Varjo XR-4 hands-on preview: high resolution and raytracing are an explosive mix in VR

Last week I was able to sneak into Varjo headquarters to try the latest XR-4 headset. Is it as cool as the marketing materials promise? Read this post and you will discover it!

Varjo XR-4

varjo xr-4
Varjo XR-4 promotional image (Image by Varjo)

Varjo has just announced its latest flagship headset: the XR-4. XR-4 offers many improvements over the previous XR-3 model, which was already considered an impressive MR headset. According to the company, these are the strong points of the new XR-4 device:

  • Dual 4K x 4K displays with a resolution of 51 pixels per degree (PPD) and over 50% wider field of view (120°x 105°) compared to previous-generation devices, with double the display brightness (200 nits) and wider color gamut with 96% DCI-P3
  • Dual 20 Mpx cameras for powering the industry’s highest-fidelity, real-time photorealistic video pass-through mixed reality
  • New ambient light sensors and 8 x improved LiDAR resolution compared to Varjo XR-3 that seamlessly blends real and virtual elements
  • Built-in DTS 3D spatial audio with noise-canceling mics and integrated speakers for collaborative use cases
  • Inside-out tracking and in-box Varjo Controllers, powered by Razer, provide precise interactions with high tactile immersion and reduce setup complexity and cost
  • Powered by NVIDIA RTX™ Ada Generation GPUs and integrated into NVIDIA Omniverse, the platform for connecting complex 3D pipelines and developing applications based on OpenUSD
  • Optimized for seamless cloud streaming, sharing, and collaboration in Varjo Reality Cloud to streamline immersive 3D workflows across organizations.
Varjo XR-4 and its main improvements
Varjo XR-4 and its main improvements (Image by Varjo)

It is marketed as a headset with impressive resolution both for VR and MR. XR-4 also includes integrated audio for the first time for a Varjo headset. Tracking has been switched to inside-out, and Varjo now provides a set of controllers, manufactured by Razer, together with the headset. There is a lot of new to try in this device.

Before going on with the hands-on, let me also list for you the specs of the headset to give even more context:

  • Display: Two mini-LED displays
    • Resolution: 3840×3744 (each)
    • Refresh Rate: 90 Hz
    • Contrast: 1:10000
    • Luminance: 200 Nits
  • Lenses: Custom, variable resolution, full-dome, aspheric optics
  • FOV: 120° x 105°
  • Maximum PPD: 51
  • Passthrough:
    • Cameras: 2 x 20Mpx
    • Latency: ~22ms (the company is working to even improve it)
    • LiDAR: 300-kilo pixels, 7meter range, 30 FPS
  • Connectivity: 1x display port + 1x USB-C
  • Audio:
    • Speakers: Spatial audio (integrated speakers) + 3.5 mm jack
    • Microphone: 2x integrated microphones (noise canceling)
  • Tracking: inside-out + support for SteamVR via dedicated faceplate
  • Controllers: Varjo controllers (powered by RAZER™) included
  • Weight: 1021g
Varjo xr-4 series
The various models of Varjo XR-4. They are all quite affordable (Image by Varjo)

The XR-4 launches in 3 variants:

  • The standard one, priced at €3,990
  • The “Focal edition”, which basically optimizes the mixed reality cameras’ resolution and also makes them focus on the same things you are looking at with your eyes, creating a very realistic passthrough effect. Its price is €9,990
  • The “Secure Edition”, which is manufactured in Finland and complies with all the highest safety guidelines. It can go completely offline and is TAA-compliant and non-RF. This headset costs €7,990 for the standard version and €13,990 for the focal edition.

Some extras can also be bought: for instance, the faceplate for SteamVR tracking costs €1000.

Ok, enough with the numbers, now it’s time to try the device!


varjo xr-4 controllers
Eating one of the controllers… still better than pizza with pineapple…

Actually, before we start, I have a little boring premise for you. I have flagged this article as a “preview” and not a “review” for two important reasons:

  • I had just a few minutes with the headset, so I can not write a full review, which would require using the device for at least a few days
  • For some reasons that would be boring to explain, I had not the possibility of trying a commercial XR-4 device, but a pre-production unit. Pre-production units are similar to the final version, but not identical because they come before the latest production stage. In particular, they may show some issues that have been solved in the final version of the device. So, while reading this article, imagine that everything is actually a bit better on the final device

I really thank Varjo people for letting me try this unit of the XR-4 with such a little notice: Helsinki is not exactly close to my home, so they were incredibly kind to do everything they could to give a decent demo of the XR-4 to me.

Additional details on the device

varjo xr-4 lenses
From this render, you can see the shape of the lenses of the headset (Image by Varjo)

Before we went to the demo room, a Varjo representative made a little presentation of the XR-4. I already knew almost everything, so honestly, while he was speaking, I wasn’t listening much and I was just thinking “I WANT TO TRY IT, I WANT TO TRY IT”. But here and there in the presentation, I got some sparse interesting info that was not in the launch press release and that I want to share with you:

  • Varjo XR-4 removes for the first time the annual subscription that Varjo required to pay for all the previous devices. This is especially a big relief for universities, for which allocating this annual year was a huge bureaucratic mess
  • The Varjo Focal edition is mostly used in simulations, where the customer wants to see reality with great accuracy. For instance, in a mixed reality training session on a physical plane, the pilot should be able to see the physical switches of the plane exactly like in real life
  • The headset has now a physical button to turn it off, so it doesn’t require anymore to be unplugged every time it is not in use. To work, it requires a login: at least once every 48 hours, the headset should be connected to the network (via its computer) and communicate the login. This is of course not required for the Secure edition
  • It is possible to add Ultraleap hand tracking for +499€. This adds a new Leap Motion Controller 2 to the headset
  • The Focal edition changes the lens profile for the passthrough: while the Standard edition features 23 PPD at the center of the visual and 33PPD at the periphery, the Focal edition offers a stunning 51PPD at the center of your vision (the part also your eyes see with more clarity) and 15 PPD in the periphery (which your eyes would see blurred anyway). The mission is to give the user a passthrough “indistinguishable from reality” by giving more pixels to the area where the user’s eyes can see better


xr-4 varjo
The XR-4 doesn’t look bad in selfies

When I saw the press release about the headset, I thought the design was pretty ugly. Actually, seen in real life, it is not that bad. It is not my favorite design ever, but it’s ok to be seen on the heads of other people. I particularly appreciated the glossy reflective front face, which in my opinion makes the headset look more classy. This is a trademark of Varjo devices, and I’ve been told it has been made reflective in a way that remembers the first Varjo device, as an homage to it.

Here are some pictures of the headset seen from all sides:

varjo xr-4 view design
Top view of the headset. The little circular black button that you see is to turn on/off the device
varjo xr-4 view design
Left view
varjo xr-4 view design
Right view
varjo xr-4 view design
Bottom view. The “grids” that you see are part of the fitting mechanism, one goes on the forehead, and the other one on the nape. The two dots on the front part are the microphones, instead
varjo xr-4 view design
Rear view: here you can see the cable management and the usual knob to tighten the headset around your head


Notwithstanding its big weight, the device didn’t feel heavy on my head. This is usually a good sign because it means that it has been balanced well. I tried a few demos during which I moved in the room, also moving my head, and I felt no weird sensation about it. Of course, a more accurate test would be having the headset for at least 1 hour of consecutive play time, but let’s say that at least the first impressions were good in this sense.

Apart from the weight, I have to say that also the overall fit was good: the headset has various regulations knobs so that you can adjust both the fit on the nape and on the forehead, so if you spend some time to find the settings that are best for you, you should be able to comfortably wear it. I’ve found it interesting that on the top and rear part, your head doesn’t directly touch the halo, but it touches a plastic part that rotates to adapt to the curvature of your head. This helps a lot in distributing the weight and makes the headset feel more comfortable.

varjo xr-4 comfort
Notice that the top strap has that plastic piece that distributes the weight on a wider area of the head so that you feel less pressure on a specific point (By the way, shoutout to my friend Jussi who is in this picture!)
varjo xr-4 comfort
Here it is the rear part: the head doesn’t touch the (white) halo, but it touches that (black) plastic piece, which rotates to accommodate your head with the best angle possible


In VR, the visuals offered by XR-4 are simply stunning. The 4K x 4K resolution is incredible and the screen door effect is a memory of the past. I was able to spot no pixels at all, which is impressive, even if sometimes I could see some kind of noise-grid attached to my eyes… it’s hard to describe, but it was as if I could perceive that there was some “dirt” attached to my eyes, and this dirt was like a grid with very tiny cells, and then soon after, it disappeared. It’s not uncommon for modern headsets that I don’t see any kind of SDE, but that I “perceive” some kind of grid-noise sometimes, because even if very tiny, pixels are still there, and in some configurations, they can still be perceived somehow. That said, apart from these “noise” moments, the visuals were just incredible.

varjo xr 4 hands-on review preview
I had quite a good time seeing the bright visuals of the demo inside the device. Too bad the demo time was not very long

Varjo has finally solved its issues with the lens distortions, so the visuals were good across almost the whole field of view. If I rotated my head horizontally, I also could see no warping, which was good. I could notice a bit of warping if I tilted my head up and down instead, but it was not so big as to ruin my experience. There was also a tiny region at the very extreme periphery of the field of vision that showed some weird stuff, but while noticeable, it was not a big deal, because it was really at just the extreme part of the field of view. In general, while not perfect, the visuals were a huge step forward compared to the previous models and were finally almost realistic.

The lenses of the device. The tiny dots that you see are the LEDs for eye tracking

The FOV was larger than usual (e.g. larger than Quest) and this is good for enhancing immersion. I have to tell you that anyway, it was large, but not THAT large (e.g. Pimax) so it was good, but not enough to make me say “WOW”.

Talking about WOW things, the thing that I loved the most has been trying a ray-traced demo with a device with such visuals. The demo that Varjo people made us try was alternating VR and MR modes and was studied to give a great impression of the device. For instance, at a certain point, we could see the Earth from above, and it was there that I noticed that the device has also good bright colors. But my favorite moment was when there was a floating blob of liquid metal that I could manipulate using the controllers, making it fluctuate, separate into multiple blobs, and so on. This flying fluid was reflective, and on it, I could see the perfect reflection of the virtual environment I was in, including my own avatar, which was moving live. The stunning visual quality of that metal, with its shininess, with the fluid simulation, with those realistic reflections, was only possible because the demo was using real-time raytracing, and the raytracing, combined with the high resolution of the device, made a really fantastic effect. I am usually never excited by demos, but in this case, I spent 5 minutes just playing around with this floating blob, because interacting with it was oddly satisfying and the visuals it had were just fantastic.

In the second half of this video, you can see the blob I am talking about. In real life is much cooler than in this video


There are onboard speakers on the device and I confirm they work. Don’t ask me about the audio quality, because my ears are not trained for this. I can just say that it sounded right, but I had not the occasion to play a song I know, so that I could evaluate the basses.


The new controllers of the Varjo XR-4 have a quite nice bi-color design and are manufactured by Razer. They feature a strap so that you can attach them to your palm and they do not risk flying away during their use. This also makes the controllers more comfortable to use, because you don’t have to keep the fingers in tension to not make the controller fall down.

varjo xr-4 controllers
The strap makes sure the controllers are attached to the hand, for added comfort

The control system is the one that nowadays can be found on all XR controllers: a grip, a trigger, two command buttons, and a system button. The trigger gives analog input (so the system detects how much are you pressing it), while the grip is only an on/off button.

varjo xr-4 controllers
Top buttons of the controllers
varjo xr-4 controllers
Lateral view of the controller where you can see the grip and trigger buttons

Controllers feel quite balanced in the hand and the fit was good, but, as with all XR controllers I’ve used, there is always the problem that the hand can not be put in a comfortable way so that it can press all the buttons. You have always to put your hand in a way that pressing some buttons feels perfect while pressing others provides a slight discomfort. The system menu button instead requires the thumb to bend a lot to be pressed and this is very uncomfortable, but I’ve been told that this is by design: if pressing the system button is complicated, it is impossible that it is pressed by error during a training session.

varjo xr-4 controllers
I had to bend my thumb very much to press the menu button

Controllers feature a USB-C port through which they can be recharged. This is good to save money on batteries, but I know some companies would have preferred a swappable batteries approach because batteries can be changed on the fly to have very long VR sessions.

varjo xr-4 controllers
The USB-C port on the bottom of the controllers


The tracking of the headset and the controllers was how I expected it to be from a company that has just started to implement inside-out tracking: good but not perfect. Doing inside-out tracking is hard, and most of the headsets that launched with it, had some little bugs in the beginning, which later were solved with a software update. The XR-4 is no exception to this rule. So the tracking of both headset and controllers was absolutely good for an enterprise session, where controllers are not used in a hectic way. I tried also to quickly move my hands, and in this case, the controllers were able to follow them correctly, so there were no issues with fast movement tracking. But I had some issues here and there if I tried some more extreme things.

varjo xr-4 controllers
Tracking of controllers was ok for classical enterprise usage or for sim gaming

For instance, if I made a controller enter fast my field of view, I could see that there was a moment of snap-in before the tracking was started; or if I put a controller in front of the other, the controller that was occluded had some little drift; or if kept the controllers perfectly still, I could see that there was a tiny vibration of their virtual counterpart. These are all the classical problems that I’ve seen in all the other devices when they started with inside-out tracking, and I’m pretty sure that also Varjo will solve them in the next weeks. For now, anyway, tracking is already good for simulation use.


The passthrough of the pre-production unit was not in a state for which I could get a fair impression of how the final production one actually is, so I am not reviewing it in this article. I will paste here below the marketing video that Varjo is sharing about mixed reality in use, so you can anyway get an idea of how it should look like.

This video from Varjo makes you see how the passthrough is expected to be

Flight Simulator

varjo flight simulator
Time to feel like a pilot!

Unrelated to my demos with the XR-4, I have also tried a demo with a previous Varjo headset and a plane simulation machine together with Microsoft Flight Simulator. It has been fucking cool… Varjo’s high resolution headset, paired with the great game by Microsoft, and the vibrations of the special seat made the flight simulation kinda realistic… I totally loved it! The guy that helped me made me do a full roll of the plane, and then a landing. I felt like having had my first flight as a real pilot. Thanks to the Varjo people for having made me have fun with it.

varjo flight simulator
I love crazy devices, so as soon as I saw this simulator chair, I absolutely wanted to jump on it (And by the way thanks to the guy who helped me)

Non generosity

I asked Varjo people if the company could gift me a $18000-worth Varjo Secure Focal edition with all the extras, as an act of Finnish kindness, but they didn’t do it. That’s very disappointing for a company in a country that prides itself on having Santa Claus as its citizen. I just asked for a small souvenir and nothing more…

Final considerations

varjo xr-4 review
Me trying the XR-4 (Shoutout to Ida for the beautiful picture)

My time with the Varjo XR-4 was limited but was enough to appreciate its good comfort and its very detailed visuals. At first glance, it seemed to me a very solid device, with some imperfections here and there, but still very good for companies (or prosumers) for which the visual quality is everything. Of course, I can’t express a final opinion until I have thoroughly tested the headset, but let’s say that the first impression was good 🙂

If you want to know more about it or evaluate a purchase, of course, head to Varjo website, where you will find everything you need. For any other questions about my hands-on session, as usual, ask them in the comments or directly on my social media channels! (And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!!)

Disclaimer: this blog contains advertisement and affiliate links to sustain itself. If you click on an affiliate link, I’ll be very happy because I’ll earn a small commission on your purchase. You can find my boring full disclosure here.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart