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I've tested Vision Pro and top XR headsets and this is the one most people should buy

Vision Pro is a $3,500 developer kit that isn't worth buying for most people. But, you should definitely schedule a demo at an Apple Store or buy this headset that ZDNET recommends for getting started with VR.
Written by Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief
Vision Pro on purple background

Apple Vision Pro

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

I've spent a couple months with the Apple Vision Pro, I've used the Meta Quest 3 almost daily since it launched in October 2023, and I've tried most of the other XR headsets available. I've also talked to XR developers about the state of the industry and their plans for the future. And I'd recommend most people should not buy an Apple Vision Pro -- unless you're planning to develop an app for it or you need to evaluate it for use in your organization or industry. 

That's my buying advice as plainly as I can state it, and I don't want to bury the lead.

Review: Apple Vision Pro: Fascinating, flawed, and needs to fix 5 things

Until Apple comes out with a $1,500 to $2,000 headset aimed at a broader audience and available in larger quantities, it's not worth considering a purchase just to use it for entertainment, video calls, or virtual monitors. Vision Pro will need a year or two for developers to come up with a lot more useful apps and experiences and for major partners like Netflix and Spotify to get interested enough to bring their content to the platform. 

If you already ordered a Vision Pro and you have buyer's remorse, don't worry. All Apple products have a two-week return policy. You can try it for a week or two and put my buying advice to the test, get a taste of the limited nature of Apple Vision Pro at the start, and get back your $3,500. 

Also: How to order Apple Vision Pro: Tips, tricks, and my secret to a good face scan

If you haven't ordered the Vision Pro but you're curious about what could possibly make this product cost this much then you should definitely book a demo at one of the Apple Stores that's offering them. It will be worth the trip. Most of the demo is full of impressive novelties. But there's something you have to see with your own eyes and that's the spatial videos and spatial photos. Apple's implementation of these is terrific and makes it worth putting your eyes in the headset.

The difference between regular photos and videos and spatial photos and videos is almost like the leap from black-and-white to color in photographs and film -- although this may be an even bigger jump. Looking at a good spatial photo or spatial video is more like stepping into a special moment than looking at an image or a recording. 

When I first saw it, I had an emotional reaction to it -- and immediately thought, "I wish I had this when my kids were little." I think most people will have a similar reaction and think about the most meaningful moments in their lives that they wish they could re-live. Mike Rockwell, the Apple executive who runs the Vision Pro team, confirmed at WWDC that the development team had a similar reaction when they all tested the feature for the first time and decided it had to go in the final product.

Apple Vision Pro vs Meta Quest 3

Apple Vision Pro (left) and Meta Quest 3 (right)

June Wan/ZDNET

But as amazing as spatial photos and spatial videos are to experience, it's not worth buying a Vision Pro just for them. In fact, you can capture spatial videos on an iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max today and view them on the $500 Meta Quest 3

We should also expect that a lot more smartphones are going to start capturing spatial photos and videos this year -- both additional iPhone 16 models this fall and lots of Android phones along the way. Remember that the Vision Pro competitor from Samsung and Google is still coming in 2024 and other headsets running Qualcomm's Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 are also on tap this year, promising specs to rival Vision Pro and much lower price points.

Also: How much does it cost Apple to make a Vision Pro headset?

If you take my advice and get a demo of Vision Pro at an Apple Store or try one out for a week or two and return it, then you may get a taste for how far these immersive digital experiences have come in the last few years. I'd still recommend you avoid buying a Vision Pro unless you fit the criteria I mentioned above. However, you might consider spending $500 on a Meta Quest 3 and start checking out over 500 apps already there. There are also some incredibly good and well-refined Quest apps like Supernatural and Puzzling Places. I'd recommend getting a Quest 3, watching the Vision Pro ecosystem evolve, and then circle back in a year or two when Apple comes out with a more affordable model that has a lot more apps available.

View at Amazon

If your business is looking to invest in VR, AR, and/or XR for use in product development, training, productivity, or other functions, you'd be better off with established platforms and partners like HTC Vive, Varjo, and Sony/Siemens since they have well developed enterprise programs along with experience with VR and digital twins in multiple industries such as construction, architecture, manufacturing, health care, government, law enforcement, and others. But, you may want to order a Vision Pro to begin testing it alongside those other headsets, if you're deeply invested in making XR a key part of your organization's future.

Also: I recorded spatial videos to view on Vision Pro and Quest 3 and you can download them

Clearly, the launch of Vision Pro is an important milestone for VR, spatial computing, and next-gen digital experiences. It's also an exciting step in the future of the immersive internet. But, most people should fight off the FOMO and avoid buying one. Go ahead and test it out. I'm sure you'll be as impressed with the build quality and the aesthetics of the device as I have been. And the spatial videos and spatial photos are truly emotional -- and have the potential to ignite a revolution. 

But if you simply want to start experiencing the next stage of immersive digital experiences, get a Quest 3 now or wait to see the wave of Vision Pro competitors that are coming in 2024 -- likely for half the price. And then circle back when Apple has a product and an ecosystem that's ready for broader adoption in another year or two.

This article was first published on January 29, 2024. 

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