XR is currently making waves across the AEC industry; today, many of the industry’s top players are saving money, winning more business, and working smarter thanks to the collaborative possibilities this technology offers. If your organization has decided to move forward with incorporating XR into their daily workflow, the first major step is to purchase a fleet of XR headsets.

We understand that selecting and purchasing XR technology can be an intimidating process, as there are a variety of options available on the market – each of which is suited to different users’ needs. Whether you’re wondering what kind of headset to get or where to purchase your tech, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about purchasing XR hardware.

Let’s start by looking at some of the terminology associated with XR feature-sets; this is helpful to understand what exactly differentiates each headset in the market.

A deep dive into XR headset features

When evaluating XR headsets, you can tell a lot about what each option offers based on how its features stack up to the competition. Below is a primer on the most important XR headset features, including:

  • FOV (Field of View)
  • Resolution
  • Tracking (inside-out vs. Outside-in)
  • Tethered vs. Standalone headsets
  • Refresh rate
  • OLED vs. LCD display types

With the right mix of these features, you can achieve a higher level of immersion for XR experiences – which is key for maximizing this technology’s usefulness within the AEC context.

FOV (Field of View)
FOV (field of view) refers to how much of the user’s view is covered by the display and optics of a given headset.

Humans have a natural field of view of around 200 degrees. The wider the field of view (or FOV), the more you can experience without having to turn your head. This is one of the most important features for immersion in XR. In general, the higher the field of view, the more it will feel like a “real life” experience.

Today, FOV for XR headsets ranges from under 100 degrees to upwards of 120 degrees.

Just like for any other digital display device (such as a TV or computer monitor), the resolution of an XR headset refers to the number of pixels that can be displayed at one time.

Resolution is best measured as pixels per degree (or PPD) in a user’s field of view.

Many XR enthusiasts agree that resolution is also a top priority for creating an experience that mimics real life. The most powerful headsets on the market today are pushing the limits of resolution, with some of the top options offering over 2000 pixels per eye.

Tracking (Outside-in vs. Inside-out)
Another important feature of XR headsets is tracking, or how the headset calculates the position of head-mounted displays, controllers, and other objects or body parts within space. Strong tracking enables immersive experiences in XR, as it allows the user to move freely within space and see their movements reflected accurately in the virtual environment.

There are two types of tracking for XR headsets: Outside-in and inside-out. The main difference between outside-in and inside-out tracking is in the method used to capture and interpret the user’s movements in virtual reality.

Outside-in tracking relies on external sensors or cameras placed in the environment. These sensors track the movement and position of markers or sensors attached to the user or their XR devices.

On the other hand, inside-out tracking uses sensors embedded within the VR headset or controllers. These sensors, such as cameras or infrared sensors, capture the environment around the user.

Outside-in requires extra setup (“lighthouse” devices) but empowers a higher level of accuracy within XR. Inside-out doesn’t require any extra external tech but may offer slightly less accurate tracking in the virtual space.

Tethered vs. Standalone
At a base level, there are currently two types of XR headsets: tethered and standalone.

A tethered headset requires a powerful Windows PC (to “tether” to). In the context of AEC, tethered headsets typically handle larger and more complex BIM, though that is changing with new advancements in the optimizing of models.

Standalone headsets require no tethering to a PC, so they can often be more convenient or less intimidating to get started with. In general, standalone headsets may be best for smaller, optimized models, and/or presentations.

Today’s standalone headsets are useful for a wide range of projects and use cases. They’re often a good place to start for any budget or user.

Refresh rate
All digital display devices have a maximum refresh rate. Refresh rates measure how long it takes to “redraw” an image on the screen and are measured in Hz (Hertz). The max refresh rate number of an XR headset, then, represents the total number of display redraws in one second.

Higher refresh rates enable smoother media experiences. When the image is refreshed more frequently, the virtual experience will feel more responsive and, therefore, real.

OLED vs. LCD Display
There are two types of displays commonly used in XR: OLED and LCD.

LCD works by blocking light from passing through to a panel of pixels before entering your eyes in the VR headset.

Alternatively, OLED combines the light source, pixel, and blocking into one. Basically, each pixel generates colors and illumination on its own, instead of having its light blocked by a separate part. When the OLED is on, you can see the display and when it is off, it is entirely black. OLED displays, therefore, offer a high level of contrast.

Today’s top XR headsets

Depending on what kind of XR setup you decide to go with, you’ll want to select a headset model that’s best for your team. Here’s everything you need to know about the current range of headsets on the market:

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Top XR headset recommendations

As you can see, there are a variety of options for XR headsets today. Our current top recommendations are the Meta suite of headsets (Quest 2, Quest Pro, and Quest 3) due to their high compatibility with enterprise AEC workflows and price-to-feature set ratio.

While each headset offers a different range of features or might stand out within a particular category, we’ve found that Meta’s headsets offer the best cost-to-features ratio. For example, at $499, the Quest 3 provides great resolution and FOV, as well as reasonable usability/weight specs.

Quest headsets are also compatible with Autodesk Workshop XR out of the box.

Other considerations when purchasing XR headsets for your team

Beyond which headsets you decide to invest in, there are several other important considerations you should consider when preparing to purchase.

Should I buy XR headsets directly or through a hardware vendor?
For one, it’s worth considering how exactly you want to purchase your headsets. Do you want to buy them individually or through a supplier?

If you’re buying more than five headsets or looking to scale XR workflows with a larger team, our recommendation is to go with a hardware supplier, such as SHI or Insight. Some of these providers even offer enterprise customer service or useful add-ins (such as travel cases for your headsets) if you work with them.

What add-ins do I need to purchase?
When purchasing headsets, think about how you’re going to be using them. This will help guide your decision on what add-ins you need to buy.

For example, if you’re looking to travel frequently with your headsets or take them to events, consider travel cases such as Pelicans We also recommend Elite Straps for most use cases. These ergonomic straps increase balance and support with a twist of the fit wheel for Quest headsets.

While there are a wide range of headsets on the market, ultimately your use case and budget will dictate your decision. Currently, our top recommendation is Meta Quest headsets due to their high level of compatibility with XR workflows and price-to-feature ratio.

We understand that every team is different, and we’re happy to help your organization figure out what headsets are best for your workflow. Reach out to workshopxrinfo@autodesk.com, we’re proud to have a high level of expertise within this area and can help guide you through your XR journey.