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Lenovo Mirage Solo review: should you buy it?

Various months ago, I got from Lenovo a Mirage Solo Headset for a limited period of time to review it on my blog. I published various posts about it both here and on my social media channels, but I realized that I never published a proper review of the device. So, here we are, entering 2019 with me fulfilling my promise to Lenovo and closing this series of “should you buy it?” review of standalone headsets (you can find in other posts the ones related to Oculus Go and HTC Vive Focus).

Ready to get to know the Lenovo Mirage Solo as if you had it? Then, keep reading

Unboxing

The box of the Lenovo Mirage Solo is maybe the one that I liked the most among the ones of all the standalone headsets. it is very colorful and also a bit artistic.

The drawing on the top of the box containing the Lenovo Mirage Solo

Inside, the content has no special arrangement: there is just the headset, plus a little box that contains some accessories: an instructions book, the charger, USB-C cable, earphones, a marvelously useless warranty & safety little book and of course the controller. There is everything you need, but not the same wonder that you have when you open the box of a product made by Oculus.

If you want to watch an unboxing video in which I have a terrible hairstyle and a WIDMOvr T-shirt that makes you feel in summer again, here you are:

The headset

The Mirage Solo looks like a device that is well made. Its main colors are black and white, and so it looks quite elegant. it is bigger than the Oculus Go but smaller than the massive HTC Vive Focus.

From left to right: Lenovo Mirage Solo, Oculus Go and Vive Focus

On the front side of the headset, that is black, you can find the two cameras used for the inside-out 6 DOF tracking of the device. When you wear it, the two cameras may seem a bit your eyes and you look like a robot. Anyway, you look in a different way than with the Vive Focus… you don’t seem Bender, but another robot.

The front side of the Lenovo Mirage Solo

On the left side, there is the Daydream logo, that reminds the user that this is a product whose software has been offered by Google, and the Lenovo logo, because this hardware has been manufactured by Lenovo. There is also the USB-C port, that is used to charge the headset, and next to it the slot where to insert an SD Card that can be used to expand the storage of the headset and also to move multimedia from the headset to other devices and vice versa.

Left view of the headset. That little slot next to the USB-C port is where you put the SD Card

On the right, there is the button to turn the headset on and off. The button also embeds a little status led that gets lit when the device is turned on.

Below the main button, there are three elements related to audio: two buttons to turn the volume up or down and a 3.5mm jack where to connect your earphones.

Right view: here you control the audio of your experience

Looking the headset from the back, you may notice of course the lenses and the sensor that checks if you are wearing the device. You can also see all the foam that is used to make the headset more comfortable.

This is the headset seen from the back

The headset has a fitting mechanism that is different from the one used in other headsets like the Vive Focus or the Go. It seems the one of WMR headsets: there is a pad that goes on your forehead and then a big ring made to enclose your head and that you can fit using a knob that is in the rear part. The ring is fixed and doesn’t go up and down.

The knob that you must rotate to make your headset fit your head

On the top, there is nothing special to see, while on the bottom you can see a button. Initially, I thought that this was used to adjust IPD, while actually it is used to fit the headset better on your head (and also to adjust the focus). Once you have secured the big ring to your head, you can press the button and make the headset slide forward and backward, until it feels comfortable. On the bottom there is also the microphone.

Top view of the device: from here you can appreciate better the closing mechanism, with the ring that goes all around your head
That button is used to make your headset fit better to your face

The general impression on the design is positive: nothing extraordinary, but the headset looks solid. The production quality is good and the headset is also quite light.

The controller

The controller of the Lenovo Mirage Solo is the standard 3 DOF controller that is included with all the Daydream devices.

The Lenovo Mirage Solo controller is just a standard Daydream controller

On the main panel of the controller you have a touchpad, two buttons and a status led. This is how you control all the applications.

It is curious to notice that there is no trigger for the index finger on the front of the controller. And while this eliminates some ambiguities in performing actions in VR between pressing the touchpad and clicking the index trigger that there are in other headsets (like the Vive Focus), I can really tell you that I felt the need of having an additional trigger more times than I wanted.

On the side of the controller, there are two buttons to change the volume of your VR experience easily. On the back, there is the Daydream logo.

Bottom view of the controller. You can also see the volume buttons that are on the side

I loved that this controller is the only one among the ones of the various standalone headsets that can be charged via USB. There are no batteries that have to be changed: it suffices to connect the controller to a USB charger for some hours. Really, this is awesome: considering how many batteries I consume every month, I can assure you that having a chargeable controller makes me happy.

This little scared face that you find on the controller is composed by the two holes where to insert the string to secure the controller to your arm and by the USB-C port to charge the device.

The controller is very elegant and light. It feels very polished and high-quality. It fits quite well in the hand, but it has not the natural shape offered by the one of the Oculus Go. Furthermore, I really felt the absence of the frontal trigger.

Comparison of the three controllers of the three standalone headsets: from left to right, we have Oculus Go, Mirage Solo and Vive Focus
Comfort

The comfort of the Lenovo Mirage Solo is really mediocre.

To me the situation has been this one: I’ve unboxed the device and I saw that it was pretty cool. I couldn’t wait to turn it on, so after the unboxing video, I positioned it on my head and turned it on. But the headset didn’t feel in the right position, so I started playing with the rear knob, but it didn’t feel right the same. I then decided to use the button on the bottom to make the headset fit better, but again with no luck. Whatever thing I could do, the headset had always something that didn’t feel right. In the end, I gave up to keep an uncomfortable headset on my head.

Uhm, this doesn’t fit well on my head

That’s a big issue of the headset because the bad comfort really ruins the first impression of every user. Rob Cole has published on this blog a great guest post on the importance of ergonomics in virtual reality and this headset clearly showed me why ergonomics are so fundamental: if a headset feels uncomfortable, no user can love it completely.

The internal sponge is not super soft, so the headset has not even that fluffiness on the face that I loved that much about the Daydream View.

Add to it that the headset doesn’t even have an IPD adjustment mechanism and that the display is not a flip-up one and you obtain why I say that this goggle has mediocre comfort. The only good thing that I have found about the comfort is that it fit well with my nose, and so I had no light coming from the bottom.

The controller, as I have said, is good… but also that one doesn’t follow exactly the shape of the hand, and so doesn’t feel completely natural when holding it.

Many people complained about the ergonomics of the Mirage Solo, but I also found some that said that it is the best-in-class for them, so I guess that the perception of comfort also depends on the shape of the head of the user.

Graphics
The visuals in the headset are good

The Mirage Solo features a nice display. These are its specifications, taken from Lenovo website:

  • Size: 5.5″
  • Resolution: QHD (2560 x 1440)
  • Display Type: LCD
  • Frequency: 75Hz
  • Lens: 2 x Fresnel-Aspheric 110° FOV
  • Color Depth: 16.7 Million
  • Color Gamut: 70%

I can tell you that I enjoyed the graphics of the Mirage Solo, even if the resolution is not the best in class and the display is an LCD and not an OLED one. The Vive Focus has more resolution and OLED screens that guarantee a better visualization of colors, but it is also more expensive.

Close-up of one of the lenses of the Mirage Solo

What I really appreciated have been the lenses: I think that Google here used all its expertise on the field. Do you remember that Google used all its AI power to create a new kind of lenses for the Daydream View? Well, I think that here there has been some black magic as well. The Mirage Solo is the standalone headset where I experienced the least chromatic and spherical aberration amongst all the ones that I tried. If you move your eyes, you just see things becoming a little more blurry towards the edges, but for the rest, the vision is great. Great job, really, I was impressed.

Custom lenses of the new Daydream View headset. I don’t know if Google used the same lenses for the Mirage Solo, but for sure they have used the same expertise (Image by Road To VR)
Audio

This could be the shortest chapter in a review ever since the Daydream Mirage Solo does not have integrated audio.

This is one absurd thing of the device: all the most recent virtual reality headsets have integrated audio and I don’t get why Lenovo and Google made this choice that feels so much Oculus DK 2.

Someone told me that this is not an issue since it suffices to wear earphones, but this is a matter of comfort. When I am enjoying VR alone, I have no willing to go and search my earphones and then attach them to the device, then put them in my ears and so on. Earphones were one of the things that I hated the most of the Gear VR. I love that Go and Focus have a put-it-on-your-head-and-it-works approach.

Users are lazy and life is too short to attach headphones. I think that Lenovo made a big error with this choice of not embedding audio.

To all the Mirage Solo owners, I advise the use of the Mantis headphones.

The Mantis VR headphones have been conceived for PSVR, but can also work with the Mirage Solo. You attach them to your device and then it becomes as it has always had integrated audio (Image by Bionik Gaming)


Tracking

The Tracking of the Mirage Solo is just pure WOW.

Really, the 6 DOF positional tracking of the headset feels incredibly fluid and also doesn’t drift. I already dedicated an article about how the tracking technology of Google is awesome.

This doesn’t surprise me: Google is working on SLAM and similar technologies since a lot of years: project Tango has been revealed in 2014 and Google is also the developer of the ARCore AR framework that can perform the positional tracking of the phone using only one RGB camera. It has for sure a great expertise in these technologies.

I walked back and forth for 25 meters on an outdoor terrace with a monochrome floor (all the worst conditions possible for such technology) and the tracking worked like a charm and hasn’t drifted. I was amazed. This is for sure the best in class 6 DOF tracking technology.

When the Oculus Quest will be out, it will have to prove that it can compete with this positional tracking: currently, we have seen it working only in a hyper-controlled environment.

Anyway, this awesome tracking is ruined a bit by the boundaries detection system of the headset. As I have already explained in another post, you have basically a cage of 1m x 1m from your starting point that is considered your safe area. If you go outside the safe area, all your visuals BECOME BLACK. You don’t see a cage as in all other headsets, but you enter in a completely obscured area and you don’t see anything, apart from where you come from, so that you can return back at the right place.

Obscuring completely your visuals while you are playing an action game means that you don’t see anything and so the enemies are going to kill your for sure. And this sounds even more absurd because Google has created the best tracking technology and then doesn’t let you move in VR! WTF, really.

The only explanation that I’ve found to this weird mechanism is that it hides the glitches of the Seurat algorithm, that can optimize a scene by knowing the possible point of view of the user. If the user can move beyond this hypothesized point of view, the optimized scene presents various glitches (because part of the original geometry gets removed by Seurat).

Anyway, my advice is removing immediately the boundaries detection system in the way that I explain in this other post of mine. It’s better punching real furniture while in VR than having this boundaries system.

Regarding the controller, the tracking is only rotational, so I won’t evaluate its performances. Anyway, from inside the virtual experience, the movement of its virtual coutnerpart feels really well and natural to be only a 3 DOF controller… it felt better than the Oculus Go to me.

Battery

The battery of the Mirage Solo is a Li-ion Polymer 4000 mAh battery. When the device came out, there was this rumor that the battery could last for 7 hours, that would be an amazing time, considering that the Focus lasts only for 3 hours. Actually, on Lenovo’s website, the specifications say “2.5 hours for general usage”.

This is more in line with the duration of its competitors and more close to what I have experienced myself by using the Solo. The battery duration is not bad, but the battery management is not that great as the one of the Focus.

Horsepower

The Lenovo Mirage Solo is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 reference design. It is the same reference design of the Vive Focus and the Oculus Quest and it guarantees a good horsepower for a mobile headset. For sure it is not as powerful as a PC VR system, but the performances are satisfactory.

The Lenovo Mirage Solo decomposed in all its parts (Image by Lenovo)

I had issues only when playing Blade Runner Revelations: the headset overheated and then it paused working until the inner temperature was acceptable again.

Connectivity

The Mirage Solo features Wi-fi and Bluetooth (5.0 + BLE) connectivity. It also lets you add a MicroSD card up to 256 Gb.

The strange thing is that it doesn’t support MTP protocol. Translated: you can’t connect it to a PC and easily transfer files between the two. This is another issue deserving a facepalm.

(Image from Know Your Meme)

To share screenshots and videos taken inside the headset, you have to use a MicroSD card or the integration with Google services, as I have explained in this other post.

User Inteface

This is another standing ovation for Google.

Look how the Main Menu is beautiful:

There are hover animations on every button, there is a very simple interface that you can scroll easily using the touchpad. Everything works like a charm.

All the User Interface is wonderfully studied. Again, Google has years of expertise on UX from the Web and the Android ecosystems. And you can see that it hasn’t tried to create something mindblowing: it just offers an interface that is simple and neat. Look at the background: it is a low poly scene, not an incredibly complex environment. This has the advantage of being computationally light and at the same time, it is very pleasant and colored. A fantastic choice.

I’ve made for you a little tour inside my Mirage Solo so that you can enjoy all the neat UX of this Daydream headset.

Watch how all the interface is intuitive and at the same time looks incredibly polished. Look how the menus scroll in an intuitive way. Look how in the store, as soon as you select a game, you see a 360 preview all around you. Look all the wonderful environments of the various sections. Look the extensive use of the on-hover mechanic. It was really a pleasure using it.

Then, the store has a search function that works incredibly well and search among the installed apps, the videos, and the experiences that have not been installed yet. Very handy.

The controller is affected by this great UX as well: there are always tooltips that say what the various buttons can be used for and then if the controller comes too close to the face, it disappears, so that you never have it too close to your face, cluttering your field of view.

The UX, as the tracking, is the best in class among standalone headsets. Even better than the one of Oculus in my opinion.

Apps ecosystem

The Daydream ecosystem has never taken off. When Daydream launched as an alternative to Gear VR, it seemed destined to kill Samsung’s ecosystem. Actually, Oculus has invested so much in having great content that in the end, the opposite has happened: Gear VR has evolved into Oculus Go and the Oculus Store is full of apps, while Daydream is a project in an unknown state.

The Mirage Solo works with the Daydream store: there are some gems and some great experiences, but it can’t compare at all with what you can find on the Oculus Store. So, you can find some content to have fun for some days, but, after that, you may start getting bored.

I’ve played with some nice experiences:

  • Virtual Virtual Reality: it is one of the most praised VR titles and it is nice because there is some kind of inception where you wear VR headsets inside your VR experience to enter a virtual reality in virtual reality. I found it very original, but also quite slow and boring. Ben Lang told me that after the slow beginning, it gets very very amusing, but I couldn’t experience that part because of a bug (ouch!);
  • The Guardian VR: it offers some experiences produced by the news


This post first appeared on The Ghost Howls, please read the originial post: here

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Lenovo Mirage Solo review: should you buy it?

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