If you have been following the AR space, you have probably come across the Nreal brand. The company has been one of the most successful in actually commercializing AR glasses, reaching 100,000 sales in 2022. The company’s Air glasses are thus a rather popular product in the growing space. Following a trademark dispute with Epic Games, Nreal rebranded to XREAL and has since been expanding its portfolio, putting out the Beam accessory that extends the functionality of the Air glasses and now a new pair of Air models – Air 2 and Air 2 Pro. The two models are actually nearly identical, except for the fancy Electrochromic dimming of the Pro. Having spent some time with the new XREAL Air 2 glasses, we are now ready to share our findings.
Compared to the original XREAL Air glasses, the second generation brings some ergonomic improvements and is lighter overall. They have new, more compact displays that deliver the same visual experience and higher brightness. There is also a new speaker setup and audio system.
First and foremost, let’s clear up some terminology here and explain what the XREAL Air 2 glasses actually do. You might find them being marketed as XR glasses, which stands for Extended Reality and is actually an umbrella term that encompasses all VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), and MR (Mixed Reality) products. Definitions start to get a bit murky beyond that, but at their core, the XREAL Air 2 are more or less a portable, wearable display. There is no actual computing on board, but there are some sensors, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and proximity sensor. XREAL actually leverages these to provide head tracking when paired with the XREAL Beam or the Nebula companion app. Hence, technically, the Air glasses have all the prerequisites to be considered an AR product.
Here is a quick rundown of the differences between the currently available XREAL Air products. The original XREAL Air is still officially on sale at $339, down from the original $379. Then we have the Air 2 glasses we are currently reviewing, with an MSRP of $399. And above that, the XREAL Air 2 Pro is $449. That’s quite premium for a single feature, but the technical challenges of Electrochromic dimming do drive up production costs.
The XREAL Air 2 glasses’ retail package is very similar to the original model’s. You get the glasses and a decently long USB Type-C to Type-C braided cable, giving you the minimum required setup to get the glasses working. Both of these fit snugly in the included travel case, which has seen a redesign. XREAL went for a more traditional glasses-style hinged hard case instead of the softer, zipper-equipped one of the original model. The new case feels very solid, but we are unsure how the latch mechanism will fare in the long run.
The Air 2 glasses come with an optional Light Shield attachment that makes the glasses opaque. You also get three different nose pads, so you can find the most comfortable ones. XREAL has put extra effort into user comfort, as evidenced by the included prescription lens frame, which attaches to the back of the XREAL Air 2. Alternatively, companies like Lensology offer prescription glass attachments made to order. XREAL even throws in a cleaning cloth in the package. Our unit also came with a few large XREAL stickers and something called a “KALEIDO KIT” – a set of blue stickers for the Light Shield and glasses themselves. We aren’t sure if those are part of the regular retail package, though.
Hardware, features, and controls
Visually, the new XREAL Air 2 glasses are not a major departure from the original Air’s design. The build is still plastic but feels quite sturdy. The XREAL Air 2 glasses weigh just 72 grams, which is lower than the already light original Air, which weighed 79 grams. The plastic build helps keep weight down and there really isn’t much hardware inside the glasses. There are two Sony-made FullHD OLED displays, a couple of speakers, and some sensors. There is no battery, processor of any sort, or even wireless connectivity hardware. Content and power are passed through the cable, as per the standard setup for AR glasses these days.
While still pretty compact, the Air 2 glasses have grown slightly compared to their predecessors. They measure 148mm x 51.4mm x 56.4mm when folded and 148mm x 51.4mm x 161mm unfolded. What XREAL did with this generation is to actually extend the length of the temples, making the glasses more comfortable for larger head sizes. This is definitely going to be a personal thing, but this reviewer finds the Air 2 more comfortable overall, particularly for the way the temple tips curve and slope over the ears.
XREAL claims that weight distribution has been optimized in the new Air 2 for a 1:1 split down the length of the glasses. In practice, the glasses still feel front-heavy. However, there is something to the new weight distribution claims since the Air 2 is more comfortable for prolonged wear than their predecessors. It takes longer before the pressure on your nose starts feeling uncomfortable. It’s also helped by the nose pads, which have undergone a redesign and now feature a hollow and rather large inner compartment for extra cushioning.
The front of the XREAL Air 2 glasses is absolutely flat, and they successfully pull off a traditional sunglasses look with the lenses sitting flush with the frame. This is in contrast to some alternatives, like the TCL NXTWEAR S glasses, which have a funky front look that instantly gives away their “smart” nature. XREAL went with tinted lenses on the Air 2, just like the original Air and unlike the already mentioned NXTWEAR S. This means that you always get to benefit from some built-in light control and thus get a better visual experience from the displays. If you prefer to cut yourself off from your surroundings, there is a snap-on attachment with solid shades in the retail box. Just like on the original Air glasses, mounting said attachment is done through simple friction rather than anything fancy like latches or magnets. Even so, the attachment sits very snugly and is quite secure. The shade attachments make the XREAL Air 2 glasses kind of weird, as if you are wearing completely blocked-out glasses. Then again, even in the default state it only…