While Apple, Meta and others continue to work with full-on headsets for augmented reality (AR), Nreal has been selling much smaller AR glasses since 2021. Now the company, which has rebranded to Xreal, just released a new version called the Xreal Air 2 in Europe and the US, after launching it in China last month. It offers improved displays and more comfort, and the company also unveiled the Xreal Air 2 Pro with electrochromic dimming, letting you select the level of immersion from zero to 100 percent.
Xreal (the X stands for extra, the company said) promises that the Air 2 glasses “turn whatever the wearer is viewing into a big screen experience, up to 330 inches.” To that end, it uses Sony’s latest 0.55-inch Micro-OLED display, up from the 0.68-inch Micro-OLED used before (Apple also uses Micro-OLED tech in its Vision Pro mixed reality headset). As before, it can display full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 per eye, with a refresh rate up to 120Hz. Along with the higher resolution, it features 500 nits of brightness, compared to 400 nits on the original Nreal Air.
The Air 2 is also 10 percent thinner and 10 percent lighter (from 79 grams to 72 grams, which is actually 8.9 percent by my calculation), according to Xreal. It also comes with improved elastic temples, new “AirFit” nose pads and softer materials. All of that is designed to improve comfort and allowing for longer use when watching movies and other content, according to the company. As before, it connects to devices via USB-C with video (DisplayPort) output with no wireless option, so you’re effectively tethered to a device.
Xreal also improved the audio speaker system by incorporating “spatial wrap-around auto delivery” via an open ear design targeted at the wearer. “This brings enhanced privacy and minimizes disruption to others when in public spaces,” the company said. It also improves voice and video calls, since the Xreal Air 2 can let you take audio from a smartphone or tablet.
The more desirable model is the Xreal Air 2 Pro. It introduces electrochromic dimming that lets you select three modes, including a transparent mode that blocks no light, letting you use the glasses while still seeing the outside world. “Productivity mode” blocks 35 percent of outside light, so you can focus better without shutting out your surroundings entirely, while immersive mode blocks all light for gaming, entertainment, etc.
Much like the original Nreal Air, the Xreal Air 2 seems mainly aimed at viewers for YouTube videos, light gaming, movies, etc. There are no cameras or motion sensors included, so it effectively acts as a personal projector, with the screen moving as you move your head (hello, nausea). However, you can buy an accessory called Xreal Beam ($119) which adds gyroscopic tracking and keeps the screen fixed in place when you move, while also allowing for additional wired connectivity options that apparently reduce latency. According to reviews on the device, it works in much the same way as the original Air, but is lighter and more comfortable.
Considering what it can’t do, the Xreal Air 2 is pretty expensive at $399 (in black or red), while the Air 2 Pro is $449. For full functionality, you need the Xreal Beam, which brings the price up to $518 and $568 respectively — more than the Meta Quest 3. Shipping is expected to start in the US and UK in November 2023, and elsewhere in Europe in December.