The mixed reality space has never been hotter with the likes of the Apple Vision Pro and Meta Quest 3 both releasing mainstream mixed reality headsets in the next 6 months. TCL RayNeo has dropped its own XR glasses in the NXTWEAR S, and I was honestly surprised with just how good these work, and it has me incredibly excited for the future.
The NXTWEAR S glasses work a little bit differently to how the Meta Quest 3 or Apple Vision Pro will. To put it simply, there’s no major computing happening inside of the glasses, with them instead acting as a pair of dual displays to project whatever they’re connected to into the real world.
I was a little bit daunted at the prospect of reviewing these at first, worried that it’d be too much effort for little reward, but if you’re using a compatible device (which we’ll get into later), it’s actually seamless.
Instantly upon connecting via USB-C, your content is projected through two 1080p/60hz Sony Micro OLED displays which provides a great amount of clarity and vibrancy beyond what I was expecting. The projected screen is apparently 130 inches (at 4 metres). It felt a little bit less than that to me, but still impressive nonetheless.
In the standard mode, it’s just like you’re wearing a clear pair of glasses with the content essentially floating in the real world, and even in the middle of the day, the brightness is enough to really cut through whatever you’re looking at. It does get a little bit blurrier the closer to the edge of the display that you look at, but for the most part, it’s super clear with minimal adjustments needed to get the full display in view of your eyesight.
If you want complete darkness (or want to make them look a little more like real glasses), there’s also a magnetic snap-on that not only makes them look a little bit more normal, but also blacks out the area that you’re looking at which provides a more expected VR experience. I do wear prescription glasses, so without them, the clarity was a little bit blurry, but wearing my real glasses underneath made everything crystal clear. There’s two lenses included in the box that you can take to your optometrist to get your prescription filled as well.
Putting the glasses on, I was immediately impressed with how comfortable they are at only just over only 82 grams. This is because there’s not a lot of computing action happening in the actual glasses, and there’s no battery inside them either, with the glasses either drawing power from the device they’re connected to, or the seperate power bank (which is also required for certain devices). Power draw was actually quite minimal as well, with my iPad only losing about 10% of power after watching an hour long show.
There’s speakers built into the device which are actually quite decent. They use a certain technology that blasts them into your ears without them being too noisy for those around you. The volume can be controlled with a slider on the underside of the glasses. There’s also another controller for brightness which ranges anywhere from super dim to much brighter than expected.
The biggest criticism for this devices comes in the range of how you connect to different devices. If you’re using an Android phone, iPad laptop, a Steam Deck, AYANEO device, it’s literally plugging in the magnetic connector to the glasses (so they don’t get flung off your face), and then the USB-C connector on the other end to your device. This will provide data and power to the glasses and it’s instant and super easy to use. With your iPad or phone for instance, it’ll mirror, and once you start playing a video in 16:9 it’ll represent the content on the display in the appropriate resolution. You can then sleep your device and enjoy watching on your glasses.
If you’re using an iPhone, or a HDMI device, it’s a little bit more complex. For iPhone, you need a portable adapter that also acts as a battery pack which will set you back another $159. It still works well, but it does mean that you need to carry around a secondary smaller unit that acts as a receiver between your phone and the glasses. It’s been well-created, and has your brightness and sound control on the unit, but it’s just an extra barrier to using the glasses and you also need to ensure it’s charged or else you won’t be able to connect. The magic of connecting over one cable and it instantly appearing loses a little bit of shine.
Similarly, if you’re using a HDMI connection, you’ll need a HDMI to USB-C adaptor that has power via a secondary USB-C cable, but I can’t see a lot of people using this with a gaming console, as you’d likely be in front of your TV at this point.
The biggest question with the NXTWEAR S and any other mixed reality device is use case, and that’s absolutely at the front of my mind here too. There’s no denying that it works incredibly well, and with the right device is super easy to connect, but the use cases will be quite specific.
I could actually see someone using this in bed rather than holding your phone or iPad in front of you, as well as on an airplane because it does a fantastic job of really immersing you in the space. Equally, I could also see it being used for work, as I found it much more comfortable looking directly forward rather than down at my laptop.
If you have a specific use case, whether it be one of these or another one that you can come up with, then the NXTWEAR S is actually a really great device that works exactly as advertised. At $700, it’s still very much a premium piece of tech, but it takes a lot less justifying at that price compared to what we’ll be paying for some other mixed reality devices.
The TCL NXTWEAR S XR glasses perform exactly as described. They project an extremely bright, vibrant and sharp image and are super easy to connect with the right device.