— Photograph by Raymond Wong

Apple Vision Pro

Once I figured out my app setup and logged into all of my services, the next thing was actually doing work inside of the Vision Pro. Except for the fact that you can make windows really huge, it didn’t feel that much different compared to having multiple monitors connected to my Mac. I write for a living, so a good keyboard is essential for me to not only create my stories but also do so quickly. If you are good at dictating your thoughts, dictation in Vision Pro is shockingly good with high accuracy and responsiveness. I am not good at that, and say “uh” and “um” a lot, so dictating an article isn’t an option for me.

The virtual keyboard also isn’t designed for entering large amounts of text; it works in a pinch to enter a username or passcode. The two methods for using the virtual keyboard — pecking at each key or looking at each key and then pinching it — are too slow for writing articles. I did feel like I got better at pecking and even using multiple fingers to air type on the keyboard after updating Vision Pro’s software to the latest visionOS 1.0.2, but if you need to enter lots of text as fast as possible, using a wireless Bluetooth keyboard is a must. I had no issues pairing an Apple Magic Keyboard to Vision Pro; I also paired a Keychron Q1 Max mechanical keyboard and it worked perfectly.

Not so perfect: Vision Pro doesn’t work with a Bluetooth mouse, only the Magic Trackpad. When I tried pairing my Apple Magic Mouse, I got an error saying the input wasn’t supported. Womp, womp.

For two days, I started my mornings working in Vision Pro, typing at my mechanical keyboard and mostly using eye and hand gestures to point and select within visionOS. I mostly used the trackpad for controlling the cursor for text entry because “clicking” with my fingers was faster and more natural. Not having to work with photos or videos (I haven’t figured out a workflow for that in Vision Pro yet), my computing could be considered light or moderate since I was mostly working in Safari. Apple estimates around 2 hours of battery life for mixed use (2.5 hours for watching video), but I got closer to 4 hours working in Safari. Around two hours into working, I checked the battery life, and it was at 50 percent.

How long you can or want to work inside of Vision Pro continuously is a different question. While there will no doubt be people who take things to the extreme and try to wear Vision Pro all day long, I’m okay with only wearing it for short intervals. While I never felt the headset being too heavy for work (only for that long FaceTime call), I like that the short battery life is a blessing in disguise. I am a person who works so much that I forget to eat (I’m working on it) or hydrate. So if I were to run into a low battery warning, it’d be a good reminder that there is a reality and I should get fresh air, eat and drink, and have some social contact.

For when I needed to batch process photos in Lightroom or edit videos in Final Cut Pro, and visionOS wouldn’t cut it, I turned to the Mac virtual display feature, which lets you mirror a MacBook to a virtual 4K one that you can enlarge. With the high resolution of Vision Pro, every part of macOS was clear. Text and icons — every pixel looked sharp enough to precisely touch up or cut. It’s also just convenient to have visionOS and iPadOS apps side by side with the Mac virtual display. The MacBook Pro’s mouse and keyboard can move between and control the three types of apps seamlessly thanks to Universal Control.

So have I been enjoying working in Vision Pro? I have! It’s not just because visionOS and hand tracking are so new, but because the “infinite” windows feel like I’m opening up a new world of potential. I love that I can crank up the “Environments” to block my box-cluttered living room so that I can just focus on the work at hand; I love that I can blend the two together so that I don’t feel trapped. Mostly, I like that I can place an app window on the other side of the room or in another room, and go back to it, and it’ll be there. That’s pretty sweet, in my opinion.

Watching Video and Playing Games in Vision Pro

Much has already been written about how great the Apple Vision Pro is for entertainment — you get a theater-sized virtual display without actually needing a projector or a projection screen. And it’s as great as everyone (including myself) has been saying it is.

Earlier this week, I watched Masters of the Air on my 55-inch LG 4K OLED TV in my living room. I love this TV; everything looks fantastic on the OLED screen. On Tuesday night, I rewatched the first two episodes in bed in the Apple TV app’s virtual theater, and my OLED TV now feels inadequate in comparison. I can’t stress enough how incredible it is to watch movies and TV on a giant 100-foot theater-sized virtual display — one that feels as large as it would be in real life — and, where supported, with spatial audio. It’s really like having your own private theater, but contained in a headset that you can bring with you anywhere.

Now, it’s not my first time having a virtual theater in my apartment. I’ve watched plenty of videos and movies in Meta’s Quest 2 and 3 headsets and even the PlayStation VR2. But there’s something different about the big virtual display on Apple Vision Pro. Maybe it’s because of the higher-resolution displays, the controller-free controls, or the absolute smoothness to visionOS, but I can confidently say that it’s the best virtual display in any shipping consumer headset.

My OLED TV now feels unsatisfactory in comparison.

The one downside I noticed is that you can’t take screenshots of visionOS if copyrighted content within an app, like Apple TV, is playing. I wanted to include a screenshot of the huge virtual screen in this article, but the screen turned black. I get the copyright concerns, but how lame is that? (Yes, I know it’s the same case on mobile, laptop, and desktop computers.)

The same goes for playing games. For most Apple Arcade games, you’re essentially loading up the iPad version and then playing it on a virtual display. Of course, like watching watching videos, you can make the screen really huge. Sometimes it feels like you’re almost in the game. I mostly played Sonic Dream Team and Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm (a Zelda-esque 3D platformer) with an Xbox controller that Apple provided as part of my loaner Vision Pro reviewer’s kit. If there was any latency or lag, I sure as hell didn’t notice it. Gamepad-compatible Apple Arcade games work just as well as they would on a Mac or Apple TV or iPad.

“Spatial” Apple Arcade games have 3D depth, but they very much play like table-top / arcade-y games. Cut the Rope 3 and What the Golf? are simple games and it shows. On an iPad, you’d tap or swipe for controls, but all you have on Vision Pro is where you look at a pinch to “tap” or pinch and pull to “swipe.” Even without needing to try more spatial games, I think I can already say that they will have very limited controls unless they add controller support.

As for “real” console and PC-quality games on Vision Pro — there were none (yet). No Resident Evil remake or Death Stranding Director’s Cut. These are huge games that take up 70GB+ of storage on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. I’m sure publishers will make these AAA games available on Vision Pro, but the storage might be a concern for consumers. If you purchase a 256GB Vision Pro, you might only have enough storage for two or three of these titles. Maybe that’s why they aren’t available at launch?

I also loaded up Algoriddim’s djay app which I was very gung-ho about last week. My excitement has deflated since. The app is free to download, but you only get a 2D turntable and mixing deck, and very limited additional functionality. If you want immersive environments and the 3D turntables that I saw in my demo, you need to pay for the $29.99/year subscription. Not being a DJ, I was disappointed to see that there’s a subscription fee just to try the “spatial” experience. I really hope this isn’t a sign of things to come where developers paywall the 3D / augmented reality aspects of an app. That would really suck.

Still Scratching the Surface

The first 10 lucky Vision Pro reviewers had almost a full week to test and use the spatial computer headset. I’ve had only two days and a lot of apps are just coming out now that the device has launched. Like, I was the first person to get access to Christian Selig’s (of Reddit Apollo app fame) Juno YouTube app last night. Google doesn’t even have an official YouTube app! So it’s clear that it’s still too early to be conclusive about the Vision Pro.

I aim to have a review after I’ve had at least a week with the Vision Pro, but even then, I’m not sure it’ll be definitive. There will be so many visionOS apps to try out that it’ll be impossible to know whether Vision Pro is a hit or not for, perhaps, months. If you’re even a little bit curious about what using Vision Pro is like, I highly recommend scheduling a demo at an Apple Store. Vision Pro is a product you need to try first before you can understand its potential.

I’ll stop right here because I still have so many thoughts and so many apps to try, and I really need to get back into visionOS to experience them.

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