Unboxing & Setup
The Reverb G2 arrived in a relatively small black box with an image of the HMD on the top and the HP logo on the front with no other advertising or any details of its features. It is well-designed to take good care of its contents although it is double-boxed for shipping. In contrast, the G1 box is huge with a lot of wasted space inside.
Unlike the Vive Pro that uses the SteamVR platform which arrives with two base stations, the G2 is a WMR headset that uses 4 built-in cameras on the HMD for tracking. The 6 meter cable for connecting the HMD to the PC, the power brick, instructions, DisplayPort to mini-DP adapter, and the two controllers with AA batteries to power them are included.
For comparison, below is the G2 kit’s contents (left) versus the G1 kit (right).
A battery charger is not supplied. But you will definitely want one with high capacity rechargeable AA batteries because it’s too wasteful and expensive to keep buying new ones for either set of Reverb controllers. In contrast, the Vive Pro controllers are rechargeable and come with adapters, not replaceable batteries.
The G1 uses USB 3.0 whereas the G2 uses USB-C. It means you don’t have to use the included power cord brick; instead, you can use the USB-C cable to power the headset as long as your PC connection is capable of delivering 6W.
The G1 and the G2 superficially look the same but there are major difference besides the cloth covering on the G1 and the different head straps. The G2 is very comfortable and an improvement over the G1, but the differences are not huge. It took awhile for us to get used to the G2 comfort differences compared to the Pro which is also a very well-balanced and comfortable HMD although it is heavier than the G2.
The new design does a excellent job of holding the headset firmly to ones head without undue pressure. The side adjustments for tightening the headset are elastic which makes it easy to remove or to put headset on without needing to adjust it each time.
Notice that the G1 only has two cameras on the front whereas the G2 has 4 cameras for better tracking capabilities – two on the front and one on each side. They are both 6 DOF headsets but there is large difference in the way they track and the G2’s tracking is vastly superior.
The G2’s two additional cameras allow better tracking which gives a player more natural motion options while gaming without requiring external sensors or lighthouses. Instead of requiring you to keep your trackers directly in front of you like with the G1, the G2 allows users to move their handheld trackers to either side. However, tracking still isn’t perfect compared with the Vive Pro’s external lighthouse system, and some motions like drawing a bow in Skyrim or tossing ammo over your shoulder in Half Life: Alyx may lose camera tracking of your controllers with immersion breaking visual oddities until you learn to adapt to the blind spots.
The G2’s controllers are already pre-paired with the HMD via Bluetooth right out of the box and it is a very quick setup compared with SteamVR pairing.
Although the lenses look similar and technically have the same 2160×2160 resolution per eye, they are not the same. The G2 lenses were designed by Valve working together with HP, and they have very different characteristics. The G2’s lens distortion compensation requires a much higher SteamVR resolution and a more powerful video card to power it. In contrast, the Vive Pro sports a lower 1440×1600 resolution per eye which is the same as the Valve Index HMD.
The G2’s faceplate is much thicker and far more comfortable, although for some users it may be too thick. This editor is rather nearsighted and wears glasses, but doesn’t need corrective lenses with either Reverb or with the Vive Pro. The focal distance appears to be similar between the Reverb G2 and the Pro, unlike with the Rift CV1 where corrective lenses are a necessity to see clearly.
Above is what the G2 controller looks like when it is turned on.Compared to the second generation G2 controller, the G1 uses an inferior first generation controller that is neither easy to use nor intuitive. While the G2 controllers don’t fit this editor’s hands as well as the Touch controllers, and they don’t feel quite as solidly built as the Index Knuckles controllers, they are comfortable and the buttons are easy to reach.
The G1 controller is more like the first generation Vive Wands whereas the G2 has much more in common with the newer and better ergonomic designs of the Index and Touch controllers although the G2 controllers don’t have capacitive sensing.
Although the G2’s positional head tracking is responsive, some rotational latency may be noticed at times, and positional controller tracking jitter is slightly noticeable for shooters that is not visible with the Pro. If you need ultra-high precision you might be bothered by some jitter or mild twitching that may be inherent to WMR tracking. We noted a small deficiency that appeared to be positionally controller related when aiming at distant targets that we don’t see with the Pro using Knuckles controllers.
There is no physical IPD adjustments available on the G1 that is available on the G2 (above left) which ranges from 60–68mm. This allows most G2 users to align the HMD lenses with their eyes properly. Unfortunately, moving the slider requires waiting for the software to actually make the adjustment which proved to be annoying and time-consuming
Although the G1 and the G2 both have headphones, the G2’s audio is far superior as it uses the same off ear BMR driver headphones that the Valve Index uses. It is arguably superior to the audio of the Vive Pro which is also positional and very decent. However, we wish we were able to physically adjust the headphones downward to center them over our ears better like we can with the Pro. The G2 also uses dual noise-canceling microphones for good voice quality.
There is a feature that the G2 has that is missing on the Pro that we really like. A pass through camera allows a user to see what is going on in the real world while still in VR. It may be harder for someone to sneak up on you while you are otherwise isolated from the world – or not, depending on how immersed you are in the game.
Next, we set up our G2, so we first disconnected our Pro although they can coexist together easily on the same PC and we set it up.
The setup for the Vive Pro require installing 2 base stations on opposite side of the room, usually mounted on the wall, for tracking which is much more complex and time-consuming than setting up the self-contained tracking of the Windows Mixed Reality G2.
Simply install the software to set up the hardware, update Windows Mixed Reality from the Windows Update, and connect it to your PC and have your G2’s unboxed hardware together and ready for a physical installation.
First you have to decide how much room you have to devote to VR – you have to clear everything in your play area to avoid damage to yourself or to your property and to set up a guardian system which alerts you if you are getting too close to a wall or object. Or you may eschew the guardian system to choose to choose ‘seated mode’ which requires only enough room to wave your arms about.
Unlike the Pro which needs a few power outlets for the HMD and the base stations, there is only one required for the G2 if you don’t have USB-C; if so, no external power is needed. And you connect the HMD to the video card using the 6 meter cable and its DisplayPort. After installing the provided batteries into the controllers, turn them on and they are automatically paired via Bluetooth.
This following part of the Reverb installation is similar to Vive’s platform as you continue the tutorial inside the HMD and interact and learn how to use your controllers. However, the Pro uses SteamVR (or Viveport) while the G2 is natively WMR and SteamVR.
Although the WMR environment is actually decent and it allows its users customize their space and bring their desktop applications into VR, either controlled by VR controllers or by using a keyboard and mouse much as one would arrange a room, we find it an annoyance and still greatly prefer SteamVR.
WMR actually hijacks your desktop and your have to press a key combo to be able to use it. We wish we could bypass WMR completely. Some users may like it since you can use G2 as a ‘virtual desktop’ for regular desktop productivity, but even with its higher resolution, we find it inferior compared with using the desktop on a flat screen monitor at 1080P. You can adjust the size of the virtual desktop to be larger, but then it takes up too much of the field of view. Perhaps when true 4K panels are available, this feature may come into its own – but we will believe it when we see it.
We found that overall, the Pro setup takes takes significantly longer than setting up the G2. Just like with Viveport and SteamVR platforms, the G2 automatically updates itself and its applications are kept up to date by Windows updates for Mixed Reality.
Let’s head for our next page to get an idea of the Reverb G2 experience and a comparison with the Vive Pro