February 22, 2024

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

When Apple first revealed the Vision Pro, I was intrigued. But then, like many others, I saw the pricing and quickly looked away. At a starting cost of $3,500, I didn’t even bat an eye and went back to focusing on wearables and other mobile technology that would help optimize my life.

Also: Sony’s new XR headset is more ‘pro’ than Vision Pro and has 2 features Apple needs

After reading the early thoughts of my ZDNET colleagues, Jason and Kerry, and watching several videos of people using it after launch day, I thought maybe I should take the plunge on the next-gen headset. Perhaps one of the most expensive gadgets from Apple can improve my productivity and efficiency at work. 

I should mention now that I bought my first Apple computer in 1989, slept outside of an AT&T store in the rain for the first iPhone, and I consider myself an early adopter of technology. Despite missing out on Vision Pro pre-orders, I still kept an eye out for daily stock updates and eventually picked one up at my local mall store earlier this week. 

With my local sales tax, the 512GB model, with the $199 travel case, totaled just under $4,300. Thus, a high bar was set by Apple to prove to me that the Vision Pro is indeed worth the investment. I’ve now used the headset for three days, including using it on my commuter train and in the office. Here are my thoughts, as an engineer and digital nomad.

1. Stick with MacOS apps, if you can

In my day job, I serve as a professional naval architect, and at this stage in my 30-year career, I develop stability calculations, review design drawings, write reports and proposals, meet with clients on Teams, and manage other associates. We work in a Windows environment because many of our engineering programs are limited to the operating system.

Also: You can get an MBA on the Apple Vision Pro, but it won’t come cheap

Fortunately, since my team works at a hybrid, international scale, our IT group has set up virtual desktops that are accessible via VMWare’s Horizon client, found on Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS devices. I’ve used Horizon flawlessly with my MacBook Pro, even using a Yubikey USB-C authentication dongle for security.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

However, the iPad version of the Horizon client available on the Vision Pro is not as reliable. My headset’s eye-tracking hasn’t worked reliably either, and using an external control device can lend itself to false selections. On the bright side, Mac Virtual Display is nearly perfect on the Vision Pro and is the only reason I can be somewhat productive with the headset. You’ll have to settle with a single virtual monitor, and the feature only works with Mac computers, but it’s way better than the iPad version of most apps and services.

If Apple can add support for multiple virtual displays, much like how I use my MacBook Pro now with several monitors, then that would benefit my workflow immensely.

2. Native Microsoft apps are fairly limited

Besides the Horizon client covering my Windows software needs, I also use Outlook, Teams, Excel, and Word. These four applications are available on VisionOS, but the experiences are more barebones at the time of writing, especially when compared to the desktop versions. I also recommend using a Bluetooth keyboard, and only a Bluetooth keyboard, for text entry, because any form of virtual input on the Vision Pro simply won’t cut it for work.

Also: Zoom is coming to the Vision Pro headset and your meetings could get weird

In addition to the limited feature set, an issue with collaborating on Teams (or any video conferencing service) is Apple’s zombie-like Personas. The digital scan reminds me of characters from older gaming consoles, and I will never use it in client meetings or when FaceTiming my wife, who can’t take my Persona seriously.

3. Traveling with the Vision Pro

My daily commute includes a 45-minute train ride, and I also travel regularly on airplanes to visit clients, attend conferences, and participate in ship checks. Given the headset’s dedicated Travel Mode, these seemed to be great opportunities for me to test the Vision Pro.

Within the first 10 minutes of my train ride earlier this week, I came across an issue with the headset’s eye tracking, partly because the interior lenses began to fog up. In humid environments like in Seattle, I often experience fogged-up safety glasses, dive masks, and other glasses that cover my face, so this was unfortunate and not surprising. I was really hoping that the ventilation of the light seal cushion would help prevent this issue.

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Matthew Miller/ZDNET

I also felt cramped sitting in one spot and trying to navigate through multiple applications. On a train, let alone on a plane, I was barely able to move my body around to multitask on Vision OS. One feature I’d love to see is the ability to stack or quickly switch between several open apps. That would be ideal for more confined situations like this.

4. Privacy and security are secretly fantastic

On the plus side, when I was sitting on the train with the Vision Pro on, I realized that I could work on all of my projects that have proprietary and sensitive information on big screens without worrying about the person next to me glancing over. The ability to have complete privacy and enhanced security, including the ability to set up eye scanning to unlock your Vision Pro, may be one of the most compelling reasons to use the headset for work. Sure, this argument applies to every other VR headset, but none come close to the audiovisual fidelity of the Vision Pro.

ZDNET’s buying advice 

All that is to say the Apple Vision Pro isn’t ready to support my work experiences. Not yet, at least. The headset is more ideal for day traders, content creators, and those whose workflows revolve around just one to three apps (and don’t require the desktop versions). I would love to keep the Vision Pro to watch movies on flights, enjoy multiple sports games at once, and explore virtual environments, but the headset right now doesn’t give me enough value to justify the cost.