The HP Reverb G2 is quite possibly the most exciting virtual reality headset on the market right now. That may come as a surprise to people expecting the likes of HTC, Oculus, or Valve to be the ones to push VR forward. Still, the HP Reverb G2 achieves that by bringing one important revolutionary change: high-resolution lenses.
We’re really not joking when we say the HP Reverb G2’s 2160 x 2160 resolution per eye is a game-changer. It takes immersion to a whole new level by eliminating the ‘screen door’ effect. The screen door effect occurs in lower-resolution headsets, where you can make out the gaps between pixels.
Once you notice it, it’s hard to ignore; it creates the appearance of looking through a fine mesh – or screen door – and can hamper immersion. By overcoming that issue, while at the same time undercutting most of its rivals on price and being compatible with Steam VR, which gives you access to a huge range of VR games and experiences, the HP Reverb G2 really is the headset to beat.
That $600 price tag is certainly high and puts the Reverb G2 above the wire-free Oculus Quest 2. Still, it’s also more affordable than the HTC Vive Cosmos and quite a bit cheaper than the high-end Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro while offering higher resolutions than all of them. So, it’s definitely an enthusiast VR headset, but one that has the edge over the competition by offering better specs – and we always like to see that.
The design of the HP Reverb G2 is pretty standard for a virtual reality headset. Headphones are built-in, and the headset can be adjusted while you wear it via Velcro straps. The face mask that rests against your face when you’re wearing the headset is light and comfortable and does a good job of blocking out light from the outside world (another immersion-breaking issue with some VR headsets).
This mask magnetically attaches to the headset, making it easy to swap out (if you need a custom fit). At the bottom of the headset is a slider for adjusting IPD (interpupillary distance – the distance between the lenses for each eye), which is easy to do. HP says the Reverb G2 weighs 1.1lbs without the cable. This isn’t the most useful metric, as you need to use the headset with the cable, so you’re never going to wear it without the cable attached. However, it does feel lighter than many of its competitors, including the Vive Cosmos, although it also feels a little more plasticky and fragile.
Speaking of the cable, it plugs into the headset above the goggles, requiring you to remove the mask, and the other end connects to a small, rather stylish, breakout box that connects to the DisplayPort of your PC. There’s also a lead that plugs into a USB-C port – so make sure your PC has one of those.
A power adaptor also attaches to the box, and the result is a mass of wires on your desk, although the breakout box is smaller and nicer looking than the one that comes with the HTC Vive. However, if you have the HTC Vive box, you’re able to disconnect the headset and its cable, allowing you to hide it away when not in use; with the HP Reverb G2, the cable to the headset can’t be disconnected from the box, only the headset, so even if you’re not using the headset and disconnect it you’ll still have a long cable you’ll need to deal with.
At 6m, the cable is also one of the longest that comes with a wired headset, rivaling the Valve Index and giving you a lot more freedom when using it for room-scale experiences and games.
While the HP Reverb G2 doesn’t offer anything revolutionary in terms of the headset design, it’s a solid and comfortable experience. After using the flip-up goggles of the Vive Cosmos, however, we did miss that design feature on the Reverb G2 – it’s handy for when you want to see the outside world without having to obliterate the headset.
As a Windows Mixed Reality headset, the HP Reverb G2 doesn’t come with additional sensors that you need to set up; instead, it uses cameras built into the headset pointing outwards to track movement. While it doesn’t provide the pinpoint accuracy of the Valve Index’s likes, which requires you to set up additional sensors around the room, it does a decent job, and it means this headset is much easier to set up.
After you’ve wired everything up, the Windows Mixed Reality portal pops open, enabling you to configure your play space. It’s a nice enough interface (which we’re used to after using other Mixed Reality headsets) and integrates into Windows 10 well, and it also means there’s no additional software needed. As plug-and-play VR experiences go, the HP Reverb G2 does an excellent job.
Windows Mixed Reality offers a decent amount of apps and games that you can install through the VR interface, including some real gems. The actual interface, which takes the form of a large home you can walk around, looks fantastic on the HP Reverb G2 – if this is your first taste of VR, you’re going to be very impressed.
What’s even better, though, is that the HP Reverb G2 (and Windows Mixed Reality headsets in general) is compatible with Steam VR. This gives you access to a library of hundreds of fantastic VR games, such as Half-Life: Alyx and Star Wars: Squadrons, two of the best VR games we’ve played recently.
We used the HP Reverb G2 with a range of VR games and experiences, including those two titles, and we came away incredibly impressed. We really can’t stress enough how much of an impact the high-resolution lenses in the HP Reverb G2 make – with the screen door effect eliminated, it takes immersion to a whole new level. Many of the games we played with the headset were titles we’ve played many times before, but they felt almost completely new with the G2.
The controllers that come with the HP Reverb G2 are the standard ones you get with Windows Mixed Reality headsets. They’re fine – and we’re familiar with them, having used them plenty of times before – but they lack some of the advanced features found on the likes of the Valve Index controllers. Also, the lack of base stations did mean the headset occasionally lost track of the controllers – this didn’t happen too often. Still, if you’re after pinpoint accuracy, you’re going to need to use the Valve Index or HTC Cosmos Elite, both of which use base stations.
But games looked fantastic on the HP Reverb G2 – although we should note that while the games we tried played flawlessly, we were running them on an incredibly high-end PC, with an Nvidia RTX 3090, one of the most powerful GPUs in the world. On more modest hardware, the extra resolution of the HP Reverb G2 could cause problems.