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RealWear Navigator 500 Review

VR Expert RealWear Navigator 500
RealWear Navigator 500 side view
RealWear Navigator 500 with hard hat VR Expert

US-based RealWear unveiled its latest AR headset in December 2021: The RealWear Navigator 500. The new rugged smart glass is set to replace the previous RealWear HMT-1 as the new best AR device for heavy industrial use. The Navigator 500 is ideal for use during inspections, maintenance or repairs.

In this comprehensive review we will take a deeper look at the following points of the RealWear Navigator 500:

Pros and cons of the RealWear Navigator 500

ProsCons
Unmatched voice control Cannot record 4K videos
Noise cancellation up to 100 dbLimited control options outside of voice control
Rugged design
48 MP camera
1080p, 60fps video recording
IP66 rating
Droptested to 2m
Supports 15 languages

RealWear Navigator 500 Specifications

The Navigator 500 has the following specifications:

  • Display: LCD
  • Resolution: 854×480 pixels
  • Field of view: 20 degrees
  • Camera: 48 MP, 1080p 60fps video
  • Microphone: 4 microphones with noise-cancelling up to 100 dB
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 662
  • Memory: 64GB
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Weight: 272 grams
  • Controls: Voice commands, gaze interaction
  • Battery life: Up to 8 hours

What is in the box

The RealWear Navigator 500 comes in a plain brown cardboard box. You can already tell from the packaging how light the device is. The following things are included in the scope of delivery:

  • RealWear Navigator 500 device
  • RealWear workband
  • USB-C cable
  • Instruction manual

Design and comfort

The RealWear Navigator 500 is fully designed for use in heavy industry. This is immediately noticeable when looking at the device. The device looks very robust and modern at the same time. It is IP66 certified and can withstand dust and jets of  water. In addition, the device is drop-proof up to 2 meters making it suitable for even the most treacherous of conditions. 

The Navigator 500 comes with a workband, which is easily attached to the headset and holds the device on the user’s head.

VR Expert RealWear Navigator 500 side

On one side of the device is the power button, which also serves as a fingerprint sensor. The battery can be detached from the device via a clip in system, so it can be replaced in no time. This is very convenient, as the process of replacing the battery was a bit more difficult on the previous model, RealWear’s HMT-1.

A 48 MP camera, as well as the device’s display, are located on the other side of the Navigator 500. The display is located on a boom arm and can be individually adjusted. The boom arm has gained another joint compared to that of the HMT-1, so it is even more flexible and can be better adjusted to the different needs of the users. It is also easy to switch the display from one eye to the other with the Navigator 500, thanks to its built-in gyroscope.

The comfort of wearing the RealWear Navigator 500 is another great advantage of the new device from RealWear. The headset weighs only 272 grams and the weight is distributed very evenly on the head due to the use of the workband. The RealWear HMT-1 also uses a workband, yet at 380 grams it weighs significantly more than the new Navigator 500.

The new lower weight of the Navigator 500 puts it in a similar category to the offerings of Vuzix that are branded as the lightest weight AR headsets for industry. A true advantage of the Navigator 500 compared to the Vuzix M400 and M4000 offerings is the Navigator 500’s single build structure, while the Vuzix devices are made of 4 items making it more fragile.

This high wearing comfort ensures that the RealWear Navigator can also be worn without any problems over the course of longer work shifts. This is especially a big advantage over the competition from Vuzix, because although the M400 only weighs 180 grams, the weight of the frame mainly rests on the nose, and thus leads to an uncomfortable wearing sensation more quickly.

A major innovation in the design of the RealWear Navigator 500 is that the device has been designed modularly. This means that the camera, as well as the display, will be interchangeable in the future. RealWear already announced that it will offer product extensions in the future. What is great about the modular design is that companies will be able to adjust and tune the Navigator 500 to suit each individual use case better.

Ease of use

The initial assembly of the RealWear Navigator 500 is very simple. Only the RealWear Workband has to be clipped to the device and then the battery has to be inserted. Now the Navigator 500 can already be worn and powered up. This is much easier than that of, for example, the competitor device Vuzix M400, where several parts have to be attached to a frame. 

The RealWear Navigator 500 works predominantly via voice control. This is by far the best currently available on the AR market and works very intuitively. You have to simply name the terms, which are shown on the display.  To date, RealWear supports a total of 15 different languages, and the company is always working to add more. With the help of noise-canceling microphones, ambient noise of up to 100db can be filtered out. This means that frontline workers can still be understood well by the device and remote experts even in loud environments, an especially important feature in heavy industry.

For additional control options, there are 3 buttons on the side of the device, just behind the camera, an action button, and two forward/back buttons. These buttons are a novelty on the device from RealWear, as they were not yet installed on the HMT-1. However, these are rarely needed as the device is designed to be completely hands-free. 

VR Expert RealWear Navigator 500 buttons

The Navigator 500’s unmatched voice control makes it perfect for frontline workers who always need to have their hands free. For them, it’s a big advantage over the Vuzix M400, where voice commands don’t work as well and one hand must always be used for button interactions.

To further enhance the user experience, RealWear has developed a companion app that is available for iOS and Android. The RealWear Companion App can be used to configure settings on the device, insert texts or access guides and information about the Navigator 500. The companion app was already designed to work with the previous model, the RealWear HMT-1. For reference, Vuzix also offers a companion app for their devices, which has similar features.

Power and performance

The RealWear Navigator 500 has a 2600 mAh battery, which will last up to 8 hours when fully charged. This is an advantage over only 5 to 6 hours of battery life on the RealWear HMT-1, allowing the Navigator 500 to be used for the duration of a full work shift without running empty.

However, an additional feature that was already integrated in the HMT-1 is that the battery is hot-swappable. This means that the battery can be replaced during operation without having to switch off the device. This feature is also available on the Vuzix M400. What separates the Navigator 500 in this department though is that it can run for over 5 minutes while you switch the battery.

VR Expert - RealWear Navigator 500 assembly

The new RealWear Navigator 500 also features an improved processor and more RAM. While it was still the Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 together with 3 GB RAM in the HMT-1, the new Navigator now runs on the Snapdragon 662 in cooperation with 4 GB RAM. However, the Vuzix M400 comes out on top in this category, as it features the even better Snapdragon XR1, along with a solid 6 GB of RAM. This makes Vuzix’s device more powerful than RealWear’s and capable of running even more demanding applications.

Display

Many were probably a bit disappointed with the display of the RealWear Navigator 500 when the new device was introduced. Nothing significant was changed compared to the previous HMT-1. RealWear once again relies on an LCD display for the Navigator 500. This has a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels and a field of view of 20 degrees. However, RealWear already announced that due to the modular design, there will be product add-ons in the near future, possibly increasing the quality or size of the display.

VR Expert - RealWear Navigator 500 display

The Navigator 500’s display is set in front of one eye, slightly below the line of sight. This ensures that the worker is not obstructed by the display during his actual task. The boom arm allows the device to be adjusted and adapted to the needs of the user. Depending on which eye is the dominant one, the display can also be easily switched in front of the other eye.

In comparison, the Vuzix M400 has an OLED display, but only features a resolution of 640 x 360 pixels and a field of view of 16.8 degrees. For those who prefer a transparent display in contrast to the Navigator 500 and M400, the best alternative currently is the Vuzix M4000. This is the continuation of the M400 and has the same technical specifications, with the only major difference being that the display is transparent due to the use of waveguide technology.

Read our comprehensive review about the Vuzix M4000.

VR Expert Vuzix m400 overview

Camera

Compared to the previous RealWear HMT-1, the camera of the Navigator 500 has seen the biggest upgrade. While the HMT-1 had 16 MP, the Navigator 500 now shoots photos with an outstanding 48 MP, which equals the resolution of professional cameras. The camera also has a flashlight ready for low-light conditions.

Video recordings are still made in 1080p with the Navigator 500’s camera, just like with the HMT-1. However, there is a significant improvement in the frame rate, which has been boosted from 30 to 60 fps. This high frame rate allows for smooth recordings even with faster movements.

VR Expert - RealWear Navigator 500 camera

The camera of the RealWear Navigator is also part of the new modular design, so we might see some product enhancements to the camera in the future as well.

For comparison, the camera of the Vuzix M400 can only take photos with a resolution of 12.8 MP. The device stands out because of its 4K video quality. Together with 30 frames per second, this allows the M400 to record high-resolution videos. The M400’s camera also features a flashlight.

However, a major drawback is that the camera is connected to the display. This means that the camera cannot be moved independently of the display. This is an advantage that the camera of the Navigator 500 and HMT-1 have over the M400.

Streaming

Thanks to the Full HD video resolution together with 60 fps, the RealWear Navigator 500 is ideal for collaboration with remote experts. The main use cases for this are remote support, maintenance or inspections. Although the Vuzix M400 with its 4K resolution has the better quality in comparison, this usually cannot be transmitted at all due to a lack of network quality, so that the 1080p of the Navigator 500 is completely sufficient for most remote expertise applications.

In addition, the higher frame rate of the Navigator 500 makes it even more comfortable for the remote expert to watch, since the video plays more smoothly.

VR Expert Navigator 500 Use

The RealWear Navigator 500 does not offer a built-in function for streaming video content. However, standard communication apps such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex or Remote Eye can be used with the Navigator 500 for remote expert applications. If you want to know if a specific application runs on the Navigator 500, contact VR Expert.

Memory

The memory of the RealWear Navigator 500 has been significantly increased compared to the HMT-1. While the HMT-1 only had 32 GB of internal memory, the new Navigator 500 now comes with 64 GB. As for the Vuzix M400, it also has 64 GB of internal memory. However, the big difference with RealWear’s device is that Vuzix does not have an SD card slot, which means the M400’s memory cannot be expanded. Both the HMT-1 and the Navigator 500 offer this feature and let you expand their memory with up to 512 GB.

The RAM of the RealWear Navigator has been increased from 3 GB in the HMT-1 to now 4 GB. On the Vuzix M400, it is even 6 GB of RAM. However, this difference did not show up very much in practice, since all common programs run without problems on the devices. Technically, however, the Vuzix M400 has the advantage here.

Operating system

The operating system of the RealWear Navigator 500 is Android 11. To install apps on the device you have to use the RealWear Application Manager Foresight, which can be accessed via the browser on your PC.

For comparison, the RealWear HMT-1 runs on Android 10, while the Vuzix M400 runs on Android 9.0. The newer Android version promises to work with even more energy efficiency to save the battery.

Sound

The RealWear Navigator 500 has a built-in speaker, which is located on the camera side of the device. The speaker is exactly at ear level, so the sound can be perceived well. 

To have a better stereo sound, headphones with a 3.5 mm jack can also be plugged into the Navigator 500. It is also possible to connect Bluetooth headphones to the device. The same options are also offered by the HMT-1 and the Vuzix M400.

Price

The RealWear Navigator 500 costs 2060 € at VR Expert and thus only 183 € more than the HMT-1, which is priced at 1877 €. However, the competitor model M400 from Vuzix only costs 1705 € and is thus 355 € cheaper than the Navigator 500.

VR Expert RealWear Navigator 500

Conclusion

The RealWear Navigator 500 is an excellent device for the use of remote expertise. Especially the outstanding voice recognition, the effective noise cancellation and the robust design make the Navigator 500 one of the best AR headsets on the market. Especially in rough and noisy environments, this makes it the clear winner compared to its biggest competitor from Vuzix.

However, especially when it comes to the quality of the display, many wished for an improvement over the previous HMT-1 model. Hopefully, RealWear will act quickly and release a product add-on soon, which will improve the display as well. 

Overall, the RealWear Navigator 500 has received some useful new features. Especially due to a surcharge of only 183 Euros compared to the RealWear HMT-1, it is therefore worthwhile to opt for the Navigator 500 if you are wavering between these two products.

For many use cases the RealWear Navigator may be the right solution for your company. Let us advise you in this regard. Contact our experts at info@vr-expert.com.

VR Expert RealWear Navigator 500
VR Expert Realwear HMT-1 with workband
VR Expert Vuzix m400

Specifications

RealWear Navigator 500

RealWear HMT-1

Vuzix M400

Price

2060 €

1877 €

1705 €

Display

LCD

LCD

OLED

Resolution

854×480 pixels

854×480 pixels

640×360 pixels

Field of view

20 degrees

20 degrees

16.8 degrees

Camera

48 MP,
1080p, 60 fps video

16 MP,

1080p, 30 fps video

12.8 MP,
4K 30 fps video

Microphone

Yes,

noise-cancelling

Yes,

noise-cancelling

Yes,

noise-cancelling

CPU

Qualcomm
Snapdragon 662

Qualcomm
Snapdragon 626

Qualcomm
Snapdragon XR1

Memory

64 GB

32 GB

64 GB

SD card slot

Yes

Yes

No

RAM

4 GB

3 GB

6 GB

Weight

272 grams

380 grams

180 grams

Controls

Voice commands

Voice commands

Touchpad, buttons, voice commands

Battery life

Up to 8 hours

5-6 hours

2-3 hours (internal),

Up to 12 hours (external)

IP rating

IP 66

IP 66

IP 67

Water and dust resistant

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fall proof

2m

2m

2m

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