Gadget news
Loomly review
5:27 pm | March 18, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Software | Comments: Off

Loomly is one of the newer and snappier entries into TechRadar Pro's list of the best social media management tools, and with good reason. Built for the social media era, Loomly tries to make life simple for its users – which could soon include you.

We've already thoroughly tested the likes of Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Circleboom, and while these might be more familiar names in the social media space, Loomly is definitely worth checking out. 

Loomly themselves tout huge time savings of 30 hours per week for average users, who can make use of the built-in 300 or more content ideas, which can be especially helpful for smaller organizations with fewer people to bounce ideas off. 

There's a reason that the likes of Dior, Honda, BMW, The Salvation Army, Thomas Cook, and many more use Loomly's services to manage their brand posts across every major social media channel, and some smaller ones too. 

Given the world we live in has become dominated by social media platforms, making sure your business can stay ahead of the pack is vitally important. Just having a company blog no longer cuts it in 2024, sadly, as users discover services via social media and everyone is competing for attention. 

In this review, we're going to cover a lot of ground and make sure you can make an informed decision about whether Loomly is your pick for best social media manager in 2024. Let's dive in. 

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Loomly social media

(Image credit: Future)

Plans and pricing

First, the good stuff: pricing. If you're a small business, or even a one-person operation, then cost is going to be very, very important and might weigh more on the decision than the respective features. 

Loomly is priced very competitively and splits its service into four very easy to understand tiers: Basic, Standard, Advanced, and Premium. We'll go through each. 

  • Basic: as the name suggests, this is the lowest level tier that Loomly offers, with support for 10 accounts, two users, and access to interactions, analytics, a hashtag manager, post previews, and more, for $32 per month. 
  • Standard: billed as the most popular option, a Standard subscription gives you everything in Basic plus 20 accounts, six users, advanced analytics, content exports, and Slack and Teams integration, for $60 per month. 
  • Advanced: for larger clients, this tier supports up to 35 accounts and 14 users, plus the ability to set custom roles, create custom workflows, and enjoy scheduled reports, all for $131 per month.  
  • Premium: finally, for the biggest companies, Loomly offers a tier that can handle everything, including up to 50 accounts, 30 users, and the ability to add custom branding, plus everything else in the other three plans, for $277 per month. 

All of these subscription tiers include a discount when paying annually, which might be something your organisation wants to do anyway – a nice little addition. 

Loomly also offers an Enterprise tier that comes upon request, and includes tailored support via an account manager and the ability to scale up beyond even the heights of Premium, while getting a nice little discount. 


(Image credit: Future)


With pricing out of the way, let's get into the actual features that Loomly has on offer. As standard, Loomly supports all of the major social networks – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Google, Snap, and so on – and that applies to all of the tiers, not just the more expensive ones, which is a nice touch. 

All users can also access the ability to schedule unlimited posts, publish directly, manage hashtags, use link shorteners, and store unlimited assets on the platform. Compared to some of its rivals, that's a decent list. 

Loomly also lets every user access an approval workflow (which is very handy given the downsides to posting things before they're ready) and the ability to set user roles. All but Basic get Slack and Teams integrations, too. 

In terms of actual content creation, Loomly offers users Basic through Premium access to post previews, Google Drive, Canva, a post inspiration tool, the ability to reply to interactions, and an analytics dashboard. 

Finally, Loomly's iOS and Android apps are available to all and really help with jotting down ideas on the go or making tweaks while you're out and about. Some rivals reserve the apps for higher tiers, so this is also a nice thought. 

If you thought this section went on for a little it's because, well, Loomly is very generous with the "basic" features on its service, making this ideal for any organization that doesn't want to spend too much while being able to do a lot. 

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Digging a little bit deeper, let's take a look at some of the more advanced features that Loomly offers. While the company is generous, there are some features your business might want to take advantage of that require a higher plan. 

Starting off with an obvious one, Loomly lets Standard tiers and upwards access its advanced analytics, which does go into a lot more detail, as well as the ability to export results. Advanced and Premium users can also schedule reports. 

Exporting content, such as analytics, lists, calendars, and posts, is also not something the Basic tier can manage, meaning you'll need to go for Standard or above if those workflows sound important. 

Custom branding, something big organizations will surely want, is limited to only the most expensive Premium plan. Users can utilize a branded subdomain, custom favicon, and a custom logo as part of this feature set. 

To close out this section, Loomly also offers access to over five million royalty-free images and videos, plus daily post inspiration to get the ideas flowing. 

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Loomly social media

(Image credit: Future)

Analytics and reporting

Given that keeping track is one of, if not the main reason to use social media management platforms, this section might be the most important, depending on your organization, of course. 

Loomly tracks a lot. Post-performance can be measured in real time across every single major social network, labels are available to help measure campaigns, and users can schedule analytics reports at regular intervals to help keep things under control. 

The main aim is to help users get a better understanding of what's working and, importantly, what's not: not every post will be a smash hit, but over time you'll be able to build up a knowledge of what works. 

Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and X (or Twitter) all get the detailed analytics treatment, with granular insights into how posts are performing, and the ability to create new posts to "mimic" those. Having everything in one place makes life so much easier, too. 

Finally, Loomly offers domains for its clients, helping you get additional data on who is opening your links, when, where, and why. It's a neat little addition. 

Loomly social media

(Image credit: Future)

User interface

For our money, Loomly has one of the best UIs out there when it comes to social media managers: everything is in the right place and easy to use, even advanced features and settings. 

The company recently redesigned many of its core features to make everything that much smoother based on customer feedback and it's made a huge difference. 

A great example is the rebuilt Post Builder, which, as you can imagine, is one of the main places you'll be hanging out in the app. Loomly worked on reducing the number of steps to create content, such as by introducing collapsable post ideas, the ability to close content, and new ways to label different pieces of work. 

Loomly's ultimate goal is actually to automate much of your workflow – part of the reason there is a focus on mimicking older posts – and that bleeds into how you spend time actually using the app. Unlike some rivals, Loomly almost wants you to spend less time on there, or at least doing boring tasks. 

As the company says of its website: organize away the chaos. By making Loomly your creative and organization hub for all things social media, life becomes a bit simpler. 

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(Image credit: Future)


As you might expect, support is handled very well, from the most basic to specific customer-by-customer help. Loomly publishes a blog, YouTube tutorials, and much more to answer many of the most basic questions. 

On top of these, Loomly also publishes webinars and hosts specific courses to help users make the most of its powerful software. That's the thing, ultimately: Loomly wants users to get the absolute best bang for their buck.

We found the Help Center to be super useful for answering some early questions, and in fact it helped point us towards some things we didn't immediately know about before, which in turn helped improve our workflows. 

As mentioned above, big enterprise clients are assigned a specific account manager to help them out in whatever way is necessary. 

The competition

As we said above, TechRadar has spent many hours assessing the best social media management tools and found that SEMrush actually ranks the highest because it also includes an SEO management platform, plus the usual features, making it an ideal one-stop shop for everything your business needs online. 

Hootsuite works the best for tracking analytics, although there is an over-arching focus on Twitter (or X), while Sprout Social ranks the highest for actually creating and posting content to the platforms. 

Buffer offers great post tracking tools, on top of a great all-round platform, and Hubspot is amazing for automating workflows. Meanwhile, Circleboom has an OpenAI integration that can suggest posts, which is very high tech. 

Basically, Loomly has a lot of competition! But don't let that dissuade you: if anything, the abundance of quality social media managers means that your organization is the winner, being able to choose exactly the software that fits the specific need of the business. 

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Loomly social media

(Image credit: Loomly)

Final verdict

The bit you've all been waiting for. Loomly offers a great all-round package of social media manager tools in one place, designed with the current landscape in mind and offering generous benefits across all of its tiers. 

While some of its rivals might be more powerful in absolute terms (more features, and so on), what Loomly offers is a really friendly UI that takes only a moment to understand, underpinned by a powerful suite of tools that aids with every step of the process, from post creating to scheduling and managing your colleagues. 

Campaign tracking is up there with the best, too, with the focus being on Loomly's calendar feature, which helps you and your coworkers be on the same page. 

Working in social media can sometimes feel repetitive, and so automation is key to fighting that and at least remove some of the most tedious parts of setting up posts. 

As if all of that wasn't enough, there's even a 15-day free trial on most plans. 

So, to summarise, we recommend Loomly to a forward-looking business that wants the absolute best of social media management with all of the modern twists. 

Google Gemini hands-on: the new Assistant has plenty of ideas
5:00 pm | February 17, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Artificial Intelligence Computers Computing Gadgets Software | Comments: Off

Google has replaced its Google Assistant with a new AI-based tool, Gemini, at least for those of us in the US daring enough to download the new app. I tried Gemini on my Pixel 8 Pro, testing it side-by-side against the older Google Assistant on my OnePlus 12. The experience is changing very quickly, and features that didn’t work yesterday may suddenly work tomorrow. Overall, Gemini is trying to be something very different than Assistant, without removing the features I’ve grown to rely upon. 

Google Gemini hands-on: Design

Google Gemini screens on Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

It was obvious from the first time I opened Gemini that it’s trying a different approach. While Google Assistant asks “Hi, how can I help?,” Gemini posits “What would you like to do today?” Assistant waits for me to start speaking. Gemini listens, and also has a prompt below the question telling me to type, talk, or share a photo. 

When I started using Gemini a week ago, there were many things it couldn’t do that Assistant could handle. Gemini couldn’t control my smart home equipment. It wouldn’t set a reminder. Gemini needed me to press a button after I gave it a command. There were many bugs at first, but in only a week the software has greatly improved. It can control my lights and thermostat, for instance, and its response is now automatic. 

If you want more than just a basic Assistant, you can open up the full Gemini app. Up top, Gemini offers suggestions for things to try, with interesting options that change frequently. 

Beneath sits a list of your three most recent queries. Gemini keeps track of everything you ask, and since it’s an AI it will also summarize the session and give it a title. You can look at your entire query history and delete an entry, or give it a more appropriate heading. You can also pin your best chat sessions. 

Gemini’s hidden strength is its ability to talk to other Google apps. It can replace Google Assistant because it uses Assistant as one of its many tools, along with Maps, Search, and even others. You can save a chat session directly to Google Docs, or export it directly to a Gmail message.

If you don’t want to use Gemini as your Assistant replacement whenever you press the Power button or yell “Hey Google,” you can choose Assistant instead in Settings.

Google Gemini hands-on: The Gemini differences

Google Gemini screens on Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

While Google Assistant is just that, an assistant to do things on your phone, Google Gemini is trying to be smarter, more like a human helper with ideas than a cold machine.

For instance, among the suggested activities, Gemini suggests I “Brainstorm team bonding activities for a work retreat,” and offers “Ideas to surprise a friend on their birthday.” When I tap on the birthday ideas option, it adds “concert-loving” friend, which is clever because I can easily replace that with “table-top game loving” or whatever my friends are actually into. 

For image generation, the suggestions from Google show the granularity of detail that Gemini can handle. To create a space hedgehog, Google started with a 36-word prompt with verbs, descriptions, and things to avoid in the final image. 

Gemini is smart enough to continue a conversation after a prompt. I asked for suggestions for plans in a specific town nearby and it offered four suggestions. I said I liked the fourth option and asked it to expand and it complied, offering more options that were similar. I had no problem referring to previous prompts in a single chat, even if I’d veered off-topic a bit.

Google Gemini screens on Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

So, is Google Gemini the new Google Assistant, or is it an app that runs Assistant on my behalf? Assistant doesn’t have a full screen app, it’s always a pop-up window. Google Gemini starts as a pop-up, and you can open the app to dive into more detail.

Assistant can’t interact with photos like Gemini, though this is still a buggy feature. It would often refuse to help with a photo task, telling me it couldn’t work with images, or it wasn’t yet ready to handle photos of people. Sometimes these photos didn’t include humans, so I’m not sure what caused the error.

On some occasions, Gemini would tell me that it could not interpret an image, and then it would offer me detailed information. I asked about a bird in a photo I’d taken and it told me it couldn’t review the image, then offered me links for info about the Great Cormorant. I expect these bugs will be ironed out soon, but I’m still unclear what Gemini will be able to do with images I upload.

Google Gemini hands-on: Performance

Google Gemini screens on Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

Google Gemini is slow. When I tried the same tasks side-by-side with Google Assistant on my OnePlus 12, Assistant always finished first. That could be the faster Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor in the OnePlus 12, but I suspect there are bottlenecks slowing down Gemini. After all, Gemini isn’t replacing Assistant, it’s using Assistant, so that creates an extra step. 

That said, there aren’t many tasks for which I need Gemini to respond with great haste. If I’m asking for weekend plans, I can wait an extra ten seconds for a good answer. If I’m turning off all the lights in my house, the longer pause is annoying. 

The Gemini results can be impressive, and Gemini can expand or adapt its answers. In fact, it always suggests ways it could expand to be more helpful. If I ask for a destination, it might offer a few ideas that are bad and one that’s great, and when I identify the choice I like, it can find similar options. Of course, that’s what a machine does best, match patterns. 

I tried using Gemini to plan a fiction novel about a robbery and it was surprisingly fun. Its suggestions were cliche, but it did a great job offering pathways to expand. After I gave it an initial plot synopsis, it offered to flesh out storylines, create plot twists, and even devise motivation for different character actions. 

I’ll keep using and testing Gemini, and it has a lot of room for performance improvement, but the experience is still fun and satisfying, and the results are often worth the wait. The suggestions are not uniformly good, but they are occasionally great. 

Google Gemini hands-on: First impressions

Google Gemini screens on Google Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

What is Gemini for? Approaching a new AI tool, it’s hard to know how to use it. It isn’t really a replacement for Assistant so much as a gatekeeper of all of Google’s apps that provide answers, especially Maps and Search.

Following Google’s suggestions in the app helps open doors. Google suggests using Gemini to help make plans, and that’s what I did most often. I made date night plans, weekend plans, and I’ll be using Gemini to help with a road trip soon. Gemini offered ideas that pointed me in the right direction, even if I didn’t use the options listed. 

Google also has created a great tool for brainstorming. Gemini offered its most interesting results at the end when it suggested ways that I could ask it to expand. There were no one-step conversations. Every query ended with a call to action to go further. I liked that, it was very helpful. 

What did I not like? I asked Gemini for a recipe for moist and fluffy muffins and it gave me a recipe but no attribution. An author can’t copyright a recipe, but Gemini didn’t invent muffins, or techniques to make them fluffy. It felt like something was being stolen.

I also didn’t like the faux humanity injected into every response. No matter what I suggested, I got a compliment from Gemini. Sometimes these were subtle words of encouragement, other times it was fawning and embarrassing. 

Look, Gemini, I know that you’re a fake computer personality. It doesn’t make me feel good when you tell me I’m very creative and interesting. It’s less believable than when my Mom told me I was the most handsome … you get the idea. 

I use Google Assistant often for the basic – timers, weather, and smart home control. Gemini can do all of that, so I won’t stop using Gemini. I’ll also try Gemini for help expanding on ideas and plans. I’m very curious to see how it grows its capabilities with all of the other Google Apps it can control.

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Apple Vision Pro review: The spatial computing revolution is here, and I love it
7:17 pm | February 7, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Software Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Apple Vision Pro: Two-minute review

Apple has spent almost a decade developing the Vision Pro, and it shows. Everything about it is spectacular, from the exquisite design to brilliant visuals that blend the real with the fantastical, to the versatility that puts other mixed-reality headsets to shame.

The fact that, even after all that work, there are still limitations is frustrating. Sure, I want a sub-1lb/500g headset that somehow integrates the battery; and, of course, I want it to cost $500. The state of the art, even Apple’s bleeding-edge form of it, isn’t there yet. None of that, however, makes me think less of the Vision Pro. It's a stunning achievement in industrial design and technology that translates the inscrutable worlds of AR, VR, and mixed reality into an experience that pretty much anyone can understand and enjoy.

Using your gaze and gestures (finger taps, long pinch, pull) to control a computer is the intuitive technology control you didn’t know you were missing – the millimeter precision is more like what you’d expect from a seasoned OS, not the brand new Vision Pro platform, visionOS, Apple introduced nine months ago. Apple got this right on the first try, and it could become as second-nature as tapping, pinching, and swiping on an iPhone or iPad is today.

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

As a new computing platform, the Vision Pro is rich with features and possibilities. The fact that it does so many things so well, and that they work and make sense, is a testament to Apple’s efforts. I’ve been marveling at the attention to detail, and at how a bleeding-edge, V1 product can feel so finished and complete. Apple has created a headset that I’m itching to wear almost every day, and if I did nothing but work in it the Vision Pro would transform my life. I’ve long dreamed of having a 150-inch or larger workspace, but I couldn’t imagine how it would be practical or, more importantly, viewable. With the Vision Pro, I get an almost unlimited desktop that makes me want to never return to the confined space of my laptop.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

Encounter dinosaurs remains one of the most eye-popping Vision Pro experiences… (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

…especially when this virtual butterfly lands on your finger (Image credit: Future)

I’ve rarely tested a technology that has moved me in the way the Vision Pro does. Spatial videos are so achingly real that they instantly trigger an emotion that a flat image might not. Being up close with otherworldly or prehistoric creatures that seem to almost see me is at once jarring and thrilling. To pull this off, you need more than great apps, software, developers, and artists; you need a cohesive system that brings it all to life. The Vision Pro does it time and again, with 23 million pixels of imagery, spatial audio that travels the distance from band-bound speakers directly to your ears, and eye-tracking that knows your gaze better than you do.

There are frustrations and missteps, too.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Apple Vision Pro with the Solo Knit Band (Image credit: Future)

I struggled to find the best fit, and while I can now wear the Vision Pro for hours, my face reminds me afterwards that it’s not built for this. I've struggled on occasion to find a fit that doesn’t cause me some niggling discomfort (although the more immersed I get, the less I feel anything).

I don’t mind the external battery, but it feels not quite up to the task when you want to watch a 3D movie and power seems to drain at double speed. Thank goodness the battery can be plugged in for continued use.

Apple Vision Pro Review

You won't go anywhere without that battery pack (Image credit: Future)

While I think the outside-in pass-through technology that marries the real and computer-generated worlds is among the best I’ve seen, Apple’s attempts to keep you connected to people in front of you and through, say, FaceTime calls, need work. Personas are just this side of creepy, and EyeSight, which shows a video of your eyes to those around you on the exterior screen, looks a bit scary. Then there's the price, which is overwhelming, and will be an instant turnoff for many. I wonder, though, if they might feel differently after their first experience – I’d argue that they will decide they want a Vision Pro, and the only question will be how they can afford it.

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Vision Pro: Price and availability

  • Expensive
  • Price does not include lens inserts
  • No yet available outside the US

Apple announced its Vision Pro headset on June 5, 2023, at WWDC 2023. It's available now in the US, and costs $3,499 for the 256GB model. Preorders opened on January 19, and the headset began shipping on February 2. Availability and pricing for other markets is yet to be confirmed, but Apple says that will follow in 2025.

Value score: 4

Apple Vision Pro: What's in the box

Everything that's inside the Apple Vision Pro box

Here's what you'll find when you unbox your Vision Pro (Image credit: Future)

So what do you get for your $3,499 (Apple sent me the 1TB version, which starts at $3,899 – you can opt for a $3,699 512GB headset)? Essentially, in the box is everything you need to put on and start using the Vision Pro. In order of importance:

  • There’s the Vision Pro system
  • A battery with attached cable
  • USB-C charge cable and 30W adapter
  • The Solo Knit Band
  • A Dual Loop Band
  • Two Light Seals Cushions
  • A fabric cover
  • A polishing cloth

The only thing that's not included, and which you might need, as I did, are the Zeiss prescription lens inserts. These will run you $99 for reading-glass lenses, and $149 for full prescription lenses, which is what I need. The Vision Pro might be unusable for those with particular sight issues – Apple can let you know upfront if that's likely to be the case.

It all arrives in a large white box that has all the hallmarks of containing a high-end Apple product.

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Apple Vision Pro carrying case

The optional case costs $199 but I thick its worth it (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro carrying case

(Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro carrying case

(Image credit: Future)

You can buy an optional carrying case for $199, and, considering that you just dropped almost $3,500, I think it’s money well spent, although some might argue that Apple should include the case with the expensive headset. Apple sent me the case; it's compact, and has storage space for everything I mentioned above, and I think the hard-shell, soft-surface body will do wonders to protect your expensive new toy.

Apple Vision Pro: Specs

The headgear is, in some ways typical goggle size: it's roughly six inches wide by almost four inches deep from the edge of the Light Seal to the front of the glass, and almost four inches tall. 

Perhaps the most important spec of all, though, is the weight. Depending on which bands you use, the Vision Pro clocks in at 1.3 to 1.4lbs, or 600 to 650g. The external battery, which I kept either in my pocket, on the table, or on the couch next to me (later I got a nice $49.95 Belkin Case, so I could attach it to my belt), weighs just over three-quarters of a pound, or around 350g. Thank goodness Apple opted to not integrate the battery in its first mixed-reality headset.

Apple Vision Pro: Performance

  • Powerful, proven M2 chip
  • R1 appears to take the visual load
  • Never a lag
  • Could do with more base storage

Apple’s Vision Pro works as well as it does not only because of the design and remarkably intuitive interface. As always, it’s what’s inside that really counts.

At its heart is the  M2 chip, a second-generation piece of Apple silicon, featuring an 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU that powers, for instance, the most recent MacBook Air (MacBook Pros now have M3 chips). In my experience, this is a powerful chip that’s well qualified to handle the demands of virtual and augmented reality.

However, the M2 has the support of a new piece of Apple silicon, the R1 chip, which appears to be primarily in charge of managing those 4K screens, and maintaining a 12-millisecond image update so that what you see is clear and butter-smooth.

The Vision Pro’s dual 4K micro-OLED displays with 23 million pixels are also industry-leading. My experience with the headset is that I get crystal-clear imagery wherever I look, and at whatever size I make the screens.

Apple Vision Pro Review

The Vision Pro's audio comes through a pair of audio pods which are hidden under that white rubber (Image credit: Future)

Apple has placed the stereo audio pod headphones on the stiff white rubber stems that feed into the Vision Pro frame, but they provide excellent spatial audio that’s arguably as good as anything you might get with in-ear buds. If you place an app on your virtual left, the audio will come from that space. At one point, I took a screen that was playing video and slowly dragged it from one side of my space to the other, and the audio tracked perfectly from my left side to the middle and then to the right. There’s also a six-microphone array that does a good job of picking up “Siri” commands. I love summoning Siri because, in the Vision Pro, the digital assistant is embodied as a small floating glass orb.

Apple Vision Pro bottom edge cameras

The Vision Pro's bottom-edge cameras (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

There are numerous cameras arrayed on the outside and inside of the Vision Pro. The two on the front handle the stereoscopic imagery that you can see and capture in photos and videos that you’ll play back later, and sometimes cry over.

The Vision Pro supports Wi-Fi 6 (though oddly not Wi-Fi 7, which in a few years will be ubiquitous) and Bluetooth 5.3, the latter of which allowed me to easily connect the Vision Pro to an Xbox controller, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad. 

Apple Vision Pro virtual keyboard

The Vision Pro is best for a quick message or short sentences; typing anything of length on it is virtually impossible (Image credit: Future)

The Vision Pro also displays a virtual keyboard that you can poke at in space. This can be resized and positioned to your liking, but the lack of physical and tactile feedback makes it difficult, at best, to use. What’s worse is that because you may not be looking at the keyboard when you type, the gaze control system can’t really help you with accuracy. To be fair, I’m a terrible typist and do often look at the keyboard when touch-typing. Ultimately, if I want to type within visionOS while wearing the headset, I find that using the Magic Keyboard Apple sent me is best (they also sent a Magic Mouse that can work across both visionOS and my connected MacBook Pro’s virtual display).

Apple provided me with a 1TB Vision Pro test unit, which retails for $3,899. The base model, which costs $3,499, starts with just 256GB of storage. Apple pitches the Vision Pro as the first “spatial computer,” which makes me wonder why it didn’t start with at least a half-terabyte of storage as standard.

Performance score: 4.5

Apple Vision Pro: Design

  • Exquisite materials and build
  • Good looks hide impressive specs
  • Not that light
  • External battery

I know people joke about the Vision Pro looking like a pair of hyped-up snow goggles. Maybe so, but I’d argue there’s not one false note in this design. Apple, as it often does, chose the best material, with a particular focus on weight. So, it’s a mix of an aluminum body, magnesium, carbon fiber, and woven fabric. It’s virtually all curved, with a gleaming glass front that protects the screen marrying almost seamlessly with the body.

There’s a lot of technology packed into the Vision Pro, but Apple has made some effort to hide it. There are cameras behind the glass, and a set of them along the bottom edge that watch your face and hands. The AudioPod speakers that deliver near-perfect spatial audio are hidden behind stiff, white rubber.

Along one side of the top edge is a familiar piece of technology: the Digital Crown. When I first saw this, I wondered why Apple would pull an idea from Apple Watch and slap it on its newest device. But Apple considers the Vision Pro to be a wearable, so there’s some logical continuity here. Plus, the Digital Crown turns out to be one incredibly useful and important piece of Vision Pro technology.

The 'Top Button' on the top left side, which is mostly used for Spatial Photos and Video, gets far less use.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

There are some large vents on the top of the frame, and a grille on the bottom, and these seem to work together to draw air in and flow it up and away from your face. The Vision Pro does get warm, but never so much so that it’s uncomfortable.

The Vision Pro and the Light Shield both curve to meet your face, but the crucial bit that makes this design work is the foamy Light Seal cushion. This rests on and follows the contours of your face, and it’s about as comfortable as such a thing should be, though on occasion during my testing time I've wondered if it should be either thicker or denser.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Once I settled on the Dual Loop Band, I found my Vision Pro comfort zone. (Image credit: Future)

Attaching this spatial computer to your head requires a band, or a pair of bands. The default Solo Knit Band is wide, and can be adjusted via a dial to make it tighter or looser. It’s never offered enough support for me, though.

It’s worth pausing here to remind you that the Vision Pro weighs 1.3lbs. That’s not particularly heavy in itself, but a typical set of eyeglasses might weigh 0.08lbs, and now imagine attaching a pound of ground beef to your head. This experience is far more enjoyable, but it needs support. In contrast to the Solo Knit Band, the Dual Loop Band supports the headset on the back of your head and across the top of it, and I bet most people will prefer it over the more attractive Solo Knit version.

Design score 4.5

Apple Vision Pro: Setup

I would not call any part of the Vision Pro setup process complicated or off-putting. There are several steps to go through, but mostly these are to customize the experience. As for assembling it, there’s the matter of which band you choose for comfort, and fitting the right Light Seal (the thinner one is standard, the thicker one is for glasses-wearers who have those Zeiss inserts). You also need to attach the battery cable, which snaps into the right side (if the headset’s glass is facing you) and locks on with a twist – there’s no chance of it popping off. The cable is long enough for you to drop the somewhat hefty battery into your pocket.

The bands snap on and off metal lugs using small orange pull tabs; I usually put the lens cover on, so that I can tip the Vision Pro on its face while I swap bands. Aside from the colorful screen behind the glass, which is just black when the device is off, that orange is the only bit of color pop on the headset.

If you ordered Zeiss prescription lenses, as I did, you’ll have to put them in before using the headset. They, like most other pieces on the Vision Pro (for instance the Light Seal and its cushion) attach magnetically. They’re also labeled, so you won’t get confused about which lens goes on which side. The box comes with a QR code that you’ll use to register the lenses with the headset.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

There’s also a QR code moment when you want to sync your Vision Pro with your phone and iCloud account. None of this takes long, or is even remotely confusing.

The rest of the setup occurs mostly with the headset on. Apple fans will appreciate the startup, which includes a floating Apple logo and then the iconic 'Hello' spelled out in 3D scripted letters floating in your real-world space. It’s just a hint of what’s to come.

One of the keys to the Vision Pro’s technical excellence is its ability to track your gaze (along with the dual 4K micro-OLED screens inside the headset are cameras pointed directly at your eyes). So, the setup begins with pressing the crown to get the pupillary distance – that is, the distance between your pupils – right. The screens mechanically shift position to match your pupils.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Looking at and selecting these dots is an important step in the setup process (Image credit: Future)

Next, to ensure that the Vision Pro fully understands where you’re looking, you go through a series of vision calibration tests, during which a circle of dots appears and you look at each one, and pinch your index finger and thumb together. You do this three times in three different environmental light settings. I’d already tried this five times over the last seven months of demos, so I'd gotten quite good at it.

The system also needs to calibrate for your hands. This process consists of holding them up in front of the Vision Pro. You’ll see a faint glow around the outside edges of your digits, and then you flip your hands over and do it again.

While the system may occasionally ask you to reset the pupillary distance by holding down the Digital Crown, you won’t have to perform any other part of the setup again. For Guest Mode, if you want to let someone else to try the headset, they’ll go through the vision and hand calibration, but the results will not be used by the Vision Pro when their session ends.

As I've said, I found this setup simple, and quite effective in that from that point on the system has seemed to know me every time I've donned the Vision Pro, and it worked as well as the time before. The only step I need to follow now to get started is logging in with a PIN. You can also log on with an iris scan (OpticID) but, while I successfully registered my iris, I could never unlock the Vision Pro with my eyes. I've asked Apple about this issue and will update this review with its reply.

Apple Vision Pro: Software and Interface

  • Excellent intuitive OS
  • A true 'think-do' interface
  • Spatial computing turns the world into an unlimited digital space

You start on the home screen, or Home View, which can be summoned with one press of the Digital Crown. This screen will look somewhat familiar to most Apple fans: there's a grid of preinstalled app icons, many of which match what you’ll find on your iPad or iPhone (Notes, Safari, Photos, Podcasts, Calendar, Mail, Files, etc), horizontally arrayed and floating in your real-world environment. You can use the pinch-and-wave gesture to move through multiple screens of apps. This is where the apps you install will live – you can download many more from the App Store, which now has more than 600 visionOS apps. There’s also access to 'Compatible Apps' folder, which collected all the iOS and iPadOS apps I installed on Vision Pro. Apple claims that roughly a million iOS and iPadOS apps already work with Vision Pro, even if they were not designed for visionOS and the Vision Pro. It's not hard, though, to find ones, like most Google apps, that don't.

Compatibility is a mixed bag. Sometimes it works perfectly, other times less so. NBA2K got stuck on setup screens and wouldn’t let me access the game. In the case of Paramount Plus, which is not officially designed to work on the headset, it played, but I couldn't expand the live video to a full window. Apps that have not been custom-built for visionOS were the ones most likely to crash.

The Vision Pro defaults to a full pass-through mode, although that’s a misnomer; you’re never looking directly at your surroundings. Instead, the cameras on the front deliver a clear video feed of your surroundings to your eyes. It’s the best way to marry virtual information with reality, and it's very effective.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

The Home View (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Environments (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Home View on 50 percent immersed envrionment (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

App Store (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Arcade (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Immersion and audio controls. both accessed by spinning the Digital Crown. (Image credit: Future)

The Vision Pro is constantly keeping track of your gaze, and your hands and fingers, so as long as your hands are in view of the cameras you can control anything you see simply by looking and pinching. The headset will not register gestures made behind your head, or if you drop your hands down to your side; I usually have my hands in my lap, or raise them in front of my chest to pinch, drag, and zoom. To telegraph my intentions, I simply look at something and then pinch to, for instance, open an app.

Once an app is open, you can move it about the room by grabbing a thin white bar at the bottom of the app’s screen. This isn’t hard to do; you just look at it, pinch to grab, and move it. You can also use this gesture to pull the app window closer or move it further away. On the bottom right corner is a curved bar that you can use to resize from, say, a big-screen TV size to a wall-size app. Inside an app you can look at, for instance, a photo in the Photo app, and use both hands with a pinch gesture to zoom in and out.

Apple Vision Pro Review

My work, entertainment, information, and creativity space is all around me (Image credit: Future)

While working and playing in apps, you can have them superimposed onto your real world, or select one of Apple’s Environments to change your surroundings. There’s Yosemite, Mount Hood, Joshua Tree, Haleakalā, Hawaii, and even the Moon, and each one is a 360-degree, 'live,' immersive experience, complete with spatial sounds. Once you've chosen an Environment, you can twist the Digital Crown to turn the immersion up or down (this is also how you raise and lower the volume – you just look at the Volume icon instead of the Environments one). Up means the real world increasingly fades, and you’re surrounded 360 degrees by, for instance, the dusty surface of the Moon. Your hands don’t disappear, but they’re not resting on your knees, and instead appear to be floating above the moon’s surface.

Apple Vision Pro Review

You can see my EyeSight here. That's not a pass-through; you're looking at screens displaying a video feed of my eyes from inside the headset (Image credit: Future)

While the Vision Pro can drop you into virtual reality, it’s smart enough to keep you connected to the outside world. When my wife started to speak to me during one immersive session, I could see her gradually appearing in front of me as we talked. On her side, she sees a video feed of my eyes on the front of the headset. Apple called this EyeSight, and it’s a hit-or-miss affair.

EyeSight shows a video recreation of your eyes based on what the camera sees inside the headset. The color is blue and purplish, and it can look, well, weird. My wife never liked it, but I noticed that she got used to talking to me while I was wearing the headset.

Software and interface score: 5

Apple Vision Pro: The Experience

  • There's nothing quite like using a Vision Pro
  • It can be hard to convey the experience to people on the outside
  • Your work life will change, too

If you can get your fit right (this can take some trial and error) there's nothing quite like the experience of using the Vision Pro. Even when I wasn’t wearing the headset, I found myself thinking about wearing and using it.

It's an able virtual-reality and mixed-reality machine, and I have much more to share there, but its ability to integrate my real-world work environment has been transformative for me.

I’ve spent many hours now working in the Vision Pro. To do so, you use the Control Center, which you access by glancing up until you see a green arrow and pinching to open, to launch the Mac Virtual display. In my case this showed me my MacBook Pro as an option, so I selected this and my desktop appeared before me as a huge 55-inch display. I could expand that to, say, 150 inches (or more), and then pull it close to me – this is the endless desktop I’ve always dreamed of, and none of this would work if every window, app, and bit of text weren’t crystal clear.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

That little arrow at the top is to access the Control Center (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

The Control Center has many of the typical Apple controls you'd expect (Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, etc). It also adds Mac Virtual Display and Screen Mirroring. (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Choose your system (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

One click and the big screen will appear (Image credit: Future)

Just because I had my work desktop in front of me didn’t mean I lost out on the rest of the Vision Pro experience. On my right, I had Messages open (when a new message arrives, a green message icon floats in front of my face), and, on my left, I had my Photos. Sometimes, I would AirDrop an image (often a Vision Pro screen-grab that I'd captured by saying “Siri, grab a screenshot”) from the Vision Pro to my desktop, and then edit it in Photoshop on my giant virtual display.

You can place apps anywhere you want around you, and not just in one space. Vision Pro understands your space, even different rooms in your home.

One day I wanted to try JigSpace, an app that lets you manipulate and pull apart giant 3D objects like a race car. I wanted ample space to work, so I walked over to my den. The Vision Pro’s pass-through capabilities are good enough that I was never worried about navigating around my home, though I did need to sometimes look down to see what was near my feet. I would not recommend wearing your Vision Pro while walking in the street, where you need to pay attention to curbs and other obstacles.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

JigSpace let me put a jet engine in my den… (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

…and take it apart by looking and parts and grabbing them with my hands (Image credit: Future)

Once in the den, I opened JigSpace and started pulling apart a jet engine – whatever part I looked at, I could grab and drop somewhere around the room. Then I went back to work.

Hours later I was writing about JigSpace, but wanted to double-check something in the interface. I couldn’t find the app, so on a hunch, I got up and walked back into the den – and there was the app, where I’d left it hours before. What we have here with spatial computing and the Vision Pro is, maybe for the first time, the concept of space-aware computing. I could, perhaps, leave apps all over my house and the Vision Pro would remember where they were. To bring all open apps back into my local view, I just needed to hold down on the Digital Crown.

Experience score: 5

See more

Apple Vision Pro: Entertainment

  • An immersive entertainment experience
  • Spatial audio support is strong with or without AirPod Pros
  • Games designed for Vision Pro are often inspired
  • Compatible games don't always work as expected

I've tried watching movies on other virtual reality headsets, and it just never clicked. The Meta Quest Pro is an excellent device, but I still find it too uncomfortable to wear for more than 20 minutes at a time. There is, however, something special about watching a movie in the Apple Vision Pro, especially if you add in the AirPods Pro 2 (which include support for spatial audio and, thanks to their new H2 chip – also inside the Vision Pro – add support for lossless audio with ultra-low latency).

What makes it work so well isn’t only the near-perfect 3D fidelity (Disney Plus has a particularly excellent library of 3D films, including the trippy Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), but also the way in which you can immerse yourself in the theater experience with various Environments. The Disney Plus app provides some of my favorites: there’s an Avengers space, a Monsters Inc. Factory, and the Disney Theater, which is probably my top pick overall.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Inside the virtual Disney Theater (Image credit: Future)

When the lights come down, and you’re staring at a giant 70mm or even IMAX-class virtual screen inside a darkened theater, you can almost smell the popcorn. There’s virtually no light leakage to break the illusion, and I had no trouble losing myself in the experience of watching a two-hour movie. One thing I did notice, though, is that 3D movies can chew through battery life. If you plan on watching, say, the three-hour and 26-minute Killers of the Flower Moon (an Apple production, by the way) you’ll want to plug in the battery using the included cable and charge adapter. They’ll provide all the pass-through power you need.

As I write this, YouTube and, more problematically, Netflix, are playing a wait-and-see game with the new platform. That’s a shame. I’d love to binge the next Squid Game inside the Vision Pro.

Marketing for the Vision Pro often shows people sitting down while using it, but, while I've spent most of my time seated, I have played games while standing. Synthriders is a Vision Pro-ready game that has elements of Beat Saber in it; your hands are orbs, and there are music-beat-based orbs flying at you that you must bounce back or ride the waves of with your hands. I played this while standing, and between waving my arms and ducking glass trapezoids flying at my head, it was quite a workout.

Apple Vision Pro playing Synthrider

Apple Vision Pro playing Synthrider (Image credit: Future)

Entertainment score: 4.5

Apple Vision Pro: Spatial Photography

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)
  • Vision Pro is a strong spatial photography machine
  • An excellent spatial imagery partner for your iPhone 15 Pro
  • The spatial photography and videography playback effect is often moving

I love how Apple always manages to cook up new terms for existing technology that somehow manage to capture the imagination of regular people. 

Stereophotography is well over a century old, and many boomers and GenXers first experienced it in the 1970s with View-Master toys. The effect was okay, though not remotely immersive. With the Vision Pro, Apple has introduced the concept of spatial photography, a 21st-century upgrade of 3D photography and videography that puts 3D image capture in the hands of, or rather on the head of, everyone. It even extended the concept by building spatial video capture into the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)
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(Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Flat 2D screens cannot do spatial imagery justice. (Image credit: Future)

In some of my earlier Vision Pro demos, I played back spatial video that I'd captured on my iPhone 15 Pro Max on the Vision Pro. This was no View-Master experience: I could view the videos in a floating window, which put them at a certain remove, or use a pinch-and-expand gesture with both my hands to almost enter the video. The edges fade away, so the spatial video looks like it’s floating in a cloud.

The Vision Pro can capture both still and video spatial imagery. To capture, you use the dedicated button on the top-left side of the visor. A single press brings up the option to shoot photos or videos, and after you select one you press the button again to capture a single photo or start recording spatial video (you press it again to end the video capture). I did this with photos of my hand, and then a photoshoot with my son. Every time I view spatial imagery I have an immediate and automatic emotional reaction; when I replayed the spatial content it was like my son was standing before me, complete with his pained expression.

I must hand it to Apple, it doesn’t just invent new terms, it reinvents the experience.

Spatial photography score: 5

Apple Vision Pro: Communication and Personas

  • Personas can look strange, but they're more useful than you think
  • Communicating through iMessage and FaceTime is trouble-free

During setup, the Vision Pro will guide you to create a Persona, a 3D rendering of your head that you can use in FaceTime and other video calls. To build mine, I followed the instructions, removed the headset, and then pointed the display at my face. It captured me looking up, down, left, and right, as well as making a few facial expressions. All of this information enabled the spatial cameras to create a 3D map of my face.

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

When I put the Vision Pro back on, I could see my new Persona, which automatically started mimicking my facial expressions (the cameras inside and the ones pointed down at my face and hands capture my live expression). I added semi-translucent glasses to my Persona, and I was done and ready for a FaceTime call with my wife. She hated it. Even though I think my Persona is one of the better ones out there, I can’t deny the uncanny valley look of it.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Chatting with my colleague Ray Wong's Persona via FaceTime (Image credit: Future)

Later, I conducted a call with a colleague who was also testing the Vision Pro. We both remarked on the limitations of our Personas, but throughout our 20-minute conversation those concerns faded away, and I forgot that we weren’t looking at either our real faces or our real hands. I’m still convinced that Apple can do better here, but then that’s why Personas are still in beta. By the time you finally decide to buy a Vision Pro (or some version of it), I expect Personas to be much more realistic and palatable.

Communication and Personas score: 4

Apple Vision Pro: Final thoughts

The Apple Vision Pro is expensive, but I’m not sure I can argue that it’s too expensive for what it does. Someone asked me if I would buy it. I now know that if I could afford it, the answer would be an enthusiastic yes.

There has never been a wearable quite like the Vision Pro, let alone a mixed-reality headset like it. It’s a true 'think-do' platform. It’s powerful, but also inviting. It’s fun to use, but also completely ready for work. It might make you look like a bug, but there’s also beauty in its design.

Apple Vision Pro Review

I know, it's looks weird on the outside, but it's incredible on the inside (Image credit: Future)

I wish it were lighter, but still, I can forget I’m wearing it and give myself over to the experience of work, play, or entertainment in a dark, virtual theater.

I love working in the Vision Pro, but I'm aware that if you spend hours working in it, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to keep the headset on at the end of the day. Over time, Vision Pro enthusiasts will likely achieve a balance between work and play, though I’m convinced that the tug of this one-of-a-kind technology will remain strong.

The Apple Vision Pro instantly goes to the top of our list of the best virtual reality headsets. It may not be a best-seller yet, but those who have one will talk about it endlessly, and they may even let you try it. I suggest you take that opportunity if offered, or at least get yourself to an Apple Store for a demo.

There has never been anything quite like the Vision Pro. It's my favorite mixed-reality headset ever, and I’m certain that it has reinvigorated the AR/VR market while also creating something completely new. Spatial computing is a thing. Better get used to it.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Apple Vision Pro (Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Apple Vision Pro?

Buy it if... 

Don’t buy it if… 

Also consider

How we test

For my Apple Vision Pro review, I spent almost a week, and as many hours each day as I could, wearing and using the mixed-reality headset. 

I watched movies, played games, communicated with friends and co-workers, streamed live TV, moved apps around my home, and did a lot of work on my giant MacBook Pro virtual display.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed February 2024
ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 review: an Adobe alternative, but it’s not for pros
2:20 pm | December 22, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Creative Software Gadgets Software | Tags: | Comments: Off

Choosing the best photo editing software is very much a matter of personal choice, with cost, features, and ease of use playing important roles in the decision-making process. Adobe dominates this area as the market leader for professionals and enthusiasts, but despite being the best available, it’s certainly not for everyone. This has opened up opportunities for alternative solutions, and an option for Windows users is ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024.

If you’re unfamiliar with this software, Photo Studio Ultimate offers a similar workflow to Lightroom and Photoshop, but its features are combined within a single interface rather than two separate programs. For some people, this will provide a more seamless editing experience, although Lightroom and Photoshop do integrate well despite being two separate programs for performing different tasks.

In a nutshell, Photo Studio Ultimate lets you view and manage images on your computer and process raw files with excellent functionality available alongside photo editing. This all-in-one photo editing solution for Windows provides an attractive alternative to the Likes of Affinity Photo 2, Lightroom, and Photoshop. Photo Studio Ultimate is available in two licensing flavors: a subscription and a perpetual license. Users can choose the licensing model that meets their needs and preferences, with pros and cons for each option mainly relating to cost over time, updates, and cloud storage.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024: Pricing & plans

  • Released in September 2023
  • Subscription and perpetual license options
  • Windows-only software

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 was released in September 2023. This latest version of the Windows-only software delivers a range of AI-powered tools and additional feature updates. The software offers a comparable package to the Adobe Photography Plan within a single interface and is targeted more towards beginners and enthusiasts.

ACDSee Home Plan is a monthly or annual subscription that costs $8.90 / £7.99 / AU$13.99 per month or $89 / £72 / AU$137 per year. This includes continuous free updates for the duration of the subscription, free tech support, up to five device installs, recording and video editing software, 200GB of cloud storage, and exclusive tutorials.

The ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 perpetual license costs $150 / £121/ AU$230 and includes free updates and tech support for one year, alongside one device install. While this is Windows-only software, Mac users can use ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac 10, which is similar to Photo Studio Ultimate and costs $100 / £81 / AU$153.

  • Pricing & plans: 4/5 

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024: Interface & tools

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)
  • Seamless Mode-based interface
  • Excellent raw processing functionality
  • Edit Mode offers photo editing

Photo Studio Ultimate provides a single, seamless interface that's divided into five Modes: Manage, Media, View, Develop and Edit. You can click on the desired Mode name at the top of the interface or begin with Manage for a raw file, for instance, and the software will take you through to Develop and then Edit if required. It’s an intuitive interface, but it could be further improved by combining the functionality of Manage, Media and View into a single Mode. In fact, Media could be eliminated because it’s not particularly useful or even necessary when you have Manage.

Manage is where you can view folders on your computer using the file tree on the left to select the desired image folder. You can move, delete, copy, rate, keyword, and even print images from here, as well as open them in the Develop and/or Edit Modes. Double-clicking on an image opens it in View with a film strip of thumbnails below. Double-clicking the image in View takes you back to Manage. In terms of how it works, it's great, but this functionality could be combined within a single Mode as previously mentioned. Media is simply images from folders that have been opened and is an unnecessary mess. That said, you can completely avoid it if, like me, you have no use for it.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The Develop Mode is primarily for raw image processing, but you can also run other file types, such as JPEGs, through these controls if you want to take advantage of the tools available. The Develop Mode is extremely feature-packed and provides a similar level of control and functionality as Lightroom, with all the controls you need, including masking for localized adjustments and presets for quick fixes. And although it’s not intimidating for enthusiasts, even professionals could achieve their desired results here.

Edit Mode is comparable to Photoshop and the Photo Persona in Affinity Photo with a wide variety of adjustments available, including Layers, Adjustment Layers, Layer Masks, Layer Effects, and Blending modes. Then there are Tools for performing specific tasks and what you might call direct common adjustments grouped on the left of the interface to keep things simple.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

While the interface here is well laid out and doesn’t throw up any surprises, the Edit Mode lacks the features and functionality advanced users and professionals would expect and need. For instance, you can only clone on pixel-based Layers rather than empty Layers, and you can’t group Layers. This area of the software would benefit from improved functionality, although the revamped Brush Tool now provides control over flow, shape, angle and jitter alongside the older Size, Feather and Opacity options.

This certainly doesn’t mean that the Edit Mode is bad. However, where the Manage and Develop Modes have always impressed and continue to do so with advanced functionality suitable for professional use, the Edit mode remains geared more towards beginners to intermediate users. You can undoubtedly achieve a lot here, and with just a few small improvements in functionality, it could become a much more capable section of the software.

  • Interface & tools: 4/5 

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024: Performance

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)
  • Easy to use and intuitive
  • Zoomed images in View Mode are blurred
  • Inconsistent performance of features 

Photo Studio Ultimate is fairly easy to use and intuitive overall, though, of course, there's a small learning curve involved. I’ve used several versions of the software in the past, so it's familiar to me, but in all honesty, it’s the kind of software where just watching a few of ACDSee’s tutorial videos is enough to get you started. The interface is logical, so anyone with existing experience in photo editing software will find that while it has its own approach to some tasks, everything remains within familiar territory.

Image rendering and loading in other Modes can be a little slow compared to other software options, even with a powerful computer. In View Mode, when zoomed in at 100% to view image details, images appear blurred, even if they are sharp. This even occurs at 30%, which makes image assessment tricky when zoomed in, while at the default amount of 23% images look fine. Despite this, there are no slowdowns with tools or other features, which is most welcome. However, image assessment is important, and ultimately let down by this.

Overall, despite the limitations of the Edit mode, you can achieve many effects, and image quality can be great thanks to the excellent Develop Mode. Results of features, however, are inconsistent. Also, one issue that has remained from previous versions of the software is that the level of control available in more advanced features, including HDR, Panorama and Focus Stacking, lack controls, and results are inconsistent to the point where their inclusion feels like more of a box-ticking exercise than a meaningful inclusion of the features.

  • Performance: 3/5 

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024: New AI functionality

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ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)
  • New features focus mainly on AI
  • Content-aware keyword suggestions
  • AI-powered selections and masks

In Photo Studio Ultimate 2024, the main focus of new features is predominantly on AI functionality. Incorporating AI into photo editing software is commonplace at the moment, with most software options available offering varying degrees of AI-powered functionality. What’s new in ACDSee doesn’t raise any ethical questions around image creation and manipulation, with time-saving being the key term here. Well, except for AI Sky Replacement and AI Face Edit, these have been standard features in other software for some time.

Within the Manage Mode, AI Keywords provide content-aware keyword suggestions, making applying keywords to images quicker and easier, alongside the ability to manually type in keywords. Keywords can be added to IPTC data within images and can also be used for filtering images by category and keywords. Together, this is incredibly useful if you use keywords for searching images and/or for search engine optimization.

The Develop mode has also seen some AI improvements, which focus on masking for localized adjustments. These are self-explanatory and include AI Subject, AI Background, and AI Sky. At a basic level, they’re almost as effective as those in Lightroom, but they can't be intersected with other Masking Tools. There is a Brush Tool to add to masks, but unfortunately, no ability to delete from them that I could find.

Moving on to Edit Mode, this is where there are the most AI-powered features, and they work with varying degrees of success. Of course, the image or subject being edited does play a role here, with some performing better than others. AI Sky replacement allows you to use either ACDSee skies or your own images of skies that can be loaded in.

The feature even has a reflection option if water and a reflection are present in an image. This, as you’d expect, is most effective with less complex horizons, but on the whole, the controls available are comprehensive.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

AI selections have been incorporated into the software with the AI Object Selection Tool. With this, you draw loosely around an object, and the mask will snap to the object alongside three one-click menu-based selection options: AI Select Sky, AI Select Subject and AI Select Background. They do work, but results can be inconsistent depending on the complexity of the subject and background. They’re still useful, but not quite as effective as similar AI features in other editing software.

Finally, there are upgrades to Face Edit, which lets you adjust facial features in portrait images and, on the whole, works well if you don’t push settings too far. The new additions include the ability to change the direction of eyes both horizontally and vertically, although effectiveness does depend on the angle of the face. Then there are upgrades to the Skin section, which adds the functionality of the Skin Tune Tool (Smoothing and Glow) alongside the ability to smooth wrinkles and crow’s feet.

  • New AI functionality: 4/5 

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023: Scorecard

Should I buy ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023?

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2024 screengrab to show the features and interface of this photo editing software

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023: Also consider

The Adobe Photography Plan featuring Lightroom and Photoshop is the industry standard and market-leading photo editing software, although Photoshop does have a steep learning curve. Features, functionality and the quality of results are hard to beat, so if you’re happy with the subscription-based licensing model this is the best software of its type available. The software is also available for both Mac and Windows.

Affinity Photo 2 is the next best software alternative to Photoshop, offering much of the same functionality and a much lower price for the perpetual license. The only downside is that there’s no image management available, with raw processing being more akin to Adobe Camera Raw than Lightroom. An image management solution is needed alongside this software for the best workflow experience.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023 review: low-cost Photoshop alternative
11:30 am | December 10, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Creative Software Gadgets Software | Tags: | Comments: Off

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Two-minute review

For image editing, the market leader for decades has been Adobe Photoshop. However, PaintShop Pro has been around for almost as long and has grown to include a nearly identical feature set. 

The main Complete workspace will serve anyone wanting a Photoshop alternative well, with almost everything looking and feeling very familiar. There's also a dedicated Photography workspace, designed for use on a touchscreen, with a minimal design and tools that are essential rather than comprehensive. Its biggest frustration is that the look and feel are so different from the Complete workspace that it can be jarring. The same can also be said for the raw image editor. 

As with all new software, there are AI tools. However, these tools are similar to those Adobe has been using for years, even back when AI was just a scary buzzword. Some of the AI tools do an excellent job of masking images or reducing noise; they just don't seem as precise and intelligent as Adobe offerings. And there's no Generative Fill - the real cherry on the Photoshop cake. 

It feels like Corel is trying to pack as much as possible into PaintShop Pro without really thinking about how it all works together, and that is perhaps its biggest weakness.

The tools are all there, and anyone looking for a budget Photoshop alternative would do well to consider PaintShop Pro. It is excellent value and great for those who don't want to sign up for a subscription.

Main screen of Corel Paintshop Pro 2023

(Image credit: Future)

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Pricing & plans

  • Available as Standalone software with Pro and Ultimate Versions 
  • Pro - $79.99 / £69.99 / AU$83
  • Ultimate - $99.99 / £89.99 / AU$104
  • Regular offers and discounts

Unlike Adobe Photoshop, Corel PaintShop Pro is a subscription-free image-editing suite and comes at a very affordable price. We've tested the Pro version in this review, but there's also an Ultimate version that includes extra software packages, but in our eyes is far from essential. 

In addition to the tools mentioned in this review, the Ultimate version adds Corel Mutilcam Capture 2 for recording from a screen and webcam simultaneously, Highlight Reel, which lets you create short highlight videos, and the Sea to Sky workspace, that's designed for use with underwater and drone images. There's also Photo Mirage Express for creating animated versions of your images, Corel Painter Essentials 8, 50 free fonts, and a Corel Creative Collection that includes new backgrounds, paintbrushes, and textures. 

Again, most photographers and graphic artists will need nothing but PaintShop Pro, but PaintShop Ultimate may be useful for the Sea to Sky mode if you regularly shoot drone or underwater images and wish to speed up your editing. 

Upgrade pricing is available for those who already own PaintShop Pro or Ultimate. Best of all there's a 30-day free trial so you can give the software a try and see if it meets your needs.

  • Pricing & plans score: 4/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Interface

  • A variety of different workspaces for different types of users
  • Dedicated Photography workspace designed to be used with touchscreen devices

Since its creation, originally by Jasc software, PaintShop Pro has always had a very familiar interface. Initially, it resembled an advanced version of Microsoft Paint, with tools for beginner and advanced image editors. As Adobe Photoshop became the industry-leading image editor, PaintShop Pro gradually adopted more and more of Photoshop's features. Now, it's one of Photoshop's main competitors on Windows computers, which is most likely why you're reading this. But how close is it to Adobe Photoshop, and how user-friendly is it for those who don't need all of Photoshop's often intimidating advanced features?

When you first load PaintShop Pro, you're asked which workspace you want to use - Complete, Essentials, or Photography (and even within these, there are sub-workspaces, depending on the task you're performing).

The first workspace is the Complete workspace. It's best to consider this your all-in-one image-editing space; it's where you want to go for a Photoshop-esque experience.

Corel PaintShop Pro Manage screen

(Image credit: Future)

Everything in the Complete workspace is very familiar, down to the color scheme and choice of iconography for the tools. There's a Tool palette, Layers panel, and Materials panel - featuring color swatches and a Filmstrip bar at the bottom where you can see thumbnails of library images. The language of the user interface is familiar and understandable, and anyone with knowledge of Photoshop or similar image editing software will be able to jump right in. If you're a beginner, there's a Learning panel that outlines everything in easy-to-understand language.

At the top of the Complete workspace are the sub-workspace options of Edit and Manage. Selecting Manage opens an Adobe Bridge-style experience for viewing and organizing your image. However, in the Edit workspace, you can add an Organiser panel that's effectively a filmstrip bar for easy search access to images you may need. You can switch individual panels on or off, or move them around to customize the workspace.

Without going into every menu item and aspect, enthusiast image editors should be able to find everything they need. There are Selection and Masking tools, including Smart and Auto selection options, and the usual text and brush tools. Everything may have slightly different names or sit in different places, but all the essential tools exist. Layers can be created with various opacity, masking, and blending options. And within the Effects menus are a vast number of image editing effects. Those used to Photoshop will need to grab a coffee and have a play around but should be able to easily work out where everything they're used to can be found.

Corel PaintShop Pro Essentials Screen

(Image credit: Future)

Those wanting a more simplified experience can opt for the Essentials workspace, which does what you'd expect to. Gone are the vast majority of the panels; instead, there's a simple Tools Panel and a Materials Panel. You can do some basic image editing in this space, and it's still customizable, so if you find you need a few of the advanced tools, you can add them to the Tools Palette or add something like the Layers palette back into the workspace.

Then there's the Photography workspace. This is designed for touchscreen devices, and it declutters the space with large, clear icons and a simplified menu system – basically, it looks like an app. All the standard photo-editing sliders you'd expect to find are here: Brightness and Contrast, White Balance, Sharpening, Fill Light, and Clarity. However, it is very basic – don't expect to see histograms or be able to work with individual color channels in this workspace.

Corel PaintShop Pro Photography workspace screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

There's also an AI button in this mode. It allows you to apply Instant Effects to an image, such as an Aged Effect or Watercolour. On double-clicking to apply the AI-powered effects, the screen is overlaid with 3D Mesh grids twirling around, implying that some AI power is going on in the background. However, these seem to be no more AI-powered than any of the effects that other software uses. There are sliders to make adjustments, and I can't tell where the AI comes into play. It seems more like an algorithmic application of an effect without any scene or object recognition that we'd associate with AI. And the results certainly don't appear to offer any advantage over any other effect.

  • Interface score: 3/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Raw photo editing

  • Three different ways of editing and converting raw images
  • Aftershot Lab is a Camera Raw style editor, lacking more advanced options such as selective adjustments and masking

Photographers wanting to edit raw files are better taken care of with three different options. The Aftershot Lab is reminiscent of Adobe Lightroom but lacks any of Lightroom's organization or output options. It also lacks a lot of the more advanced color and retouching tools; it's simply image-adjustment software, with noise, sharpening and lens correction, plus other essential tools. The Camera RAW Lab option streamlines this further and works within a floating window. However, it looks very dated and even advertises the company's AfterShot Pro 3 software, its raw photo management and editing software package (when advertised to me within the software, it cost £54.99). The third option is that Paintshop Pro can automatically apply a default decoding of the raw image and open it directly in Paintshop Pro for editing.

Corel PaintShop Pro AfterShot raw image editing screen

(Image credit: Future)
  • Raw Editing score: 3.5/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: AI Portrait mode

  • AI Portrait mode recognizes subjects and creates a selection
  • It allows for backgrounds to be blurred to create a shallow depth-of-field effect
  • It lacks AI effects such as changing facial features or applying makeup 

AI Portrait Mode is the one that most users will head towards, and it's at least straightforward to use. All the AI tools are found within the Adjust Menu, with a sub-menu revealing the four tools. However, there are no facial adjustments, skin smoothing, AI makeup, or any other effects than the ability to blur the background. The artificial intelligence part of Portrait Mode is actually image recognition; the first stage of the software presents you with a cutout area of the image that it detects as people.  

The cutout is good but far from perfect. Edges that were quite clear in some of the images that I tried it with, such as a mid-length portrait against a red curtain backdrop, still showed too much of the background. Hair is always the most significant challenge with a portrait cutout, but even with slick black hair against the red background, the software showed significant parts where it had either masked some of my hair or left apparent areas of the background. Photoshop's AI tools produced a much cleaner result with the initial selection.

Users can adjust the mask. There are standard options to paint on areas to add and remove, as well as being able to expand the border and feather the edge, which is helpful with curly hair. If you want perfection, you'll be using these tools a lot. For the average user just wanting to blur the background a little for a social media post, the cutout will probably be okay, although it's a little obvious if you are looking at it. 

Screen shot of Corel Paintshop Pro Portrait selection screen

(Image credit: Future)

The next stage is to blur the background around the subject. You can adjust the strength of the blur, and you can even change the shape of the aperture, which can be fun if you have specular highlights and want a more hexagonal-shaped bokeh. The range of the focus can also be changed, which adjusts the strength of blur, but seemingly only over the face. There doesn't appear to be any form of AI depth map creation, except for knowing where the edges of the face are and increasing the blur towards them appropriately. Then there's the feather edge, which changes how quickly the edge of the face drops off into the blur of the background. 

Again, you can achieve reasonable results – with some work. My main problem with the Portrait Mode is that, as something advertised as 'AI,' a lot of user input is needed. 

When nearly all premium smartphones have Portrait Modes that use depth effects and very simple settings to increase or decrease the strength, I don't think Paintshop Pro does any better, especially considering the effort involved. 

  • AI Portrait Mode score: 3.5/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: AI Background Replace

  • Utilizes portrait recognition to mask subjects
  • There's a range of backgrounds to choose from or you can use your own images
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A screen showing Corel Paintshop Pro's AI Background replace tool

Corel PaintShop Pro AI Background replace tool (Image credit: Future)
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A screen of Adobe Photoshop showing how Generative Fill has been used to replace a background

A screen of Adobe Photoshop showing how Generative Fill has been used to replace a background (Image credit: Future)

Using much of the AI Portrait Mode is the AI Background Replace tool. This uses the same cutout technology found in AI Portrait Mode but allows you to add a background. Corel provides a handful of backgrounds, or you can use your own. 

Again, the tool is dependent on how good the initial selection is, so Adobe Photoshop has the advantage. In addition, the Generative Fill tools in Photoshop allow you to simply describe the background that you want and it will create it. This allows for a lot of flexibility and creativity compared to what is basically adding a layer below a portrait cutout, which is what PaintShop Pro is doing. 

Overall, Corel PaintShop Pro AI background replacement does a reasonable job of cutting out a portrait and changing the background, but it lacks the power and finesse of Adobe Photoshop's AI tools.

  • Background Replace score: 4/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: AI Denoise and Artifact Removal

  • Removes noise using AI
  • Automated artifact removal gets rid of artifacts with a single click

Also within the AI menu are AI Denoise and Artifact Removal. Of these two simple tools, Artifact Removal is simply a button that automatically analyses the image and reduces artifacts. I found a slight difference in JPEG artifacts, but you can't see any difference unless you look at pictures at a very high magnification. As a single button press, there's no preview option to see the side-by-side changes.

AI Denoise, on the other hand, does have a preview window. There are three different options for the severity of the removal, and I found it best to use the highest setting, which did an excellent job of reducing both luminance and color noise. However, in some cases, you'll want to add a touch of a film grain effect for a little texture. 

One confusing thing is that there's also a Digital Noise Removal Tool, a one-step noise removal tool - that removes noise with a single click, as well as an Add/Remove Noise menu option with several different options, such as Despeckle and a Salt and Pepper Filter. This is without mentioning the noise removal options within the raw conversion options. 

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023 AI Noise removal before/after screenshot

(Image credit: Future)
  • AI Noise removal score: 4/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: AI Upscaling

  • AI-powered image upscaling up to 10,000 pixels along the longest edge
  • Automated noise reduction with three strength options can be processed at the same time

Lurking within the Photography Editing workspace is also an AI-powered upscaling tool. The tool is straightforward and has Photorealistic or Illustration options to help you decide how to render the upscaled image. You can also reduce noise while upscaling, with a slider giving you control over the strength. A slider also allows you to select the size of the increase up to 10,000 pixels along the longest edge. 

I compared it to Adobe Camera Raw's new Enhance feature, which allows resolution to be increased by 100%. I also ran the image through Topaz AI with the default image settings. 

The quick comparison of the image shows that Topaz AI has a clear advantage, though as a standalone piece of specialist software, this is expected. Adobe Camera Raw's Enhance produced a surprisingly similar result, which, with some tweaking in Camera Raw, could probably match Topaz, or at least not be far off. The result from PaintShop Pro 2023 was a good starting point but would require some work to make it match Photoshop or Topaz AI. Once again, though, AI Upscaling is another useful feature in Corel's affordable and comprehensive photo editing software suite.

A comparison of the AI Upscaling features of Adobe Photoshop, Corel PaintShop Pro 2023 and Topaz AI

(Image credit: Future)
  • AI Upscaling score: 3/5

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Should I buy?

The loading screen for Corel Paintshop Pro AI effects

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Corel PaintShop Pro 2023: Also consider

For Windows users, Corel PaintShop Pro is one of the most comprehensive image editing solutions and an obvious alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is the king of image editors for good reason, and you can read our full review of Photoshop 2023 to see what the latest incarnation brings. However, Photoshop is subscription-based, which can put some users off. It can also be overwhelming for new users. 

Luminar Neo is another option that takes a middle path. An AI photo editor with a suite of intelligent tools, it costs $11.95 per month, $99 per year, or $149 every two years. Alternatively, you can purchase it outright with a one-time payment of $249. It can’t match Photoshop for sheer versatility, but if you want affordable access to automated edits and quality results, it’s worth considering.

You can read our in-depth guide to the best Photoshop alternatives here.

Lenovo Legion Glasses review: your best bet for AR glasses
7:00 pm | November 11, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Software Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality | Tags: | Comments: Off

Lenovo Legion Glasses: Two-minute review

Lenovo’s first foray into the AR glasses market could easily be one of the best smart glasses, with a great balance between design and functionality. They look similar enough to other AR glasses on the market, all-black, and mostly sleek sunglasses. There is a bulkiness that comes from the built-in lenses, which does make them jut out from your face a bit, and the optional lenses that can be slotted behind the main ones don't help with that either. 

Those spare lenses have a purpose, however, as those who wear corrective lenses can have them made out in our prescription. But having to pay for extra lenses on top of shelling out over $300 for the Legion Glasses is a tall order, which is why I appreciate the modified nose guard that allows you to wear your glasses under them. 

Lenovo had warned me about them not fitting every pair of glasses and I personally experienced the awkwardness of trying to shift them to stay on properly, which took a bit to master. But once I found the sweet spot, they stayed in place surprisingly well around my large plastic frames. Not the best look, however, so if you care about aesthetics you may want to splurge for the prescription lenses.

Compared to other AR glasses like the Xreal Air AR which only offers the corrective lens option, or the Rokid Max AR which offers the corrective lens option plus myopia adjustment wheels for each eye, the Legion Go offers the simplest yet most effective method out of them.

The build quality of these glasses is quite premium – it has a sturdy yet light form factor with glass lenses and a solid frame. These are glasses clearly built to last. Not to mention that it comes with spare nose guards and a spare pair of anti-slip adapters for when wear and tear happens.

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Editor John Loeffler wearing Lenovo Legion Glasses

(Image credit: Future)
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Editor John Loeffler wearing Lenovo Legion Glasses

(Image credit: Future)
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Editor John Loeffler wearing Lenovo Legion Glasses

(Image credit: Future)
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Lenovo Legion Glasses on table

(Image credit: Future)
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Lenovo Legion Glasses on table

(Image credit: Future)
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Lenovo Legion Glasses on table

(Image credit: Future)
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Lenovo Legion Glasses on table

(Image credit: Future)

I also love the buttons in front of the speakers, two on each side, as they activate several useful features depending on whether you short or long-press them. You can increase or decrease brightness, enable Low Blue Light Mode, control volume, and toggle the display off and on.

As for performance, the Lenovo Legion Glasses work exactly as promised, which is to say, quite well. I extensively tested it out with a wide variety of devices that feature USB Type-C ports including videos on the best smartphones, the Lenovo Legion Go, the best gaming laptops, the best gaming PCs, and more. 

Even though it only states that the Legion Glasses works with Android, iOS, and Windows, it also works perfectly with the Steam Deck as well. And it works equally well with all of them, though I wish there were more connection types other than Type-C, however, I can understand the rationale behind it.

The picture quality and brightness are superb, living up to its micro-OLED HD visuals and more. My only real complaint in that regard is the image can blur around the edges a bit and obscure any UI, especially if the glasses aren't fitted properly to your head. Sometimes you have to readjust them to hit that sweet spot, and then the visuals are great. Accompanied by excellent visuals are equally excellent built-in speakers, which are so robust that I forgot I wasn’t playing video games on a gaming PC. That also carries over to music and movie streaming, delivering great audio quality on those fronts.

Something that often isn't mentioned with AR and VR tech in general is how they can affect more sensitive people, such as myself. Normally I have sensitivity issues with 3D, VR, and some AR technology ranging from watering and burning eyes, headaches, and nausea to name a few symptoms. But I've found that prolonged use of the Legion Glasses doesn't affect me in the slightest.

Lenovo Legion Glasses: Price & availability

Lenovo Legion Glasses on table

(Image credit: Future)
  • How much does it cost? Starting at $329.99 / £329 / AU$599
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia

The Lenovo Legion Glasses is a pricey gadget at $329.99 / £329 / AU$599, though it’s still more affordable than some of its competitors like the Xreal Air AR and Rokid Max AR, making it a much better deal by comparison. And if you're investing in a pair of AR glasses, you're most likely already prepared to spend a sizable amount of money so that shouldn't be much of an issue.

It’s also available for shipping in the US, UK, and Australia from the Lenovo storefront, which is great news for those in regions outside the US.

Lenovo Legion Glasses: Specs

Should you buy the Lenovo Legion Glasses?

Buy it if...

You want good-quality AR glasses
The build quality is extremely good with a nice weight and sturdy form factor. The lenses being made of thick glass also help.

You want a clear picture quality
The display is made of dual micro-OLED HD screens for each eye and the result is a bright and clear picture quality.

Don't buy it if...

You're on a budget
Though it should be expected for AR glasses, you're going to be paying quite a bit of money for them.

You want a completely clear image
Though it's usually not an issue, sometimes the edges can blur a bit which is exacerbated by misaligned glasses.

Lenovo Legion Glasses: Also consider

How I tested the Lenovo Legion Glasses

  • I spent about a week testing these AR glasses
  • I tested it with a wide variety of screens
  • I used it extensively in different environments with different lighting

I tested the Lenovo Legion Glasses keyboard in a home office environment, seeing how well it functioned in both productivity work and gaming. I also carried it around in various bags to test its portability.

The Lenovo Legion Glasses is a pair of AR glasses that's meant as an alternative screen for a wide variety of devices. I made sure to quality-test it to see if it held up to being able to work on nearly any device with a USB Type-C port.

I've tested a wide range of accessories and these in particular I've tested for well over a year at different stages of completion, becoming familiar with its features and improvements.

We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed November 2023

PhotoRoom review
9:41 pm | November 6, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Creative Software Gadgets Software | Tags: | Comments: Off

PhotoRoom: Two-minute review

Removing backgrounds from images used to mean manually masking subjects. Adding different backdrops and drop shadows required a deft touch, too. Not with PhotoRoom: harnessing the power of AI, it automates the background removal process and makes it a cinch to place people and products in new settings, complete with accurate shadows.

Available as a mobile app for iOS and Android, as well as a web-based tool, it has the potential to revolutionize promotional imagery for online businesses. With just a few taps, PhotoRoom makes it possible to cut out subjects, place them against virtual backgrounds, and then export them at the perfect size for different social platforms.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

A Pro subscription removes the PhotoRoom logo from high-resolution exports, unlocks powerful batch editing support, and grants access to a catalog of templates covering everything from birthday cards to seasonal sales. You can make mock magazine covers, create studio-style imagery for your online store, or instantly upgrade your marketing graphics – all without expert knowledge of design software. It can even transform self-portraits into headshots that pass for professional.

It’s easy to use, yet the results are broadly believable. While it's not infallible, PhotoRoom is impressively effective at matching backgrounds and shadows to the lighting of your original subject. And though not every virtual backdrop is photorealistic, the majority give the impression of genuine placement within the scene – or at least that the image has been professionally produced. If PhotoRoom’s presets don’t fit the bill, you can generate custom backgrounds using simple text prompts, giving you theoretically infinite possibilities.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

With layered editing, including the option to place and edit text and graphics, PhotoRoom firmly plants its flag as an alternative to Adobe Express – a rival web-based design tool with AI features from the maker of Photoshop. Editing professionals may find some limitations, but for most users, PhotoRoom is slick, quick, and surprisingly powerful. 

If you only want to separate subjects from their backgrounds, there are cheaper – and even free – alternatives. Equally, if you want a fully-fledged image editing solution, you should look at our round-up of the best photo editors

But if you want an accessible toolkit that lets you rapidly generate pro-grade promotional imagery, and seamlessly place your subjects within a vast library of settings – all from your smartphone or web browser – PhotoRoom is well worth the cost of a monthly subscription.

PhotoRoom: Pricing & availability

  • Weekly prices start at $4.99 / £3.99 / AU$17.99
  • Many features are available for free, including background removal
  • Pro subscription removes branding and unlocks full feature set

PhotoRoom is available as a smartphone app for iOS and Android and online via the PhotoRoom website. Many of its features can be accessed without a subscription, including the background and object removal tools. With the free version, you are limited to 250 image exports, all of which will be watermarked with the PhotoRoom logo.

If you plan to use PhotoRoom for your business, you’ll probably want to pay for the additional features included with a Pro subscription. Paying for full access removes the PhotoRoom logo and export cap. It also unlocks batch editing, design resizing, and high-resolution exports, as well as the full collection of instant backgrounds.

Pricing for the Pro plan varies based on the frequency of the renewal period you choose. In the US, the rolling weekly plan costs $4.99, while the annual plan costs $89.99 per year. In the UK, you can subscribe for £3.99 a week or £69.99 a year. In Australia, the weekly cost is AU$17.99, while the yearly price comes in at AU$139.99. 

PhotoRoom offers a free trial of the Pro features through its smartphone apps. Be aware that this will auto-renew if not cancelled before the end of the trial.

PhotoRoom: Interface & tools

  • PhotoRoom can be accessed using the app or via the web
  • Simple, icon-based interface is easy to use and understand
  • One-click templates and AI backgrounds can be easily edited

Whether you use PhotoRoom on the web or through the smartphone app, the core user experience is very similar. The icon-based interface is designed to be simple and self-explanatory, even if you’ve never used a photo editor or any kind of graphic design software.

You start by selecting a tool, template, or photo: all options lead to the same destination, only the route is different. With a Pro subscription, you also have the option to edit in batches, applying the same template or background swap to several images at the same time.

Pick an image, and PhotoRoom will automatically run the background removal tool, separating the subject from its surroundings. From there, you can edit the outline of the cutout, either manually – by painting with a brush to adjust the masking – or with AI assistance, which automatically detects the objects you click.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

Once you’re happy with the cutout, your first option is to explore PhotoRoom’s preset templates. Some are purely functional, making the background transparent or resizing the canvas for different social platforms. Others keep it simple and professional, with a drop shadow and a plain backdrop. The most dynamic add everything from text headlines and graphic elements to photorealistic settings and artistic blurring. 

A tap or a click is all it takes to apply any of the templates. What’s more, every component in the template can be repositioned, rotated and resized to suit. Each occupies a separate layer, which you can drag to rearrange. You can also tweak each layer using the adjustment toggles and sliders. While PhotoRoom is far from a Photoshop alternative, you can make a range of color tweaks, change the perspective and add creative effects, including several blur and texture options. All of these tools are intuitive to use, and the learning curve is minimal.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

The instant backgrounds tab is where AI really steps into the spotlight. You can browse by background category, spanning all manner of materials, scenes and settings, or pick from suggested backdrops based on the subject detected by PhotoRoom. Pick one, and you’ll get four versions of that theme. If none fit the bill, you can tap to generate four more.

Where backgrounds get really interesting is with custom prompts. Under the assisted tab, you can specify the surface and any background details you’d like. Or you can go full manual and write the entire prompt yourself, together with a negative prompt to exclude specific elements. You can also upload an image as a prompt. All three are straightforward to use and genuinely accessible.

AI is also deployed for the magic retouch tool, which allows you to paint over objects to remove them from an image, and for instant shadows, which can read the object placement within a given composition and introduce soft, hard, or floating shadows accordingly.

PhotoRoom: Cutouts

  • AI effectively recognizes and cuts out subjects 
  • Manually brushing to edit the mask can feel clumsy

Any background removal tool is only as effective as its subject recognition. Luckily, PhotoRoom is remarkably good at detecting and selecting. From clothes to creatures, it effortlessly traced around countless subjects in our tests. What’s more, because the AI engine tries to understand what it’s looking at, it’s also effective at cutting out elements within an object – such as the spokes of a bicycle.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. It can struggle when presented with busy scenes that feature multiple potential subjects. Outlining can also falter when there is poor contrast, dim lighting or a low resolution, all of which affect the definition of a subject’s edges. But upload a well-lit image in clear focus and PhotoRoom will almost always extract it cleanly from its surroundings.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

This is good, because editing a cutout isn’t the most precise affair. The guided mode is useful if you want to simply remove specific objects from the selection. But when it comes to manually refining the mask, you’ll need fine fingerwork to paint around objects. And while you can change the brush size, there’s no option to adjust its softness. Strangely, there's no undo option: if you accidentally paint to erase part of a selection, you’ll need to repaint it with the Restore brush – or cancel and start again. 

So while the option to edit cutouts is necessary, the slight clumsiness means you’re often better trusting in the automated selection and accepting any minor deviations, which usually won’t be visible when viewed at standard screen sizes.

PhotoRoom: Performance

  • Instant backgrounds can deliver remarkable realism
  • Post templates require more creative input
  • Retouch tool is a useful addition for removing objects

A creative eye is still required when it comes to working with templates. Unlike backgrounds, PhotoRoom won’t suggest templates to suit your image, so you’ll need to pick one that works for your subject and purpose.

Realism is rarely the aim here, with many of the presets featuring bold graphics, text, and obviously simulated settings. It’s important to choose one that matches the theme of your subject, otherwise, your cutout can look out of place. Perspective is also important to bear in mind, particularly with product photography: the templates are most useful for subjects shot straight-on.

The best of PhotoRoom’s templates are those that keep things subtle, specifically those that place your subject against a relatively plain background with a soft drop shadow. Even then, you’ll often want to adjust the placement of your subject within the template and consider adding a shadow using the adjustment menu. With the right touch, results can be fun and dynamic.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

The believability factor is far higher with PhotoRoom’s instant backgrounds. That’s not to say that every placement looks like a real photo. You will still encounter AI artifacts, especially with backgrounds generated from prompts. You’ll also need to ensure that the scale appears consistent: many have defocused elements that can throw off the perspective. One background made a bicycle look like a miniature model on a shelf, for example.

On the whole, PhotoRoom is remarkably good at placing subjects in scenes with a high degree of realism, particularly when that subject is an object. Whether you pick from PhotoRoom’s suggested backgrounds or select a theme for yourself, it will incorporate the item contextually – often with breathtaking effectiveness.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

When tasked with placing a camera on a table surrounded by succulents, PhotoRoom generated shadows that looked true to life, weighting the camera in the scene. Swapping the table for a concrete step, it added a subtle reflection in the polished stone below. Equally, when situating a lamp on a bedside table, it cast a glow on the neighboring wall. It’s these details that make PhotoRoom stand out as a tool for product photography.

Not every result appears authentic, but for every four variations generated, at least half could pass for a genuine image from a photoshoot – certainly to the untrained eye on social media. Even those that don’t quite pass for genuine frequently look as if they’ve been manipulated by a professional graphic designer. And it’s worth remembering that these aren’t fixed scenes into which different subjects are substituted: each is generated specifically for the given subject, based on your chosen theme or prompt.

PhotoRoom review screenshot

(Image credit: Future)

What’s so impressive is that new versions can be generated with just a click, and every result can be reworked simply by changing a few words in the text prompt. As with many generative tools, prompts won’t always yield the exact visual you had in mind. But the option does put an arsenal of creative possibilities at your fingertips, with no training required. With batch editing available to Pro subscribers, you can achieve a consistent look for up to 50 image subjects at once. This works best with similarly framed shots.

In short, PhotoRoom is a powerful tool for producing virtual photoshoots. If you’re an online seller, it has the potential to eliminate the need for expensive and time-consuming seasonal shoots. From one clear, well-lit set of images, you can produce realistic visuals of your subjects in all manner of scenarios, from minimalist retail stores to kitchens at Christmas. When you compare the relative costs and the quality of its output, PhotoRoom makes a convincing case for itself.

Should I buy PhotoRoom?

PhotoRoom review screenshots

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

PhotoRoom: Also consider

The closest competitor to PhotoRoom is Adobe Creative Cloud Express. Like PhotoRoom, this is a web- and app-based editing platform that makes it easy to produce professional marketing graphics.

It doesn’t have PhotoRoom’s ability to produce instant AI backgrounds for a given subject, which means PhotoRoom remains the top choice if you want to create realistic virtual product shoots. But Adobe Express does include a free cutout tool, social templates, and AI-powered generative fill, which can be used to add and remove elements within existing images. 

If you’re looking for an intuitive online solution for producing polished marketing content in a range of sizes and formats, Adobe Express is arguably the more comprehensive option in terms of templates, font styles, graphic elements, and overall versatility. At $9.99 per month, it’s more affordable on a monthly basis, although the yearly fee of $99.99 makes PhotoRoom the cheaper annual choice. 

It’s worth noting that if you have a Creative Cloud subscription, you’ll likely have access to Adobe Express already.

Xreal Air 2 review: better in all but the most important way
3:00 pm | October 24, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Software Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality | Comments: Off

Two-minute Xreal Air 2 review

The Xreal Air 2 and Xreal Air 2 Pro AR glasses are here to replace the original Xreal Air (formerly Nreal Air) AR specs – and they’re just as much fun to use as the originals.

Design-wise they keep everything that made the Xreal Air good – they’re both comfortable to wear for long stretches of time and look kind of stylish too – though the base model doesn’t change things up too much from what’s come before. The Pro model has received new Electrochromic Dimming for its lenses allowing them to swap between clear and shaded at the literal push of a button – and this feature is the only difference between the regular Xreal Air 2 glasses and the Pro.

There are more changes in the picture and audio department thankfully. Both the Xreal Air 2 and Xreal Air 2 Pro have new Sony 0.55 Micro-OLED displays that boast 25% higher peak brightness and improved color calibration. This allows them to produce vibrant colors and provide good contrast in dark scenes.

The AR glasses also feature more immersive audio through their speakers, however, the bass is still a little weak and there’s a not insignificant amount of audio leakage from the open-ear speaker design. If you want to watch something in private you’ll need some Bluetooth headphones.

Unfortunately, the main issue holding the original Xreal Air glasses back wasn’t their picture quality or audio, it was their value, and the Xreal Air 2 and Air 2 Pro don’t address this issue.

I think the specs are a delight to use, but the $399 / £399 price tag – or $449 / £449 for the Xreal Air 2 Pro – is a massive turn-off. 

All you get for this high price is a wearable display for some laptops, phones, and handheld game consoles. If you want a more worthwhile experience from the AR glasses you need to buy an Xreal Beam and a handful of add-on adapter cables, and these can add the best part of $200 / £200 to the total cost.

Hamish Hector wearing the Xreal Air 2 Pro glasses

Here's what the AR glasses look like on my face (Image credit: Future)

At this price, you’ll have spent more than you would have on something like the Meta Quest 3 (which I gave five stars in our Meta Quest 3 review). Yes, a VR headset isn’t the same as these Xreal glasses but it’s an awesome XR wearable and I think most people would find it offers way more bang for your buck – as it’s not just a display, the Quest 3 does stuff without you needing to pick up a bunch of not-so-optional extras.

If you have a spare $399 / £399 lying around and you want to pick up some fun tech then you could do a lot worse than the Xreal Air 2, but for the money, you could do better too.

Xreal Air 2: Price and availability

The Xreal Air 2 and Air 2 Pro are available to preorder for $399 / £399 and $449 / £449 respectively from and Amazon. There’s no firm release date yet, but Xreal has told us they’ll be shipping to US and UK customers in November.

The two models are fairly similar, but the cheaper Xreal Air 2 loses out on Electrochromic Dimming. This exclusive Xreal Air 2 Pro feature allows you to dim the lenses between three presets – you can either go for fully transparent where you can see the real world more clearly, blacked-out immersive mode where the real world is (almost) entirely blocked out, or a half-way point between the two.

It’s certainly neat but an optional cover that comes with both models is still the best option for blocking out visual distractions while you try to immerse yourself in what you’re watching. As such, spending an extra $50 / £50 on the Pro glasses isn’t going to be necessary for most people.

Xreal Air 2: Design

  • Comfortable, lightweight design
  • Improved lens cover
  • New color options

I’ve tested a fair few AR smart glasses like the Xreal Air 2 and Air 2 Pro, and based on my experience they’re one of the better-designed options on the market.

The inside displays are shown off in the photo, they sit behind the Xreal Air 2 Pro AR glasses shades

Here are the Xreal Air 2 Pro's displays (Image credit: Future)

As with other smart glasses – like the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses or Rokid Max AR glasses – these specs aren’t noticeably larger than a regular pair of specs. The only telltale signs they aren’t regular glasses are the inner displays that sit behind the lenses, and a USB-C port at the end of the left arm for attaching a cable between the glasses and another device.

They’re pretty lightweight too. The Xreal Air 2 comes in at 72g and the Air 2 Pro glasses at 75g. The specs also come with a few easily swappable nose clips, which make it easy to adjust the position and fit the AR gadget. Those of you who wear glasses will appreciate the free optional frame attachment that allows you to equip the AR glasses with prescription lenses – though will have to pay extra for the actual lenses.

The Xreal Air 2 glasses are comfy to wear for extended periods of time for another reason. The biggest issue of some rival devices is that the bridge of the glasses (which touches your face just above your nose) can get annoyingly hot – and can do so after barely five minutes of use. 

That’s not the case with Xreal’s specs. Even an hour in I’m happy to keep using them for as long as I can.

The only significant fault I can find with the glasses is that they lack volume controls. Instead, the only buttons on the glasses allow you to change brightness levels – though I’ve never found a reason to set them at anything less than max.

If you pick up the Xreal Air Pro 2 model you’ll find an additional button for adjusting the Electrochromic Dimming – a feature that affects how shaded the front lenses are. As I mentioned above you can change the lens between transparent, blacked-out, or in-between.

This feature is certainly neat but I personally prefer to use the case cover that comes with both models when I want to immerse myself. The cover not only helps to block out more light from the front, but has plastic parts that extend underneath the lenses to further block out annoying light and reflections – marking an upgrade from the cover used by the original Xreal Air.

The Xreal Air 2 Pro AR smart glasses on a table with a black cover over their front

The Xreal Air 2 Pro doesn't look as yellow with the cover on (Image credit: Future)

The only downside of the cover is that it hides the kaleido decal that I’ve applied to the specs. I’m not entirely sure if this optional sticker kit comes free with every pair of Xreal Air 2 glasses, just the Pro model, or was just an extra in the reviewer’s kit but it applied a fun vibrancy to the AR glasses and makes them look a little less intimidating – wearable tech (particularly glasses) can make some people feel uncomfortable even if they don’t have any cameras.

I got a yellow kit as you can see from the images in this review, but there are navy, turquoise, blue, pink, and green options as well. You could also remove the hassle of applying a sticker and get the Xreal Air 2 glasses in red by default– the Pro unfortunately only comes in black without using any decals.

  • Design Score: 4/5 

Xreal Air 2: Performance

  • Impressive HD visuals
  • Immersive audio
  • Bass is a little weak, and the sound does leak a fair bit

The Xreal Air 2 Pro glasses offer a solid performance boost over their predecessor.

When it comes to visuals, the Sony 0.55 Micro-OLED display does an impressive job. Thanks to the 25% boost in brightness the glasses have received (and the calibration Xreal has done to get the specs TÜV Rheinland certified for color accuracy) I felt that colors look more vibrant than on the original Xreal Air glasses. The contrast in dark scenes is also pretty darn good, which is to be expected from an OLED screen. 

The 100,000:1 contrast ratio and 500nits brightness might not look like a lot on paper – they’re what you’d expect from more budget-friendly projectors that aren’t all that impressive – but because the glasses aren’t attempting to throw the image across the room they’re able to use the same specs to deliver a much higher-quality picture. 

That said, I do still find the best performance is to be had in a fairly dark space with the cover attached (and the Electrochromic Dimming set to max if you have the Air 2 Pro). They can still function okay in brighter spaces, but you’ll notice a dip in quality – especially if you don’t have the cover with you.

The only disappointment is that these specs still only offer full-HD (1080p) resolution. It’s fine but 4K visuals would really have been appreciated. At least you can benefit from a 120Hz refresh rate if you want to use them for gaming.

The Nreal Air AR glasses being used to see a video game screen while some holds a controller in their living room, they're sat on the couch with pillows all around them

Here's what it looks like to see virtual images on the Xreal Air glasses (Image credit: Nreal)

The glasses’ audio performance isn’t as impressive as its picture quality, but the sound is still pretty solid and offers a good level of immersion that will suck you into the action of the content you’re watching thanks to its upgraded “cinematic sound system” with spatial audio.

While watching various shows, films, and music videos I found that mid and high-range tones were delivered with good clarity – even when I cranked the volume up a bit there wasn’t noticeable distortion. That said, I found the specs do struggle with bassier tones. The lower-end performance isn’t terrible but it doesn’t have as much force behind it as I would like – which can lead to music feeling less impactful, and some action explosions lacking the intensity you’d get from a more capable setup.

I do like the open-ear design though – which is taken wholesale from its predecessor. It’s perfect for commuting as you can enjoy your favorite show or movie while you travel while still being able to listen out for when you get to your stop.

Just watch out for audio leakage – as while the situation is improved on these newer models, much like with the original Xreal Air glasses your audio still isn’t completely private. If someone is sitting or standing next to you while content is playing through the Xreal Air 2 or Air 2 Pro glasses at moderate volumes they’ll be able to hear it.

The only solution is to add a pair of Bluetooth headphones to your setup, but this will have an impact on the battery life of the device they’re connected to. However, if they’re a decent pair – like one of the picks on our best headphones list – then you might find the battery trade-off is worthwhile for the privacy and improved sound quality you’ll experience. 

  • Performance Score: 4/5 

Xreal Air 2: Compatibility

  • Compatible with a range of devices
  • Xreal Beam and additional adapters are pricey, but feel necessary

The Xreal Air 2 and the 2 Pro have an identical compatibility list to the original Xreal Air. 

Using the included USB-C to USB-C cable you can use the glasses with a range of laptops, tablets, handled consoles like the Steam Deck, and phones that support video output through a USB-C port (called DisplayPort). Just note that not every USB-C phone will offer this feature – for example, the Google Pixel 8 and other Pixel phones don’t support video output via their USB-C port.

For devices lacking a USB-C port or DisplayPort support, you can try using the Xreal Beam adapter. This optional add-on, which comes in at $119 (UK price to be confirmed), allows you to wirelessly cast content from your incompatible phone – such as an iPhone with a lightning port – to the glasses (note, the Google Pixel line still won’t work with the Beam as they can only cast to devices using Google’s proprietary Chromecast tech, not the generic version used by the Beam). 

Using another USB-C to USB-C cable you can also connect your Xreal Air 2 glasses to a Nintendo Switch through the Xreal Beam.

The Beam serves as a power source for the glasses too, and will help you enjoy content on your Xreal Glasses for longer – as rather than draining the connected device’s battery you’ll use the Beam’s stored power instead which lasts for around 3 hours.

If you purchase an HDMI to USB-C cable (make sure it’s this way around as most cables on Amazon are USB-C to HDMI, and as I found out they don’t work as intended with the Xreal Air) you can hook your glasses up to a console like a PS5, an Xbox Series X or a docked Nintendo Switch. 

The Xreal Air 2 Pro AR smart glasses next to the Xreal Beam hub, they're both on a wooden table in front of a brick wall

The Xreal Beam is a neat but pricey add-on (Image credit: Future)

I just wish the Xreal Air 2 and Air 2 Pro came with more of these cables and adapters in their boxes – as either you have to opt for the relatively pricey adapters it sells as add-ons, or try and navigate the labyrinth of cheaper third-party options on Amazon which may or may not work. Including the cables in the box would not only make things simpler, it would help to make the Air 2 glasses feel like better value for money as you no longer need to spend extra on not-so-optional add-ons.

I also would prefer if the Beam was more like the Rokid Station – which is effectively a portable Android TV device for the Rokid Max smart AR glasses. You can jerry-rig together a setup that uses the Rokid Station and Xreal glasses, but you’ll need a pair of BlueTooth headphones for audio. If the Beam is going to stay as a more rudimentary product, much like I said for the additional connector cables, I’d like to see it included in the Xreal Air 2’s price.

Heck, even if it is given some upgrades I’d like to see it included in the Xreal Air 2’s price. It would make the $399 / £399 price tag a lot easier to swallow.

Should you buy the Xreal Air 2 glasses?

Buy them if… 

Don't buy them if...

Also consider

How I tested the Xreal Air 2 Glasses

For this review, I was sent the Xreal Air 2 Pro model to test – and as I mentioned it’s functionally identical to the regular Xreal Air 2 glasses except has lenses with Electrochromic Dimming.

To put the displays through their paces I watched a range of different content across streaming services and YouTube. I played movies with bright vibrant scenes to see how well the colors were presented, I watched shadowy scenes in films to test the glasses contrast capabilities, and I played many music videos to get a feel for the speakers’ audio chops.

I also made sure to test the glasses with a range of compatible devices including a smartphone, a laptop, the Xreal Beam, and games consoles.

Lastly, I would swap between these smart specs and a few others I have lying around from older reviews, including the original Xreal Air glasses to see how these specs compare.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed October 2023
Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses Collection review: the Ray-Ban Stories 2 in all but name
9:09 pm | September 27, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Software Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality | Comments: Off

The Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses Collection aren’t officially called the Ray-Ban Stories 2, but they might as well be. They take everything that made the original Meta and Ray-Ban collaboration stand out, while improving upon those glasses to become worthy successors.

You’ll find improved design options, with two frame styles, five frame colors, and a slew of lens options that allow you to customize your glasses between over 150 different combinations. The charging case, meanwhile, looks more classically Ray-Ban without losing any of the functionality of the case that came with the Ray-Ban Stories.

The cameras get a resolution bump up to 12MP, and image stabilization has been improved to help keep your recordings from looking too shaky. The built-in speaker’s audio has also been given a boost, and there’s a handy voice assistant that lets you control the glasses hands-free.

I had the chance to try out the new Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses ahead of their launch, and while I want to spend more time with them before passing a final verdict, I’ve been impressed by the improvements I saw. That said, I feel these glasses won’t be a good fit for everyone – especially at $299 / £299 (Australian pricing to be confirmed). Unless you can think of a reason why you need these glasses yesterday, you might want to pass on them. 

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses: Price and availability

The new Ray-Ban Meta Collection Smart Glasses are on preorder from September 27 until their October 17 release date, and they’re available for $299 / £299 (Australian pricing to be confirmed). If you want to pick up a pair with Transitions or Polarized lenses this will cost you a little more, at £379 (US and Australian pricing to be confirmed) and £329 (US and Australian pricing to be confirmed) respectively.

A blue Wayfarer pair of the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses Collection on a wooden table in front of their charging case

(Image credit: Future)

This price is the same as the launch price for the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses, which were the first collaboration between Meta (then Facebook) and Ray-Ban, and is roughly on par with other smart glasses I’ve seen and tested. Just note that these are a very different kind of smart glasses to something like the Xreal Air glasses, so make sure you investigate your options before you order a pair.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses: Design

The Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses come in two shapes, and a range of different color options to suit different tastes.

Fans of the iconic Ray-Ban look can pick up a pair of Wayfarers (in standard or large sizes), or you can opt for the brand-new Headliner style that’s been created specially for this collaboration. Both styles come in matte or glossy black, or you can choose a translucent material that comes in black, turquoise, or orange so that you can show off the technology inside your new specs – kind of like that translucent purple GameBoy you always wanted.

You can also outfit the glasses with a massive variety of lenses, from clear to prescription to polarized and a bunch more. All in all there are over 150 different combinations of frames and lenses, so you should be able to find one that suits you perfectly. No matter which combo you choose, the glasses have an IPX4 water resistance rating and boast 32GB of storage, which is enough for roughly 500 photos, and 100 30-second videos.

Three pairs of RayBan Meta Smart Glasses, one is blue with purple lenses, one is black with yellow lenses and the last is orange with blue lenses

There are so many different style options for these smart glasses (Image credit: Meta)

The camera is positioned on the right edge of the frame, just in front of the right arm. It also has a fairly large and noticeable light next to it, which activates whenever you’re recording a video or taking a picture so that people around you know when the camera is and isn’t on.

Best of all, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses feel just as lightweight as a regular pair of glasses. The Wayfarers come in at just 48.6g (or 50.8g for the large frames) and the Headliner frame weighs 49.2g, so it shouldn’t be a challenge to wear these for long stretches.

Before I round off the design section of this hands-on review, I need to highlight the charging case – I love it. It looks just like a classic Ray-Ban case, but it has a USB-C port on the bottom and it can provide your smart glasses with an additional 32 hours of use thanks to its internal battery. It only takes 75 minutes to charge the glasses from 0% to full, or you can reach 50% in 22 minutes, which isn’t too bad.

On their own, the smart glasses can hold four hours of charge. This isn’t particularly impressive compared to smartwatches, for example, but considering the small size of the glasses it’s not a huge surprise.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses: Performance

Smart glasses aren’t just a fashion accessory, they need to be functional too – and based on my brief demo session with these Ray-Ban spectacles I’d say they do a good job of being a useful gadget.

You can see inside these transparent orange frames, giving you a look at the internal componenst and spoeakers housed in the arm of the Ray-Ban and Meta smart glasses

(Image credit: Future)

Its 12MP cameras won’t produce images as crisp as the 50MP snappers found on most mid-range smartphones, though I found that images and 1080p video captured on the glasses looked fine. There’s also a huge advantage over your phone in that you don’t have to hold a phone while recording, which allows you to take a more active part in the footage you’re capturing.

And you can seemingly get involved without too much fear of creating a super-shaky video. While I didn’t give the glasses a massive challenge in the demo, I wasn’t focused on keeping my head still either, yet I noticed that video playback looked reasonably steady for a camera worn on my face.

Audio from the glasses’ speakers also sounds pretty good. I didn’t have the chance to listen to the full range of tracks I normally rely on to get a feel for a gadget’s audio chops, but what I heard didn’t sound half-bad, and best of all audio leakage doesn’t seem to be much of a concern.

I tried out the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses at the same time as someone else, and I couldn’t hear their music while I was standing fairly close to them (and it was apparently playing at moderate volumes).

I need to spend more time with the glasses before I issue my final verdict on their performance. Beyond giving the camera and speakers a more in-depth test, I also want to put the microphone array through its paces. While the audio I recorded did sound clear, I was testing the glasses out in a room with very little noise – I don’t know how well they'll fare outside if I’m trying to record on a windy day or while I’m doing something active and breathing hard.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses: Features

A stylish person wearing a pair of black Wayfarer Ray-Ban smart glasses in front of a green background

(Image credit: Meta)

The Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses have two new features that you won’t find on the Ray-Ban Stories that came before them.

The first is a simple voice assistant that allows you to record videos or snap pictures by speaking (using the wake word ‘Meta’). If you’re connected to your smartphone you can also ask the assistant to start a call with someone in your contacts, or send them a picture of where you are. 

The second is the ability to easily set up an Instagram or Facebook livestream that shows viewers a live feed from your glasses. I was able to set up a test livestream on Instagram, and literally at the push of a button I could swap from the smartphone’s camera to the connected Ray-Ban Meta glasses I was wearing. I hope this feature is extended to other services like YouTube and Twitch too.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses: Initial verdict

The Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses Collection offers solid improvements over the Ray-Ban Stories in every single way. That said, I’m still not sure how comfortable people will feel about having a camera always on their face, or how those around you will feel about the camera either.

I need to test them further, but based on my demo I feel like these glasses exist to serve a specific use case. If you can think of ways in which these will enrich your life then the $299 / £299 (Australian pricing to be confirmed) might seem reasonable. However, if you like the idea of smart glasses, but don’t have an immediate idea of how you might use these glasses, you might want to think twice about putting in a preorder.

Meta Quest 3 review: the best VR headset for most people
8:41 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Software Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality | Tags: | Comments: Off

I’ve not spent a lot of time with the Meta Quest 3, but my roughly 30-minute demo with the new headset has given me a taste of what it has in store for users when it launches on October 10 – and I’m already hungry for more.

The improved performance and graphics provided by the new Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2, the slimmed-down design, and the superior mixed reality experience it offers combine to create a VR gadget that feels like an excellent successor to the Oculus Quest 2.

Yes, the Quest 3 is pricier than the Quest 2 was at launch (coming in at $499.99 / £479.99, Australian pricing to be confirmed by Meta) for its cheapest model instead of $299.99 / £299.99 / AU$509.99) but its improvements certainly seem to justify the higher cost.

I’ll need to spend more time with the headset to get a proper feel for how it stacks up against the competition, but I already feel this may be the best VR headset out there; maybe finally replacing the ol’ reliable Oculus Quest 2, which has been my go-to headset recommendation for people looking to try what VR has to offer.

Meta Quest 3: Price and availability

Meta Quest 3 preorders went live on September 27 – the same day as Meta Connect 2023 – ahead of the official release date on October 10. You can choose between two models: a 128GB model at $499.99 / £479.99 (Australian pricing to be confirmed by Meta) and a 512GB option for $649.99 / £619.99 (Australian pricing to be confirmed by Meta). The only difference between the two is the on-board storage, so which one is best for you will depend on how many VR games and apps you want to have installed at any one time. 

The Meta Quest 3 and controllers on their charging station which is itself on a wooden desk next to a lamp

(Image credit: Meta)

Based on my experience with VR the 128GB model should be sufficient for most users. VR apps are generally fairly small in terms of file size, which means you should be able to download a lot before you fill up the headset. If you somehow do fill up the storage it’s also fairly easy to delete and redownload software quickly, as long as you have a decent internet connection.

That said, VR games are going up in scale, so 128GB might not go as far in the Quest 3 era. If you don’t like swapping out digital games, and you plan to use the Quest 3 a lot, you might need to invest in the larger model.

It’s also worth noting that the Quest 3 is pricier than the Oculus Quest 2 – which currently starts at $299.99 / £299.99 / AU$509.99 for the 128GB model – although as you’d hope for from a newer gadget the Quest 3 does offer some solid improvements that seem to justify the price.

Meta Quest 3: Performance

The Meta Quest 3 owes most of its performance improvements to the new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chipset that powers it – which Qualcomm describes as a literal “game changer” for XR. Other upgrades are the new 2064 x 2208 pixel displays (one per eye) and the bump to 8GB of RAM, from 6GB on the Quest 2.

According to Qualcomm and Meta, the new XR2 is able to deliver two-and-a-half times better graphical performance compared to the Gen 1 chip found in the Oculus Quest 2, while simultaneously delivering 50% better GPU efficiency – which should help to keep the headset from overheating, and the battery from draining too quickly. 

Speaking of which, Meta says the Quest 3’s battery can last for two hours and 12 minutes on average  – that sounds about right for a VR headset, but I haven’t yet been able to test the Quest 3’s battery for myself to see how long it lasts. With the included 18W charger the headset can reportedly be charged from 0% to 100% in roughly two hours.

Hamish wearing the Meta Quest 3 as he stands in front of a plant. He's looking at something in VR with wonder.

Mixed reality is very impressive on the Quest 3 (Image credit: Meta)

Numbers are one thing, but seeing the Quest 3 headset in action has sold me on the improvements Meta and Qualcomm claim the new Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip brings.

Text is notoriously difficult to read in VR, but the usually blurry letters had crisp defined edges that were clearly legible in the experiences I tried, such as Red Matter 2. As a matter of fact, all objects looked sharper, and free from the slight haze that outlines VR objects, causing them to blend together. Shadows and reflections look much more realistic too, which helps to bring VR and MR worlds to life.

In one demo for Red Matter 2, I was able to swap back and forth between the Quest 3 graphics and a Quest 2 emulation, and the difference in the visuals was striking. It was like going back to play one of my favorite PlayStation 1 games and realizing that the graphics are significantly worse than my nostalgia will let me remember. And in Assassin’s Creed Nexus, while the graphics weren’t on par with Red Matter 2, I was impressed by how busy the world felt, with large numbers of responsive NPCs and interactable items filling the space.

I’ll need to spend more time with the Meta Quest 3 to fully test how well it performs, but it does indeed appear to live up to Meta’s promise that this is its most powerful headset yet.

Meta Quest 3: Design

The Meta Quest 3 takes many of its design cues from the Quest 2, albeit with some enhancements that will be greatly appreciated by users.

The headset is a little heavier than its predecessor at 1.14lbs / 515g (the Quest 2 was 1.10lbs / 503g), but it’s a fair bit lighter than the 1.59lb / 722g Meta Quest Pro. It’s 40% slimmer than the Quest 2 though, and with the weight sitting closer to your face it does feel a little easier to wear (this is something I’ll only know for sure after using it for a few sessions that are longer than my 30-minute demo).

A more minor improvement (but one I love) is that IPD adjustments (how far the lenses are apart) are now managed by a little scroll wheel found underneath the headset’s visor. Unlike with the Quest 2, you don’t need to remove your headset to change how far the lenses are apart with the Quest 3, plus you’re not limited to three predetermined presets – you can scroll between a much wider range of options, so you can set the Quest 3’s lenses to suit you perfectly.

You’ll also see from the images that the Meta Quest 3 doesn’t just come in white; you can swap the strap, and some of the plastic casing, for orange and blue options. Unfortunately, these color options cost extra, but if you fall in love with your Quest 3 and want to personalize it they could be fun add-ons to pick up in the future.

A blue Meta Quest 3 and its controllers sit on a blue pedestal in a fancy looking building

The Meta Quest 3's left controller (Image credit: Meta)

Before trying out the Meta Quest 3 I was concerned that the controllers would be an issue. They don’t use a tracking ring, but unlike the Quest Pro’s controllers, which also lack tracking rings, they don’t have internal cameras to replace it.

Instead, the Quest 3’s handsets rely entirely on the headset’s cameras, IR LEDs in the controllers, and AI for tracking. I wasn’t convinced that this would be a suitable alternative, but having used the Quest 3 controllers I can report that they work just fine; in my demo I noticed no differences between using them and using the Quest 2’s controllers, save for the fact I no longer had to worry about a tracking ring bumping into something.

Meta Quest 3: Initial verdict

Like Meta’s previous Quest headsets, the Meta Quest 3 will support every single game and app currently on the Quest store. So if you own an Oculus Quest, Oculus Quest 2, or a Meta Quest Pro you’ll be able to bring your entire software library to the new headset.

You won’t just be enjoying old VR experiences, however – there are new and exciting mixed reality apps to explore with this headset. The Meta Quest 3’s standout feature is mixed reality with full-color passthrough. This isn’t new to Meta headsets – it first launched with the Meta Quest Pro – but the Quest 3 is the first headset in the affordable Quest line to get the feature. Plus, the Quest 3 does it better than the Pro.

The picture quality is significantly less grainy, and the colors look more vivid than what the Quest Pro’s passthrough produced. While the real world still doesn't look exactly true to life, the Quest 3’s video feed does make it look a lot more so, which I found helped to sell the mixed-reality experiences.

A recreation of what mixed reality looks, A Meta Quest 3 user is rolling a large virtual die for a medieval tabletop game that looks like its real but isn't.

A recreation of what mixed reality looks (Image credit: Meta)

Another boost to MR is the improved AI provided by the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2, which in collaboration with the headset’s depth sensor and other external cameras can not only automatically map out your floor, but walls and other objects in the room as well. This allows mixed-reality experiences to interact more realistically with the space around you, and I found this made the feature feel a lot less gimmicky than on other headsets I’ve tried. Usually I ignore MR, but on the Quest 3 I can see myself turning it on as often as games and apps allow – I can’t wait to return to the mixed-reality Stranger Things and Samba de Amigo experiences I played in my demo.

I haven’t yet had the chance to use them, but the Quest 3’s new Augments sound like they’ll be great uses of mixed reality too. These mixed-reality widgets can be used to decorate your real-world space, and offer a range of different features. You can set up portals to your favorite games, get live weather updates for your local area, or just place a pretty-looking sculpture in the space. Best of all, Meta says these Augments will stay where you put them; so if you decorate your space with Augments during one session and then enter mixed reality in the same space on another day, everything will be just how you set it up before.

It’s also now a lot easier to swap between virtual reality and mixed reality – you just double-tap the right side of the headset to change your view.

Meta Quest 3: Initial verdict

The Meta Quest 3 is an impressive VR headset that takes mixed reality very seriously too. While it’s not as affordable as Meta’s Quest 2, it offers enough improvements that I feel it’s higher launch price is justified.

There are a few features I want to spend more time with before passing a final verdict on this new headset, but based on my early impressions this could be not just one of the best standalone VR headsets Meta has made, for most people, it might just be the best VR headset that money can buy.

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