The new Nreal Air Goggles I’ve transformed my iPhone into a productivity and entertainment monster by adding a giant screen that fits on my face. It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but that is the reality we are living in 2022.
At first glance, the $379 Air looks like typical virtual reality (VR) hardware. The glasses are worn like a VR headset and have a cable that connects to your mobile device. But Air doesn’t offer a true VR experience, and instead focuses on mirroring content from your phone, tablet, or laptop. In effect, the Air offers a giant monitor in the shape of a pair of sunglasses.
I wasn’t expecting a full VR experience with the Air, which turned out to be a good thing. Unlike Meta Quest 2 Headphones, which is uncomfortable to wear, the Air looks and feels like a pair of Raybans. In fact, they’re so undumb looking that I’ve gotten used to wearing them at my local coffee shop and only gotten a few weird looks.
I found the Air to be a significant productivity boost when using it with my iPhone or other mobile phone. Instead of lugging around a large laptop, I can slip the Air into my pocket while working on the go. They connect with a special dongle to my iPhone, and I can view and edit documents on the large screen provided by the glasses.
I love the look of the Air with its cyberpunk design. The glasses are light enough at 76 grams to feel more like heavy sunglasses than a full device you wear. One problem is that they are a bit too narrow for my wide face. After a few hours of use, the Air tends to pinch and become uncomfortable. On the other hand, the Air is much more comfortable to wear than my much heavier Quest 2 headset.
I’ve tried working with VR headsets like the Meta Quest 2 when using apps like Spatial, which mirror your computer screens. The problem I’ve always found is that clunky VR headsets get uncomfortable after an hour or so of use. Thanks to its lightweight design, I haven’t had the same problem with the Nreal Air.
Air works with MacBook M1 and specific iPhone and android phones. To use the Air with an iPhone, you need to buy a separate adapter, which I found works fine, though it’s annoying to lug around elsewhere.
The tiny screens inside the lenses are the only clue that the Air aren’t real sunglasses. Seeing through the semi-transparent lenses is helpful, but when things get too bright outdoors, I prefer to use the included shield, which blocks all light.
The Air offers virtual reality capabilities through its software. This app allows you to do things like open multiple windows and use a built-in web browser. In the end, I found the Air to be more useful simply as an external monitor.
On paper, at least, the Air can’t match the screen specs of my iPhone 14 ProMax. Nreal claims that the Air has a resolution of 3840 x 1080 and a refresh rate of 60 Hz with its Micro OLED screen. That compares to the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s 6.7-inch OLED display with 1290 x 2796 pixels and a 120Hz refresh rate.
The difference in refresh rate between the two devices is noticeable and a considerable drawback for the Air. Videos and scrolling through web pages are less smooth on the Air, largely due to less refresh. The Air’s 60Hz refresh rate may also have contributed to the nausea I experienced after wearing the goggles for a couple of hours.
I used Nreal Air to write this review using just my iPhone and Google Docs. Normally, I would never consider using the iPhone for word processing, as the screen is too small, even in the Pro Max variant.
The screen inside the glasses appears to be the size of a large monitor when you adjust them correctly. I used a Bluetooth keyboard connected to my iPhone to get a laptop-like experience.
The Air screen size is large enough to see text clearly when using Google Docs if you increase the font size. However, typing isn’t always easy when you can’t see where your fingers are touching the keyboard.
I also enjoy using the Air to watch videos in bed before I go to sleep. Screen quality can’t match my iPadPro, but not having to prop up a tablet is a great feature that I didn’t realize I was missing earlier. The Air is also fun for casual web browsing.
After using the Air for several weeks, I found that the not inconsiderable price of the Air is money well spent, as the glasses help me get the job done. I’d pack the Air in my carry-on for my next trip if I needed to write on the go. On the other hand, I’m still not confident enough on the Air to have them replace my laptop. For that, I’ll have to wait for the next version to offer a higher refresh rate and stronger capabilities for working with a mouse and keyboard.