Xreal has made a name for itself with some surprisingly nice-looking augmented reality glasses, which put a display in front of your eyes so you can do things like watch TV or play games on a giant screen projected just for you. But unlike, say, Apple’s Vision Pro or Meta’s Quest 3, Xreal has no built-in software or content. It’s just a screen in your glasses. This is good in that you can plug in lots of other devices, but it does restrict the sort of things those glasses can do.

The new Beam Pro is Xreal’s latest attempt to bridge that gap. It’s a handheld device with the rough dimensions of a smartphone, but Xreal thinks of it as more of a companion to your glasses. It runs a customized version of Android 14 — Xreal calls it NebulaOS — and should be able to load most apps onto your face screen. And on the back, there’s a dual-lens camera you can use to take spatial and 3D videos for viewing in your glasses. (Or your Vision Pro; Xreal says the Beam Pro’s footage will work in your Apple headset, too.)

The specs here are pure smartphone: the Beam Pro has a 6.5-inch, 2400 x 1800 screen, runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (though it’s not clear which one), and has either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage. The cheapest model costs $199, though you probably won’t want one unless you’re also plunking down a few hundred bucks for a pair of Xreal glasses.

There are a couple of obvious tells that this is no ordinary Android phone, though. First are the dual 50-megapixel cameras, the likes of which we haven’t seen on smartphones much in recent years. The Beam Pro also has two USB-C ports, so you can charge the device and connect it to your glasses simultaneously. The NebulaOS tweaks to Android are all about AR, too; when you have your glasses plugged in, you can use the Beam’s screen as a touchpad, and the device is also designed to have two apps open side by side in your field of view. When you first plug in the glasses, it’ll pop up a homescreen of your apps, which you can open and control using the Beam Pro as a remote.

Image: Xreal

The Beam Pro looks like a big upgrade on the Beam, which was essentially just a remote control for your Xreal glasses. The Beam definitely solved a problem for Xreal owners, but it had some issues: a bunch of reviewers and users found it was fiddly and unreliable, and Xreal had a hard time explaining to users why it even existed in the first place. The screen should make the Pro much easier to use, and the camera makes it more than just a lesser smartphone replacement. You can, of course, still plug in your Steam Deck or smartphone and use Xreal’s glasses that way, but this feels like a more integrated approach.

Xreal’s approach is much less integrated than what we’re seeing from Apple and Meta, both of which are determined to put a whole computer on your face. But there’s something clever about Xreal’s way: it’s using a totally mature device category to do all the hard work — and doing as little on your face as possible. At least for now, it feels like a smart strategy.

Image: Xreal


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