Steam Deck only has a 7-inch screen. With the Nreal Air Display Headset, you can play Steam Deck games on a 130-inch virtual screen.
The 80-gram Nreal Air was launched in the United States last September. It is also available in China, Japan and the UK. The wearable is sold in the US through Amazon and costs $379. A USB-C cable connects it to smartphones (Android, iOS), consoles (Xbox Series S/X, Playstation 4 Slim & Playstation 5) and laptops (Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck).
The virtual screen headset has built-in OLED screens that project a 1920 x 1080 pixel image per eye. The 46 degree field of view is relatively narrow compared to standard VR headsets, but the pixel density of 49 PPD is more than double that of the Meta Quest 2 or Meta Quest Pro.
This fact should result in an exceptionally sharp image. According to Nreal, the simulated screen is the size of a 130 inch TV four meters away.
Nreal Air: A Secret Steam Deck Tip
Late last year, the Chinese startup celebrated producing 100,000 units. In Q4 2022, 70,000 units are expected to have been shipped – a respectable achievement for the young display eyewear niche.
This is likely helped by Nreal Air’s reputation in the US as a great Steam Deck accessory. It replaces the electronic screen with a virtual screen that surpasses it in terms of quality, light and portable as a bonus. Nreal Air almost looks like sunglasses and can be worn relatively discreetly on trains or planes. Those who need a traditional helmet can purchase compatible goggles.
Norman Chan from the YouTube channel Tested tested the Nreal Air on his Steam Deck and summarizes his impressions in a video (see below). The hardware tester calls the image quality “fantastic”, but points out some limitations.
Easy screen setup, but no 3-DoF tracking
Setup is simple: once connected by cable, the Steam Deck automatically recognizes the display glasses as the output device and adjusts the resolution accordingly.
Since the Nreal Air has no battery, the laptop also uses the battery from the Steam Deck, which affects its lifespan. If the battery drops below 50%, no signal is sent to the display headset. You can play with the Nreal Air for about an hour or use an adapter to power the handheld at the same time.
What bothers Chan much more is fixed virtual screen orientation. 3-DoF tracking is disabled in screen mirroring mode, causing the image to shift with every head movement – an unpleasant viewing experience ultimately.
Chan also criticizes that an extra clunky adapter has to be purchased for some other devices, such as the iPhone. Those who need an extra visual aid should dig deep into their pockets for the second screen. He hopes the next iteration of the Nreal Air will be a better all-around product and more comfortable to use.