XReal Air display glasses

Even though this isn’t a tablet or phone… I think it’s potentially a great “companion” accessory for mobile computing.

These are the NReal Air glasses. They are marketed as Augmented Reality devices, to which I would hesitate to claim. However, I do think they are highly effective as a portable monitor/display device.

The Airs are probably the only current Head Mounted Display (HMD) that I would actually feel comfortable wearing out in the public. They look scarcely different than a pair of large Ray Ban sunglasses. And you wouldn’t really look out of place wearing them indoors, aside from the fact that you’re wearing sunglasses indoors.

In fact, on my first time I brought them with me for plane travel, there was another person at my gate, wearing them. And they look pretty unobtrusive. You can tell a hint of lights flashing through his dark lenses, but I knew what I was looking for.

The entire kit consists of glasses, a nice cylindrical zippered case to protect the glasses, that also has a storage area for a USB-C cable.

About that cable… the glasses are powered externally, requiring the single USB-C cable that, design-wise, attach nicely to the left frame end.

When I plug the cable into my Fold3… that’s where the magic happens. The Samsung automatically detects this as a monitor and kicks into Dex mode.

The picture here, doesn’t do the display any justice, as the camera can’t focus the image properly. But I assure you, the display is crystal clear. It amounts to having a 200" monitor in front of your face.

The graphics are sharp enough with the fonts, that I have no problem reading websites or editing word processor documents. With Dex, I can do something like put a MS Teams call on one side, and a document or web browser on the other.

The images are bright, and brightness levels are adjustable. They are viewable in sunlight, but slightly washed out. At night, or indoor areas, they shine and it’s a joy to watch content like videos or sports broadcasts. If you turn the Dex background to completely black, the pixels are completely off, and you can actually see the real world like having sunglasses. So you can get a sort of augmented reality effect with windows and icons floating in front of you.

While in Dex, I have the phone display turned into a touchpad, with a keyboard when needed. The Field of View (FOV) of the Air doesn’t fully cover your vision in the vertical direction. That actually works to one’s advantage, as you can actually see the real world if you cast your eyes stright down, where you can see yourself thumb typing on the Fold virtual keyboard.

I’m on week three of having the NReal Airs, and already, it’s in my travel kit. I no longer feel the need to bring an external monitor or Nexdock style device to run Dex on the road. I would still bring a folding keyboard and mouse for max efficiency. But the bulkiness of my travel kit has gotten significantly lighter and more compact with these display glasses.


Thanks for the write up!

They aren’t too expensive either.

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Very cool, the future is now! How much did it set you back, and what’s the resolution?

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I’ve been watching these closely. I’m intrigued and would love to get a pair. That was a really helpful write up. Please continue to share experinces.


Too bad they have such a limited phone compatibility list. These look really cool. Would also be an interesting option if they worked with a laptop as a portable effectively very large monitor.

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I wonder how the Lenovo Glasses T1 will fare.

And this time next year, Qualcomm’s SoCs for glasses will start shipping in products. Let’s just hope it isn’t as half-derrièred as their smartwatch SoCs have been.


I’m not entirely sure what the limitations of their phone listings mean. It might be more about their “AR” software called Nebula, which supposedly only works with certain phones.

Otherwise, most devices that have USB-C display outputs will allow for screen mirroring. From what I’ve seen, it should work with any laptop. I’ll test this out on my Windows laptop soon.


It looks like a similar product. If one were to compare the listed specs, it looks like the Nreal has better contrast and higher refresh rate. It also looks like the Lenovo USB cord is permanently attached to the frame, which reduces your choices of length and perhaps makes them more awkward to stow.

It’s unclear where the Lenovo will be priced, aside from rumors it will be under $500. The Nreal can be purchased on Amazon for $379

$379 from Amazon, for me, it took about 5 days from order to arrival.

1920x1280 per eye. The most important subjective criteria for me, is being able to read text on documents, to make this a usable work monitor.


Other things I’ve been trying is running Moonlight Nvidia streaming via Dex, to get a virtual desktop of my gaming PC with an RTX GPU. Being able to run full fledged CAD/3D animation software with a pocketable setup is something else.

I’ve heard people running Raspberry Pis and Steam Decks. I’m tempted to get a cheap PC stick to have an on-prem pocketable Windows setup.

Other fun application is putting a movie in the top corner of my Dex view and doing yardwork.

The craziest thing I’ve heard people do is having Google maps/navigation in the edge of the FOV while wearing the glasses while driving. Definitely not recommending that!


Pretty sure that’s not legal in a lot of countries!

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Nope, don’t get a PC stick, it will be a hassle to set up and not at all portable. Newer (non Atom) PC stick will require a 15W power source, so it’s either carrying a bulky charger and be permanently attached to a wall, or carrying a brick of high voltage battery. You will also need at least a portable controller to control the thing, basically not at all a " portable " setup.

Some mini tablets with its own battery and a low power celeron chip like my Raytrektab 8 would be a far better alternative for a portable Windows experience. Still bulky but it had pen input and touchscreen which can work in a pinch as an input method. Or the Steam deck with controller would be a great portable PC alternative.


Do you need 20/20 vision to use them?


Yes. I have to wear my contacts to see with the Air. I’m pretty sure the Air will not fit around prescription glasses.

The kit comes with a lens insert, and that can be used as a template for a prescription lens maker to fabricate the right shaped lenses to use.


They renamed themselves from NReal to XREAL and are coming out with a Beam accessory that allows interesting things besides wireless (see this Reddit).


Pre-orders start June 1.

After watching this review by the CryoBytes guy I decided to give it a try.

I also had to order prescription insert lenses from a third party ($65.90 to my door) because I doubt my glasses would fit underneath the thing or be comfortable if they could squeeze in. Note that it’s myopia (nearsightedness) that needs correction, ‘cause the sight range is as if you are several (~4) meters away from the virtual screen. If you only wear reading glasses you’re okay without.

We’ll see how it goes.

Edit: NReal to XREAL because Epic sued them last year and they settled. Epic thinks it infringed on their “Unreal” brand.


A caveat about alternatives that have diopter dials instead of requiring corrective lenses. I was looking at some before I remembered the things my optometrist brother taught me: diopters don’t do anything for astigmatism nor do they adjust for pupillary distance. Probably okay, however, if one just has spherical myopia and nothing else that needs correcting.

I have astigmatism in both eyes and my pupillary distance is 4.5mm less than the male mean. The former would give me blurring in a diopter-adjusted pair and the latter might be enough to cause discomfort if the default pupillary distance is different enough—this is one reason you see comments by people getting headaches while most don’t. The female range is 51-74.5mm; male 53-77mm. Female mean is 61.7mm; male is 64mm. They probably split the means and set these things to 63mm.


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Continuing the topic a bit after more reading. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that the better VR glasses (the goggle-type, but no AR glasses like the XREAL Air AFAIK) have adjustable IPD (Inter-Pupillary Distance). Here’s a good article explaining everything:

Suppose you’re wearing regular reading glasses. Each eye is looking through a separate lens. If your eyes are not in line with the optical center of the lens, then the light that enters your retina is going to be reflected wrong. This is what commonly causes headaches and eye strain.

And I see from the table of VR glasses, adjustable and non-adjustable, that my IPD barely makes it into the Ideal User IPD lower range for most of them, even the adjustable ones. Pity the folks with an IPD farther out from the mean. But there’s hope: at least one upcoming VR brand is requiring face imaging, including IPD, to make individually custom glasses.

To be complete, here’s a write up on astigmatism as well. What it is and the symptoms. You’re not going to see crisp text with these things if you have uncorrected astigmatism of any significant magnitude.

You can have astigmatism without myopia and vice versa. A diopter adjustment has zero influence on it.

I’ve been very tempted to try a set of AR glasses, but it’s a difficult sell to my better half (especially given I’m all but convinced to pick up the ROG Ally once it releases).

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I’m still awaiting the prescription lens inserts. They shipped the next day after my order and have made it from China past customs to the USPS black hole* of Los Angeles and there’s no telling how long it’ll be stuck there. Two or three days seems typical and then normal transit time to New Mexico.

I briefly and carefully tried the XREALs with my own glasses to check if the clarity will suffice and am satisfied that it will. I then proceeded to test various configurations without correction, ignoring the blurred image. I was impressed.

Surface Duo: plug and play without the Nebula app. Somewhat functional with the app sideloaded—it asks for background permissions but the settings section it opens for it doesn’t have any such thing. Designed for Samsung? Anyway, it’s usable without the AR stuff, as a huge virtual display.

iPhone: needs the Apple lightning to HDMI adapter connected to a powered HDMI to USB-C display adapter (yeah, dongle h*ll). XREAL sells one of the latter, battery powered, that also works for PS5, Xbox, Switch, and other devices with HDMI and not USB-C DP Alt Mode. I’m using a $27 third party adapter instead of their $60 one. That works for the virtual 130” display 4 meters away. There’s no Nebula app for iOS/iPadOS.

iPad: plug and play for one big screen. No app.

Mac mini: works fantastic! Plug and play for single virtual display, has the Nebula app (beta) for anchored displays—one, two, or three of them side by side. They don’t move when you turn your head to view them (3DoF—3 degrees of freedom for your head). If you stand up and move they’ll follow you, however. I haven’t played with the AR mode since everything is too blurry to use till I get my prescription inserts. I can turn off the physical display when using the glasses and reboot to the glasses display while the physical display remains off. Booting into Windows 11 ARM with Parallels is no problem while using. Nice!

[Note that the glasses’ microOLED combined screens provide a 46° field of view so there’s a rectangular tunnel vision that prevents seeing much more than one virtual display at a time, depending on the size and distance you set for them. No peripheral view, you have to turn your head to see the others]

Steam Deck: plug and play via USB-C DP Alt Mode. I have an OTG adapter on order to power the SD at the same time. ETA another two weeks.

Initial impression: potential for a paradigm shift in how I use my devices but I won’t know if it’s viable long term until I get my lenses.

I have their Beam accessory on preorder, expected to ship second half of July, which will allow AirPlay, Miracast, etc. (Chromecast?) with Nebula app features built in. We’ll have to wait and see how much that’ll change the iOS/iPadOS situation for the better. iPad with two or three anchored big screens? Hmm, not likely.

*—USPS has three black holes on the US west coast: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. I’ve had items get sucked into them for two to five days in the past and when they escape one of them they sometimes get captured by the gravitational pull of one of the others. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:


Given that your M2 Pro Mac Mini is now the centerpiece of your setup, how do you feel about the newly revealed Apple Vision Pro?

Seems like it offers all the advantages of the other VR headsets, but with the seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem. Right off the bat, I was quite impressed by the:

  • reported 4000ppi micro-OLED displays which should produce convincing 4K floating screens
  • external cameras/mics/display features (instant mixed-reality space capture, auto-show nearby people/objects, ‘look’ at your Mac screen)
  • curved motherboard, which shows the lengths of industrial design that Apple will go to for optimal form-factor

What would your price premium for Apple’s headset vs. NReal and other ~$400 competitors?