My First Weekend with the Apple Vision Pro

There have been a ton of hot takes on the device, so I‘ll just talk about my impressions that are perhaps more personal than the broad overview. You can go to a lot of sources for that kind of information. My favorite one is from Joanna Stern at the Wall Street Journal, but I also liked the one from Marques Brownlee.

As far as my impressions of the Vision Pro physically, it is actually smaller than I expected, after all the press about it. It is heavy on the face after a couple of hours, but I got much more comfortable with it on the second day, and after switching to the dual loop band instead of the solo loop that comes on it by default. I wouldn’t call it comfortable, but it is more comfortable for me than Meta’s Quest 2, the other headset I own and have experience with. I attribute a lot of that to the fact that I’m farsighted, and have to wear glasses inside of the Quest, while I have (admittedly expensive) custom lenses installed in the Vision Pro. This makes it much easier and less intrusive to wear, especially after a few minutes, when the Quest would press the bridge of my glasses into my nose.

Once I got it unboxed (watch Brownlee’s unboxing video for that pretty impressive experience), I wanted to just jump in and start playing around, but I should have expected that setting up what is essentially a new Apple computer would have me jumping through some of the familiar hoops, such as downloading 1password to be able to get into my accounts easily. (Thank goodness 1password’s iPad app works! It does have a bug that causes it to not work with Safari, and doing so leaves an orphan window stuck until a reboot…I filed an issue with them.)

So far, my absolute favorite experience is looking at panoramic pictures in “immersive mode”—a setting which makes the panorama wrap around you. You really feel like you’re standing in the spot where the picture was taken and can look all around. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some pretty amazing places to ride my mountain bike, and the pictures from those places are breathtaking on this device. I can’t overstate how compelling this part is.

I shot a couple of videos in the new spatial video format with my iPhone over the holidays, but I don’t have enough of them to get the same wow factor from them. The ones I shot seemed kind of low resolution, so I’ll have to shoot more of them before I can have much of an opinion on them.

The “Memories” feature of Apple Photos is always fun to look through on an Apple TV or iPad, but there’s even more impact when looking at them through the Vision Pro. I keep two main photo libraries: photos shot on my iPhone are in Apple Photos, and photos with the larger cameras, like the Sony or Leica, are in Lightroom Classic. Now I’m considering bringing photos from Lightroom into Apple Photos, just so I can have them there for Photos to make Memories out of.

This thing is really great for watching movies and TV shows on a giant virtual screen. I watched the last two episodes of season 2 of Marvel’s What If…? (★★★☆☆) and both the show and the experience were great. The virtual environments that are available, like watching a movie from Avengers Tower overlooking New York City, are really cool. I find, though, that my favorite is the basic clean Cinema in the Apple TV app. The clutter-free environment really lets the content shine. It still offers the ability to choose a floor or balcony seat, and from front, middle, or rear rows. Sitting in the front row more than fills your field of view, like watching an IMAX movie—you have to move your head to see the the sides of the screen. Middle balcony is my favorite.

I watched a few minutes of some 3D movies and, while they absolutely look better than the 3D glasses that one has to wear in the theaters, I’m not sold yet—I was never a fan of the 3D movie movement, and I’m glad it’s passed. I’ll need to give this a better shot, but my first impression is that I’d rather watch a big 2D version.

Quite a few reviews have made a big deal about the surprisingly good audio qualities of the Vision Pro. I agree that Spatial Audio works well, and the sound is quite full given the tiny speakers in the headband. Apple has proven over and over that they can get great sound out of small speakers (MacBook Pro speakers, AirPods, and HomePods, to name a few instances), so I guess I’m not as surprised as others.

One thing I do wish were possible is to be able to AirPlay the sounds from the headset out to external speakers. I have a nice Dolby Atmos-capable home theater setup with a powerful subwoofer, and the Vision Pro can’t touch that. I want to have the giant virtual screen and my home theater sound. That seems reasonable, given that Apple TV can already send sound to AirPods. Hopefully it’ll be possible in the future, but I see no options for it now.

One last miscellaneous observation that hadn’t occurred to me, but makes sense: despite Vision Pro covering your eyes, you do actually need light in the room for it to work; it needs to be able to see your hands with its cameras to navigate. We had our power go out in a big storm that hit on Sunday, and by nighttime I was having a hard time using Vision Pro because of the low light. I was able to tether to my iPhone and get a movie started, and was OK from there, but I couldn’t do much else with the lights out.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say after spending some time with the device. One thing I’m looking forward to doing is working with my Mac through the Vision Pro, and I’m sure I’ll get to that during the week.