Can a $3,500 headphone replace your TV? We tried Vision Pro to find out

Can a $3,500 headphone replace your TV?  We tried Vision Pro to find out

The Vision Pro is the strangest product Apple has introduced in the time I’ve been covering the company. It’s now well established that headphones are both impressively sophisticated and ridiculously expensive.

You could certainly argue that its price means it’s only for Silicon Valley tech optimists with a lot of money to burn or for developers looking to get in on the ground floor in hopes of this being the next app gold rush. But the platform will need more than these users to succeed.

Part of Apple’s pitch behind the price appears to be that the Vision Pro could replace it several hardware, just like the iPhone did in the late 2000s. It can replace your laptop, tablet, 4K TV, video game console, phone or other communication device, VR headset, etc. If you really replaced all of these things, the price wouldn’t seem so high to some.

And these are just the use cases that Apple has put a lot of effort into to facilitate the launch process. Many of the most important uses of the company’s earlier new product categories did not become fully apparent until a few years and generations later. The iPhone was originally intended to be a meditation aid, a flashlight, and a number of other common uses. Even third-party developers invented apps to make it do these things. Apple’s approach with the Apple Watch seems to be to just throw it out there with a number of potential uses to see what sticks in users’ minds. (The answer appears to be health and fitness, but the device’s clear focus on that took a while to sink in.)

So, while I could write an extensive review that walks through all the possibilities based on my week with the Vision Pro, that doesn’t seem as useful as digging into each specific possibility. This is the first in a series of articles that will do just that, so consider it one part of a longer, multi-step review. Ultimately, we will have considered many possible applications for the device, and we may be able to make some recommendations or predictions about its capabilities.

So far, I think there’s one use case that’s a slam dunk, and closer to becoming clear during launch week than any other: entertainment. In certain situations, the Vision Pro is a better device for watching TV shows and movies (among other things) away from a dedicated theater than we’ve seen before. So let’s start from there.

My strict standards (and maybe too).

I know I’m not your typical TV consumer. This is important to note before we dig too deep.

I bought my first OLED TV (55-inch LG B6) in 2016. I previously had a 50-inch plasma TV that I liked, but it only supported 1080p and SDR (standard dynamic range), and Sony had announced the PlayStation 4 Pro, which would support 4K gaming (sort of) and HDR (high dynamic range). Gaming consoles have always been the impetus for TV purchases in the past, so I sought out the best I could afford.

I had always cared about image quality before I bought an OLED display, but that interest had turned into something more obsessive at that point. I was amazed by the difference, and I began to find it difficult to accept the shortcomings of LCDs and TVs after that. Granted, I’ve always disliked LCDs, going straight from CRT to Plasma to avoid the gray backlight glow. But the comparison was even harsher when you went to OLED.

My fellow Ars Technica writers and editors often talk about powerful multi-monitor PC setups, expensive server racks at home, and other Ars-y stuff. I have some of those too, but I put most of my time and energy into the home theater. I’ve invested a lot into this, and it’s had the unfortunate side effect of making most other monitors I use seem inadequate by comparison.

However, some have argued that the Vision Pro is a solution in search of a problem, but there is one pre-existing problem I have that it has the potential to solve.

I travel a lot, so I spend at least a couple of months every year in hotels or Airbnb rooms. Whenever I’m in one of these places, I always get irritated by his TV being compared to the one at home. It’s too small for the space, it’s not 4K, it doesn’t support HDR, it’s mounted too high to watch comfortably, or it’s a cheap LCD screen with lackluster black levels and terrible contrast. Often, all of the above. Even when I’m home, my wife might want to watch Ha Appears on big screen TV tonight.

I end up not watching movies or shows I want to watch because I feel like I’ll be causing damage to those shows by ruining the picture with such terrible devices. “I’d better wait until I get home,” I said to myself.

Vision Pro might be the solution I’ve been waiting for. These two screens in front of my eyes are capable of displaying an image on par with that of a mid-range OLED TV in most situations, and I can use them absolutely anywhere.

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