WEARABLE tech is the talk of the town thanks to the Apple Vision Pro.
But with a hefty price tag of $3499 (£2,773) it’s way out of the affordability range for most people.
There are some less powerful alternatives around for those who are more interested in basic visual content – ie watching TV and movies – than augmented reality features.
That’s where XREAL hopes to come in with its smart glasses that are a fraction of the cost – and the company has plans for something even bigger in March to take on Apple.
So, what better place to test out a wearable than during a long flight in the comfort of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, where I can lay back and see if the XREAL Air 2 Pro is worthwhile.
XREAL Air 2 Pro: How does it work?
The XREAL Air 2 Pro can connect to anything that supports USB-C – which is most things these days – so Android phones, laptops and even games consoles.
Obviously, the iPhone 15 has just adopted USB-C so it works with that too, but for older iPhones still with the lightning cable you really need a separate device called the “Beam” for it to work fully – more on that later.
The XREAL Air 2 Pro basically creates a virtual projection of whatever is on the screen of the device you’ve plugged in.
What you see can be expanded to create a virtual floating screen up to 130-inches wide, all generated from two 0.55-inch Sony micro-OLED displays with a 1080p resolution.
The XREAL Air 2 Pro is a game-changing gadget for a totally different viewing experience, especially if you love good telly and a movie
The Pro version has electrochromic dimming so you can overlay the glasses with a clear or shaded view – an attachable light cover makes it completely dark.
There are swappable nose clips to keep it comfortable and you can even add prescription lens (at an additional cost).
XREAL has an app of AR games called Nebula… but I couldn’t get it to work, which leads onto my next point.
XREAL Air 2 Pro: Set-up
Set-up of the XREAL Air 2 Pro is a bit of a faff depending on the device you’re using.
If you’ve got a USB-C smartphone then it’s certainly a lot easier – although not every handset is supported so be sure to check XREAL’s list before.
But with an iPhone using a lightning cable (and other non-supported devices) you’ll have to buy the separate Beam display adapter – and there are a whole load of wires involved as you can see in the image below.
While this is a bit messy, the Beam enables you to switch between modes such as a static screen, one that moves with you or a picture-in-picture (so the video is a small insert in the corner).
If you’re using a computer, you can create multiple screens around you.
Once connected to your phone, it essentially mirrors whatever is shown on the handset’s screen – so you need not miss out on any apps.
Of course, when flying you really need to think ahead and download some shows or movies, which is exactly what I did with Netflix.
XREAL Air 2 Pro: What’s it like?
Laying back and being able to watch what I want on my Virgin Atlantic flight from a huge virtual screen no one else could see was a dream.
I prefer keeping the display to a locked position – the option that moves with you made me feel dizzy.
The images are really sharp though 4K would have been even better.
Sound comes out of tiny speakers built into the glasses which were not powerful enough for a flight, so Bluetooth earbuds were definitely a must (and I would probably advise them away from flights too so you’re not annoying people).
The ability to dim the glasses is the key difference between the XREAL Air 2 and XREAL Air 2 Pro, which is a handy addition, however most of the time I preferred using it with complete darkness. You can just add the cover to make it 100 per cent black.
XREAL Air 2 Pro: Verdict
The XREAL Air 2 Pro is a game-changing gadget for a totally different viewing experience, especially if you love good telly and a movie like me.
They don’t look wacky and they’re pretty comfortable too, especially when tucked under a cosy quilt on a flight with Virgin Atlantic.
I just wish there weren’t so many wires to get tangled in.
And the Beam device should be included with every unit as standard, not treated as an extra add-on to pay for (at £119 / $119) as it provides so much more.
The XREAL Air 2 Pro on its own costs £449 / $449 which is also quite steep for most consumers.
XREAL recently revealed a new Air 2 Ultra with added hand tracking that’s being mooted as a real rival to the Apple Vision Pro which I’m intrigued to try next.