Fargo is known for making a specific category of high-end virtual reality headsets, designed for both institutional use and for VR enthusiasts.
The Varjo Aero is part of this group and is probably the company’s most user-friendly consumer-oriented device. However, at $1,990 (for headsets only), it’s a far cry from the more accessible and affordable Meta Quest 2. That’s because this device is designed for PCVR and is in a category of premium VR headsets that includes the likes of the Pimax 8K X, HTC Vive Pro 2 and HTC Vive XR Elite.
Ultimately, this means that you need a powerful gaming PC to run it, but if you have access to such a thing, you can enjoy the best that VR has to offer. This includes not only a pixel-rich display, but also other features such as real-time eye tracking and Ultra Clarity.
The Varjo Aero is a high-end PCVR headset with great features and specifications that make it incredibly attractive. This does come at a cost though.
- Incredibly clear display
- Comfortable and snug fit
- Excellent features
- Useful programs
- very expensive
- Requires additional purchase to operate
- There are no built-in speakers
Advanced PCVR specification
- Small Dual LED LCD Monitor, 2880 x 2720 pixels per eye, 90Hz refresh rate
- 150 NIT max brightness
- 99% sRGB, 95% DCI-P3 color gamut
- Custom-made variable-resolution aspherical lenses with a peak resolution of 35 PPD
- Field of view 115 degrees horizontal and 134 degrees diagonal
- IPD range from 57 to 73 mm with automatic adjustment
- 200Hz eye tracking, 1-dot calibration for choppy rendering
When you’re shopping for a premium PCVR headset and paying that kind of money, you expect to get specs to match and that’s what you get with the Varjo Aero.
Fargo says this headset offers a “quantum leap in visual fidelity” with its “future-proof optical design and stunning dual LED mini displays.” Of course, rendering quality is a big part of what PCVR fans have come to expect from a VR headset and with the promise of 2880 x 2720 pixels per eye, the Varjo Aero sure looks attractive.
What matters is much more than just the number of pixels, it’s the overall experience you get from that screen. This is also where the Varjo Aero shines, and we saw the highlights of this headset as soon as we put it on for the first time.
Externally, the Aero looks like many other headphones in this category, but it’s the insides that impress. Hooking up the headset first shocked us at its convenience (more on that later), but then we were immediately caught up in the instantaneous transition to eye tracking.
Aero has integrated eye tracking as standard and this is useful in more ways than one. The first is the autofocus of the lens. When you first wear it and adjust it into place, the headset tracks where your pupils are and automatically adjusts the position of the lens to calculate your IPD (interpupillary distance). The adjustment is a range from 57 to 73mm which should fit most eyes. On other headphones, this is usually a manual process and important to get right. At Varjo Aero, there is no fuss because this automated process is designed to achieve the best visual quality for each user.
There is more to eye tracking than just IPD adjustment although it is also used for refined viewing. This is the intelligent processing logic that essentially allows the system to present the higher quality image you are looking at while reducing the image quality of your surroundings in your peripheral vision. This improves system performance, resulting in a smoother virtual reality experience while also allowing for great visual fidelity.
Varjo Aero also has companion software in the form of Varjo Base. This software works in conjunction with SteamVR and gives you access to various tools.
Here you can adjust the PPD (pixels per degree) of the screen, while in Steam VR you can also tweak the display resolution to get the most out of this headset’s power. With these two mods, we then set out to reboot some of our favorite PCVR experiences including Half-Life Alyx, Superhot VR, Walking Dead Saints & Sinners, Creed Rise to Glory, Boneworks, and more.
Our experience here was great. Varjo Aero has truly revamped aging games and made already great experiences like Half-Life Alyx even more impressive. Stunning visuals and breathtaking scenery abound, and there were no visible divine rays or visual glitches to spoil our experience.
Aero offers quite straightforward gameplay in a satisfying manner. Sure, the lenses aren’t quite as wide and all-encompassing as those on the Pimax 8K and you can still see some of that blackness if you focus too much on the edge of the screen, but overall the experience is great.
There are some quirks to the system though. We found that sometimes when loading games or levels, the headset would jump between the game view and the desktop view. This divides the experience a bit, making it less smooth than other SteamVR experiences we’ve had with other PCVR headsets. However, there are some benefits to this setup because it’s really easy to see your computer’s desktop view from your headset. The screen is clear enough that you can easily read and navigate text, that you can grab and use a keyboard and mouse for productivity reasons.
We could easily see ourselves using this headset for hours and that’s down to other parts of the design.
Lightweight immersive fit
- Three-point precision fit headband
- Plush polyurethane face cushions
- active cooling
- 487 g and headband 230 g (including counterweight)
Aside from the visuals, the other thing we noticed about the Varjo Aero is the design of the headset itself.
This is a lightweight, carefully balanced, and cleverly designed headphone so you can easily sit on your head for hours without issue.
It uses a three-point system with adjustable points on the top, back, and sides. Turn on the headset and you can adjust each one to get the right fit. We found this very handy, too, as it notifies you through the eye-tracking system if the headset isn’t quite in the right place.
In terms of comfort, the Varjo Aero delivers, too, thanks to some soft, plush padding in all the right places. So there is no excessive pressure on your face when you lose yourself in virtual reality.
Our favorite part of the fit, though, is what it adds to the experience. This headset probably has the best face liner we’ve seen in a VR headset. Not only is it comfortable, but it’s also great at blocking out light. We found ourselves basically in black with the only light coming from the screen. Normally, headphones let in some light from outside which spoils the experience, but that’s not the case here.
Aero is a treat when you just want to block out the world around you and keep playing, or whatever else you choose to do in VR.
The Aero has a lot to offer in terms of comfort that isn’t immediately apparent. Includes active cooling. This is a system that is said to circulate air around the headset to keep you cool while using it. We sometimes felt this cooling while working with what felt like a light breeze of a fan blowing over our eyes. It’s not always a feeling, but you definitely feel cooler and that’s another great feature.
Virtual reality is always a hot business. For eyeglass wearers, it can also be a misery when your glasses come off and your lenses become so. It just didn’t happen for us with this headset and that alone is one of the many reasons we love it.
However, there are some things it lacks. One of these is the sound. The Aero doesn’t have any form of built-in speakers or headphones. These things are sorely missed, which is an odd oversight given the price and the fact that other similar headsets (such as the Vive Pro 2 or the Pimax 8K) have such things.
There is a 3.5mm jack though, so you can use your own earphones, headphones, or even a wireless gaming headset connected to your computer. But you’ll need this for both audio and microphone if you plan to chat while gaming.
Obviously, this means dealing with extra cables on the headset or perhaps an extra headband, which can be a problem, but we used both the EPOS H6 Pro and the wireless SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro without much fuss.
The misery of setting up SteamVR
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses during our testing period, however, and it’s worth noting why you might not experience the same problems.
The Varjo Aero doesn’t come with anything other than a headset. The retail unit appears to come with earbuds (our review unit did not) but that’s it. Everything works cross-platform with SteamVR, which means you need both SteamVR base stations and compatible controllers, too.
We happen to have some Vive wands running around and Fargo sent over a few stations of the SteamVR 2.0 unit for us to use. What we fail to explain is that the original Vive sticks are not compatible with the latest base stations. So they wouldn’t track in VR which made the headset unusable without simply using a keyboard and mouse.
We’ve got some original base stations and sorted our issue out, but it’s worth keeping in mind. Aero will work with both older and newer accessories, but don’t mix and match.
Of course, the other consideration here is cost. A headset already costs a small fortune and if you also have to buy two base stations and two controllers, you’ll see the cost suddenly go up. However, if you’re upgrading from a previous VR setup with an HTC Vive (for example), you can always reuse what you have.
Aside from this silly issue, the setup process was straightforward enough. The headset connects to a single USB-C to adapter cable which in turn plugs into your gaming PC via DisplayPort and USB-A 3.0. This adapter needs to be powered from the mains, but otherwise, it’s plug and play—assuming you have Varjo Base and SteamVR installed.
You need a good PC for this to work, with minimum specifications that include:
- Processor (CPU) – Intel Core i5-4590 (or better)
- RAM – 8 GB
- Graphics Card – NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 (or later)
- Connections – DisplayPort 1.4 and USB-A 3.0
- Operating system – Windows 10 or 11
Naturally, the better the specs, the more you can improve the visuals. We ran our review unit on a PC that had these specs:
With such high-end specs, you can definitely get some great photos with Aero.
There is no doubt that the Varjo Aero is a great virtual reality headset with a lot to offer. It’s comfortable, capable, incredibly easy on the eyes, and stunning in more ways than one.
We love the little details like the active cooling and immersive interface panel as well as the stunning display and clever eye tracking. We were put off by the lack of SteamVR stuff included as standard and quirks like the lack of a mic and speakers at this price point, but other than that, it’s great. If you’ve got money to burn and don’t care about the wireless VR freedom of the likes of the Vive XR Elite or Meta Quest Pro, the Aero is what you should look at.
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