides that three VR platforms aren't needed and kills off WMR!!! That is THE reason I will NEVER buy a WMR headset because I don't trust Microsoft to keep it around long enough, it doesn't matter how cheap they are.
  • The tracking issue is a bigger reason. It is very noticeable and makes the WMR experience suffer.
  • I have the HP headset. Love it, but don't use it as much as I thought I would. It's still pretty cool tech nonetheless.
  • WMR tracking actually isn't that bad, especially after the April Windows Update. I think the pros of WMR greatly outweigh the cons. It's a great entry into VR for people.
  • The best reason to pass... Save your money for important things, like a Gym membership, eating healthy, reparing your credit, paying off loans, and credit cards, starting a small business, or purchasing your first house.................... Really?
  • Have you tried VR boxing? I am pretty sure you could skip the gym if you do 30 mins of VR boxing once per day. You would actually save money if you replace VR boxing with the gym. Then you can use that extra money to buy a house. Haha ;)
  • Love the my WMR, I have the Lenovo and it's great... every game I've tried on steam worked flawlessly and just for the fact that I don't have to install sensors in the room is a great solution. Tracking is way better than I thought it would be!
  • The two points shown against WMR are minor things. Wireless is not really an issue and it's coming too. Tracking is highly debatable, but if you see it as a tradeoff for having more freedom and ease of setup and use, it's definitely acceptable. Also, tracking is not as bad as they say.
  • I'm so happy with my Odyssey. The tracking really isn't that big of a deal. All they need to do is add a few more cameras to hit the dead spots. I'm sure gen2 or gen3 will fix all the minor stuff.
  • I agree with you, the Odyssey does have acceptable tracking. I don't know if my Lenovo Explorer is defective or not but it loses tracking more than I would like it to. Especially at crucial moments in Rec Room when using a bow. I find myself using my HTC Vive more for those kind of games as a result.
  • Tracking is the most important part of the experience. No amount of setup convenience will make up for inferior tracking.
  • What Cale fails to point out is that both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are much older than WMR so the resolution and FOV of the former two IS going to be lower. Microsoft would have impressed me more if they pushed WMR out the door pretty much straight after the dev headset was released but they waited so HTC and Oculus got there first.
  • I wonder if this writer actually owns a unit since the images of the MSXR systems seen are from variety of images probably taken from a Google search. In saying that, the only thing the HTC/Vive offers is the Vive Tracker for my development needs. As far as portable use, if you have a gaming laptop with 2 video ports, you can get a dummy video dongle for less than $10 that duplicate your laptop screen to the fake emulatio, which then allows you to close the lid and then with a backpack frame to hold it and you are off walking anywhere you want. I have also discovered it is pretty easy to take an empty room and add enough wall and floor image disparity with posters and patterned rug/tiles to allow tracking to work as well as the Vive. As a side note: I have also pulled the guts out of a HP MSXR and created a much smaller and lighter version that now has 105 degree FOV using my NEODiVR mobile lens box & headband.
  • I'd love to see a roadmap from Microsoft. When will new features be added to the Cliff House and SkyLoft? When will seamless (or at least straightforward) SteamVR and/or AltSpaceVR integration be added?
    Communication should really be better. I just found out by accident that it is possible to create and add custom home environments (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/mixed-reality/add-custom-home-e...). This is the sort of info that should be pushed to owners.
  • Affordable Wireless isn't going to hit VR for awhile longer so that's a silly ding. I haven't had a chance to try it yet so can't comment on the controllers, love my Rift controllers for the most part but were in the Atari 2600 days of VR controllers so hopefully always improving.
  • I know this is an old article, but the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and all of the WMR rigs are all v1.0 VR gear. The Vive Pro with wireless connection is what I would consider VR v1.5 but you are talking $1399+$350 for the Pro and wireless. I'm happy with my refurb'd WMR unit I picked up for $150 from Amazon. The headset is better than a Vive (original) or Rift and works great for any sit down racing/flight sim type of game and the controllers are fine for Beat Saber and any of the boxing games (Knockout League or Creed). I'll save my money for games and when the v2.0 VR kits come out.