With a bunch of financing and availability changes today, some Windows hardware is now easier to buy, and some Windows hardware is now better.
Way back in October last year, Microsoft announced that a range of cheap virtual reality headsets would be released for Windows PCs. These headsets would have two standout features. First, they would start at just $299. Second, they wouldn’t need base stations (like, say, the HTC Vive) or complicated laser tracking (like Microsoft’s own HoloLens) to offer full six degrees of freedom movement and positional tracking. That would help keep the costs down and make the headsets much easier to set up and install.
Preorders for the first of these headsets—one unit from Acer, another from HP—were opened up earlier this year. Neowin spotted that they’re now generally available to anyone, with the Acer unit costing $299 and the near-identical HP at $329.
Both headsets are positioned as developer kits, and the required hardware specs are in line with those of the other PC virtual reality headsets on the market: fast desktop processors and discrete GPUs are required. The Windows 10 Creators Update included the necessary software and APIs to write programs that use these headsets, but that’s only available when developer mode is enabled.
Microsoft plans to bring those specs down with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. With that, integrated graphics should be good enough, as long as you have a Skylake processor or better. The Fall Creators Update should also remove the need to use developer mode to use the hardware.
While Microsoft is developing a 3D motion controller for use with its headsets, an Xbox One controller is currently the preferred input mechanism. There’s already a wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers that plugs into a USB port, but it’s rather bulky. A new adapter has just gone on preorder, and while its functionality appears to be the same as the old one—it supports up to eight controllers and either four mono or two stereo headsets simultaneously—the new adapter is much smaller.
There are also three new controller designs to choose from.
Finally, Microsoft has announced some new ways that American buyers can get their hands on Surface computers. “Surface Plus” is a new financing scheme that lets customers buy Surface hardware on payment plans. The payment plan runs over 24 months with a zero-percent APR, and it offers a trade-in/upgrade after 18 months, upon which a new 24 month payment plan is started.
Microsoft has offered corporate Surface financing before with its Surface Membership scheme. It has also offered combined Surface-and-Office 365 pricing with Surface-as-a-service. Those two programs are now renamed “Surface Plus for Business” to align with the new consumer offering. The business plans have a bit more flexibility. There are 18-, 24-, and 30-month terms, with upgrades available after 12 months on the 24-month scheme and 18 months on the 30-month scheme. For an extra $8.25 per user per month, Surface customers can also get Office 365 for business.