Out of all the mixed-reality headsets coming out this year, Lenovo has the best name by far. It might also be one of the best-looking systems. Set to debut sometime in October at $349, the Explorer is the company's promising first sojourn into virtual/mixed reality sphere.
Made primarily of Iron Grey plastic, the 7.3 x 3.7 x 4-inch, 13.1-ounce Explorer is lightweight and stately considering you have a pair of tracking cameras mounted on the front. The cameras' placement puts me in the mind of a futuristic chameleon. Similar to the Dell Visor and PlayStation VR, the Explorer balances the weight of the headset via a rear-mounted adjustable knob. Once, the fit is secured, the visor part of the headset sits comfortably flush against your face, blocking out any and all light.
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The Explorer is equipped with a pair of 1440 x 1440 displays, which is on a par with the Dell Visor. The previously-mention front-facing cameras function as your positional tracking system with 6 directions of freedom. In laymen's terms, that means that you should have the ability to walk around the room without becoming an unfortunate fail meme.
The majority of the Explorer's mixed-reality games and apps will be found in the Windows App Store. However, if you own specific Lenovo PCs, you'll have access to over 100 traditional games that can be upscaled to VR using Lenovo's entertainment hub. I saw this in action during CES, where I tried out the technology with a demo of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. While it took me a few seconds to adjust to the quick camera adjustments when I made a fast pivot, it was exhilarating taking out futuristic foes in VR.
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In an effort to bring mixed and virtual reality to the masses, Microsoft has made the minimum PC requirements so low that just about any laptop or desktop made in the past three years can support it. If you're using a laptop you'll need a minimum Intel Core i3 processor with 8GB of RAM, at least 10GB of free storage and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M or a AMD RX 460M to run apps and games at 90 Hertz. Less powerful machines like the Dell XPS 13 can run programs at 60Hz as long as you have an Intel HD 620 GPU.
When it launches, the Lenovo Explorer will be $50 cheaper than the Oculus Rift, which is currently on sale for $399. The Rift, which is arguably the best VR experience currently available has a deep catalog of games and apps and a year-long head start. However, the Explorer's ability to modify traditional games into VR could make it a popular choice for gamers that don't want to fork out a ton of money for a headset and a brand-new library of titles. Ultimately, image quality, ease of use and affordability will determine the MR/VR king.