XREAL Air 2 Review: A glimpse into the AR future

XREAL, formerly known as NREAL, launched a new pair of AR glasses recently. The name of the product is the XREAL Air 2, and I’ve been using these glasses for a while now, long enough to share my opinions in a review. I’ve used AR glasses in the past, but only briefly. This is my first full dive into the AR world, and it has been interesting, to say the least. The overall experience has been quite positive. For transparency’s sake, I’ve been using the device for about two weeks before forming an opinion. Also, before we get into it, do note that these glasses do not come with a battery, they’re powered by the device they’re plugged into, via a wire. That being said, let’s get down to it.

Table of contents

XREAL Air 2 Review: Hardware / Design

XREAL basically made these AR glasses to look as close to regular sunglasses as they could, considering the amount of tech it needs to be packed on the inside. They look a bit large, and slightly odd, but nowhere near what we had in the past. They do resemble the XREAL Air model, but are 10% lighter, thanks to a re-engineered build with magnesium alloy and plastic. Needless to say, weight is quite important here, as these need to sit comfortably on your face. XREAL also says that it “optimized weight distribution for balanced nose and temple pressure”. Did they? Well, I can tell you what I’ve experienced, that’s basically it. I haven’t used the first-gen model, so I can’t know for sure.

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There are three different nose attachments included in the box

In any case, these AR glasses come with three different nose attachments in the box, which is good to see. You can change it if it doesn’t suit you. I used the default one, but widened it a bit with my hands. That’s easily possible to do. Thanks to the fact these AR glasses are quite lightweight, at 72 grams, and the fact that the cushions on the nose attachments are very soft, I really didn’t have any issue using them. During my usage, I watched two movies back-to-back, so they were on my face non-stop for like 4+ hours, and I felt no discomfort. The same goes for my full 8-hour work day, which I’ll talk about later on. As I said, this is very important.

These glasses, in general, feel comfortable to use, and they also feel well-built. They don’t feel cheap at all, despite the fact plastic was used. I also appreciate the carrying case the company included along with the glasses themselves. Unlike the case for the first-gen model, this one is magnetic, which is a nice touch. The magnets are strong enough, and the glasses fit well on the inside, along with the cable. It’s a hardshell case, and it’s easy to open. It provides a ton of protection for the glasses, so I felt comfortable putting it in my backpack on a daily basis. Do note that a plastic attachment for the front side of the glasses is also in the box, but we’ll talk more about that in the display section. Another thing that is included in the box is an attachment for people with prescription glasses.

The speakers are surprisingly good

There is a speaker on each of the two arms/legs of these glasses. That speaker is down-facing, and as long as you’re not in a noisy environment, the sound is quite pleasant. XREAL made some improvements in that regard, and we’ll talk about that later on. The connector for the cable sits at the back of the left arm, and it’s a Type-C connector. You’ll essentially need a Type-C to Type-C cable (both male plugs), and one is included in the box. It’s long enough, so no worries there. It’s also braided, it doesn’t tangle easily. All in all, I’m very pleased with the build quality of the XREAL Air 2.

XREAL Air 2 Review: Display(s)

The XREAL Air 2 has two displays, actually, one for each of your eyes. When you do look at them, they trick your brain into thinking it’s only one. This is not new, we’ve seen this a ton of times in the past, but these glasses do have a really nice pair of displays. They also do a good job of portraying videos. Let’s get through the specs first, though. XREAL used two 0.55 Micro-OLED panels from Sony. Thanks to these, you can get a wall-size display in front of your eyes, up to 330 inches. These displays also provide a refresh rate of up to 120Hz for smoother gameplay. If you plan on using these glasses with a Steam Deck or Rog Ally, you’ll notice the difference.

The displays are 25% brighter this time around

These displays also offer up to 500 nits of brightness, and are 25% brighter than the ones on the XREAL Air. 500 nits may not seem like a lot compared to smartphones, but it is plenty for AR glasses. More on that soon. These displays provide a fullHD resolution, and have a 46-degree FoV. They are tuned to 60Hz by default, but you can get them to work at 72Hz with Nebula (app) for Android, 90Hz with Nebula for Mac/Windows, and at 120Hz with Air Casting.

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We just talked about a ton of technical stuff. The question is, however, are these displays any good? The answer is, yes… they’re great, actually. They were plenty sharp, and also more than bright enough. Granted, I did use these glasses for watching movies and TV shows most of the time, with the dimmer placed on top of the glasses. By “dimmer” I mean the plastic attachment that goes over the front glass. If you apply this, you can still barely see through the glasses, but only barely. This is made for when you’re sitting down, and relaxing with some movies, TV shows, or games. That dimmer attaches easily on the front, and it really does provide a much more immersive experience.

Make sure you take full use of the resolution here

I do have one thing to note, though, regarding the content. You’ll need an appropriate content quality in order to be fully immersed. I watched fullHD content on these glasses most of the time, but I did download lower-res content to see how it’ll look. I’ve noticed lower sharpness with HD content, and a lot more with 480p content. That’s something I notice on my TV too, but not to this degree, however. Considering that this is a headset, you will spot lower resolution more easily. Luckily, getting fullHD (and above) content these days is fairly easy, so that’s not something to worry about. It is worth noting, though.

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These AR glasses offer 4 display modes. I spent most of my time in the Body Anchor mode, but in addition to it, there are also Air Casting, Smooth Follow, and Sideview. Three out of four of these display modes do require the XREAL Beam accessory. The one that does not is the Air Casting mode, that’s the default one. It activates when you connect these glasses via a Type-C port, like with your smartphone, for example. In the ‘Body Anchor’ mode you can basically fixate an image in the air, so that it feels like you’re actually watching a TV, kind of.

Smooth Follow minimizes display movements, and you should probably use this one if you’re in a vehicle of some sort (as a passenger, of course). The last mode is called ‘Sideview’, and it basically minimizes the display and moves it to the side. Think of it as a picture-in-picture mode. They all have their uses, but as I said, I used the ‘Body Anchor’ mode the most.

XREAL Air 2 Review: Performance, use cases & XREAL Beam

The XREAL Air 2 smart glasses are actually quite versatile. I was expecting to use these glasses to watch multimedia only, but that didn’t end up being the case. Don’t get me wrong, I did watch plenty of multimedia content using them, but that’s not all I used them for. Now, you can simply plug in these headphones to a device that supports Display Port, and you’re good to go. Do note that some smartphones still don’t support it, so… be careful, and check before you get a pair.

Once you plug the glasses into a device that supports them, you can immediately start using them, as the display contents will be mirrored onto the glasses. You don’t really need to install anything, nor worry about that. If you do want to do more with these glasses, however, you’ll need to do more than that. First and foremost, do note that official software is available for Mac, Android, and Windows. The one for Windows is still in beta mode, but I did install it after some digging, to try it out. We’ll talk more about that in the software section, though.

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I used them instead of my work monitor for a full day, and…

Other than using these glasses for multimedia, which worked great, I also decided to do a full 8-hour work day using them. This review has also been written while I was using the glasses, well, partially. In order to take full advantage of the glasses, you’ll need something called ‘XREAL Beam’. That is an accessory that is sold separately, and is needed if you want to use various different modes these glasses have to offer, such as Body Anchor, that fixates the display onto a virtual surface.

This is definitely needed for some actual work to get done. That accessory also allows you to increase the size of the image displayed in front of you, and also pull it further towards your eyes, or push it further away. In other words, if you plan on using these glasses for anything other than multimedia consumption, you’ll need to get the XREAL Beam.

The XREAL Beam attachment has one major flaw, unfortunately

Now, the XREAL Beam does work fine, and is a good device, but it has one major flaw. If you connect it to your PC, for example, to do some work, via a wired, you won’t be able to charge it at the same time. It gives around 3.5 hours of use on a single charge, so you’ll have to charge it three times during an 8-hour shift. That’s not ideal, is it? Some of you may wonder if this thing has a wireless mode, well, yes, it does. That’s not a solution, though. Why? Well, because the device is unusable when you connect it wirelessly.

I tried that, and tried to fix it, but it didn’t work. The mouse pointer is extremely laggy, so it’s useless. After I wasn’t able to fix the problem, I went to read the manual, and XREAL says that wireless casting can be quite laggy, and that it’s recommended to use wired casting. So… you basically won’t be able to charge the XREAL Beam at the same time as using it, and that’s a major problem if you’re planning to use these glasses for productivity. I don’t know what’s the situation with Macs, if they worked better wirelessly, but with PCs it’s a lost cause, at least at the moment.

Other than that problem, the glasses worked great, to be quite honest. I didn’t have a single other issue while using them, both with Android and my Windows PC.

XREAL Air 2 Review: Software

In order to enable the full power of the XREAL Air 2, you’ll need to install software on each platform you’re using these glasses on. There’s a dedicated client for Macs and Windows (beta), and also Android. For Android the app is called ‘Nebula’, and it’s worth noting that the app is not available in all markets. I had to sideload it to my device in order to test everything properly. It seems like it’s enabled only in markets the glasses are being sold in, so… be careful if you don’t want to sideload.

The Nebula app works fine, but there’s so much potential here

Now, the app for Android enables you to enter a sort of AR mode. You can use three different large displays for whatever you want. On one you can place YouTube, on the other do some writing, and so on. The thing is, this mode does not pull all data from the Android phone it’s connected to, so you can’t really use it to the full extent from the get-go. It would be great if that were the case, but it’s not. This is more meant to be a showcase of sorts. There are also some apps included, provided by XREAL, that showcase what these glasses can do. When you’re in this mode, you’ll use your smartphone as a touchpad and a virtual pointer, basically.

The Windows app is still in beta

On Windows, the app doesn’t do much, though it’s in beta. It will basically make sure that you can use the extend display option properly, and that’s basically it. I didn’t use the Mac version, so I can’t really say much about that. Once again, in order to use these glasses for productivity purposes, for work and such, you’ll need the XREAL Beam, as it enables some crucial functionality. Check the previous chapter for more information on that.

XREAL Air 2 Review: Should you buy it?

Should you buy the XREAL Air 2 smart glasses? Well, the answer to that question is not all that simple, even if you have some cash to spare. These glasses are really well built, and they have great displays. The software is not bad either, and I really enjoyed using them for multimedia purposes. If only the XREAL Beam had a third port on it, I’d praise them for their productivity purposes too.

As things stand, however, if you’re planning on using them for work, to replace your monitor, that’s probably not a good idea. The sheer fact you cannot charge the XREAL Beam at the same time as using it in wired mode, it’s a problem. The battery doesn’t last long enough, and wireless casting is unreliable, which kind of ruined my experience with these glasses. It’s possible XREAL will fix this somehow, though. Other than that, rather major issue, the glasses have been outstanding.

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You should buy the XREAL Air 2 if you:

…don’t have a large TV at home
…are frequently traveling, and love to watch movies & TV shows
…want to try out using AR glasses instead of a monitor for work purposes
…want to enjoy playing Nintendo Switch or PS5 on the big screen without using a TV
…feel the need to try out one of the best AR glasses out there
…would like to see what the future tech may look like

You shouldn’t buy the XREAL Air 2 if you:

…want to use XREAL Beam features for extended periods of time