Lenovo Explorer headset gears up for a mixed-reality holiday

Lenovo's ready to join the Windows Mixed Reality games.

Lori Grunin Dan Ackerman

Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a semi-regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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2 min read

Lenovo was one of the first companies to preview a headset based on Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality platform last January at CES, and it's one of the first give it a name and a price, as well. The Lenovo Explorer will cost $350 -- $450 with a set of handheld motion controllers -- when it arrives in October. (I don't have UK or Australian prices, but those convert to £270/£350 and AU$445/AU$570.)

It joins the Dell Visor plus HP and Acer's generically named competitors, gearing up for the Windows Fall Creators Update and the end-of-year shopping season. They're all based on the same reference platform, which means there isn't a lot of wiggle room for differentiation; some padding here, some color there, glossy or matte plastic seem to be the distinctions and the same goes for the controllers. The actual specs and fundamental design -- from screen resolution to connections to the cable management on the headband -- are the same. In that respect, Lenovo's looks like the most staid of the bunch.

One advantage of mixed reality compared with traditional VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two integrated cameras used to track your position. In comparison, the VR designs require external sensors, so you have to block out a fixed space in which to use them. And with mixed reality, the cameras transmit to the headsets' screens, which lets it mix the real world with the virtual.

A collection of Windows Store apps will be supported, as well as a bunch of Lenovo-specific apps from its own branded Entertainment Hub. With a newer Intel CPU, it'll even be able to play some VR content, mostly simple things like 360 videos, without needing a separate graphics card in your laptop or desktop.

But it looks like there are still quite a few rough edges in the ecosystem, so you might want to check back in October before putting any of these on your holiday shopping list.