The HP Reverb G2 is easily the most exciting virtual reality headset that you can buy in 2021. Furthermore, it is also one of the more affordable options.
When evaluating virtual reality headset options, I considered the more established VR names first: HTC, Valve and Oculus. HP was admittedly low on the ladder of options until I did some digging into the HP Reverb G2.
You will probably hear about this in every review, but the most impressive thing about the Reverb G2 is the screen resolution and audio quality. While it only has a 114-degree field of view, don’t let that trick you into thinking more expensive options are necessarily better because they offer larger FOV.
Screen-wise you get MURA free 2160 x 2160 LCD panels per eye and full RGB stripe and mechanical IPD adjustment, which results in a high clarity display.
Most noteworthy is the screen door effect that has plagued VR headsets since Oculus CV1, where you can see between the pixels like you’re staring through a screen door is no more. This ultimately makes the Reverb G2 the highest quality virtual reality headset on the market right now.
Installation & Setup
The setup process is simple and effortless. Really, there is not much to the headset. You get a little dongle box which has three cables running off of it. Two of those are a DisplayPort and USB-C cable which run into your computer.
Fortunately, my motherboard has dedicated USB-C ports; however, I have read you will run into issues if you attempt to use the front USB-C ports on your case (most likely underpowered). If you don’t have any USB-C ports, you will get a USB-C to USB-A adapter in the box.
During setup (because I am stupid) I admittedly took longer than expected to find where on the headset you plug the long 6m cable into. I then realised the face mask needs to be removed and you’ll find a deep hole and connector at the top left of the headset.
The cable size, while great for moving in a room, is MASSIVE for seated use. I purchased this headset primarily to experience VR seated, not standing in a room (I would have chosen something with proper room tracking if I wanted that).
Neatly running the cable through the headset also proved to be difficult for me (once again, I’m not very bright). Even once I got the cable neatly in, one thing that irked me was I could feel the weight of the cable against me (the cable is quite chunky). It’s a minor thing, but still annoying.
Once you get everything connected, provided you’re on Windows 10, and you’re up-to-date, the Windows Mixed Reality setup process should automatically start with some calm music. This step took about 20 minutes or so and will get you to pair your controllers and then it’ll spend an inordinate amount of time downloading something.
From pairing the controllers to getting things set up, it’s an easy process mostly anyone could follow. Getting the cables to run to your headset and computer neatly seems to be the tricky part of the setup, the 6m cable will always get in the way.
SteamVr is an extra step
Presumably, you got this headset to play the trove of VR games on Steam. To play Steam VR games, you will need to setup SteamVR which is an additional step (you don’t just open Steam and play).
Microsoft has provided some documentation on getting SteamVR setup here. Once you have installed, make sure you restart your PC. I didn’t restart and had problems getting SteamVR working.
How comfortable is it?
I have owned Google Cardboard VR headsets, I have owned a couple of the Samsung VR headsets and I even owned a PSVR headset before I sold my PS4. The one thing these all have in common is they are not very comfortable.
Wear a VR headset on your face for a while and many are prone to getting a little sweaty, your face hurts from improper padding or the weight imbalance gives you a neck cramp. I was surprised how comfortable the Reverb G2 was to wear, not only in weight distribution, but also padding.
Further compounding this is the fact that I wear glasses. Look, I am not going to lie, I tried wearing my glasses and it was a tight fit. Fortunately, my glasses are mostly for reading/small screens, so I just didn’t wear them in the headset, but I can foresee glasses being a problem.
I try and limit my VR experiences to maximum one hour. Because I am not used to VR, it has a tendency to make me a little sick and I think for many, this is a normal reaction.
Also, don’t be discouraged if you are new to VR. There will be a period of time when you will see the frame (plastic shrouding) of the lenses. I liken this to getting glasses for the first time. For a couple of weeks when I first got glasses, I could see through them, but my eyes would also see the frames themselves, and it was a little jarring at first.
Eventually, you will reach this moment where you don’t see the outer part of the headset and just through the lenses, completing the immersion.
In terms of tracking, the Reverb G2 is a case of you get what you pay for. While it has 4 cameras for tracking on the headset, don’t expect laser level tracking you will find on other more expensive VR headsets like the HTC Vive or Valve Index.
Still, I didn’t really experience any issues with tracking. I have primarily used the Reverb G2 for seated VR experiences and had no issues. I haven’t really done any room level movement VR, and I don’t feel the need.
At the end of the day, the Reverb G2 is going for the consumer market and not the hardcore gamer or VR developer who will undoubtedly want something more fully-featured. For the price you pay, you get one of the best screens, the audio is fantastic, and field of view at 114 degrees is respectable.
Once again, you get what you pay for. The Reverb G2 controllers are the standard Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality controllers. And for the most part, they are great.
The layout of the buttons and way they sit in your hands is intuitive, and you do get used to them quite fast. Tracking, the headset seems to work really well with them and provided you’re keeping them in the bounds of your headset, they will never drop out.
The only bad thing I have to say about these controllers is that battery life doesn’t seem impressive. I mean, they are not going flat after a few hours, but after light-ish use, I found the batteries lasted just a little over a week. So, I recommend getting rechargeables to ensure you always have batteries (two AAs per controller).
One thing you will be most impressed with (besides the screen resolution) is the audio. Two little pull down speakers that sit above your ears have fantastic response and immersion. The audio is the same tech used in Valves more expensive Index headset (Valve and HP collaborated on the Reverb G2).
With other headsets I have tried, using headphones/earphones just breaks the immersion. There is something about speakers sitting above your ears (as opposed to being on them) that makes the sound feel so much more real, spatial and immersive.
In terms of distortion or anything else that might dull the audio experience, I didn’t encounter any issues. I wasn’t exactly listening to heavy bass music through this headset though, Half-Life: Alyx (recommended below) sounds amazing through these speakers.
When it comes to flagship VR titles, the one game that you show people when they come over, undoubtedly Half-Life: Alyx is the title you should show them. As far as VR titles go, Half-Life: Alyx hits the mark in every single aspect.
From visuals to audio, to immersion, Half-Life: Alyx is the title you want to load first when you get your Reverb G2. And despite the fact that Valve has a more expensive headset of its own called the Valve Index, the G2 works well with SteamVR and this game.
If you buy any VR experiences, make sure this game is the first one that you buy and you won’t regret it. This will validate your VR purchase, instead of other VR experiences which feel like demos more than full games.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020: VR
While I would consider Half-Life: Alyx to be the showcase game for VR, in terms of polish and immersion, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is a close second. Despite the fact MSFS only added VR support in December 2020, if you have the PC specs, it’s an incredible game for VR.
I did have to play around with the settings a bit to get my RTX 3070 working with the Reverb G2. MSFS 2020 is a taxing game spec-wise, even those with 3080’s struggle to get good performance at times. If you want to try it out, this Reddit thread was immensely helpful.
I wouldn’t put MSFS 2020 first on the list even though VR in this game is unlike anything else, and not everyone has the specs to run this game in VR at a resolution decent enough to make using a VR headset worth using.
NoLimits 2: Rollercoaster Simulator
Now, here is a title that I never thought I would enjoy. NoLimits 2 is a well-known rollercoaster simulator with virtual reality support. The graphics are surprisingly well done, and while NoLimits is more of a sandbox simulator than a game, it’s quite fun.
You can download a heap of rollercoaster designs, and if you’re adventurous, you can even make your own roller coasters well. The only downside is you have to use your mouse to interact with this game, the Reverb G2 controllers won’t work, and apparently, it’s an issue with other headsets.
Word of warning, you don’t want to play this game for extended periods of time, it will wear you out.
For the price, the HP Reverb G2 is one of the best headsets around. If you’re only going to be casually experiencing VR and you can live without features such as room-scale tracking, the Reverb G2 is the best headsets you can buy right now.