The time has come to review HP’s own Reverb G1 VR headset. More than a year has passed since people tried the first edition. I have used it for some time, and can come to certain conclusions:
It is BEST at certain things and not-so-amazing in other areas.
If you have had the opportunity to browse and find information on HP Reverb, you might have found out that it has one of the best and clearest screens of all. That is undeniable. Even though it’s relatively cheap, it dominates VR headsets with double the price.
But, there are certain things every HP Reverb buyer needs to know before getting it.
Let’s start from the beginning:
What is the Setup Difficulty for HP Reverb?
I haven’t found anything hard with setting up HP reverb. As with Oculus Rift S, you do not require external sensors, which saves a lot of headache. If you have had other VR headsets, you know that getting a stable signal is just one problem that might occur.
For most, it’s the installation:
As you can see, we got a bit desperate to get a perfect signal. I, for one, had to glue it to my cupboard, as it was the only high enough vertical furniture. The things we did were embarrassing. The cables didn’t help either, and that is the biggest reason I am glad that tracking is done through the headsets now.
Hp Reverb has two front cameras built in that make the tracking possible. While it’s certainly less than ideal, it does simplify the setup for new VR users. I had 0 issues setting it all up – it was pretty straightforward:
- Take out all the stuff.
- Connect the cable to HP Reverb and the other end to the computer.
- Wait for the installation to complete.
- Add batteries and pair the controllers.
- Measure your room size.
All that was easy peasy. The only issue I had was HP’s requirements. The minimal requirement is to have GTX 1080 and 16GB of RAM…
I understand you need to get some extra power for those extra pixels, but hot dayum! That basically cuts off a huge percentage of players. Most are still using GTX 1060, the one that is still perfect for Oculus, HTC, and Valve. That means, entry-level has risen up again, and mainstream folks are cut off again, just like it was back in 2016. I am truly not fine with that. If they want to progress the hardware technology by using better computer specs, at least departmentalize either your refresh rate (like Valve Index did) or your resolution. Players will get to play around themselves in terms of how much power they want.
Over this Year, HP Reverb Comfort got Exposed a bit
Just to be clear, HP Reverb fits in my head perfectly. I felt like a queen that got a beautiful crown with the perfect size, and I am a man! I’ve rarely felt such comfort with other VR headsets. It weighs little (499 grams), feels little, and look little. That makes it great in terms of weight distribution. Since distribution plays a huge role in how comfortable headset it, HP has nailed this area. I never felt like I needed to take off my mask after using it for 3 hours straight.
However, there is that one issue that hasn’t been addressed by HP!
The cable, man, that awful cable…
I can’t really understand what they were thinking when designing that specific part of HP Reverb. Did they think consumers would appreciate that extra feature of pets not being able to chew through the thickness? Because if that’s the case, you really need to sort out your priorities. That thick cable is so thick that Nicki Minaj would have gotten jealous. That creates issues like breaking the VR immersion, difficulties turning around smoothly, and difficulties moving the cable away since it is so stiff – at least I had that problem in my small room.
HP Reverb G2, which is just around the corner, is reported to have thinner cable just because of how people reacted to that.
However, there are some things you should know – HP Reverb isn’t actually best for room-scale playing anyway, so the cable might not matter as much. HP Reverb is best suited for seated experience, especially that revolves around simulations like racing or flying. In that, HP Reverb is currently S-tier in my humble opinion. I will address it later in-depth.
But, back to comfort note, I do have to say that although wearing is top-notch, I do have issues with visual comfort. No personally though – I got lucky by having an IPD of 64mm, which is right in the middle of the screen. But for some whos IPD doesn’t fall in the range of around 62 – 70mm might experience discomfort. Don’t quote me on exact numbers, but I’ve heard that people with 70+ mm started having headaches.
What if you are outside that range? I would recommend stopping reading this article and look at Valve Index as one of the options. The reason being, Valve Index has a physical adjuster, whereas HP Reverb relies on software to do the job. For IPD, it is known that software, unfortunately, isn’t enough to eliminate discomfort. For the best experience, it is better to have the right sweet spot for your eyes, otherwise, your whole VR experience is tainted.
Let’s get to the Meat of This: HP Reverb Display
I’ve got to say, I am thoroughly impressed and glad that there exists a VR headset that provides a great challenge and competition to Valve, Facebook, and HTC. Although the latter ones are strong in their own way, HP Reverb made sure to invest heavily in the resolution aspect of VR. That, in turn, brings a lot of people over to virtual reality. Where people complained about individual pixels, can now turn off anti-aliasing just because it doesn’t even do much anymore. Everything is relatively sharp and clear. Ever super-sampling isn’t needed, which obviously saves tons of computer power.
But, as with each VR headset, there are some drawbacks to being an expert in one area of display. Before I delve into it, let me start with the resolution:
HP Reverb Resolution – This is Why You Should Get it
You know, back in 2012 when lots of people tried Oculus Rift Development Kit 1, their jaws where locked in an open position for the first few minutes. That’s when the resolution was 3 times as dense as now.
I truly believe that if we want to impress the public, we need to make all the Oculus Go showcases to disappear an replace them with HP Reverb so that people can get a taste of what’s actually possible these years. With each year, computer power increases, Playstation is releasing their new hardware, and users are upgrading their PC rigs to support the power that high-level VR requires. HP Reverb is one of the best devices to allow people to get the first impression of VR without spending a fortune (like with Index).
The resolution that HP Reverb provides is best for games that require the sight to be more clear further down the road – racing and flight simulators benefit a lot from that. I also noticed how there wasn’t a single text in from of me that was particularly hard to read. Everything just looked and felt amazing, especially now that I didn’t see those black lines in-between the pixels.
Could it be sharper? Definitely, but I think we are at an era of VR devices where the resolution is comparable to 720p movie, whereas before it was 360p. I am definitely excited to see what HP Reverb G2 will bring to the table.
The COST of high resolution…
As with all things in life, if you spend all your points on one thing, another will suffer. In this case, it’s the screen color vibrancy.
However, I must say that although I am not a big fan of this LCD VR trend that produces suboptimal colors, the black levels were unusually black; definitely blacker than on Rift S that has the same screen. It didn’t click immediately why that was, but then I notice that there is basically zero light bleed. Light does not come in from the nose area as it does on most other VR headsets. That results in a considerably darker screen – which in a way, is very good for me as I like to watch movies and games that are usually accompanied by a dark background.
But, it’s definitely not better than what Samsung Odyssey+, Vive Pro, or Oculus Quest offers. LCD will always produce backlight, whereas OLED pixels are individually lit. That means, for dark scenes, OLED can turn off the screen completely, and LCD users will see some light, which breaks immersion to some degree. If you’ve read my other reviews, you’d notice I am sensitive to that.
That may mean that it may not bother you. The only way to make sure is try it for yourself.
In terms of color vividness, LCD is also lacking a bit, but it’s not really a big deal. That’s mostly because the alternative LCD subpixels support brings much more to the table than “redder apples”.
How is the refresh rate on HP Reverb
HP Reverb is 90Hz by default. Is it fine? It’s actually decent and doesn’t ruin the experience. Oculus, even, lowers the default refresh rate to 80Hz just because they are sure that it is enough.
Do I think it’s enough? Personally, I notice the difference. I feel the difference between 60Hz, 90Hz, and 144Hz. However, I do acknowledge that some people aren’t really bothered by the refresh rate. In fact, they want it to be lower so that their PC doesn’t sweat their GPU off. Do I feel you need the refresh rate of the Valve Index? I don’t really find a reason to have it other than pleasant and smooth animation on 3D objects. It’s not really essential to have it nowadays. Before, it played a certain role in VR sickness, but over time people have gotten used to how VR operates. Personally, 90Hz didn’t make me sick or ruin my experience, but if you are extremely sensitive to that stuff, I recommend looking at Valve Index for that.
If you are worries that 90Hz is too much for your PC, worry not. You can change it to 60Hz. The only person that can tell you whether the difference will be felt is you. Like with many things in VR (and what makes VR reviewing very hard), every person has a different experience inside virtual reality.
Try it out. Comment down below how you felt with it.
With HP Reverb, there were some bugs where it defaulted to 60 frames per second, but it was fixed before the end of 2019 by the HP team.
How much of the screen can you actually see with HP Reverb?
FOV is always difficult to calculate, and that’s mainly because the glass itself on head-mounted displays is different for each product. Some show more field of view horizontally (like TV’s), and some show more vertically (like smartphones).
With HP Reverb, you’ll get a more square-ish look. The FOV isn’t anything to praise, as it’s quite similar to other VR headsets. I do give praise to the size of the sweet spot though, as that makes the watchable quality quite a whole lot bigger.
If you don’t know what it is, it’s that area where eyes focus most on at the center of the screen. It’s usually not blurry, and once you are out of that sweet spot, clarity gets noticeably worse and objects are a blurry mess.
I wouldn’t mind if the field of view would be bigger on HP Reverb. At the end of the day, Reverb is best suited for seated experiences like racing or flying. More degrees of eye freedom would be not only more immersive but beneficial in terms of competitive gaming.
We’ll soon see how the successor deals with this.
Reverb deals well with Display Artifacts
One of the annoying things about VR are artifacts. Those are spawned differently, depending on what VR mask you have.
Luckily, I didn’t really notice many artifacts. For example, chromatic aberration is visible towards the edges, but it’s not as apparent as with the competition. There is mura though (like a dirty film filter), but it didn’t really annoy me and I could easily block it from my mind.
Due to HP putting all their skill point into resolution, I could not see individual pixels. That is an enormous plus in my eyes, as jaggy edges are really immersion breaking and you know that you are inside VR. With current high rez monitors and phones, it usually feels like you are equipping something from the last decade. With HP Reverb, I finally felt like we are close to what VR should truly be.
The black lines are basically nonexistant, making the whole scene a bit brighter in my eyes, which is another benefit.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised what this LCD screen could do.
HP Reverb Controllers – Where it Starts to Fail…
As I mentioned above, HP Reberb is really good at its niche role – seated experience. You can do wonders with a dedicated racing wheelset, or with flying cockpit set. It will truly feel amazing.
Yet, there are sacrifices made because of that, and it seems like the HP team decided to make some budget cuts in controller areas. When I first used HP Reverb, I noticed that my tracking was definitely worse than on Oculus Rift S, for example. It was jaggy and didn’t snap to my hand position as I would’ve liked.
Now, I do have to say that these problems have been curbed a bit, mainly thanks to good software updates where the predictive tracking was improved by decent proportion. Another thing that has helped me was swapping batteries to 1.5V rechargable batteries. Previous one that I had resulted in poorer tracking, and as I’ve searched around the internet, was due to controllers going into low battery mode.
So, battery type does make a difference.
How about the feel?
Yes, it definitely has that budget feel to it. When I first had my gaming experience with it, I got annoyed with some of the buttons that liked to squeak. I expect that problem to become an issue down the line, not immediately. But, let’s say it was just my version.
Why, for some cosmic reason, do so many VR controllers suffer from sliding battery cover? I had the same issue with Oculus Rift S, despite it being much more premium – and it seems like HP WMR controllers are following suit. I seriously contemplate just emptying suer glue down the hatch and leaving it like that. Unfortunately, common sense kicked in.
In terms of ergonomics, HP Reverb controllers aren’t as bad as I thought they would be (reading other people’s experience). They weren’t as good as Rift, per say, but they were comfortable enough to hold and play for long periods of time. The only issues I had were connected to buttons feel (squeaky and no real tactile click on trigger), and also how the controllers loved to slide off.
Considering the price of HP Reverb, I would still expect better design from them, especially when Samsun Odyssey+, a cheaper WMR, has more premium controllers.
HP Reverb Audio – is it Enough?
I do appreciate the fact that they didn’t do the Rift S solution with no integrated headphones and went with padded version. Although many do not like that HP Reverb covers ears completely due to cutting off the surrounding real life sound, I am glad it’s like that because I can block all the distractions from my apartment. I get that immersion from cutting off all the surrounding sound, and coupled with total isolation from light that HP Reverb provides, it makes it one of the most surreal VR experiences.
Although the bass is decent on these headphones, one can definitely hear a bad quality sound. The ranges on these headphones are not that great. It doesn’t really bother me, as I’ve never truly been an audiophile, but I imagine that for some it may become annoying (although manageable). Luckily, as with many VR headsets, you can swap headphones to something you are comfortable with. The comfort may differ after that, but at least it’s YOUR choice.
Can You Play All VR Games With HP Reverb?
Officially, there is a true VR separation in terms of content. Companies invest into games with exclusivity in mind, and that really sucks for consumers.
Luckily, last year, Revive application has updated their version to support wmr much better than before. It was filled with bugs that made it almost unplayable for regular folks, but overtime they have improved it to a point that it’s on-par with Vive.
That means, there is no VR game out there, that couldn’t be played with HP Reverb. Does that mean Reverb is suitable for them though? As I mentioned before, HP Reverb excels in seated experiences, while standing leaves much to be desired. As most VR games novadays are standing experiences, it makes one thing sure…
You really have to by sure that you know what games you plan to play on it. If you are interested, for example, in Microsoft’s newly released Microsoft Flight Simulator that is everyone’s favourite toy currently, then you are in for a treat: This fall in 2020, we expect to see support for Reverb G2, and other VR headsets are quick to follow.
The resolution is what sells this product, so make sure that is your interest as well, otherwise it may disappoint in certain aspects. The controllers aren’t best, but will do for basic operations. Another reason to prefer seated playstyle is the cable. It’s not the most movement-friendly of the bunch, mainly because of its rigidness.
But, that shouldn’t discourage you from trying it out yourself. After all, I am a VR reviewer since 2014, and I have very strict requirements. I tend to focus on details that may not be as important or significant to people like yourself. If you are interested in HP Reverb after knowing the downsides, you have my blessing to try it out. Or, if you have patience, wait for Reverb G2 and compare prices and specs.
I’ll definitely do that myself too.
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