The Vision Pro augmented reality headset is undoubtedly one of the biggest announcements to come from Apple since the iPhone, as it paves the way for the future of computing, entertainment and communication. However, we're only concerned with one of those factors here at What Hi-Fi?, and at $3500 (around £2820), that's quite the investment to make if you're planning to watch movies on it.
So what's the alternative? Well, I'm glad you asked, as by combining a selection of handpicked AV and home cinema products, I've created an alternative home cinema set-up for around the same price.
As we're not entirely sure of the UK price – especially as Apple doesn't usually convert prices between regions verbatim – locking down the non-US cost of the headset is a little tricky.
Apple products actually tend to be cheaper in the US, for example, the iPhone 14 costs $799 in the US but £849 in the UK, meaning the Vision Pro could theoretically cost upwards of £3500 with Apple's current price conversion trend.
That's the figure I've aimed for when building this set-up, and I've found you can get a surprising amount of AV gear for that money, which really puts the Vision Pro's price into perspective.
Now we know the Vision Pro is a different product and proposition in many ways; for example, a home cinema set-up won't give you a virtual workspace or offer the same level of 3D immersion as a headset.
However, this home cinema set-up also offers some things that the Vision Pro can't match like HDMI to hook up a PS5 or Xbox, or group viewing – as sharing one headset between multiple people might get a tad claustrophobic.
Instead, we're focusing on the three key pillars of the Vision Pro: visuals, the Apple apps and ecosystem, and spatial audio, specifically the home cinema and AV equipment that can replicate this experience as closely as possible.
Visuals: a big screen cinematic experience
Starting with the visual aspect, the Vision Pro is being positioned by Apple as your own personal cinema screen. It's best used in a dark room, and it features an adjustable virtual screen that can reach a cinema-screen scale. The thought that struck me immediately was, "I know what else can offer a big-screen cinematic experience in a dark room."
I've been involved with the testing process of many projectors, and while I'm sure Apple's AR headset takes immersion to the next level, a projector is tough to beat in my books. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm confident that most of the projectors on our best projectors list will easily floor the Vision Pro when it comes to all aspects of picture performance, apart from the 3D immersion perhaps. We are working to a budget here, so I won't recommend the top-of-the-line Sony VPL-XW7000ES, but instead, I'll point you towards the BenQ W1800 – an Award-winning 4K projector that we commended on its engaging and authentic picture. And at £1200 (around $1400), it's excellent value for money.
You of course get the benefit of being able to watch this projector alongside two or more people, without having to buy multiple £3.5K headsets, which is always a bonus.
Admittedly, here is where we hit our first hurdle as a home cinema set-up cannot rival the portability of Apple's AR headset. Having a hands-free cinematic set-up that you can take on the go is an enticing prospect – however, you will have to look like an extra from Ready Player One if you chose this route. I'll leave that up to you whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Software: your favourite apps in the Apple ecosystem
Another big draw of the Vision Pro is the Apple ecosystem integration. While Apple certainly is favoured by all, it's hard to deny that the synergy between its products is nothing short of masterful. Thankfully, there's an easy way to tie this set-up into the ecosystem, and it just so happens to be the best media streamers we've tested this year.
An Apple TV 4K (2022) offers five-star movie and music streaming, as well as access to plenty of apps and games. You can also stream your iPhone, iPad or MacBook to the Apple TV via AirPlay, meaning the computing aspect can be somewhat matched here if you have the relevant equipment.
At £150 ($150), the Apple TV 4K isn't the cheapest streamer we could have picked, but it adds the Apple integration needed to make this set-up a Vision Pro contender, as well as facilitating the next product to be featured as part of this set-up.
Spatial Audio: immersive sound with earphones and speakers
Apple described Spatial Audio as "core to the Vision Pro experience" as the whole point is 360-degree immersion. While this set-up isn't quite as immersive as the Vision Pro, we can certainly work Spatial Audio in with AirPods, especially now we have an Apple TV 4K in the mix. While the ideal option would be a pair of AirPods Pro Max, that option will likely take us over budget; that's not to say you can't pick them if you're feeling rebellious and don't mind stretching the budget. The AirPods 2, on the other hand, offer Spatial Audio and keep us on budget, especially as you can get them right now for around £250; with the added benefit that you can take these on the go.
Finally, we want an immersive home cinema speaker system to complete the set-up, and for that, we turn to Sony with its HT-A9 wireless speakers. You can easily connect these speakers to the projector via HDMI eARC, and enable Sony 360 Spatial Sound Mapping and Dolby Atmos for an immersive 3D audio experience. This, much like the projector, can be enjoyed by more than one person at a time, something the Vision Pro isn't capable of – another point to the traditional home cinema set-up. This is the most expensive part of all this, costing £1900 ($2000); however, it ticks plenty of boxes when it comes to rivalling the Vision Pro's immersive sound, and it can be snagged at Selfridges right now for £1600 if you're quick.
So are we on target to stay under the budget set by the Vision Pro? The suspense is palpable. However, I'm pleased to say our final figure is... £3400. That means we've saved £100 which can be saved or spent on important things like snacks or renting a blockbuster movie.
Check out the biggest WWDC announcements like the Apple Vision Pro
And adaptive Spatial Audio for AirPods
Also tvOS 17 for the latest Apple TV 4K updates