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HP Reverb G2 review

The HP Reverb G2 offers great value for money, firmly nailing down the mid-range VR headset niche.

HP Reverb G2 VR Headset and Controllers.
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

There is a lot to like about the HP Reverb G2. It almost feels like it’s flown under the radar in the VR gaming space, and we think that’s a shame because it blows comparably priced competition out of the water. It’s got a great display, comfortable controllers, and offers good value for money. It suffers from being king of the middle ground though.

For

  • Good screen resolution
  • Great value for money
  • Easy to set up

Against

  • Only a 90 Hz frame rate
Key specs:

Platforms: Standalone
Price: $599 / £599
Resolution: 2160 x 2160 per eye
Field of view: 114 degrees
Refresh rate: 90 Hz
Controllers: HP Reverb G2 Controller Pair

If you think of the big names that are vying for a slice of the VR pie, HP probably isn’t the first one that jumps into your mind. HTC and Valve were certainly the pioneers in the space and both are still enjoying huge success, while Facebook/Meta/whatever they’re calling themselves these days have crushed the casual, entry-level market. But you rarely hear a peep about the HP Reverb G2, and we think that’s a crying shame because it’s an excellent VR headset in its own right.

Released back in November 2020, the HP Reverb G2 has some decent, if not earth-shattering specs. It’s rocking two 2160 x 2160 LCD panels that support a 90 Hz refresh rate, with four external cameras for tracking movement. It also comes with two controllers for accurate movement and interaction during VR gaming. And at $599 / £599, it’s competitively priced with other mid-range headsets like the HTC Cosmos too.

So, why don’t HP and the Reverb come up in conversation nearly as much as those other names we mentioned? Does it have a place in the ranks of the best VR headsets, or is it just suffering from being the middle child – wedged between the cheap, carefree life of the Oculus Quest 2 and the grown-up sophistication of the Valve Index?

HP Reverb G2: Design & Specs

  • Comfortable
  • High-resolution screens

The HP Reverb G2 is a stylish but understated looking VR headset with a matte black plastic body and gray fabric material for the internal padding. There are four external cameras on the device – two facing forwards, and one on each side. Next to the side cameras you’ll find the built-in directional speakers which can be raised up when not in use. The inside of the headset has a layer of memory foam covered in fabric to provide a comfortable experience while wearing it. This piece is detachable for easier cleaning, and also to give you access to the hidden port for the massive six metre-long cable that connects the Reverb G2 to your computer or laptop.

Internally, the HP Reverb G2 is rocking two 2 x 2.89” LCD screens with a resolution of 2160 x 2160 per eye. The HP Reverb G2 runs at up to 90 Hz refresh rate, which is in line with competing headsets like the HTC Cosmos Elite, though it can’t keep up with the 120 Hz output of the Valve Index.

We found the G2 to be a comfortable headset to wear during normal length VR sessions. Weighing in at around 1 lb (not including the cable), it’s lighter than many other headsets on the market, but it did start to feel a little uncomfortable during long play sessions. The built-in speakers do mean that you don’t need to wear a pair of headphones on top too, which is nice and helps keep the weight of stuff on your head down. There is also sufficient padding around the front of the headset to allow for glasses to be worn along with the headset, which is great for spectacled users like myself.

Unlike some VR headsets, the HP Reverb G2 comes with a pair of controllers as standard. These proprietary controllers fit in each hand, with a central grip, four face buttons, a joystick, a trigger button, and a bumper button. At the top you’ll find a distinctive circular ring which is covered in small lights – these are what the Reverb cameras use to track your hand movements when you’re using the headset. The controllers are powered by two AA batteries each.

HP Reverb G2: Setup and performance

  • Easy to set-up
  • Tracking is good, but can be affected by room lighting
  • Excellent visual quality 

The HP Reverb G2 is designed with room-scale VR in mind, which means it comes with a hefty six meter cable to allow you to game in an open space. This is great if that’s your intended use case, but if you just want to play VR games sat at your desk, this is going to leave you with a huge mess of cable shoved under your desk – learn how to set up your room for VR for seated, standing, and room-scales experiences. It’s also worth noting that the HP Reverb G2 needs a DisplayPort or USB 3.0 connection, so make sure your device is compatible before you consider buying one.

As it uses external cameras mounted on the headset itself, there is no need for additional base stations that other VR headsets like the HTC Cosmos Elite uses. This means that you don’t need quite as much space to use the G2 if you’re looking for a standing, room-scale VR experience. It’s also much easier to set up the G2, as you just plug in the headset and off you go. The downside is that this tracking system isn’t as accurate, and it’s more susceptible to conditions in your environment.

Once you’ve got the HP Reverb G2 plugged into your computer, you’ll need to install the Windows Mixed Reality portal. From there you simply activate the portal and follow the instructions – you may need to install some drivers but that’s simple, just follow the prompts. When that’s all sorted, you’ll be asked to turn on the controllers by holding the Windows button on each one. After that’s sorted, you’ll have the option to map out your VR space to let the device know what your playable area is if you’re using it for room-scale VR. If not, you can just set it up for seated and standing play. 

Once you’ve done all that, you’ll be dropped into the VR welcome hub, which is a virtual space that lets you move around and select various apps and storefronts. Overall, we found the HP Reverb G2 very easy to get to grips with. The set-up was largely just following clear on-screen instructions and we got going very quickly.

As it’s a PC-powered VR headset, performance is largely controlled by the device that you’re using to run it. We were running our test sessions on a HP Omen 15 laptop that HP loaned us along with the headset and we never had any issues with lag or performance. We’d once again like to stress the importance of making sure you have a device suitable for VR gaming before you take the plunge and buy a headset – check out our guide on how to build a PC for VR for more info.

To test the performance of the HP Reverb G2 itself we played a few games, but we spent the lion’s share of our testing time with Half Life: Alyx,. This VR masterpiece puts the headset to the test with its stunning visuals, intense combat, and complex movements that require precise controllers. We’re happy to say that the Reverb did not disappoint. Half Life’s City 17 looks absolutely gorgeous thanks to those high resolution displays, and the screen refresh rate is high enough to make motion and looking around feel smooth. When turning very quickly, the display could feel a little stuttery, but this is rare and was never a deal breaker.

Likewise, we were suitably impressed with the G2 controllers, which were both comfortable to hold and intuitive to use. We never found that the lack of base-stations or other external tracking seriously affected our gaming experience either. Aiming was precise when firing guns – or at least the gun aimed where we pointed it, it didn’t magically make us a good shot. Smaller movements that required finesse, such as reaching out and grabbing things, all worked wonderfully too, and we never found ourselves getting frustrated with the controls. 

Battery life was never an issue either, with the batteries lasting comfortably through to the 10-15 hour range that HP promises.

The only minor issue we had during our time with the HP Reverb was the cable which connects the headset to your computer or laptop: it’s quite a chunky cable and you basically have to throw it over your shoulder, which means you’re constantly aware of its presence and it can occasionally tug when you’re moving. However, this is a common issue across all wired VR headsets and we’re still waiting for the day that someone solves this particular problem.

HP Reverb G2: Software & games

HP Reverb G2 VR Controllers in hands, pointing forward. You can see the action taking place on the laptop screen in the background.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Steam VR
  • Can run Half Life: Alyx aka the best VR game ever made
  • Loads of non-gaming apps too

Like most VR headsets out there, the HP Reverb G2 works with the Steam VR ecosystem which gives you access to the vast majority of VR titles. You will need to check to make sure that individual titles are compatible with your headset though, as some older VR games don’t work well with newer headsets. There are a couple of standout VR games that you won’t have access to, like the Oculus Quest 2 exclusive Resident Evil 4 VR or PlayStation VR exclusives like Astro Bot Rescue Mission, but with Steam you have access to the biggest collection of VR games possible. 

Half Life: Alyx is the shining star of VR titles at the moment, so that was the first game we dived into when we got our headset set up, and neither the game nor the headset disappointed. The controllers felt comfortable and easy to use as we navigated the world, and the digital world of City 17 felt alive and immersive as we explored and fought our way through. 

There is plenty to do in VR outside of gaming though too – you can watch Netflix on a virtual cinema screen or keep fit with one of the plethora of VR fitness apps out there like X-Fitness which turns your boring gym routine into a fun and rewarding game. You can also pursue creative passions using VR apps like Adobe Medium or Tilt Brush to create beautiful works of art in a 3D space. Plus, they don’t all have to cost money – our round-up for the best free VR experiences is worth a look.

HP Reverb G2: Price

  • $599 / £599
  • Good value for a mid-range headset
  • One-year limited warranty 

The HP Reverb G2’s recommended retail price is $599 / £599. It’s worth noting that you do get the controllers included in the price, so there are no surprise add-on costs later. This puts it firmly in the middle of the pack in terms of cost – it’s a good chunk more expensive than the Meta Quest 2, which comes in at just $299, but it’s also significantly more powerful too. 

The fair comparison is probably with the HTC Vive Cosmos, which is the other main mid-range VR headset on the market. You can pick up the Cosmos for $699 and it offers a similar experience, although the Reverb does have a significantly better screen resolution. The Cosmos’s party piece is that it can be upgraded to the Cosmos Elite if you add the external base stations, which give you a better tracking experience.

You get a one-year limited warranty with the HP Reverb G2 as standard, including one-year parts and labor. This is pretty standard across VR headsets, and HP does offer extended warranties for up to three years.

Ultimately, we think the G2 offers great value for money for someone looking to take a step up from the entry-level VR headsets on the market, and we’d recommend it over the HTC Vive Cosmos in most situations. The real problem is, we don’t think most people should bother with the middle-ground at all. If you’re serious enough about VR to shell out $600, we’d say just pay the extra and jump straight to the Valve Index.

Should you buy the HP Reverb G2?

The HP Reverb G2 is uniquely placed in the VR market – it’s not a super high-end device like the Valve Index, nor is it the cheap entry level VR experience that the Oculus Quest 2 offers. Instead, the HP Reverb G2 is aimed squarely at people who already know they’re interested in VR gaming, but don’t want to spend a bomb on something like the Valve Index. It’s got a fantastic display and great controllers that make it ideal for VR gaming, plus it doesn’t require a ton of space for base-stations and true room-scale VR.

Unfortunately for the G2, that middle of the road approach has its downsides. The mid-range, mid-specs product is one of the most popular options on the market, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with VR. Casual users benefit from the convenience and low entry cost of the Quest, while hardcore techheads and gamers should probably just shell out a few hundred dollars more to get the much more capable Valve Index. This leaves the HP Reverb G2 caught in a weird middle-ground between the two crowds. 

Despite that, if you’re looking for a solid PC gaming VR headset and don’t have a room spare to dedicate as a VR gaming space, then we’d recommend you check out the HP Reverb G2 instead of the Index.

If the HP Reverb G2 isn't for you?

There are plenty of alternatives to choose from if you don't think the HP Reverb G2 sounds like the VR headset for you - it just depends what you're looking for?

If you want something a bit cheaper, the the Oculus Quest 2 is the obvious choice. With prices starting at $299 (opens in new tab), it's the cheapest and best entry-point into the VR space. It's also completely wireless, which makes it ideal if you're looking to get into VR fitness and don't want to trip over wires.

On the flip side of things, if you want the very best that VR has to offer, and damn the expense, then the Valve Index is the right choice for you. With full room-scale tracking, 120Hz refresh rate and high resolution screens, VR has never looked better. It's not cheap though, with the full set costing $999 via the Valve store. (opens in new tab)

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Ian is the Tech and Entertainment Editor at Space.com (opens in new tab) and Live Science. This means he covers everything from Star Wars and the MCU through to VR headsets and Lego sets. With a degree in biology, a PhD in chemistry, and his previous role at Institute of Physics Publishing, Ian is taking a world tour through the different scientific disciplines. He's seeing how long they let him keep this profile photo.