Steam Deck only has a 7-inch screen. With the Nreal Air display headset, you can play Steam Deck games on a virtual 130-inch screen.
The 80-gram Nreal Air was launched in the United States last September. It is also available in China, Japan and the United Kingdom. The wearable is sold in the US via Amazon and costs $379. A USB-C cable connects it to smartphones (Android, iOS), consoles (Xbox Series S/X, Playstation 4 Slim & Playstation 5) and handhelds (Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck).
The virtual screen headset features integrated OLED displays that project a 1,920 by 1,080 pixel image per eye. The 46-degree field of view is relatively narrow compared to standard VR headsets, but the pixel density of 49 PPD is more than double that of the Meta Quest 2 or Meta Quest Pro.
This fact should result in an exceptionally sharp image. According to Nreal, the simulated screen is the size of a 130-inch TV four meters away.
Nreal Air: A Steam Deck secret tip
At the end of last year, the Chinese startup celebrated the production of 100,000 units. In the fourth quarter of 2022, 70,000 units are expected to have been shipped – a respectable success for the young niche of display glasses.
This is likely helped by Nreal Air’s reputation in the U.S. as a great Steam Deck accessory. It replaces the electronic screen with a virtual one that surpasses it in terms of quality, and is lightweight and portable to boot. Nreal Air looks almost like sunglasses and can be worn relatively unobtrusively on trains or planes. Those who need a traditional headset can buy compatible glasses.
Norman Chan from the YouTube channel Tested has tried out the Nreal Air on his Steam Deck and summarizes his impressions in a video (see below). The hardware tester calls the picture quality “fantastic”, but points out some limitations.
Easy screen setup, but no 3-DoF tracking
The setup is simple: Once connected via cable, the Steam Deck automatically recognizes the display glasses as an output device and adjusts the resolution accordingly.
Since the Nreal Air does not have a battery, the wearable also uses the Steam Deck’s battery, which affects its lifespan. If the battery drops below 50 percent, no signal is sent to the display headset. You can play with the Nreal Air for about an hour, or use an adapter to power the handheld at the same time.
What bothers Chan much more is the fixed orientation of the virtual screen. The 3-DoF tracking is disabled in screen mirroring mode, which causes the image to move with every head movement – an unpleasant viewing experience eventually.
Chan also criticizes that an additional clunky adapter has to be purchased for some other devices, such as the iPhone. Those who need an additional visual aid have to dig deep into their pockets for the second screen. He hopes the next iteration of the Nreal Air will be an all-around better product that is more comfortable to use.
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