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Microsoft HoloLens 2 Review

  • Aug 30, 2022
  • 11 minutes
VR Expert Microsoft Hololens 2 sideview
VR Expert Microsoft Hololens 2
VR Expert Microsoft Hololens 2 frontview

Released in 2019, the Microsoft HoloLens 2 is one of the most popular of all augmented reality headsets on the market. But is the headset also the best on the market? In this review, we will compare it with the Magic Leap 1, the HoloLens 2’s biggest competitor.

In this comprehensive review we will take a deeper look at the following points:

  • Pros and cons
  • Specifications
  • What is in the box
  • Design and comfort
  • Ease of use
  • Display
  • Camera
  • Tracking
  • Sound
  • Price
  • Conclusion

Pros and cons of the Microsoft HoloLens 2

ProsCons
Saves spatial mapping in the cloudDisplay is sensitive to sunlight or bright light
High resolution and FoV Only 2-3 hours of active battery life
Excellent navigation through hand control
Support for Microsoft's extensive productivity platforms

Specifications of the HoloLens 2

The Microsoft HoloLens 2 has the following specifications:

  • Resolution: 1440×936 pixels per eye
  • Optics: Waveguide (binocular)
  • Field of view: 43 degrees horizontal
  • Camera: 8 MP, 1080 30fps video
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 850
  • Memory: 64 GB
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Weight: 566 grams
  • Controls: Hand gestures, Eye-tracking, Headmotion, Voice with Cortana natural language
  • Battery life: 2-3 hours of active use

What is in the box

The Microsoft HoloLens 2 comes in an elegant black box. Inside the box, the AR headset is placed in a very nice and handy case. This is ideal for protecting the headset from scratches and damage during transport.

The entire scope of delivery of the HoloLens 2:

  • Microsoft HoloLens 2
  • Case
  • Head strap
  • USB-C cable
  • Charger
  • Microfiber cloth

Design and comfort

When you hold the HoloLens 2 in your hand, you immediately notice how well-made the device is. It comes in an elegant black and looks very professional and aesthetically pleasing. 

The headband of the HoloLens 2 has a transparent visor at the front. The headset’s displays are also built into this visor. A total of 6 different cameras (4 tracking cameras, 1 RGB and 1 depth camera) are located here, which ensure that the HoloLens can always see and map every corner of the room. 

The visor can also be easily flipped up and down without having to remove the AR headset. This is a big advantage over the Magic Leap 1, where you have to remove the entire headset if you no longer want the display in front of your eyes.

VR Expert Microsoft Hololens 2 frontview

On the back of the headband is the battery, as well as a knob for adjusting the headband. Due to the battery on the back, the 566 grams of weight sit very well distributed on the user’s head. 

For comparison, Magic Leap’s device only weighs 316 grams. This is due to the fact that the processor is installed in an external so-called Light Pack. The processor can be attached to the pants pocket and is connected to the headset via cable. The advantage of the HoloLens 2 is that it is a completely standalone device that does not require any additional equipment or cables to be connected.

Ease of use

Before you can use the HoloLens 2, you have to map the room you are in with the device. This makes the headset scan the environment and create a 3D copy of the room. These are stored by the device in the cloud, so a room does not have to be re-mapped each time. The initial mapping is faster and better with HoloLens 2 than with Magic Leap 1, which requires you to get closer to objects for the device to detect them.

VR Expert - Spatial Mapping HoloLens 2

Using the Microsoft HoloLens 2 is simple and intuitive via hand control. You can navigate through the HoloLens 2 by tapping the menus floating in front of you. This feels very unfamiliar at first and you miss pressing the buttons of a controller. However, you get the hang of it after a short time, and from then on, the hand control is simply fascinating and fun. The Magic Leap has a hand controller for comparison, which is used to operate the device. This makes it easier to use for beginners at first, since most are used to using controllers.

The HoloLens 2 also offers voice control as an additional input option. This is very helpful in some situations, especially in combination with the eye tracking. For example, you can look at a certain open window and say “close” to close it. For workers who need their hands for other work tasks, voice control can become an important tool. However, as soon as background noise is added, the HoloLens 2 does not understand you as well, which can lead to frustration.

Display

The binocular waveguide display of the Microsoft HoloLens 2 has 1440×936 pixels per eye, a bit more than the 1280×960 pixels per eye of the Magic Leap. However, we have to say that the resolution still has a lot of room for improvement, because the screen door effect is still clearly visible in the HoloLens 2.

VR Expert - Hololens 2
The refresh rate of the HoloLens 2 is only 60 Hz. The 122 Hz of the Magic Leap 1 make content look much smoother when there is a lot of movement. Depending on the use case, this can be an exclusion criterion for Microsoft‘s device. However, for most business applications, the 60 Hz is sufficient. The field of view of the HoloLens 2 is 43 degrees horizontally, while the Magic Leap only has 40 degrees. AR technology still has its limitations, especially when it comes to the field of view. The FoV of the HoloLens 2 is sufficient when you examine an object from a distance, but as soon as you get closer, you see the limits of the display and parts of the 3D object are no longer visible. Especially for the immersion factor, larger fields of view would be an important improvement for future AR headsets.  Another shortcoming of the HoloLens 2’s waveguide display is that it reacts very sensitively to bright light or sunlight. As soon as it gets too bright, you can no longer see the content on the display very well. However, this also applies to the Magic Leap.
HoloLens 2Magic Leap 1
OpticsWaveguideWaveguide
Resolution1440×936 pixels per eye1280×960 pixels per eye
Refresh rate60 Hz122 Hz
Field of view43 degrees horizontal40 degrees horizontal
VR Expert - HoloLens 2 cameras

Camera

The camera of the Microsoft HoloLens 2 is located in the front center of the visor and has a resolution of 8 megapixels and is able to record videos with 1080p and 30 frames per second. With the camera, users can capture footage of the 3D objects they are watching in augmented reality. The camera allows the HoloLens 2 to always see exactly what the user sees. This is very useful for remote support applications, for example, where an external expert can look over the worker’s shoulder and give instructions from a distance.

However, if your company is looking purely for a remote support solution, we can recommend smart glasses such as the RealWear Navigator 500 or the Vuzix M400. The Smart Glasses differ from the HoloLens 2 in that they only have a monocular, non-transparent LCD display that sits below the field of view in front of one of the two eyes. 

Read our reviews of the RealWear Navigator 500 & the Vuzix M400 to find out if the smart glasses are suitable for your use case.

Tracking

The Microsoft HoloLens 2 has two tracking cameras installed on the left and right front of the visor. These provide the AR headset with the necessary information to know where it is positioned in the room. In fact, the HoloLens 2’s position tracking works surprisingly well. When you place a 3D object in the room and move around it, there is hardly any wobble and the object remains very stable in the room, as if it were really there. There is significantly more “drift” (jittering or sliding 3D elements) on the Leap One compared to the HoloLens 2, which affects productivity.

VR Expert - HoloLens 2 tracking

In addition to position tracking, the HoloLens 2, just like the Magic Leap, also uses the cameras to track your hands. Since the device doesn’t have a controller, it’s especially important that this works well, and indeed it does. The hand tracking is totally fascinating, by just tapping on the menu items that hover in front of you, the HoloLens 2 can be navigated with your fingers in the air.

Another feature of the HoloLens 2 is the eye tracking. This is very useful, for example, when you want to close a certain window hands-free. You simply look at a given window and then say “close”. Thanks to the HoloLens 2’s eye tracking, the device knows which window is being looked at and closes it. Eye tracking can also become an important component for enterprise applications, for example, to find out where a user is looking at during a training session and thus measure the success of the training.

Sound

The Microsoft HoloLens 2 has two speakers built into the headband, one on each side at ear level. The quality is pretty good considering that the speakers are so small, the sound is loud and clear. However, a drawback is that the HoloLens 2 does not have a 3.5 mm audio jack, so you cannot connect headphones. 

The Magic Leap 1 also has a speaker built-in on each side. However, an audio jack is additionally installed on the Lightpack, which can be used to connect headphones to the device.

Price

The Microsoft HoloLens 2 currently costs 3588 Euros and is thus significantly more expensive than the Magic Leap 1. The Magic Leap 1 can be purchased already for 2499 Euros. Both AR headsets are available at VR Expert.

VR Expert - HoloLens 2 Hero Image

Conclusion

Overall, the Microsoft HoloLens 2 is the best AR headset on the market and offers undisputedly the best position tracking. 3D objects hardly wobble when moving and remain super stable, which makes viewing much more realistic. In addition, the hand tracking works extraordinarily well; it is really fun to navigate through the menu of the HoloLens 2 with just the fingers. 

However, there are still some annoying factors considering the hefty price of 3588 Euros. The display is very sensitive to light and besides the screen door effect, you also often see rainbow colors on the display. Also, the field of view is still very small, so when you get closer to 3D objects, you see the limits of the display, which spoils the AR experience. This is a shortcoming the AR industry has and will address in the future.

The main advantages of the HoloLens 2 over its biggest competitor, the Magic Leap 1, are that Microsoft’s device has very good weight distribution and does not require a wired additional processing unit like the Magic Leap’s Light Pack. In addition, the display is a bit sharper and has a larger FoV. However, especially for use cases that involve fast movement, the Magic Leap 1 has the advantage of having a refresh rate of 122 Hz, which is twice as high. 

Furthermore, the Magic Leap 2 will soon be available, which will have even more improved features. And it will also remain exciting to see how other major companies, such as Meta, Samsung or Apple, position themselves in the augmented reality market in the near future.

Depending on your company’s use case, either the HoloLens 2, the Magic Leap 1, or even another AR device could be an option. Let us advise you and contact us now!

VR Expert Microsoft Hololens 2 frontview
 

Microsoft HoloLens 2

Magic Leap 1

Price

3588 €

2499 €

Optics

Waveguide

Waveguide

Resolution

1440×936 pixels per eye

1280×960 pixels per eye

Field of view

43 degrees horizontal

40 degrees horizontal

Camera

8 MP, 1080p 30fps

2 MP, 1080p 30fps

CPU

Qualcomm Snapdragon 850

3-core NVIDIA Parker SOC

Memory

64 GB

128 GB

RAM

4 GB DRAM

8 GB

Weight

566 grams

316 grams

Controls

Hand gestures, eye tracking, head motion, voice with Cortana natural language

Voice, eye tracking, hand tracking, controller

Battery life

2-3 hours

3 hours

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