Apple’s Vision Pro could be the iPhone moment for virtual reality headsets, by getting the world to realize just how much it wants one. While the $3,500 price tag will likely make the first generation more of a professional device, it’s a great indication of where the industry is going: High-quality visuals, wireless operation, inside-out tracking, and intuitive software.
Except, while the Apple Vision Pro is a wireless VR headset, it’s not entirely wireless. It has a wire tethered to its battery, and that still needs charging. Its bespoke connector might suggest Apple is keeping charging as in-house as the headset’s processor, but promotional materials have shown it with an adapter plugged into it and connected to a Mac Studio computer. That was likely for developmental purposes, but it also suggests that the cable for the Vision Pro may be swappable for something more generic, too, like a standard USB-C cable.
But what is the Apple Vision Pro Cable? What are the Apple Vision Pro cable requirements? Like we saw with the Quest Link cable, could you opt for a cheaper alternative to the official cable to save money? Considering the high price tag, any kind of savings would be appreciated. It could also make troubleshooting far easier.
So, let’s take a look at what we know about the Apple Vision Pro so far, and what we think the cable will be like.
What Is the Apple Vision Pro?
The Apple Vision Pro is Apple’s long-anticipated, finally-announced, mixed reality headset. It combines augmented and virtual reality in a lightweight, attractive design. It’s Apple’s pitch to the world for what a VR or AR headset could be like, with a host of advanced features that make just about everything else released so far look pedestrian in comparison.
Picture: Apple Inc.
Its impressive specifications include:
- Twin Micro-OLED displays with a total pixel count of 23 million. We don’t have the official per-eye resolution, but considering a single 4K panel has only eight million pixels, it’s safe to say that each screen has a greater resolution than 4K.
- Built-in Apple M2 processor based on a 5nm process node. This is the most powerful onboard VR graphics processor we’ve yet seen in any headset.
- A front-mounted display that lets others see the eyes and facial expressions of the wearer in real-time.
- An array of six microphones for clear communication in VR and AR settings.
- Automatic lens adjustment with a physical mechanism for tweaking the Interpupillary distance (IPD).
- A combination of LiDAR and depth-sensing cameras should make the Vision Pro excellent at mapping the local environment.
- Advanced audio from spatial speakers without blocking out real-world sound.
- High-precision eye tracking allows for foveated rendering, but also interaction. The Vision Pro does away with tracked controllers, instead relying on hand and gesture tracking for input.
That’s a lot of exciting capabilities that go some way to justifying the headset’s high price tag. Its external battery gives it around two hours of wireless use, though Apple has said you can use it plugged in for indefinite use.
As with other wireless VR headsets like the Meta Quest Pro and Quest 2, though, there will be a wired connection option. It may be an exclusive feature for developers looking to design content for the Vision Pro, but it’s equally possible that we’ll see something like the Quest 2’s link cable system, letting the Vision Pro leverage the greater performance of desktop computers for improved visuals.
In short, the Apple Vision Pro is an incredibly exciting mixed-reality headset that is taking some major design leaps. With an announced price tag of $3,500 though, questions remain about how successful it can possibly be. We’ll be wondering for some time, too, since the headset is currently slated for a vague “2024” release date.
What Is the Cable for on the Apple Vision Pro?
The cable for the Apple Vision Pro is primarily for charging. It uses a proprietary connector that Apple has developed – likely MagSafe from the look of it – and in its default configuration connects directly to the external battery pack.
However, promotional videos for developing the Vision Pro have also shown this connector outputting to a USB-C adapter, which was connected to a battery pack in one shot, and connected to a Mac Studio in another.
Picture: Apple Inc.
This has a range of potential uses. It could be used for developing games and applications for the Vision Pro. Apple also states, however, that you can use the device plugged in for more extensive use of the headset. Apple itself claims that when the device is plugged in you can use it “all day,” suggesting that you don’t need to have multiple batteries, or wait for the bundled one to charge just to use the headset – just plug it in and away you go!
The other potential use of tethering the Vision Pro is in enhancing its abilities. The Meta Quest 2 and some other mobile VR headsets let you use the graphical power of your desktop computer if you plug them in – or connect wirelessly. It’s possible that the Vision Pro’s already-impressive processing capabilities could be enhanced by plugging it into a desktop computer like a Mac Pro or Mac Studio.
Does Apple Vision Pro Use USB-C?
Technically, yes, but it’s not quite that clear-cut. Although the Apple Vision Pro does use a type of USB-C connection for its battery pack, and you can connect it to desktop Mac computers with a USB-C connection for more extensive use, the actual connection to the headset is proprietary. Some kind of circular connector is used, possibly with a MagSafe-style lock. The connection on the battery pack is different, and appears hardwired at first glance – however, there are a pair of holes next to it, which might allow for a push-pin to be used to disconnect the cable. That may make the cable itself replaceable, or at least swappable for another Vision Pro official cable.
The battery does have a USB-C connection for charging, though, which would suggest that the underlying technology of the Vision Pro’s cabling is USB-C. It’s a proven standard for high-wattage power delivery and data transmission. Does that mean you could replace it with a high-quality USB-C cable, though?
For now, the answer is, we’re not sure. Probably, as Apple’s existing USB-C adapters let you connect just about anything to a MacBook or iPad. That said, Apple will no doubt be interested in selling a replacement Apple Vision Pro cable, as well as replacement battery packs with the usual Apple price tag markup. Unless it specifically locks you to its own hardware, though, there’s likely no reason you couldn’t use a generic battery pack if it has the required quality and charge thresholds. Other existing VR headsets that utilize external batteries let you swap out the cable and battery pack, so it’s possible the Vision Pro will have something similar.
Apple Vision Pro: Wired vs Wireless
The Apple Vision Pro will be usable in both wired and wireless modes, and though we don’t know the specifics about its use, we do know there are distinct advantages to wired and wireless virtual reality headsets.
Wireless VR has been the priority for most major headset manufacturers for the past few years, ditching the power of desktop computers for the ease of use of a wireless experience. Removing the wired tether makes virtual reality feel more seamless, opens up the potential for larger playspaces – even with older headsets where external trackers are still necessary – and eliminates the problems of cable tripping.
However, wireless transmission rarely looks as good as a wired headset. For headsets with their own built-in processing, the CPU and graphics processor just aren’t anywhere near as powerful as those found in laptops and desktop computers; How could they be? They have to fit into a headset. That means that standalone VR headsets just can’t make games look as good as a comparably-specced VR headset connected to a powerful desktop computer.
Picture: Apple Inc.
Even headsets that do connect to a desktop, but wirelessly, can’t compete directly with a wired connection. The extreme bandwidth required to transmit virtual reality images at low latency means that the video signal has to be compressed. That leads to visual artifacts, like blocking in darker areas, and it can mean the game or application is rendered at a lower resolution, or refresh rate, which can reduce visual fidelity.
While a wired headset, or a wireless headset plugged into a desktop PC, does offer the highest fidelity visuals at the highest refresh rates, you are stuck with a wired connection. That limits your range, it limits your motion, and it means there’s an ever-present trip hazard that’s consistently reminding you of your tether not only to the computer but to the real world.
You can manage a VR cable to make it more versatile, but wired headsets just aren’t as immersive.
The Vision Pro will most likely be more enjoyable to use in wireless mode. However, it’s good to know that the Apple Vision Pro cable option remains for those who don’t want to worry about battery life, or who want improved visuals in VR.
The Apple Vision Pro is a very exciting augmented reality headset. It’s looking to pioneer a number of features that could well become linchpins in future headset designs. However, its high price tag is going to be a severe stumbling block for consumer adoption. It’s likely to be a professional headset, at least to start with; Future designs may bring the cost down and make it more consumer-friendly.
Whoever ends up using it, though, the Apple Vision Pro cable option will be there for those who need longer playtime and to develop for it. The question remains, whether the USB-C connection will allow the Vision Pro to use more advanced desktop graphics for even better visuals.