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(Pocket-lint) - The upgraded HP Reverb G2 is an interesting VR headset that was built with support from Microsoft and Valve. As such, it's designed to work with not only VR games and experiences through SteamVR, but also supports Windows Mixed Reality as well.

The HP Reverb G2 is built to be a winner in various different departments. It sports "industry-leading lenses" designed by Valve, an ultra-sharp display with a higher pixel count than the other popular VR headsets out there, and an intelligently thought-out setup.

Like the Oculus Rift S, this HP headset uses inside-out tracking cameras - which negate the need for external tracking base stations like we've seen with the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite. The result is a VR headset that's theoretically easier to setup, offers more potential experiences, and beats everything else in terms of specs too. But is it really that good? 

High-resolution gaming visuals?

  • Dual 2.89-inch LCD panel with Pulse Backlight technology
  • 114-degree field-of-view with Fresnel-Aspherical lenses
  • 90Hz refresh rate (with recommended system specs)
  • 2160 x 2160 resolution per eye (4320 x 2160 in total)
  • Compatible with SteamVR & Windows Mixed Reality

Fresh out the box, the HP Reverb G2 resembles something of a mix between an HTC Vive and an Oculus Rift. Sure, there's the inside-out tracking cameras and other modern VR headset features like the off-ear speakers, but HP has opted for an understated black shell and a triple Velcro headstrap system.

The only design aspect that really makes it stand out from the crowd is the light-up HP logo on the front that illuminates while you're gaming. You shouldn't judge the Reverb G2 on external looks alone though - as a lot of thought has gone into the design and it boasts some pretty nifty features.

It's really the little touches here that make a biggest difference. Simple things like the large cushioned faceplate - which has a memory-foam-like material inside - provides comfortable cushioning for your face while you game.

The off-ear speakers are high-quality and deliver excellent spatial audio - but do so without sitting on your ears the whole time, meaning you can not only hear your surrounding world if you need, but you're also cooler as you haven't got something covering your ears constantly. Similarly this setup means fewer cables to worry about - which is always a good thing in our book.

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Visual performance is obviously an area where the Reverb G2 shines. HP claims the 4320 x 2160 total resolution (it's 2160 x 2160 per eye) results in the possibility of displaying 9.3 million pixels. That also means the Reverb G2's display shows more than twice as many pixels as the Oculus Rift S (that's 1280 x 1440 per eye) and more than the Vive Cosmos too (that's 1700 x 1440 per eye). 

The Valve-designed lenses are also said to offer a mura-free experience - which means you get better colour and brightness consistency across all the pixels and therefore a clearer and more accurate image.

Add in a 90Hz refresh rate, 114-degree field-of-view, and minimised screen door effect and you've got a potentially awesome headset. 

We're happy to report that during our gaming sessions, the Reverb G2 impressed as you would expect based on these specs. The visuals are fantastic. Games like Half-Life Alyx and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond look absolutely awesome. Though obviously you need a good gaming machine to make the most of that high pixel count, otherwise you won't obtain the heralded higher refresh rate (which is important in VR, we find, for keeping you feeling comfortable). 

Comfortable and convenient VR gaming?

  • 2x front-facing cameras, 2x side-facing cameras for inside-out tracking
  • Valve-designed integrated off-ear speakers with spatial audio
  • 6DoF tracking with infinite tracking space
  • 64mm +/- 4mm by hardware IPD slider
  • Replaceable face cushions
  • Weighs: 500g 

The HP Reverb G2 is designed to be lightweight, comfortable and convenient to use. It's not just the inside-out tracking either, it's the other elements of the design that work toward the end result.

For example, the headset itself is not only light - at 500g, or 1.2lbs - but the padding means it's comfortable to wear, so we didn't get as hot and steamy as we usually do when playing with VR headsets. Which is fantastic news.

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Yes, it is wired, so it doesn't have as much freedom as wireless offerings - such as the Oculus Quest 2 - but the HP does use a 6-metre lightweight cable setup, which isn't a constant bother while you play. This cable is fairly straightforward as well, with just two connections required for your PC (DisplayPort and USB-C).

It is worth noting that the IPD (interpupillary distance) adjustment involves a hardware slider with a limited range - from 60 to 68 - which some might find problematic if outside that range. This will be good news for most though, as it allows for easier adjustment than software IPD systems on the Oculus Rift S.

The HP's enhanced display also means screen door effect isn't a problem at all with this headset. There's no noticeable gap between pixels as there were in the older generations of VR headsets, resulting in a crystal clear image when playing. It means you can really marvel at the quality of the graphics. 

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The field-of-view isn't perfect though. It's not as wide as other headsets, so we could certainly notice the edges of the screen - which can be a bit of a letdown, but a minor one if you're really focusing on what's happening in front of you and turning your head to when looking.

Convenience is also a big part of why we enjoy using the Reverb G2. The integration of Windows Mixed Reality makes it a lot easier to use in numerous ways. Put the headset on when it's plugged in and you're almost immediately in the Windows Cliff House (if you're new to it - that's the virtual location Microsoft has setup as your virtual home). From there you can tour the games available via the Microsoft Store, watch 360 videos, browse the web, and even chat to people on Skype.

But what we like more is the integration of other features. Press the Windows key on the included controllers, for instance, and you're able to bring up a simple menu that gives you access to all manner of things. From there you can click to take screenshots, start recording footage, adjust volume and more.

There's even a torch button that allows you to turn the front tracking cameras into a passthrough camera so you can see the world around you (though not as fully-fledged as the Passthrough+ system on the Rift S). You can also launch other apps from here too. 

One of our favourite things, though, is the desktop button. Click that and you have a virtual view of your Windows desktop. This means you can easily see what's happening on your machine and launch other applications.

We can't say enough how wonderful this is after years of testing other headsets where if something like a firewall setting popped up on the desktop you wouldn't know about it unless you took the headset off first and strode back to your PC. Now you can see these things and deal with them without coming out of virtual reality.

If you do need to come out of VR, however, the headset does have a flip-up visor design. That means you can get it out of the way with ease. No need to take the entire thing off if you need to talk to someone, look at your phone, or just re-orientate yourself in the real world. 

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The desktop view makes it easier to launch Steam VR games as well. You can make that even more seamless with Steam VR for Windows Mixed Reality. You can also play many of the games that are compatible with other VR headsets as well. Look for the Window Mixed Reality supported games in the Steam store and they'll work, but Vive and Rift games also work for the most part. 

One gripe we do have is with the HP's included controllers. They're not immediately recognised by all games. Walking Dead Saints and Sinners, for example, would not register the controllers and, at first glance, didn't seem compatible at all - as no button presses would work.

However, you can click into the Steam menus to access controller bindings. From there you can not only remap buttons, but you can also download custom bindings created by both the community and by developers. This solved that problem, which is worth knowing if you launch a game and it doesn't seem compatible. 

There are some other quirks though. These HP controllers don't have trackpads like the original Vive controllers, but they do have "emulated" trackpads via some of the buttons. This takes some getting used to and can be a bit fiddly. It can also cause dramas in some games, but again, nothing that can't be sorted out with custom bindings. 

Connection setup requirements

  • DisplayPort 1.3, USB 3.0 type C, power adapter
  • Mini DisplayPort adapter and USB-C adapters included

All this power and you might think that the Reverb G2 requires a real beast of a machine to run. But actually, the basic requirements aren't that taxing and a mid-range gaming PC will do. 

The minimum specification requirements are:

  • Graphics: DX12 capable graphics processor
    • Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU or better
    • AMD Radeon Pro WX 8200 or later
  • CPU equivalent or better to:
    • Intel Core i7
    • Intel Xeon E3-1240 v5
  • Memory: 16GB RAM (or more)
  • Video output: DisplayPort 1.3
  • USB Port: 1x USB 3.0
  • OS: Windows 10 (Nov 2019 or later)

Of course, if you do have more power and a modern high-end graphics card then you can really turn the visuals all the way up to 11 and bathe in the glory. 

One thing to keep in mind is you do need to have the right connections. The headset connects to your PC via DisplayPort 1.3 and USB 3.0 Type-C. So you need those connections on your machine. HP provides a DisplayPort-to-Mini DisplayPort adapter and USB-C-to-USB-A - but you need to have a fast USB super speed port to run things properly.

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Optional upgrades

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If you're worried about sweating too much while using the Reverb G2 or are going to be sharing the headset with others and don't want to swear moisture then turn to VR Cover for optional upgrades.

There are a couple of different options available. These include a silicone cover that sits over the standard faceplate and lets you simply wipe it clean after use. Or there's the replacement facial interface which adds wipe clean PU leather foam padding available in two sizes - standard and thicker for more comfort. These are easy to install and a nifty upgrade to your Reverb G2 for minimal extra cost. 

Verdict

Aside from a few niggles, the HP Reverb G2 great virtual reality option, made convenient by the Windows Mixed Reality elements, easy controls, and a comfortable fit.

It certainly has some of the best visuals on offer, too, if you have a strong enough PC setup, and with everything connected it delivers a satisfying VR experience across the board.

However, the included controllers aren't our favourite and, yes, we wish it was wireless too.

But otherwise the HP Reverb G2 is fantastic. It's also a heck of a lot more affordable than the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite and more powerful than the Oculus Rift S. So an option that's well worth considering. 

Also consider

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Oculus Quest 2

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If you don't have a machine powerful enough, lack DisplayPort connections, or indeed just want to have a wireless headset, then the Oculus Quest 2 is a logical alternative. It offers great gaming with wireless freedom and you can even use Oculus Link to play PCVR games - all with just a single USB-C cable. 

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Oculus Rift S

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It might be a bit old school now, but it's still a great headset if you can find it at a bargain price. It has all the joy of inside-out tracking, comfort and convenience. Yes, the visuals aren't as impressive as HP's headset, but it's still a worthy contender.  

Writing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on 24 February 2021.