2023 was the most exciting year in the Extended Reality (XR) space since Counterpoint Research began its XR service more than three years ago. While the most amount of public interest was generated by the announcement of Apple’s foray into the segment through the Vision Pro, its first Mixed Reality (MR) headset, the launch of Sony’s gaming VR headset PlayStation VR2, and the launch of Meta’s MR headset Quest 3, a significant amount of meaningful progress was also made by lightweight and competitively priced AR glasses. We at Counterpoint have been testing one such product – XREAL Air 2 Pro.
The XREAL Air 2 Pro with its lightweight and well-balanced design offers comfortable usability. The high image quality, combined with a 120Hz high refresh rate and improved audio, positions it as a good competitor in its category, especially for streaming.
It has several other intriguing features that users in certain regions – surprisingly including the US where it is officially available – are prevented from experiencing to the fullest extent. Overcoming these hiccups and adding more apps could make it one of the most interesting AR glasses in 2024 when Apple’s MR headset finally becomes available, and more consumers seek the XR experience without necessarily wanting to shell out $3,500.
Lightweight and comfortable design
The Air 2 Pro packs some upgrades into a visibly thinner and noticeably lighter frame compared with the original 2022 Air. XREAL achieved this by reducing the front face thickness by around 14% to 19 mm. The Air 2 Pro weighs 75 gm, a noticeable reduction from the Air’s weight of 79 gm. The weight distribution has also been improved, with the front/rear weight ratio going from 63:37 to 50:50. The Air 2 Pro also comes with multiple soft zero-pressure nose pads which would help users pick one that fits them better, compared to the metallic ones offered with the original Airs. However, sometimes the glasses need to be worn further out on the nose to prevent the lower part of a video, particularly subtitles, from falling outside the visual area.
Display: Bright, crisp and vivid
The Air 2 Pro comes with three levels of electrochromic dimming, taking immersion from 0% to 35% to 100%. A 25% increase in brightness, to 500 nits, allows for a better viewing experience, even in brighter conditions. The latest 0.55 Micro-OLED panel from Sony with a 21% higher PPI (pixels per inch) of 4032 also contributes to the increased image quality in the Air 2 Pro. The new device comes with a refresh rate of 120Hz, which has also been added to the original Air through software updates.
Audio: Loud enough for a personal viewing experience
The overall viewing experience also benefits from XREAL’s second-generation sound system which makes audio more immersive. Directional audio reduces sound leakage, although it is still quite noticeable, unless in loud outdoor environments. There are two speakers, one on each side of the temple, making the audio sufficiently loud in most environments.
XREAL Beam: Connectivity hub for reduced latency
The Air 2 Pro can be used with Beam, a handheld accessory that looks like the Apple iPod. It comes with a built-in battery that can offer a continuous runtime of up to three-and-a-half hours. With a 27W fast charger, it can be charged up to 50% in 30 minutes, while also allowing users to use the Air 2 Pro while charging.
Built on XREAL’s proprietary spatial computing technology, it can project an equivalent of 330 inches of portable screen in the Air 2 Pro for streaming, gaming, or productivity. Gamers may also use it to connect with PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck or even the ROG Ally to mirror the screen on the Air 2 Pro for an immersive gaming experience. The Beam also comes with 32GB of built-in memory, allowing users to sideload Android app APKs.
Limited app ecosystem with availability issues across regions
With the app ecosystem playing a critical role in the success of a product, capable hardware needs to be complemented with enough apps for various use cases. At Counterpoint, we used the device in our US, China, and India offices. We were able to successfully connect it with an iPhone 15, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5, MacBook Pro 16 (M1 Pro), and a Windows 10-powered Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 where screen mirroring worked well. Using the Nebula app on macOS, we could use three virtual desktops, but only a screen mirroring option was available with a Windows laptop.
We wanted to try some apps, but both the US and India teams could not download any as the Nebula app on Android was not available in those regions. Despite software updates, XREAL Beam (China market version) currently offers only four 2D applications – document management, Bilibili (video APP), iQiyi (video APP), and Alibaba Cloud Drive.
The Air 2 Pro comes pre-installed with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video apps, and we were able to successfully log in and watch TV shows and movies without a hitch. The experience was immersive and better than expected. Logging in to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video was a bit of a hassle, especially for someone with limited experience of using such devices. This was exacerbated by a dissatisfactory cursor experience as the cursor kept sliding into one of the corners and sometimes failed to appear on the display at all.
After logging in, however, the experience of watching a couple of episodes of ‘Secrets of the Great British Castles’ on Netflix was quite exciting. After some adjustments, the first entire episode could be watched in a single sitting with relative ease. The experience was quite immersive with the drone views of the castles being especially superior on these glasses.
Pricing and availability
The XREAL Air 2 is priced at $399, whereas the XREAL Air 2 Pro comes for $499. They went on sale in October 2023 in the US, UK, Germany, France and Italy. The glasses’ companion handset accessory, the XREAL Beam, sets users back by another $120.