X-Real Air Augmented Reality Glasses - A Review After 10 Months of Use
As a tech enthusiast and a proud owner of the N-Real/X-Real Augmented Reality Glasses for the past 10 months, I am excited to share my experience and thoughts on this innovative product. With minimalistic design and seamless integration, these glasses have become an essential part of my augmented reality journey. In this review, I will highlight the key features, discuss my personal experiences, and mention some limitations that potential users should be aware of.
X-Real vs N-Real
In this article, you will see this product referred to as both the X-Real and N-Real Glasses, This is due to a rebrand the company did in early 2023, both broducts are identical with the exception of the name embosssed on the product and box. My personal pair was purchased under the N-Real brand and has the N-Real logo on the box. All products released after the rebrand will include the X-Real branding however you may occasionally see the N-Reall Branding on products that were purchased second hand or refurbushed.
Design and Portability
One of the standout features of the N-Real/X-Real Glasses is their minimalist design. The glasses blend in effortlessly and never caused any undue attention or distractions, even during my travels. Whether on a plane or train, I found the glasses to be inconspicuous, allowing me to remain focused on my AR experiences without drawing unnecessary attention.
Out of the box, the X-Real Air will work with any device that supports video output over a USB Type-C port. This standard is based on the DisplayPort protocol, which is exposed over USB Alt Mode. If all of that sounds like gibberish to you, no fear; it means that the X-Real Air will support most high-end Android smartphones, tablets, and laptops without issue. Basically, as long as you can connect your device to an external USB-C display, it will work out of the box.
Unfortunately, it does mean that the X-Real glasses won't be able to be used with most single-board computers (SBCs), such as the Raspberry Pi, without using an HDMI connection. It is possible to add support for HDMI using an optional adapter, but I will cover this under the "Accessories" section of this article.
If you wish to use your X-Real Glasses with a gaming console, it is possible, however, like single-board computer users, you will need to purchase an optional adapter, which will be covered in the "Accessories" section of this article.
The X-Real Air ships with everything in the box that you need to get started with basic use cases. You will find a Braided USB-C Cable, Nose Clips, case and a black-out cover that can be used to completely darken the X-Real Air from outside light.
If you use a iPhone or iPad with a Lightning Cable, a device with a HDMI cable or a device that does not follow the USB-C Display Port protocol, you will need to purchase a special adapter to use your product with these products. This adapter is a bit pricey but includes a built in battery that injects power to the glasses instead of drawing power from the device you are wishing to use. Apple users with a lightning port will need to add a Lightning to HDMI Adapter. These adapters can greatly inflate the cost of the X-Real Air for Apple users.
A Note for Nintendo Switch Owners
If you are a Nintendo Switch owner, you cannot directly connect your X-Real/N-Real Glasses to the USB-C Port on your Nintendo Switch as the switch does not fully support the USB-C alt-mode standard. You will either need to use the Nintendo Switch Dock and the HDMI to USB-C Adapter or if you wish for a fully portable option, you will need to use the X-Real Beam.
If you just wish to use the NReal Air with a Nintendo Switch, Play Station, X-Box or any other console that uses HDMI, you will just need to buy the HDMI to USB-C Adapter and run a HDMI cable between the X-Real HDMI to USB-C Adapter and your console. It is important to note that the X-Real HDMI to USB-C Adapter has a built in battery which will last for around 3 hours of use, this could potentially limit the length of a gaming session.
I am not a huge fan of the case that X-Real provided; it is a bit bulky, and the zipper broke after a few months of use. I have purchased my own aftermarket case which works so much better and takes up far less room in my backpack.
The display on the N-Real Air consists of two micro-OLED displays, one in each eye. The resolution is 1080p and provides a sharp display that works well for most use cases. The arrangement of the OLED displays simulates a 200-inch screen that is floating 8 feet from your eyes.
The screen can get pretty bright and will not cause eye-searing pain at the maximum brightness. The X-Real glasses have a rocker switch to allow you to quickly switch between one of three brightness levels for the backlight. I, personally, find the brightest option is the best when not in complete darkness; however, the glasses can become a bit warm when in this state.
Thanks to the fact that OLED displays use individual lights in each pixel instead of a single backlight, dark colors, especially black, are truly black. This makes the X-Real glasses ideal for consuming your favorite horror videos.
OLED displays have a unique characteristic, specifically that the display can become fully transparent when turned off. The X-Real Glasses takes advantage of this characteristic with a button that allows you to turn off the screen when you need to focus on something else. If you are casting media to the screen, it will continue to play in the background. I often use this when a flight attendant comes around to ask for drink orders while on a plane.
The audio quality of the X-Real will vary based on your specific use case. If you are lying in bed and want to watch Tik-Tok without annoying your partner, the built-in speakers are perfect; however, if you want to use the X-Real Glasses on a plane, I would strongly advise using external headphones. The biggest reason for this is that the X-Real Glasses lack any form of outside noise suppression, or ANC as they leave your ears open. I, personally, use the Bose 700 when I travel, and they work without issue.
If you use an X-Real Beam and Miracast, you will need to pair your headphones directly to the X-Real Beam over Bluetooth.
Software (X-Real Nebula)
X-Real has a companion application called Nebula, which offers a glimpse of what is possible with this technology. It is a very well-designed application that is launched when your X-Real Glasses are connected to a USB-C port. Although X-Real does have an iOS and Android application, I only use Android and am not sure if the same features are shared on both platforms.
On its first launch, you will be treated to a 3D video introduction followed by a getting started wizard. Navigating Nebula is done with a virtual pointer, which uses your phone's positioning to control where it goes. The navigation is very fluid and natural. You won't even need to look at your phone once you get the basics down.
The biggest limitation to Nebula is the lack of applications. It has grown considerably since I first tried it last year, but it still has a way to go before it will be something I use more often. The only application that seems to be fully fleshed out is the exercise bike tour application, which allows you to take a virtual tour of hundreds of locations while pedaling your stationary exercise bike. The rest of the applications seem to be web applications for sites like YouTube and Microsoft Outlook Web.
I do have high hopes for Nebula to develop into a full ecosystem over time. X-Real has recently announced that a Windows version of Nebula is coming. Without the Nebula application on Windows, the glasses act as a standalone display.
The final feature of Nebula is that it is also responsible for firmware updates on the X-Real Glasses. If you just purchased your glasses and connected them, there is a high likelihood that you will be prompted for an update. The updates are pretty fast and painless.
One aspect that needs improvement is the battery drain on the connected smartphone. As the glasses lack pass-through charging, an aftermarket adapter is required to support this feature. While this can be a minor inconvenience, it is worth considering if you heavily rely on your phone throughout the day. With this said, I do wish that XReal would have at least included this adapter in the box. Another option is to use the NReal Beam to wirelessly cast media content while keeping your phone on the charger.
Samsung Dex Compatibility
Samsung Dex integration is flawless with these glasses. The seamless connectivity between the glasses and Samsung Dex enhances the overall user experience, providing a productive and efficient way to interact with a full desktop class UI powered by a Samsung Smartphone. It is possible to fully control this from your phone, I do advise you purchase an external keyboard and mouse if you want to be far more productive.
Screen Control and Visibility
Another feature that I appreciate is the ability to turn off the screen when not needed. This allows the screens to blend with my vision and reduces any unnecessary distractions. The option to control the visibility of the screens is a great addition that optimizes the usability and versatility of the glasses. The glasses also have a rocker button to allow you to adjust the brightness.
X-Real Beam Addition
While the optional X-Real Beam attachment is a nice addition, I would have preferred if it was included with the glasses by default. XReal only started selling the Beam within the past few months and I believe that the company rushed to the glasses to market so they can claim to be the first instead of taking the The X-Real Beam significantly enhances the usability and functionality of the glasses, making it an essential accessory. It is worth noting, however, that the X-Real Beam lacks a few features that could further improve its usefulness.
It is possible to buy the X-Real Beam as a standalone purchase, I woud strongly advise purchasing the X-Real + Beam Bundle if you are new to the ecosystem instead of each item as a standalone device in order to save a few bucks.
X-Real Beam Software
The X-Real Beam is much more than a simple passive adapter; it is more of a standalone computer. It has its own CPU, RAM, storage, battery, and operating system. As of this writing (X-Real OS Version EVA-2023092721240305), the features are pretty basic. X-Real does have plans to support native applications at some point in the near future, but as of this writing, the X-Real Beam is only useful for wirelessly casting content from a Miracast-enabled device to the X-Real Beam and receiving content from a connected USB-C device such as a Nintendo Switch.
The X-Real Beam can also perform firmware updates on the X-Real/N-Real Glasses when needed.
Wireless Streaming Limitations
When it comes to wireless streaming, using Miracast, there are limitations to consider. DRM content from streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu may not be compatible, which can be disappointing for some users. However, Google Play Movies and YouTube are compatible, providing a satisfying streaming experience.
In conclusion, the N-Real/X-Real Augmented Reality Glasses have been a valuable addition to my tech collection. The glasses' minimalist design, seamless integration with Samsung Dex, and the ability to control screen visibility make them a practical and user-friendly AR solution. While the lack of pass-through charging, the need for an aftermarket adapter, and some limitations with wireless streaming should be considered, overall, these glasses offer a compelling augmented reality experience. I highly recommend them to tech enthusiasts and individuals looking to explore the world of AR ... or just want a second display that can easily fit into a pocket when not needed.