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Lenovo Star Wars Jedi Challenges review: The first AR helmet to make you feel like the last Jedi

Yes, there's a way to use a lightsaber and play Holochess at home. It just requires a phone and $200.

Scott Stein
Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
5 min read

"This is epic!" So said my son when I strapped the mirrored headset to his face and stood off to the side as he swung a lightsaber in the air. He was fighting battle droids. I was making sure he didn't break anything.


Lenovo Star Wars Jedi Challenges

The Good

The self-contained headset is wireless and generates some decent holographic effects. Will run on even some older iPhones and Android phones. A good handful of challenges and game modes. Comes with its own lightsaber hilt.

The Bad

Doesn't always track your movements or the lightsaber very well. Lightsaber sometimes drops up out of sync. Requires a phone. Inserting and setting up the phone isn't easy or quick. Who knows if this will ever run other games?

The Bottom Line

Lenovo's AR helmet for phones feels like a clever mini-HoloLens for Star Wars fans, but as a standalone headset with no other software, it's a tough sell.

You too, could be a lightsaber-wielding warrior in your own home, if you get Lenovo and Disney's clever Star Wars: Jedi Challenges kit. But you should know what you're getting into.

Watch this: We tried being AR Jedi with Lenovo's headset

Unlike VR , Jedi Challenges makes it look like holographic enemies and challenges are floating around you in augmented reality. It's less immersive than VR, but less nauseating, too... and more fun for casual play and kids.

Firing up a lightsaber for the first time has a bit of a magic feel to it. Yeah, it kinda made me feel like a Jedi. But the game's sometimes spotty controls and it only works with a phone -- and unless you have a spare, it'll be your own. This makes it harder to pick up and play than it should be.


What's in the box: Headset, lightsaber, glowing ball for tracking, charger and dongles.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The $200 set includes a helmet with half-mirrored lenses that needs a phone to work. It also has a rechargeable lightsaber accessory with motion controls that turns into an augmented-reality tool of Jedi power.

Like a mini HoloLens , Lenovo's tech involves mixed-reality hologram effects rather than VR. The headset makes 3D images look like they're floating in front of you, overlapping with the real world like ghosts. It can keep those holograms lined up with the real world thanks to a battery-powered, glowing ball-shaped light, which sits on the floor and acts as an anchor point to help the headset track your room and layer Star Wars enemies over it.


You might look like this.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Imagine Jedi Challenges as a Jedi training simulation. That's the tone of the hologram-type imagery and the various level designs, which ramp up in three difficulties across a variety of different planetary themes.

Motion-based lightsaber faceoffs against stormtroopers, battle droids, and sith lords are just a third of what you'll play. There's also Holochess (remember that game with holographic monsters on the Millennium Falcon?). It's only single-player, but a variety of puzzle challenges come close to feeling like you're actually playing for real. A third mode is a tower defense game set across the floor all around you. Miniature battles take place, and the lightsaber becomes a motion wand to position Jedi and turrets to win battles against waves of enemies. It feels like there's a miniature Star Wars battleground at your feet.


Hovering Holochess!

Sarah Tew/CNET

These games are fun and sometimes impressive-looking, but there are some real drawbacks. The motion tracking is buggy, and sometimes blanks out when you get too close or too far from the ball-shaped light on the ground. Holograms can look like they're in the room with you, but other than matching the floor's level, the game has no boundary detection. Stormtroopers will unintentionally walk through walls, and your HoloChess game will overlap with your sofa if you're not careful. You need to clear a large area.

Last Jedi content coming soon

Lenovo has an update coming in January with extra levels from the new movie that I haven't played yet. The extra levels will include battles against "Last Jedi" characters including Praetorian Guards. There's also a strategy level set on the planet Crait and apparently you'll earn augmented-reality porgs. I have no idea what that'll be like, since I haven't tried them. But extra for free is fine with me.

The game's levels span old and new Star Wars (that includes the prequels, so expect battle droids), and there's enough there to keep you busy for a while.


Sometimes, your augmented lightsaber blade doesn't stay straight.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Bent lightsaber syndrome

Headset and lightsaber tracking gets wonky at times. The game tracks a floor sensor's glowing light and uses it to calibrate your AR lightsaber. Sometimes it really felt like a glowing blade was emerging from my saber hilt. But after a few minutes, my lightsaber starting bending. Was my Jedi weapon defective?

The game recommends occasionally pressing a reorienting button on the lightsaber hilt. It lets you center the blade again by aiming at the little glowing floor-light. This happened to me a few times as I kept playing, and I'm told it happened to others too. Basically, it's imperfect AR tracking at work.


You need to load your phone into this, though, and it's not easy at all (note dongle and weird plastic sleeve).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Setup is rough

Jedi Challenges is surprisingly fun, but don't expect this to be easy for kids to use.

First, you need a phone. Jedi Challenges and the Lenovo Mirage headset supports a variety of phones

I tested with an iPhone 8 Plus and a Moto Z2 Force. Oddly, with Lenovo's own Z2 Force, I had issues: the display felt a bit off-center, and the headset design blocked the phone's speakers. (I'd recommend a Bluetooth headset , anyway).

Second, the Mirage headset isn't perfect for younger kids. My 9-year-old had a tough time keeping the headset on -- it's a big, slightly top-heavy visor.

Third, you'll have to make sure the lightsaber is paired and the software is launched before putting the phone in the Mirage headset. Sometimes I had some issues where phone pop-up messages stopped the game from playing.


How many AR headsets will start arriving next year?

Sarah Tew/CNET

The future of AR headset toys

Disney's collaboration with Lenovo feels like the first step in what's bound to be a long line of AR-enabled headsets mixed with games and toys. Jedi Challenges is impressive: A quasi-HoloLens on the cheap that works across iOS and Android alike. It's self-contained, can be taken anywhere, and it does an impressive job of projecting 3D images using a phone.

Will Disney expand Lenovo's Mirage headset to other properties such as Marvel? Disney representatives wouldn't confirm or deny, but it definitely seems possible. And maybe, with better tracking, headsets like the Mirage could do even more things: I'd like to see it track my hands and objects in the room, or play a wider variety of games than just this Star Wars one. I wish it was easier to set up, didn't require a phone, and cost less. $200 is a lot for what amounts to a fun gaming novelty.

But if you're a Star Wars fan who wants a really cool toy, well, come on over to the augmented side.


Lenovo Star Wars Jedi Challenges

Score Breakdown

Immersion 7Interaction 7Comfort 6Ecosystem 5Setup 6
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