July 19, 2023
If you are looking for a VR headset to play games with, you can safely move on. The ThinkReality VRX is for serious business and Lenovo made many great choices to appeal to enterprises.
Lenovo is a well-known brand for all kinds of electronic devices. Businesses especially value their ThinkPad series.
But Lenovo also has a long history in the development of XR devices. Already in 2017, Lenovo released the Lenovo Explorer, a Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) VR headset. The ThinkReality smart glasses entered the market in 2019 (ThinkReality a6) and 2021 (ThinkReality a3), respectively.
So it's worth noting that Lenovo has a good history in developing both, enterprise-grade hardware as well as XR devices.
Recently, Lenovo released the ThinkReality VRX. We got our hands on an early version of it. Even though we were not able to test all the features, we are still able to share our experience and impression of the Lenovo support and the hardware device itself.
Before I could even order the Lenovo ThinkReality VRX, I had a detailed conversation with a Lenovo sales representative. Of course there was some information about the hardware itself. But the 38 slides strong "Think Reality Portfolio" presentation also included information about compatibility with other hardware, services, developer kits and the extensive ISV Network.
Lenovo made it clear that they are willing and able to provide a professional end-to-end solution together with their partners.
Due to the early access, Lenovo had to push a software update to my device. This allowed me to experience their support first hand. Apparently there was an issue with my device and soon my simple upgrade turned into a 30 emails long thread with seven Lenovo employees joining the conversation. All of them appeared competent and helpful. The issue was obviously due to the early access, so even though it took some time on my end as well and it delayed the moment I could finally try out the VRX in full, I still rate this experience as positive.
The Lenovo VRX comes with a Snapdragon® XR2+ Gen 1, Android 12, 12GB of RAM, 128GB of storage.
Its pancake lenses have a resolution of 2280 x 2280 per eye, 95° field of view and a 90Hz refresh rate.
It comes with 2 controllers with a well known standard layout.
While these specs are good, they aren't particularly exceptional. Those specs are in the same league as the current all-in-one devices from PICO, HTC Vive, and Meta.
What stands out is that, in addition to the 4 cameras used for precise 6DoF tracking, it includes 2 full-color HD pass-through cameras, which - at least in theory - allow for Mixed Reality experiences comparable to the ones promoted by Apple with their Vision Pro device.
As we learned, though, specs don't tell much about the quality, capabilities, and comfort, so I'll share my personal experiences about the hard- and software as well. In addition, you can check out our unboxing video to get a better impression of the headset and its accessories.
Let's start with my favorite thing about this device. Open source!
While some competitors are hindering enterprise adoption with their licenses and questionable data sharing practices, Lenovo takes the completely opposite direction and goes there full speed. I encountered the open source in their license twice and as far as I understand, this not only includes their SDKs but also their home app and their own app management and deployment platform (even though I'm not 100% sure about the latter two - I could only read the license within the headset during setup and did not memorize everything).
Why is this important? Not only do you not have to worry about data privacy and employee protection issues, the open source software license allows you to adapt Lenovo’s solution to your needs and easily run everything on your premises. As a consequence, this allows you to use sensitive data, from CAD data of your in-development products to very personal information about your employees.
Huge plus for enterprises!
Lenovo also understands that enterprises value openness and not being restricted to a single hardware or software provider or a singular ecosystem. Especially in a fast paced environment like extended reality, the flexibility to switch between different providers is a must for every business who adopts this technology at large scale.
For instance, in addition to their own content management and deployment solution, they support other MDM platforms, including Microsoft Intune, airwatch, ArborXR, and ManageXR.
This is a big plus as well.
There is no app store of any kind and instead, the Lenovo firmware provides great tools for running your own apps. This approach is commonly referred to as a "kiosk mode".
As mentioned above, there is also a content management and deployment platform available for improved handling of your custom software on your devices in a secure way.
Please note again that my device was provided before the official launch, so things are likely to improve with the final version.
My device offered only one other app: The VR player. This app allows you to display videos and other content in a virtual home cinema. I hope that Lenovo's library of default apps will get extended in the future but I would also understand if the choice is to be done by the company owning the device to add their own apps.
One minor issue I noticed is that the loading screen is flat 2D and does not orient with the headset. This can cause motion sickness if you are sensitive.
The thing that impressed me the most about this device is that it is extremely comfortable. The front and back cushions feel perfect for my head. In addition, I believe the rubber band on top makes a huge difference. There are 5 different possible length options to fix it in the back and I was surprised that I needed the longest one. Even after a quarter of an hour, I did not have any pressure marks or felt any discomfort at all.
The image quality, tracking of the headset and the controllers, and audio are all state of the art and sufficient for common enterprise use-cases, without exceeding my expectations, either. The speakers are integrated very nicely in the VRX's frame.
The battery size is specified as 6900mAh which is larger than the one from the PICO 4 and the Quest Pro. Only the Vive Focus with 7000mAh is slightly bigger. Lenovo claims a lifetime of a charge with this battery between 1.5h and 4h. I got the impression that the battery runs out pretty fast under heavy load. Especially using the see-through drains the battery quickly.
Even under heavy load, the device does not get uncomfortably hot. Instead, you will clearly hear an upwards facing fan doing its job. The position is well done and the noise is definitely better than a warm face. But the noise level was already too loud to ignore.
You can easily switch between the current VR/MR app and a simple see through with a simple button press on the bottom right of the device. I did not expect this to be a big deal but you don't have to put off your headset for many cases which is extremely handy.
I even wrote those few lines of this article while wearing the headset. This in fact is possible by increasing the font size to 200% or by moving closer to the screen. The resolution is not sufficient when operating at regular scale.
The passthrough also introduces noticeable color changes. This is most notable for dark and high-contrast areas.
When using the passthrough, there is a slight delay which is noticeable enough to cause motion sickness when moving too quickly. I especially found standing up and sitting down problematic. Slow movements were no problem.
In the early access version, it was not possible to enable hand tracking as this will get available later on. It was also not possible to run the device tethered, which is extremely important when you want to develop apps for this headset.
I will extend this article about those aspects as soon as they get shipped and I had the chance to try them out.
Overall, Lenovo created a great piece of hardware. It's extremely comfortable. The only annoyance is the fan which is a bit too loud under load.
The target audience is clear from start to finish. Businesses will love many of the decisions Lenovo made and will greatly benefit from Lenovo's support and their ISV partners.
The color passthrough is a great feature as well. Unfortunately, the slight delay will limit its real life applications to slow movement so it will not be able to replace current AR devices.
What I appreciate most about this device is its licensing, making it especially attractive for businesses. Since you don't pay with your data, you have to pay a bit more in cash. $1,299 is the official price tag of the Lenovo ThinkReality VRX.