Superhot on the Windows Store looked clearer and more vibrant with Samsung's HMD Odyssey, compared to the Rift and Vive. It also did a solid job tracking my movement as I dodged and weaved through bullets and fists flying toward my head. Samsung's controllers felt just as accurate as the Oculus Touch's and HTC Vive's; I easily fired off shots at enemies who were dozens of virtual feet away.
That was the case for most games and VR experiences, though I had some trouble with Duck Season in SteamVR (which Windows headsets are also compatible with). Aiming and reloading my virtual shotgun felt clumsy and awkward, even though I had no trouble playing it on the Vive. There's a good chance the developers still need to optimize that game to better support Mixed Reality headsets and controllers.
I tested Acer's headset after spending a few hours with Samsung's, and it almost felt unfair to compare them. While the former is lighter and easier to put on, it was much harder to make it fit comfortably. I also grew to hate the foam padding Acer used around its eyepiece. It felt cheap and scratchy on my skin, even after just a few minutes of wearing it. It's baffling why that foam also covers where the headset sits against your nose, since it constantly presses against your nostrils. That sometimes made it a bit hard to breathe while in VR -- and yes, I tried adjusting the headset plenty of times to avoid that.
Acer's model is also a clear downgrade from Samsung's once you step into VR. Since its lenses are shorter, your view of the virtual world is more like peering through a pair of binoculars rather than being surrounded by the environment. And beyond that, the screen quality was also much worse; everything looked duller and less sharp than with Samsung's headset. I still managed to enjoy several rounds of Superhot, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was having a worse experience.
After bouncing across several VR experiences, including the intimate Through You, by Lily Baldwin and Saschka Unseld, as well as several other 360-degree videos in the Jaunt VR app, the Acer headset felt adequate at best. It does the basics of what we'd want from a VR headset, but it has a hard time competing against more-impressive entries like the HMD Odyssey.
Pricing and the competition
Acer's Mixed Reality headset was the first we saw from Microsoft's platform, so it's no wonder it feels a bit like a rush job. It was also one of the $300 models Microsoft was initially touting as a discount entry into VR. Now, though, the Acer headset costs $400 together with its controllers. That's harder to stomach when Samsung's HMD Odyssey bundle goes for $500. There's clearly far more than a $100 difference in quality between the two. Meanwhile, HP's Mixed Reality headset, which we reviewed last week, comes in at $450. I'd still recommend Samsung's model over that, since it has far better controllers and displays.
Of course, the real competitors to every Windows VR headset are the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Given that the Rift is now down to $400 with its Touch Controllers and it has a larger library of VR titles, it still seems like the better option for most people. You lose the convenience of built-in tracking, but you get a more vibrant software ecosystem in exchange (and it'll also work with SteamVR titles).
Side by side, Samsung's and Acer's offerings seem like textbook examples of what to do, and what to avoid, when making VR headsets. The HMD Odyssey is comfortable, well-built and makes virtual reality seem incredibly immersive. Acer's, meanwhile, is none of those things. While it's still early days for Microsoft's Mixed Reality Platform, if you want to jump in, it's clear that Samsung's headset is your best option.