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Windows Mixed Reality headsets are a cheap and easy way to experience SteamVR

Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) is a really interesting project from Microsoft. With WMR, Microsoft is trying to build a world where Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are mixed. Right now, however, the two "realities" are very much separate. HoloLens is an AR headset, with no VR capabilities. Windows Mixed Reality headsets are all VR headsets, with no AR capabilities. Admittedly, the name "Windows Mixed Reality" is misleading, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have great VR headsets.

See Windows Mixed Reality headsets at Microsoft Store (opens in new tab)

Wading into VR via Windows Mixed Reality

If you've been wanting to try VR, but can't work up the courage to splash out $500 on a HTC Vive or have the space to set up all the equipment you need for the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift to function, perhaps a WMR headset might be better suited for you. Although the name suggests otherwise, Windows Mixed Reality headsets are VR headsets that work with Microsoft's own VR software, as well as SteamVR, which makes them excellent headsets for beginners getting into the world of VR.

Windows Mixed Reality ultimate beginners guide

I don't think WMR headsets get enough credit. Unlike the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality headsets don't require all that much space, as all the tracking technology is built into the headset (opens in new tab). This means you don't need space to set up dedicated trackers that sit in the corners of your room. Instead, since Windows Mixed Reality devices do all the tracking from within the headset, you can actually operate within VR in the smallest of spaces, as long as you still have room to move your arms around.

WMR headsets are also way cheaper than other offerings on the market. Sure, you can get the Oculus Rift for pretty cheap (opens in new tab) these days, but for $130 less, you can get a Windows Mixed Reality headset with motion controllers (opens in new tab), and not have to deal with all the extra tracking equipment. For the most part, while each WMR headset features different designs, they all basically share the same specifications. I've not tried every WMR headset, but from what I have tried, I can confirm they're all pretty comfortable.

SteamVR and Windows Mixed Reality

WMR on a monitor

WMR on a monitor (Image credit: Windows Central)

The SteamVR experience works much like you would expect. Once you set up WMR via Microsoft's own VR software, you can go ahead and download Steam, and then download SteamVR. From there, make sure you install the SteamVR for Windows Mixed Reality feature, and simply launch SteamVR. Put your headset on and go through the welcome process that SteamVR provides. You'll even notice that Windows Mixed Reality controllers are showcased in SteamVR, as SteamVR recognizes and welcomes WMR headsets like any other VR headset.

Overall, I really think more people should be looking into Windows Mixed Reality headsets if they're interested in SteamVR. You don't have to go all-out on a super expensive, high-tech HTC Vive to enjoy VR. Splash out $240 on a Windows Mixed Reality headset and controllers, and be done with it. It's super simple and incredibly easy to set up and experience. I definitely prefer using my WMR headset over the HTC Vive, just for simplicity sake.

And, as a side-bonus, buying a WMR headset also opens you up to the WMR platform. Microsoft has its own VR software that lets you operate your PC right from within VR. You can browse the web, watch movies, open apps, all from Microsoft's own VR environments, with a Start menu that looks like it's from HoloLens, and the ability to move around, open and close app windows, and even furnish your environment with virtual objects. You don't get Microsoft's VR offerings buying a non-Windows Mixed Reality headset.

See Windows Mixed Reality headsets at Microsoft Store (opens in new tab)

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • Do WMR headsets have the same hardware requirements as other VR headsets? For eg the industry standard for VR is atleast GTX 1060 or equivalent GPU.
  • yes
  • Yes (well, a bit less, GTX960 or GTX1050), except it also has far lower requirements as well. Depends on whether you want to run at 60Hz or 90Hz. Check out the MS pages for WMR as it is all detailed there in an easy table. Sort of unsure why that wasn't your first port of call?
  • They ARE VR headsets. PERIOD. And there is no real "industry standard". You can, however, easily use any of the WMR headsets with a 1060 or equivalent GPU. I have a 1070 in mine, and it works very well. I get sick and tired of those insisting on having a Vive or Rift. Waste of money, that's all they are, when you can get the same experience with any of the Acer, HP, Dell, etc. HMDs. If I had any complaint at all it would be that I wish I didn't have to run SteamVR from within the WMR Portal. That just seems like an unnecessary layer. But it does work just fine.
  • I have a laptop with 7th gen Core i7 (2.6GHz) and a GTX 960M. WMR works very well, especially setting in-game graphics to low or medium. Space Pirate Trainer actually plays fine on high, but setting low really improves the responsiveness. (And the whole thing is very portable thanks to not having to lug the sensors around!)
  • WMR headsets go on sale quite a bit. A few weeks ago, I picked up the Lenovo Explorer with the 2 controllers for 199, direct from the Microsoft store. No regrets!
  • Same here. Had to buy a new machine too though, so, lol. I am really impressed with it. WMR Home and Steam.
  • Try Bigscreen from the Store. It's amazing
  • I did download it, haven't tried it yet. The GBs of data I have ripped through in a couple of days is insane. haha
  • And I ask, any plans for WMR support on the Xbox X? That has to be their key announcement at this year's E3?
  • Just one of the many reasons why I'm a PC-only gamer. I can do more and get more on the PC.
  • While your not wrong, console plug and play is nice.
  • Before it came out Microsoft said that the X1X was VR capable but they haven't said much since then.
  • Except for saying they were going to hold out until wireless was available.
  • Yeah, WMR is the future of VR, well, meaning Oculus and Vive are the past. I don't see a future where you install 4 lighthouses and sensors with as many cables and plugs running around your predefined space. Just having the one cable and two connectors of the WMR standard is going to be a thing of the past soon too. That said, it's weird to se how people staunchly defending their geekier old headsets.
  • Love my Dell WMR headset! Windows Store games and apps PLUS everything on Steam. Doesn't matter if it's labeled Oculus or Vive. Everything that I've tried works, even games that don't have the official WMR logo. The only side-effect may be strange controller mappings. If I had to buy again I'd get the Samsung WMR headset with the built in headphones and mic. That would really make the headset a breeze to put on and get into the action.
  • I own a Samsung Odyssey and it is amazing. It's so cool to be able to jump into VR like this. I think it's great that Steam and MS are working hard to make the software work smoothly. The Windows April update made everything much better. I'm so happy with my purchase.
  • I have the Samsung as well. Better experience than the oculus or the vive (original versions) and SO MUCH cheaper.
  • I have had Samsung Odyssey HMD since day one and the VR experience on my 15'' Surface Book 2 has been nothing but phenomenal, but after the April 2018 update I have identified one problem that bothers me a lot, the headset will not connect to the VR portal unless you're connected to the internet. I used to play games and watched local contents on my Surface Book in VR even when Im on the go and I was never worried about internet connection but that is not possible anymore. Has anybody experienced this or could it be a bug on my computer?