The XREAL Air 2 is coming out in the UK soon. After venturing to London to attend their invite-only media event (and EGX while I was there), I walked away with an early pair of augmented reality (AR) glasses and wanted to share my thoughts on them.
XReal (formerly NReal) isn’t new to this at all, with almost 40% of the global market for AR glasses in 2023. The XReal Air 2 is a direct upgrade of their previous XReal Air too, so they certainly have experience here. I was excited to check these out and find out if that experience translated into as good a product as advertised.
What is the XREAL Air 2?
AR is somewhat of a wide term, so I’ll set expectations first. The XREAL Air 2 is a lightweight pair of glasses that essentially acts as if a projector is in front of you with integrated speakers in the arms. Assuming you don’t have the XReal Beam (not included), it’s attached to your view, so when you turn, the screen moves to stay in the center or side of your view.
This is amazing if you want to watch movies and for several other purposes, but there is no integration with cameras or recognition of anything in your view. There are certainly some additional features, but if you think of it as a discrete monitor, you won’t be far off.
These AR glasses can connect to devices with a USB-C display output, while their app will only fully work on Android 10 and above. With further accessories, the compatibility is expanded. It runs off the power of whatever it’s connected to, so if you’re using it with a phone, it’s limited to a few hours of use at best unless you’re charging it at the same time.
The XReal Air 2 uses Sony’s 0.55 Micro-OLED display, with up to 120Hz refresh rate (60Hz default), 1080p resolution per eye, 46-degree FOV, and up to 500 nits brightness. It can project a display that appears up to 330″ in front of the user. They also boast that they’re the world’s first TÜV color accuracy certified AR glasses, which reduces eye strain and leads to high color accuracy.
Display and Sound Impressions
While all these specifications sound impressive, it’s how it works in practice that is more important to a lot of users. My answer to that is very much dependent on what you want to do with it and what you have.
I’ve been watching movies on the XReal Air 2 primarily through my Pimax Portal as it has a USB C display output (unlike my Google Pixel 7a) and to a lesser extent on my Samsung Galaxy S8+. The colors are vivid and pop, everything plays smoothly, and it gives a great cinema experience anywhere. Whether on the train, walking around (not recommended), or even lying down in bed, this feels like the perfect use case. Notably, the XReal Air 2 can show 3D content, which gives it an advantage over a TV in the same price range.
I tried some light gaming too. While the display appeared a little too close to me to be ideal for some games where I wanted a wider view, it was still a great experience. I paid particular attention to games where timing and response speed would be an issue and didn’t find the XReal Air 2 wanting here at all.
The one area I wasn’t as impressed with was readability. It’s certainly possible to read text through the XReal Air 2; their head of PR even read a script off during the media event I attended for XReal. It was never quite crisp though, so I’d not use it for heavy reading or small text. It started to make my eyes tired when I tried. I actually had to look at the phone screen to make out the writing when registering for their Nebula app, which did break the experience a little. As such, I can’t recommend it for most productivity tasks.
As an aside, the Nebula app not only lets you control where the display appears but also gives access to some limited AR experiences. I’m hoping this will be expanded in the future, as there isn’t much function aside from the ‘cinema view’ currently.
One nice feature is that the transparency of the projected screen can be adjusted. This certainly helps when you want to see more of the real world. That said, even at the highest setting and with the deepest colors, an outline can still be seen behind the screen. This is good for safety purposes if you do decide to go walking about while watching videos. If it does bother you, there’s a light dimmer, which is essentially a pair of clip-on sunglasses. The more expensive XReal Air 2 Pro includes a very nice function to switch through levels of dimming with a button press too.
On sound, it’s clear and has a good amount of detail. It certainly doesn’t match up to a real set of headphones, but it’s good enough that the tradeoff for convenience and portability is worth it. It’s quite discrete too. If you want to watch something that you’d prefer others not hear, they likely won’t notice unless it gets very quiet or they get very close. It doesn’t work well in loud environments though. I found I couldn’t hear the sound well when things got noisy, unlike with earphones.
What Can’t You Do (Without Paying More)?
As mentioned, the XReal Air 2 will connect to devices with a USB-C display output directly. This is done via a cable between the glasses and the device. So your phone, Steam Deck, or similar device will match up perfectly with this. Your Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, or XBox won’t. Your PC too, probably.
You can use these sorts of things, but you need to get additional cables or adapters. The XREAL Adapter (approximately $50 USD) adds this compatibility or you can use the XReal Beam (approximately $120 USD) which both does this and uses gyroscopic tracking of the glasses to allow the screen to remain fixed in place, rather than to your view. The XReal Beam also adds the ability to pin screens in place and have multiple displays. It seems like the XReal Beam really expands the functionality quite a lot.
For enthusiasts who do have the relevant equipment, there are some interesting projects for extra functions too. This unofficial one mapping head tracking to video games certainly caught my attention.
While certain features aren’t included in the box, the XReal Air 2 does come across as a premium product from the go. With attractive and solid packaging, a hard shell glasses case, a braided cable, a frame for prescription lenses, and extra nose pads, it doesn’t skimp on quality and extras. The glasses themselves seem to be well made too and I have no concern about the handles snapping or them taking any damage.
In terms of comfort, I found no issues. They’re rather lightweight and the cable trailing down from the back of one of the arms never caused me an issue. The default nose pad included fit well enough that they were secure and there was no noticeable pressure on my face, unlike certain VR headsets.
One thing missing though is a good instruction booklet. It had a small one inside, but it doesn’t even say how to turn the glasses on, never mind how to change the volume or display modes. If I hadn’t had an explanation of it, I would’ve spent a lot more time experimenting to figure it out as it’s not the clearest thing in the world. This information doesn’t appear to be on their official website either. It was posted on Reddit instead.
The XREAL Air 2 is certainly a product for enthusiasts and quite limited in what it can do, particularly without the additional accessories. If you want a cinema experience to watch 3D and 2D movies, or want to game on a compatible device, it certainly does it well! It isn’t great for reading though and the reliance on additional accessories for a lot of functions is a pity. I do recommend these, but they’re for very specific use cases. Those who frequently travel on planes and trains will likely get the most out of them.
XREAL AIR 2 IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to XReal for providing a review unit.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.