HP Reverb G2 Review | PCMag

The consumer virtual reality headset market thinned a bit over the last few years. Facebook/Meta simplified its Oculus lineup to just the standalone Quest 2, and HTC focused primarily on professional use with its Vive Pro and Vive Focus lines. Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform has seen a soft culling, too, and currently HP is the only company besides HTC that offers a consumer headset for it.

The HP Reverb G2 is a simple, accessible VR headset that’s similar to the first Reverb we tested in 2019. The headset’s motion controllers feel much better than its predecessor’s, and it all works with SteamVR far more reliably. At $599.99, the G2 is less expensive than the $999 Valve Index (our Editors’ Choice pick for tethered VR headsets) or the $799 HTC Vive Pro benefits 2, though those headsets feature technical features that the Reverb lacks. Meanwhile, the $299.99 Oculus Quest 2 (our overall Editors’ Choice pick for VR headsets) undercuts the G2’s price by half, and functions as a standalone headset that doesn’t require a connected PC. The HP Reverb G2 is a good headset on its own, and better than HTC’s aging, consumer-level, $699.99 Vive Cosmos headset. Still, it’s wedged between great competition.

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HP Reverb G2

Welcome Physical Tweaks

The Reverb G2 shares a general shape with the original Reverb, but with welcome upgrades in terms of comfort and motion tracking. The all-black headset has a smooth, plastic visor, with two forward-facing cameras on the front panel. They’re joined by a pair of cameras on the sides, which is an upgrade from the original Reverb. That said, it’s not as camera-laden as the six-lensed HTC Vive Cosmos. Like all Windows Mixed Reality headsets, the Reverb G2 relies entirely on these cameras to track its position, and doesn’t use external sensors or beacons like the Valve Index. A slider on the visor’s bottom adjusts pupillary distance (PD).

The front panel is no longer covered with fabric, but the Reverb G2 still has more overall cloth in its build than the first Reverb. The facemask is generously lined with memory foam covered in soft, smooth, gray cloth, with matching padding across the plastic rear strap. The harness is otherwise similar, using a three-point design with an elastic strap over the top of the head, and Velcro strips for setting a comfortable, snug fit across all three points. The facemask easily pops off, so it should be easy to clean if it gets sweaty (though with its plastic mount it isn’t machine-washable).

A pair of speaker drivers covered in black metal grilles sit mounted on small arms on the headband’s sides, and they pivot down to sit a short distance from your ears. The headset doesn’t have any other audio options, such as a headphone jack or alternate headphones.

Removing the facemask reveals a recessed port above the left lens where the nearly 20-foot cable plugs into the headset. The cable is angled to extend from the headset’s side, and a loop on the back headband keeps it from dangling over the left speaker. The cable runs into a permanently attached plastic box, from which two wires terminating in USB-C and DisplayPort plugs extend. To aid connectivity, the Reverb G2 comes with DisplayPort-to-mini-DisplayPort and USB-C-to-USB-A adapters.

The Reverb G2’s displays are largely unchanged from the original Reverb, which at the time was, and still is, very impressive. The headset shows 2,160 by 2,160 pixels per eye at 90Hz, with its LCDs eclipsing the Valve Index’s 1,440-by-1,660-per-eye LCDs. They even exceed the Oculus Quest 2’s 1,832-by-1,920-per-eye resolution. The HTC Vive Pro 2 still has them beat at 2,448 by 2,448 pixels for each eye, though, and the Index and Vive Pro 2 both beat out the Reverb G2 in smooth motion with 120Hz refresh rates.

The Reverb G2 comes with two motion controllers that act like a combination of the previous Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers and the Oculus Touch controllers. They have simple, black, plastic grips with large, LED-covered rings mounted above the controls to let the headset’s cameras track their positions, just like the original Reverb’s controllers. The touchpads under the thumbs have been replaced with two control buttons and two menu buttons on each controller, and the triggers are placed much more ergonomically, like the Oculus Touches’ triggers. They lack the Valve Index motion controllers’ incredible finger-tracking capabilities, but they’re still much improved over the original Reverb’s.


HP Reverb G2

HP Reverb G2’s Specs and Setup

The HP Reverb G2 is a PC-tethered headset designed to work with both SteamVR and Windows Mixed Reality. It requires a minimum of an Intel Core i5 CPU and an Nvidia GeForce 1080 or AMD Radeon 5700 GPU.

Setting up the Reverb G2 with the Windows Mixed Reality portal is simple, though you must take a few extra steps after that to access content. You plug the headset into a DisplayPort and USB-C port (or mini DisplayPort or USB-A port with the adapters), plug the small link box in the middle of the cable into power, and wait for Windows to detect the headset. After that, it immediately prompts you to install the WMR portal if it isn’t already installed, then walk you through making sure the controllers are properly paired and connected. Then the software instructs you to set a play area by holding the headset in front of your monitor and walking around the space’s boundary. You can also set the Reverb G2 to stationary mode, which keeps you in a small circle for using VR when sitting or standing still (helpful if you can’t set aside at least a 6.5-by-5-foot space to move around in , the recommended minimum for SteamVR).

Once everything is done, the WMR portal puts you in a virtual house filled with various VR experiences available on the Microsoft Store. You can play in this environment, and set up multiple web browser windows around you. There’s a sparse software selection, though. If you want to get the most from the headset, install SteamVR. Fortunately, this is also relatively simple, unlike the arduous balancing act the first Reverb required.

Steam should automatically detect the headset once it’s set up, and tell you to install SteamVR when you open the software. After it’s installed, you can open SteamVR by clicking the VR icon in Steam’s top-left corner. It drops you into the SteamVR home environment, and automatically uses the boundary you set up in Windows Mixed Reality. From here, you can open any compatible VR software, of which there are far, far more choices on Steam than in the Windows Mixed Reality section of the Microsoft Store. You can also jump straight into VR software from Steam on your desktop; SteamVR should automatically open with it, and initialize the headset.


HP Reverb G2

Sharp, Smooth, and Simple

Thanks to its high resolution, the Reverb G2’s picture is extremely sharp compared to the Valve Index’s. The HP Vive Pro 2 is sharper still, but it also costs more than twice as much as the G2. The headphone speakers are also loud and clear, and give a good impression of space since they float above the ear. The headset doesn’t have headphone earpads, so it lacks noise isolation, and anything you can hear on the headset can be heard by anyone around you.

The camera-based motion tracking on the Reverb G2 is generally solid, though not quite as consistent as the Valve Index or Vive Pro 2, since they both use external sensors. This is especially noticeable with the motion controllers, since their position and orientation can be disrupted if you move them out of the headset camera’s line of sight. I experienced a few hiccups with the motion controllers, but nothing that broke the experience.

Aim Lab VR and Nvidia VR Funhouse are both simple shooting gallery games that work well with the Reverb G2 and its controllers. Tracking is accurate, and aiming feels snappy and natural. Aim Lab VR is graphically simple to a fault, but Nvidia VR Funhouse’s colorful design and various effects look bright and sharp on the headset.

Project CARS Pagani Edition also looks clean and accurate on the Reverb G2. The game doesn’t use motion controllers, so the headset’s controllers aren’t a factor for this one.

VRChat looks as good as VRChat can look on the Reverb G2, and the controllers work perfectly with it. I found moving around different VR spaces smooth and natural, and interacting with objects was an effortless affair. I experienced the aforementioned motion tracking hiccups in this game, since freely moving around offers much more opportunity to let the headset’s cameras lose track of the controllers. Still, the glitches weren’t too jarring, and quickly corrected themselves. The headset’s speakers delivered clear sound effects and voice chat.

HP Reverb G2

The Shaky Middle Ground

As an entry-level VR package, the HP Reverb G2 works well out of the box, but sits in an awkward middle ground between the standalone, entry-level, $299 Oculus Quest 2 and the $999, enthusiast-level Valve Index. The Quest 2 is just as functional as a tethered PC headset with the optional $80 Oculus Link cable, though, and still costs less than the Reverb G2. It functions as a standalone VR headset, as well.

In the other direction, the Index has a lower resolution, and is much more expensive than the Reverb G2. However, its base stations provide superior motion-tracking—it has the best motion controllers in VR today. The Reverb G2 doesn’t use base stations, so swapping its controllers for Index controllers requires getting base to go with them. This bumps the upgrade price from around $300 to around $500, almost as much as the headset itself.

If you plan to only use tethered VR, and want the sharpest picture for the lowest price, the Reverb G2 is worth considering. The Quest 2 is still a better overall selection for its flexibility and convenience, though the Valve Index remains our PC-tethered, Editors’ Choice pick for its excellent controllers.

Pro

  • High resolution for the price

  • Comfortable headset and controllers

  • Works reliably with SteamVR

Cons

  • Camera-based tracking has occasional hiccups

  • Much more expensive than the Oculus Quest 2, even when factoring the optional cable for PC tethering

  • Windows Mixed Reality is almost completely dead as a VR platform

The Bottom Line

The redesigned HP Reverb G2 VR headset offers a more comfortable fit and reliable experience than its predecessor, while maintaining the same sharp picture and reasonable price. It lacks some of the competition’s more compelling benefits, though.

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