Apple Vision Pro review in 2024: Inside looking out

I’ve fallen down the looking glass

The Pros

  • It really feels like magic
  • The screens are really amazing
  • I get to feel like Tom Cruise
  • Apple's environments are top-notch

The Cons

  • Heavy and hard to get used to wearing it
  • Not a lot of battery life
  • Still needs some software revisions to really become perfect

Apple is showing us how it views the future, and after six days of testing, I’ve nailed down some of the key concepts that make this the most important computer to hit the market since the iPhone. If you want to live in the future today, the Vision Pro will take you there.

The experience of using the headset is magical. The first few days are filled with jaw-dropping moments like just how good the eye tracking system is, and the scale are two things that I still struggle to describe to people since they’re better than I ever could have imagined. And don’t even get me started on the digital shadows your windows cast in the real world. The Vision Pro is Apple at its best, and It’s an amazing amalgamation of Apple’s headlining software features from the last few years. When it all comes together, it feels so natural and easier to use than I expected.

There are flaws, and as a computer, it’s not perfect yet. Like all new platforms, it needs a little more time to mature and spin up an app ecosystem. You can do a lot through a mix of Vision, web, and iPad apps, but there are still a ton of tablet apps that aren’t on the platform, which limits its use cases for some.

Having said that, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting on my back porch in Toronto with just the headset, a trackpad and a keyboard. When I glance above my Microsoft Word window, I see the stunning sunset of Haleakalā in Hawaii, I feel a real breeze and I see real trees beside me, and I can’t help but be amazed at this portal into another world.

So what have I been doing in here?

I’ve had the headset for a little less than a week by the time you’re reading this, and I’ve been using it as much as I can. On my third day, I even clocked a little over ten hours with it on. I spent the workday just writing and editing photos with the help of Mac Virtual Display. Then, after work, I had a two-hour FaceTime call with Drew Kozub where we played chess and marvelled at our Personas, and at one point, while sitting in a virtual theatre, my leg grazed my desk, and my brain told me, “That’s Drew’s leg.” It was a weird experience and really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Vision Pro.

Circling back to work, it’s tempting to pull over my MacBook and use Mac Virtual Display when I’m trying to be productive. It works awesome when it’s bug-free, but a couple of times, I’ve had to restart my computer and headset to get them to connect properly. That being said, I only really use it for Photoshop and offloading media from my camera. In theory, I’ll use it someday for Final Cut Pro, too, since those apps are unlikely to make their way to visionOS any time soon.

I spent the vast majority of my time in VisionOS. This means I’ve been writing in Vision apps like Notes and Microsoft Word or web apps in Safari like WordPress and Google Docs. I started in Notes and then moved to Word for most of this review. When I was writing news blogs, I just wrote in WordPress. At the end of my experience, I found myself using Google Docs in Safari for its familiarity and since that’s what we normally use to share documents at work. I do still like using Microsoft Word, but that’s mostly because it’s a nice-looking visionOS app. I don’t really like paying for an Office365 subscription, so I’ll be back in Docs soon enough. I’d love for Apple to bring over a visonOS version of Pages soon to give users a free and robust word editor without having to use the iPad version. Until then, I do think there’s a big gap in visionOS that a third-party dev could fill.

When it comes to photo editing, there are even fewer apps to choose from. To edit a photo from my Fujifilm camera, I need to either transfer the photo with the janky old iPad app (1.3 star on the App Store) or use Mac Virtual Display. There is a new Fuji app, but the company hasn’t opted to allow it on the headset. This means I pretty much had to choose Mac Virtual Display since it allows me to use accessories like an SD card reader and apps like Photoshop. There are a few photo editing apps on Vision Pro, but they’re nowhere near professional yet, and most are more for photo retouching than serious editing. A photo editing app will likely come someday, but the main hurdle is that getting files into the headset is borderline impossible. The only way to transfer is to use the cloud or AirDrop. It seems very strange to me that Apple didn’t design the battery to act as a USB-C port for accessories.

Despite those hiccups, working in this thing is a vibe. I’m able to stack up four chat apps to my left, I have a cool agenda app called Glance Bar beside that, two web browsers in the middle, and Photos or other apps I might use rotating out to my right. It looks a little cluttered in screenshots, but once you’re in it, it’s perfect. You get to tailor the experience to be exactly what you want, and it’s really powerful. Want to focus on writing? Just drag that window up into your primary view and size it however you want. It’s hard to describe, but I find it easy to get into a flow when I immerse myself in the visionOS working environment. Something about the giant windows and the peaceful atmosphere really helps me shy away from distractions. Add in a pair of AirPods Pro with noise-cancelling enabled, and I challenge anyone not to get lost in this world for at least as long as it takes for the device to become uncomfortable resting on your face.

As expected, the Vision Pro is just like Apple’s other computing products and acts similarly in terms of software control. CMD+Space still opens universal search, there’s a Control Centre, the predictive text bar from iOS is here, and the home screen is pretty similar. I wish there was a CMD+Tab shortcut that would swap out the app that’s centred in your view, but having everything floating in front of you makes multitasking fairly straightforward anyway.

I just recently removed the monitors from my desk so I can go Vision Pro only and it looks so clean I’m in love with it.

These things all make the headset familiar to use, but it’s the software connectivity features that really go the extra mile. Cloud copy and paste that launched a few years ago make Virtual Display feel like it’s really part of visionOS, even if you can’t really drag and drop files between the Mac and Vision just yet. Mac Virtual Display itself uses Continuity keyboard to make using your Mac’s keyboard work in the rest of visionOS. Throw in SharePlay, AirDrop and all the AR improvements Apple has added to iOS over the years, and it all adds up to a really powerful computing experience that feels closer to Tom Cruise in Minority Report than it does to using a MacBook, yet it’s just as familiar to use as the MacBook or iPhone you’ve been using for years.

What about entertainment?

Beyond doing my best to do my regular writing job, I’ve also been testing out as many apps as I can and playing a few games. Thankfully, the iPhone version of Delta works here, so I’ve been able to gear up for the Elite Four while sitting in a virtual theatre or on top of a mountain. There are some native visionOS games, but nothing that feels super ahead of its time yet.

I think most people will be able to find some sort of game they like, but right now, it reminds me of the early days of the iPhone and iPod Touch. There are lots of games, but most of them seem built around a single control scheme or concept. Think Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. I have faith that more things will come, but so far, the most exciting game I’ve played was a 3D puzzle game called BlackBox that uses the sensors in the Vision Pro to make you solve puzzles by doing actions in the real world, like jumping and spinning. You can even shrug to get a hint and all the levels float around you in 3D. However, if it wasn’t so puzzling, I’d call it an experience more than a game.

So while I hope some cool 3D games come soon, I’ve mainly used my time in the headset to play traditional 2D games. Mainly, this has been Pokemon on Delta, a little bit of Oceanhorn 2 and Warped Kart Racers. None of these games get a huge boost from being played in the Vision Pro, but since you can pull up multiple giant screens, it’s really nice to throw on some TV or a YouTube video and then play your games at the same time. You can also stream Steam games with the Steam Link app, and it works decently well.

Watching movies and TV shows is also pretty extraordinary, but you will have to get used to the weight of the device on your face before you can get comfortable watching a long film with the headset on. When you choose to watch something on the headset, you have three formats to choose from – standard 2D, 3D and immersive content.

Right now, there are only a few immersive demo experiences, but Apple shared at WWDC that it’s working on an immersive short film, and Red Bull is also shooting more action sports in the new format. The videos I’ve seen this way are really cool, but I’m hesitant to say it’s the future of movies or TV since it requires the user to participate and look around, so it won’t work for more guided storytelling. Live sports, on the other hand, make a lot more sense for this viewing format, and I think being able to be courtside at a tennis match or floating above the net at a hockey game is a really awesome experience that a lot of people would be willing to use a headset for. There is an immersive Alicia Keys studio experience demo where she sings a few songs into the camera and it’s really incredible. This isn’t a full movie, but when you watch it, you really feel like you’re in the room watching her perform from three feet away, and it’s surprisingly captivating. I hope more music videos or concerts also use this format since it’s a cool way to be inside a recording studio and listen to a performer in a perfect environment.

3D movies get a nice boost in the headset too, but since modern movies are shot in stereoscopic 3D to add depth, they do feel similar to how they would when you watch them in a theatre. If you like 3D movies there, I think you’ll love them even more here. That said, as a fan of 2D movies, I was curious to see if the headset might sway me to like 3D more, but so far, it hasn’t. Animation, like the Mario Movie, or CGI-heavy movies, like Avatar 2, both look really cool, but at the end of the day, I would still rather have the flatness of a regular screen for movies. If more movies started using 3D effects to pop things out of the screens, I might be tempted back, but since most just provide more depth, I often find it distracting from the frame’s composition.

Honestly, it’s a really great movie-watching experience, and I have been able to fall asleep wearing it twice now, but you can’t watch movies in bed in the dark, which is really annoying. Since the device needs light to hand track you, it pauses your movie to warn you whenever you become fully enveloped in darkness. People online seem to combat this by using an infrared light near their bed, but I’d rather Apple develop some kind of nighttime mode that would allow us to watch movies without needing a light nearby that we’re going to block out with a virtual environment anyway.

The best hardware possible?

This headset looks stunning and it even manages to look kind of cool when you’re wearing it with the Solo Knit band. The mix of metal, glass and the intricate sewing work make the whole package look really futuristic, and premium. It might not offer the exact look of ski goggles like I thought it would, but it’s really close and secretly, I feel like a character in a sci-fi movie every time I put it on.

Even taking it apart feels cool with those smart orange pull tabs to remove the band and magnets to take off the light seal and the face cushion. Once it’s disassembled you can clearly see how small the device actually is, yet that still doesn’t save it from being a little bit too heavy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very wearable, but if Apple can find a way to make it lighter, I think that will go a long way towards making it a more viable computer replacement.

That said, the more I wear it, the better I’ve been getting at adjusting it to keep it comfortable. I still can’t wear it all day, but I could easily go for a few hours without needing to take it off. Basically, I’ve found that instead of adjusting the headset itself, I can pull the band up or down in the back ever so slightly, and it will help move the pressure off my forehead or cheekbones. Even loosening the strap for a few minutes can really help the pressure dissipate if you’ve been wearing it for a long time. And while there might be some discomfort, I often find that I only need a quick 5-10 minute break before I’m ready to dive back in.

I wasn’t that worried about the weight before I got my hands on the Vision Pro because I really thought that another lighter option would soon follow, but now that I’ve spent more time using it, it’s become apparent that it’s already really small. Sure, you could remove the Eyesight screen and the glass from the front, but there isn’t much actual metal on the device to replace with something lighter, and at this level, aluminum isn’t that heavy. Maybe more carbon fibre needs to be used, but cutting the device’s weight down from 600 grams to that magical 300-gram sweet spot seems impossible right now. Perhaps another 100 grams could be shaved off, but I do worry about how quickly Apple can reduce the size and weight of the Vision line, and how necessary that will be for mass adoption.

When you look past the weight, you get to see this device for the engineering marvel it is. Everything just looks great and even the cover that’s included with the headset matches the band and looks awesome when it’s all packed up. The all-metal battery and extra travel case are also both extremely nice, even if the case does leave a lot to be desired in terms of functionality. The battery life also only goes a little past two hours, which does feel rather limited. It’s not too bad in actual use since most of the time you use the device, you’ll be sitting at a desk or on your couch. If Apple could double that up to four hours in the future, it would make use away from home less stressful.

Building the base

The real star of the show is visionOS by a mile. While the hardware is really great, it’s the software that pulls it all together and makes the experience look, and feel, like the computer of the future. For this review, I’m running visionOS 1.2, but Apple has shown off visionOS 2 so I didn’t hit on a few things in this review that annoyed me, since they’re already on pace to be fixed in the fall. That all being said, visionOS 1.2 is pretty bare-bones for now, but it works, and the fact that I can just put on a headset and do my job still blows my mind. Realistically, I need at least a keyboard and trackpad too, since I write, but again, just the fact that it’s possible is really cool.

At the end of the day though, it reminds me a lot of the early days of iOS. A good example of this is the battery settings page. On iOS, you can see your battery health, recent charges, what apps are using the most juice, and so much more. On visionOS, all you can do is toggle the percentage indicator on and off. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s a good example to illustrate how immature visionOS is next to Apple’s other operating systems. It has a solid base, but now it needs a few years of people actually using these devices to really help Apple bring them up to par with its other operating systems.

In the future, I’d love it if we could stack multiple apps within the same floating windows. Being able to dedicate a window to chat apps and then being able to swipe through them, like iOS multitasking, would be really helpful. While it’s cool to have a bunch of apps floating around you, realistically, I usually use three at a time. That maxes out what I can easily look at without moving my head too much. I can stack another three above that for six, but that involves a lot more looking around the virtual/real space.

Being able to run Mac or web apps would also help fill in the gaps as more developers start creating things for this platform. I get that most apps like that aren’t set up for touch/spatial computing, but being able to use an app, even if I need to connect a trackpad, would be better than not being able to use it at all.

The other form of software I’d love to see is a stronger form of multitasking. I’ve alluded to it above with stacked windows and CMD+Tab, but beyond that, some form of App Exposé from Mac might be helpful here, too. Often, I‘ll try to open an app only to find it floating where I left it outside or in another room, making it hard to grab and bring back to me. You can hold on to the Digital Crown to re-centre all your windows around you, but honestly, this doesn’t work as well as you’d want it to and often just moves your windows slightly. Being able to see everything I have open in a grid and then choose which window I want to pull down into my workspace would be way more convenient. Even having an app dock accessible via a gesture would be cool and a fast way to swipe through your favourite or recently used apps.

Right now, when you open an app, you can sometimes close it with a small ‘X’ at the bottom of the window, but I’ve found that not every app actually closes, and many just minimize in the background. This forces me to open the force quit menu a lot to close out apps that aren’t being used anymore. Having a way to distinguish between closing an app and minimizing it would also be really handy in the future.

Beyond all of that, the thing that I think about the most is just how different and fresh visionOS looks compared to iOS or macOS. There’s a cool fogged glass effect on most windows that looks awesome and adapts to your environment. For example, if I hold the Email app up in front of a yellow wall, you can see the yellow through the fogged glass effect. If I take it outside and hold it in front of a bush, it shows green.

The other thing that really makes this experience great is the sound design. It is incredible, and all the small blips and boops that sound off as you navigate visionOS really takes the experience to the next level. Things get even crazier when you FaceTime someone else in a Vision Pro. The headset can nail the directionality of sound so well, it really feels like you’re in a room with someone. At one point, I was FaceTiming with Drew Kozub from Breakfast Television, and when we turned on the White Sands immersive environment, it isolated our vocals and made it sound like we were talking outside. Before that, I was just sitting in my office, and the audio was tweaked to add the slight reverb you might get from sound bouncing off walls in a small room. It was a really cool effect, and while the Personas go a long way toward making these calls feel more human (the eye and face tracking is really good), the sound design really sells it.

Just because it’s on store shelves doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, but it might be for you

I’ve been having a really hard time crystallizing my thoughts on the Vision Pro. As Brad Bennett, tech fan, I haven’t stopped smiling the whole time I’ve been wearing this thing. It’s just cool, and it feels like the future, and I really want to be part of the wave of people experiencing it from the start. Apple’s Vision line doesn’t feel like something the company is going to give up on any time soon so I’d feel comfortable buying and using one now. That said, it’s really expensive right now, and most people can get the same amount of work done with a laptop or an iPad for a fraction of the cost.

But if you want to be an early adopter, there is a lot more to love here than there is to hate.The pass-through is crazy, the screens are beautiful and the concept of working in mixed reality has really opened my eyes to what the future of work could look like. Beyond all of that, it’s just fun to use. Opening up a giant theatre-sized display for a YouTube video while I play a DS emulator that’s also floating in front of me while sitting beside a peaceful lake (while actually lying on my couch) makes it feel insanely sci-fi. Coming into this review, I was honestly pretty skeptical of the headset since I thought it would be really isolating, but because of the passthrough, it just isn’t. Obviously, I’m not going to wear it out to dinner any time soon, but for working at home or the office, it really lives up to its promise of allowing you to interact with the world around you.

At the end of the day, it’s a new system that’s a little basic, but simple enough to allow users to try it out and see where it goes. If you’re curious to try one, I strongly recommend going to an Apple Store and actually doing a demo. The Vision Pro is just so conceptual that it's really hard to wrap your head around what it’s like to use from just reading about it or looking at pictures. You really need to experience the scale of its virtual workspace to see how it can be such an improvement over a small computer display.

Pre-orders are live for the Vision Pro in Canada already, but it hits store shelves on July 12th and it starts at $4,999.

"If you want to be an early adopter, there is a lot more to love here than there is to hate.The pass-through is crazy, the screens are beautiful and the concept of working in mixed reality has really opened my eyes to what the future of work could look like."


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