HP’s second virtual reality headset, the HP Reverb G2 virtual reality headset combines the very high definition screens of its predecessor with numerous ergonomic refinements. The goal is clear: to establish itself as one of the most advanced PC VR headsets on the market.
The HP Reverb G2 is presented, as its name suggests, as a direct evolution of the Reverb, the previous virtual reality headset for PC from the manufacturer released in 2019. It takes the biggest argument of the latter, namely its very high definition display: 2160 x 2160 px per eye, which still makes it the consumer VR headset with the highest image resolution today – we put aside models like the Pimax 5K and 8K or even the StarVR One, which have never known the honors of mass production.
But since pixels are not everything, the Reverb G2’s mission is to improve the few ergonomic points that could still be improved on its predecessor. In this task, he was able to count on a powerful ally, Valve. HP has in fact joined forces with the company to which we owe Half-Life , Steam, but also the Index , to provide itself with the concepts and technologies that have made the reputation of its own headset. It is in particular to this partnership that we owe the new optical assembly of the G2, as well as its audio system with “floating” speakers.
Finally, the G2 benefits from the latest developments in the Windows Mixed Reality motion tracking system, which now uses 4 “ inside-out ” tracking cameras instead of 2 previously, in order to offer greater freedom of movement.
Headset exclusively dedicated to PC VR, the G2 requires at least a configuration including a GeForce GTX 1060, Radeon RX 580 or equivalent graphics card, as well as an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor – without further details from the part from the manufacturer. It goes without saying, on the other hand, a much more muscular machine is needed to fully exploit the definition of the screens, which will be discussed later in this test.
The HP Reverb G2 has been available since fall 2020 at an indicative price of € 720 for the complete pack including the headset and its two controllers.
In terms of design, the Reverb G2 dares no fancy. Its matte black plastic coating makes it a helmet with a perfectly ordinary look and construction – but also perfectly effective, and giving a good impression of solidity.
In terms of comfort, HP has chosen a “simple” rigid headband with slight support at the level of the occiput, similar to that of the Valve Index, or even the Elite Strap of the Oculus Quest 2 . This system is perfectly effective in distributing the mass of the helmet over the entire head, without creating excessive weight on the nose. Only the pressure of the visor on the face remains quite high, noticeably more than it is with “halo” systems such as those of the PlayStation VR or the HTC Vive Cosmos. Without creating real discomfort, this pressure has above all the disadvantage of leaving clear traces of “ski mask” on the face after a long wearing session. Do not be surprised to receive a few mocking looks for a few minutes after removing the helmet …
Despite this, the Reverb G2 remains quite comfortable to wear, even for several hours, which is not the prerogative of all VR headsets on the market, far from it. What is more, we appreciate the ease with which this headband allows the helmet to be adjusted in front of his eyes, much more easily than “halo” systems. With one small detail ready: the adjustment of the headband is done with Velcro straps rather than a dial, and can therefore require a lot of trial and error before one finds its ideal size.
However, things will be much simpler when it comes to the depth of the visor, since the latter is simply not adjustable. Fortunately, this should not pose any comfort problem, not even for spectacle wearers, since the helmet lenses are far enough away from the wearer’s eyes – unfortunately potentially to the detriment of visual comfort, as we will see a little below.
The headset comes with two motion-sensing controllers that have undergone a major overhaul from the first generation WMR controllers – and that’s a relief. They finally abandon the very angular shapes of their predecessors, and their handling is drastically improved. The layout of the buttons is also modified, and now resumes that of the Oculus Touch, which has become a standard for almost all virtual reality platforms, and which adapts perfectly to almost all the games and applications available. On the other hand, we still deplore the frankly not ideal placement of the tracking rings., which tend to unbalance the weight forward. What is more, the very bright luminous beacons mounted on these rings lead to autonomy: two AA batteries in each controller are enough to keep them awake for only ten hours. Suffice to say that the use of rechargeable batteries is an absolute necessity.
Communication with the PC goes through a small connection box to which the headset is connected by a 6 m cable, thin and flexible enough not to cause excessive inconvenience during use. The box then in turn connects to the computer via USB 3.0 Type-C and DisplayPort 1.3 (with included mini-DisplayPort adapter for connecting to a laptop). If the computer’s USB-C port is Power Delivery compatible, no other connection is necessary; otherwise, the box must also be connected to the mains.
Because yes, the Reverb G2 is energy intensive. And like anything energy-intensive, it heats up, a bit too much for our liking – not only on the outside, but also on the inside of the visor. The temperature of the material at the left eyebrow exceeds 45 ° C. This heat is clearly felt on the face, and can cause a little surplus of perspiration during frenzied parts of Beat Saber or Pistol Whip . We console ourselves by noting that at least the heat dissipation is done in an entirely passive way; we therefore do not have to endure in addition the fan noise that the HTC Vive Cosmos makes us suffer, for example.
Here we are finally. This is the massive argument of the Reverb G2: its 90 Hz RGB LCD screens with an extremely generous definition of 2160 x 2160 px per eye, where the other main headsets on the market peak at around 1440 x 1600 px or at best 1832 x 1920 px for the Oculus Quest 2 . And the expected effect is there: helmet on the head, we benefit from a visual acuity that is simply beneficial compared to what virtual reality has accustomed us to. Needless to say, the famous “grid effect” which still pollutes the image on many helmets on the market is this time completely eradicated.
In practice, the simple display of text takes on the air of a miracle, when we can easily read a document that with any other headset would have seemed like a mush of pixels. Generally speaking, this definition allows the textures of materials to become incredibly tangible. In a game like the recent Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond from the Respawn Entertainment studio, we are also and above all amazed by the naturalness that human faces take, the incredible realism of the rendering of their skin – on condition of course to have a computer powerful enough to run the game at adequate rendering resolution.
Because if the GTX 1060 recommended by HP can actually do the trick for the display of simple 3D renderings in half-resolution, it will however be necessary at least an RTX 2060 Super to switch to a rendering that fully exploits the screens of the Reverb G2 on these same renderings – and much more than that in the case of a very greedy game like this Medal of Honor. So a laptop with an RTX 2080 Max-Q was just fine enough for us to run the game at 45 fps (doubled to 90 fps by asynchronous reprojection). A 2080 Ti in the “desktop” version makes it possible to approach the 90 fps line, without however reaching it constantly, far from it – for that, an RTX 3080 or Radeon RX 6800 XT would not have was too much. Unsurprisingly, the Reverb G2 therefore goes best with very high-end configurations.
However, all is not perfect. First, and since we have just spoken of it, it should be pointed out that said interpupillary distance adjustment only offers a fairly narrow clearance, between 60 and 67 mm. Paradoxically, it is a little less than the Oculus Quest 2, which, even without offering fine adjustment, ranges from 58 to 68 mm; and it might cause slight discomfort for people with very large (more than 70mm) or very small (less than 58mm) gap.
Also and most importantly, the lack of depth adjustment of the visor has two frustrating consequences. In the first place, it is responsible for a somewhat narrow field of vision, in particular for people with very hollow faces. Then, it causes a small lack of homogeneity, the astonishing sharpness of which is only seen in the center of the lenses; on the edges, however, very visible chromatic aberrations appear.
Behind these lenses, the LCD panels themselves provide a solid job: if the contrast is obviously below what Oled panels offer (which have disappeared from all recent VR headsets), the colorimetry does not suffer any complaint. The color temperature is remarkable (average at 6510 K, for a target at 6500 K), while the average Delta E 94 of 3.3 indicates absolutely minimal color drifts – only the green primary which is slightly lacking in saturation prevents us to speak of perfection.
Audio is the area where you can clearly feel the influence of Valve. The HP headset uses the same system as the Index: it uses proximity speakers positioned in front of the ear, but without contact with the pinna.
Compared to conventional ear cups, this design shows an advantage of absolute obviousness in terms of comfort: which says total absence of contact, says total absence of the slightest risk of physical discomfort. But it is not without compromise in terms of perceived sound quality.
However, these speakers work surprisingly well, and are even quite surprising by the volume and the very generous dynamics they can produce. But the laws of physics remain immutable. In this fully open configuration, the tiny size of the transducers only allows for extremely limited bass extension – below 60Hz is a point of salvation, and too bad for engine noises, gunshots and other bass notes, which are totally anemic. What is more, the total absence of acoustic control is responsible for this rock, this peak, this heading, what do we say this heading, this peninsula which disfigures the measurement of harmonic distortion around 1 kHz. The ear confirms it: the respect and the naturalness of the stamps are very insufficient,
Third and last drawback finally, the completely zero sound insulation results in high crosstalk – the left ear clearly perceives the audio signal intended for the right ear, and vice versa – with harmful consequences on the binaural spatialization shaped by the games and applications.
All of these issues would have been only a minor criticism, if only the user had had the option of easily removing the speakers to use headphones or regular headphones instead. The first part of this hypothesis does not pose any problem: a simple PH0 screw to be removed from each side of the helmet, and here are its speakers completely detached. However, the manipulation will not take us very far: the Reverb G2 being devoid of mini-jack connector, we are then simply deprived of sound. A remedy of a somewhat excessive radicality, you will agree …
The initial configuration of the headset is done through the Windows Mixed Reality portal, which is automatically included in all installations of Windows 10. Looks like nothing else, this makes the HP Reverb G2 virtual reality headset, like all other WMR headsets, one of the headsets. the most plug & play on the market, since it does not require any download prior to installation. As is the norm now, we are offered to configure a play space either stationary or in roomscale , with free movement in the space. In this second case, it is necessary to clear a minimum space of 2 m wide and 1.5 m deep.
As early as 2017, WMR headsets were the first consumer virtual reality headsets to adopt “ inside-out ” motion tracking , which gets rid of external sensors or beacons to be installed in its room of use, to rely instead on cameras installed directly on the helmet and allowing it to locate itself “on its own” in its environment. What if we could have blamed these first generation helmets for lacking in precision and reliability in their tracking? Fortunately, this is no longer the case on the Reverb G2, which offers very solid head movement tracking. For the form, we must note that it is not quite as skillful as that of the Oculus headsets, insofar as it requires a relatively high ambient light to function optimally. On the other hand, it performs significantly better than that of the HTC Vive Cosmos , in particular when it is confronted with dark and uniform walls, such as those in our sound lab for example, which you can see in the photos illustrating this test. During all of our tests, except at times when we were deliberately trying to put the monitoring in difficulty, we never had to suffer the slightest dropout.
Controller tracking is also pretty good – at least as long as the controllers stay in line of view of the cameras. From this point of view, the Reverb G2 again makes a big leap over the first-generation WMR headsets, since it does not have two, but four tracking cameras. Thanks to the new side cameras, it is now possible to pass the hands behind the shoulder line without immediately breaking the line of sight; phew!
Unfortunately, the approximation of the position of the levers when said line is broken leaves something to be desired. Actions requiring putting a hand completely behind the back (very common in shooting games, for example, to get a weapon or ammunition in a backpack) sometimes become a bit laborious, and it is not necessary. rare that one has to repeat it two or three times for the action to be finally detected correctly. Even more annoying, in the absence of a camera placed at the top or bottom of the helmet, the vertical field of view of the tracking remains quite limited. So much so that the levers escape from it when you simply hold your arms outstretched alongside your body, resulting in sometimes gross drifts. Fortunately, the re-acquisition of the position of the joysticks when they return to the field of the cameras is very fast – but not enough to go unnoticed. From this point of view, the systems of Oculus tracking , used in particular on the Rift S and Quest 2 , remains unmatched.
What’s more, the lack of capacitive sensors on the levers means that they are unable to detect raised thumbs and other strained index fingers. This failure combines with the limited freedom of movement to create a hands-on presence in the virtual universe that is noticeably less convincing than that provided by the Oculus Touch or the Vive Cosmos’ controllers – and let’s not even talk about Valve’s Index Controllers.
Finally, the WMR software environment is quite pleasant to use. The hub in which you are projected when you put on the headset is simple and efficient, giving quick and rather intuitive access to the settings menus, system applications, as well as the Windows desktop environment. The only real criticism we could make about this environment is its lack of support from Microsoft and developers, which means that far too few games and applications are offered there natively. Regardless, the WMR portal can interconnect without difficulty to the SteamVR and Viveport environments, and thus provide access to all the vast content available on these platforms.
HP Reverb G2 virtual reality headset – Conclusion
The exceptional display quality of the HP Reverb G2 virtual reality headset allows it to establish itself, by default, as one of the best virtual reality headsets for PCs available on the market, and consequently to obtain 5 stars. Paradoxically however, one cannot help being frustrated by several small mistakes (limited freedom of movement of the hands, wobbly audio system, a little narrow field of vision…) which prevent it from fully holding its place. Faced with a much less expensive Oculus Quest 2 , the best argument of the headset from HP is ultimately that its use does not require a Facebook account. This may be critical for some users, but we hoped for more.
Pros of HP Reverb G2 virtual reality headset
- Exceptional display fineness.
- Impeccable screen colorimetry.
- Excellent comfort, even during very long sessions.
- Accurate and reliable motion tracking.
- Simple and pleasant software environment.
Cons of HP Reverb G2 virtual reality headset
- Field of vision a bit narrow, chromatic aberrations on the edges of the lenses.
- Wobbly audio system, and no mini-jack output that would easily replace it.
- Limited freedom of movement of the levers.
- High heat inside the visor.
- Very short controllers autonomy (around ten hours with 2 AA batteries per controller).