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HP Reverb G2

HP Reverb G2

Written by John Yan on 12/30/2021 for WMR  
More On: Reverb G2

The HP Reverb G2 is touted as the VR headset with the best screens. Compared to the Valve Index, Oculus Quest 2, and the HTC Vive Pro 2 for example, the screens on the Reverb G2 offer up the highest resolution. But does that translate to a great VR experience?

Before I continue, this is a review of the first version of the Reverb G2. A few months ago, HP released an updated version with better tracking and better compatibility with AMD systems. I don’t have the updated version yet, but here are my thoughts on the initial release of the Reverb G2.

I bought the HP Reverb G2 when it went on sale for $399.99. That’s $200 less than the initial release price of $599.99 in November of 2020. When the sale happened, I decided to jump in to replace my HTC VIVE Cosmos as my sim VR headset of choice. I wanted an inside out tracking system so I could just place it on my head and go.

The HP Reverb G2 is a Windows Mixed Reality headset, which uses cameras to track the position and controls. I’ve had two past Windows Mixed Reality headsets, both from Samsung, and I really liked them for what they were and the price they were sold at. The Reverb G2 came out in the price range of a more high end headset, but the screens and updated camera system as well as improvements on the controls warranted it.

The Reverb G2 is the only Windows Mixed Reality headset right now that implements the updated Microsoft spec for VR. Instead of the two cameras of the past Windows Mixed Reality headsets, the Reverb G2 has four cameras but in an interesting configuration. Whereas the Quest 2 has a camera on each corner of the headset, the Reverb G2 has two front cameras and then one on each side. You’d think the tracking volume would be the most optimal with the cameras on the corners, but it seems Microsoft and HP wanted more tracking volume to either side of you. We’ll see how well it does in testing, but the cameras being in those positions is an interesting choice.

Design wise, you can see some of the aspects taken from the Valve Index in the Reverb G2. Valve worked with HP on the headset and on the surface, the headphones and magnetic face gasket show Valve’s partnership with HP pretty obviously. Also like the Valve Index, the Reverb G2 features a single center Velcro band that runs from front to back that sits on the middle of your head to the rear cranium support.

The two LCD screens are capable of 2160x2160 per eye for a total of 4320x2160 resolution which makes it one of the highest resolution headsets out there. Refresh rate can go up to 90Hz, so not as fast as the Quest 2 or Valve Index is capable of. Field of view is around 114 degrees, which makes it less than the Valve Index but more than the VIVE Cosmos and the Quest 2.

They’re not OLEDs, so unlike my Samsung Odyssey+ or my original VIVE, the colors aren’t as vibrant and the blacks aren’t as deep. That said, they’re still very high quality screens and we’ll get more in depth with how well they do later on when I run through a few games.

The Reverb G2 does allow IPD adjustment with a slider underneath, which is nice to see. I don’t like how the Quest 2 has three settings as being able to adjust the IPD with more granularity like how the Reverb G2 does makes it easier to dial in the clearest image. Once set, I didn’t see it accidentally change like I’ve seen the Valve Index do when I played games like Creed where quick movements can inadvertently cause slight adjustments.

Let’s talk about the headstrap. Whereas you use the dial on the Valve Index to adjust the band, the Reverb G2 uses the Velcro on each side that lets you tighten the headset to where you are comfortable with. It’s OK, but at the price I expected a dial system as that is more solid in my opinion. The band does stretch out, so you can set the Reverb G2 to where it sits comfortably on your face and pull it back to take it off. The band does rotate the HMD all up to 90 degrees vertically so if you need to take a quick peek out from being inside VR, you can rotate it up pretty easily. Also, I found it pretty easy to have the HMD rotated all the way up, place it on my face, and rotate the band down behind me to put it on.

The center head strap does a good job of keeping a lot of weight on the top of your head. I had to pick up a top strap for the Samsung Odyssey+ as it really helps with the balance as well, so having one come by default with the Reverb G2 is a good decision.

The covering on the face gasket seems similar to the Valve Index, which I find incredibly comfortable to my face, but not as soft. Now, it could be because of how much I’ve used my Valve Index over the years, but the material on the Reverb G2 seems slightly rougher. That's not to say it doesn’t sit nice and soft on my face when I have it on, but there does seem to be a slight difference between my two headsets. Still, I found the gasket soft and comfortable when I wore it for long periods of time. The same material is used on the rear of the headset and both have enough padding so as your face or head isn’t touching hard plastic when in use.

Once I got it set and strapped on, I found the Reverb G2 to be light and solid. With everything tightened up, there’s not much movement when moving the head around so quick movements won’t disrupt the centering of your eyes to the lenses. If you are one to use your VR headsets to exercise, the HP Reverb G2 exhibited little to no movement when I was bouncing around. Of course, this all depends on the size and shape of your head.

On each side of the band are the floating headphones that are really, really awesome. I didn’t think Valve’s decision to go with the floating style would work but the sound coming from them is very good and you can rotate them easily out of the way when you want to hear around you. The design doesn’t isolate external sounds when you are in VR like say over the ear headphones and others can hear a little of what's coming out of the headphones while you are using it. But HP’s decision to go with the Valve style of headphones is a good one and one where I happily enjoy using them over my own set of cans.

A single cable comes out of the HMD and goes around the left side to the rear of the headset. I’ve read of people having issues where the cable would come loose over time, so I took the liberty on my version to do two cable wraps on my Reverb G2 to maybe help lessen the strain on the cable when in use.

On the other end is a display port and USB-C connector, different from the Samsung Odyssey where it used HDMI and USB-A. Also different for a Windows Mixed Reality headset is the need for an external power supply. Up until now, all of them used just two connections but the Reverb G2 needs some extra power that the USB port can’t provide so there’s a power plug that needs to be connected. HP includes an adapter should you not have a USB-C connector on your computer, but I still had to use mine.

I have an AMD 5950X on a MSI X570 Tomahawk WIFI motherboard with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti. I had many issues trying to find the right USB port to connect the Reverb G2 for it to be recognized. The USB-C ports definitely didn’t work and none of the rear USB-A ports on the back did as well. I had to use the front USB-A ports on my case that are connected to one of the USB headers on the motherboard before the Reverb G2 could be used.

I’ve seen other people with AMD systems complain as well how they couldn’t get the Reverb G2 to be recognized on some of the USB ports. Contrast that with every other headset I have included the Valve Index, VIVE Cosmos, Samsung Odyssey+, and my time testing the VIVE Pro 2, they all worked fine with the rear USB ports.

So what can you do if you have this issue? Thankfully, HP has decided to give those with the original Reverb G2 the new link box that the updated version comes with if you call in and request one. You definitely should, because the new link box has solved all my USB issues. It’s bigger than the original one and even includes a nice power button so you don’t have to unplug the unit anymore should you not be using it and not want it to draw power.

So with everything working, I jumped into my usual suspects list of games to test such as Skyrim VR, Elite Dangerous, Fallout 4 VR, BOXVR, Space Pirate and so on.

The controllers have been changed to have an additional button and the touchpad removed. I’ve always found the Windows Mixed Reality controllers to be OK. I don’t have any big issues with them other than the tracking, but that’s part of the system and not the ergonomics of it. My experience though has been with the two Samsung HMDs and their controllers are slightly different from the standard ones in terms of design.

Also, I’m a huge fan of the Valve Index controllers and the ability to just let go and have them stay in the hand. You can get some modifications to make this happen with Windows Mixed Reality controllers, but there’s an extra cost for that functionality.

The tracking of the controllers is OK, but there are dead spots that are easy to see. Move them near the top of your head and you can see them just stop moving as you close your hands above your head where the cameras lose sight of them. The same can be said if you move the controllers below and in front of you near your waist. Compared to the Quest 2 and their four corner cameras, the Reverb 2’s controller tracking leaves a bit to be desired.

While the side cameras help track the controllers on the left and right and even slightly behind you, it won’t help in games such as Sportsbar VR. I couldn’t get the game to work out of the setup area but I was able to spawn a pool stick and try and line up shots. Once my hand went behind me, you’re pretty much left without the ability to pull the stick further back. So games like pool are out of the question for the HP Reverb 2.

Using a bow and arrow in games like Skyrim VR, I was able to pull more to the side of my head thanks to the side cameras. On the Samsung Odyssey+, I pulled with the controllers kept in front of my HMD. Here, I had a more natural pull on the bow to the side of my face, which I appreciated.

The resolution of the Reverb G2 is no joke. These panels are some of the highest resolution panels around and they really shine in games like Elite Dangerous where you’re reading a lot of text. The clarity in this area is top notch and it’s better than the Quest 2 and Valve Index. The resolution makes this one of the best VR HMD setups for sims and it’s my go to headset to use now if I want to do some flying or driving in VR.

Colors are really good too. While not as vivid as say the OLED panels of past HMDs, I think the panels on the Reverb G2 produce a high quality picture in terms of color and clarity. The blacks are what you would expect from LCD screens but maybe a little better than other LCD headsets. The darkness of space in Elite Dangerous isn’t black but a dark gray as with any dark scene in games like Half-Life Alyx.

Measuring the horizontal FOV, I got 94.5 which isn’t too bad. Compared to the Vive Pro 2, it was 13 degrees less and also less than the Valve Index, but a small improvement over some of the other consumer headsets out there like the Quest 2.

Clarity when looking off center was OK and to me, seemed on par with the Valve Index. It’s a little blurry, but nothing I wasn’t used to and I think the Reverb G2 has a larger sweet spot than say the Vive Cosmos. It’s not edge to edge clarity, but I was satisfied with how clear the lenses were. I definitely didn’t fight it as much as the Vive Cosmos and found it to be about the same for me as with the Valve Index.

I was happy with the amount of god rays that I could see in the Reverb G2. It’s certainly less than others that I’ve tried and I didn’t think about it nearly as much as when I use other headsets. Does it eliminate them? No. Does it seem less than others that I have? Yes.

Out of the three Windows Mixed Reality headsets I have or had, The HP Reverb G2 is certainly at the top with comfort, clarity, and audio. Tracking seems to be a little better due to the extra cameras, but not at the Quest 2 level. If there’s one thing I don’t like about the Reverb G2 is that it needs a power adapter plugged in to use whereas I only have the USB plug and HDMI plug on the Samsung Odyssey+ making it easy to use on multiple computers without having to make sure there’s an extra empty power socket for me to plug in to. I actually put in a plug on my computer that allows for plugging in my Vive Cosmos or Valve Index instead of using a wall socket, but the company I picked that up doesn’t have one for the Reverb G2 yet. It’s a minor annoyance for me, but one that I do understand in that the HMD needs additional power to operate over other WMR devices.

For those that want to play sims in VR, the HP Reverb G2 is at the top of the list for me. Easy to set up with no need for external sensors and awesome visuals as well as great audio, the HP Reverb G2 is a great buy for that set of games. Moving over to more action games like Half-Life Alyx or Onward, I still prefer the Valve Index for the level of tracking you get with the lighthouse setup and great Index controllers. To me they are still hands down the best VR controllers, but the Reverb G2 ones are good as well.

I’ve seen the Reverb G2 go on sale many times and as of this writing, it’s $150 off for $449.99, which is a very good price. If you pick one up now, you’ll get the more updated version, which has the improvements to make this headset even better. A solid HMD with great LCD screens, the HP Reverb G2 delivers a great VR experience at a price that’s almost half of other complete setups.

A great headset especially for sim games, the HP Reverb G2 delivers on the visual and audio experience. Tracking for the controllers isn't the best, but it will do for most games.

Rating: 8.8 Class Leading

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About Author

I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. As one of the original writers, I was tapped to do action games and hardware. Nowadays, I work with a great group of folks on here to bring to you news and reviews on all things PC and consoles.

As for what I enjoy, I love action and survival games. I'm more of a PC gamer now than I used to be, but still enjoy the occasional console fair. Lately, I've been really playing a ton of retro games after building an arcade cabinet for myself and the kids. There's some old games I love to revisit and the cabinet really does a great job at bringing back that nostalgic feeling of going to the arcade.

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