Nreal Air vs Rokid Max: The best consumer AR glasses right now? Which should you buy in 2023?
Virtual Reality Headsets

Nreal Air vs Rokid Max: The best consumer AR glasses right now? Which should you buy in 2023?

With the Rokid Max now available for preorder, it’s about time we compare them against arguably the most popular consumer AR glasses right now the Nreal Air.

Which smart glasses should you buy, if you wish to get into the exciting new thing that AR glasses are? Which of the two has better specs, or perhaps a better price?

We have them, we reviewed them, and we’ve compared them, so you can find the answers to those questions, and more, right here!

Nreal Air vs Rokid Max differences in a nutshell:

  • The Rokid Max have a brighter projection, higher FOV
  • The Rokid Max have twice the display refresh rate 120Hz (vs 60Hz)
  • The Rokid Max are slightly lighter, at 75 grams (vs 79 grams)
  • The Rokid Max have louder and richer sound
  • The Rokid Max can switch between 2D and side-by-side 3D on the fly
  • The Nreal Air are more affordable
  • The Nreal Air have a smaller and more compact carrying case
  • The Nreal Air sport a more traditional look
  • The Nreal Air’s lens cover snaps on the lenses magnetically, the Rokid Max cover doesn’t
  • The Nreal Air have the AR / extended display Nebula for Mac app, with Nebula for Windows coming soon

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Price and release date

The Nreal Air came out back in September of 2022, so they’ve been around a bit longer. The price for these smart glasses is $379, which is pretty reasonable for what’s basically a fantastic, ultra-portable, low-key display you can carry with you anywhere.As for the Rokid Max, these are available for pre-order now, and about to start shipping very soon, in the coming days of May, 2023. Price on these $439, so they are $60 more expensive, but there are good reasons for it. We’ll get to that in the “specs” category of this comparison.

Design, weight and comfort

Starting with the Nreal Air, those are very appealing to my eye, personally, but obviously, how good either AR glasses look will depend on the individual.

But the Nreal Air are very traditional sunglasses-looking, with the kind of low-key, ultra-clean and simple look that won’t have people batting an eye even if you wear them in public. Unless people take a good hard look, they won’t even know these have screens in them, and you’re (maybe) watching YouTube right now.

The Nreal Air feel nice and premium, with a mostly-plastic build (the quality soft-touch kind), besides a bit of metal on their hinges. Again, a very classy and low-key look that won’t draw attention, so if that’s what you prefer these are worth your consideration.

The fact that they weigh just about 79 grams (2.78 oz) and are hardly bulky even above the lenses, where the projectors are, is also quite impressive.

On the bottom of their right frame, the Nreal Air have three buttons two for raising or lowering the brightness, and a (frankly unnecessary) Power key (as cleverly they turn on and off automatically; both the Nreal Air and Rokid Max do that).

Moving on to the Rokid Max, these are a bit of an acquired taste. Their design definitely screams “futuristic tech”, and will probably attract people’s attention more so than the Nreal Air. They’re still made of quality plastic (which includes the frame hinges this time), but are a bit more bulky, yet paradoxically lighter, at 75 grams.

The compartment over the lenses, where these also (obviously) hold their projectors is larger, so your field of view is smaller; basically you can see through only half of those lenses, because the top half is where the projectors are.

Under the right frame, the Rokid Max too have controls this time for volume up and down (which is welcome, and the Nreal Air don’t have), plus a brightness switch.

The Rokid Max’s brightness switch notably can also switch between 2D and 3D projection mode on the fly, meaning if you have some side-by-side 3D movies available, you can watch those in 3D on the Rokid Max, which is pretty cool.

But, to explain that bulk over their lenses the Rokid Max also have individual eye diopter sliders, which lets you adjust between 0.00D and -6.00D. So if you have myopia, which is pretty common, you’ll likely appreciate this option very much, despite the compromise of a bit of extra bulk.

In any case, both the Nreal Air and Rokid Max are very light, comfortable to wear, and feel nice and premium. Both also have comfortable, soft nose pads, which are interchangeable too.

Display (FOV, resolution, refresh rate)

Switching between those two and comparing them side-by-side, I hardly perceive a difference in brightness, and the resolution is about exactly the same, but on paper the Rokid Max can go brighter, and more importantly have twice the refresh rate, at 120Hz.

This means that supported content (such as the UI interface on your phone, or certain games) will move twice as smoothly as they would on the Nreal Air. Whether or not you want that, or you’d rather go with the lower refresh rate and potentially less power consumption, is up to you.

Either way, it’s hard to pick a favorite when it comes to the screen quality, as, again, side-by-side, real world usage things feel almost exactly the same, besides the higher refresh rate on the Rokid Max.

Both the Nreal Air and Rokid Max project very good-looking virtual displays, with nice contrast and vivid colors, thanks to their projectors’ OLED tech. You’ll notice individual pixels only if you stare hard enough and look for them, but for most people I’d wager the 1080p resolution we have on both is plenty good enough. And again, if they were to go 4K, this would drain your phone battery faster (or, laptop’s battery, or whichever device you plan on using your smart glasses with).

Cable, carrying case and accessories

The accessories your smart glasses come with are very important. That cable, which will connect your AR glasses to your smart devices (phones, laptops, etc.) needs to be soft, and long enough. The carrying case needs to be reasonably portable, yet secure, and preferably hold not only the glasses, but the required cable too.Well, the good news is that both the Nreal Air and Rokid Max come with a nice USB C-to-USB C cable that’s long enough to go from your face into your pocket, to your phone, yet short and soft enough that it doesn’t get in the way, or drag your glasses down.

Only major difference is that the Nreal Air’s cable is braided, and slightly thicker, than the Rokid Max’s thinner and softer cable, which I personally prefer.

As for the carrying cases these glasses come with, both the Nreal Air and Rokid Max’s cases are hard, protective, zip-locked, and with a carabiner clip. Both also have a compartment for the cable, which is very welcome. However, the Nreal Air carrying case is notably smaller and more portable, while the Rokid Max’s case is bulkier and most notably taller. So Nreal wins the portability point.

What’s in the box: Nreal Air

  • Carrying case
  • AR glasses
  • 3 nose pads of different sizes
  • Blackout cover for the lenses
  • Prescription lenses
  • USB C-to-USB C cable
  • Microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Paperwork

What’s in the box: Rokid Max

  • Carrying case
  • AR glasses
  • 1 nose pad
  • Blackout cover for the lenses
  • USB C-to-USB C cable
  • Microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Paperwork

Let’s explain some of those accessories the blackout cover is basically a piece of plastic that you can snap on top of the lenses to get an extra immersive experience. As you watch content on your Nreal Air and Nokid Max, normally you’ll be seeing a screen projection on their lenses, but you’ll also see the real world through it. Snapping the blackout cover blocks the background view from the lenses, so you get a VR-like, extra immersive experience instead.Notably, though, while the Nreal Air’s blackout cover conveniently and easily snaps onto their lenses magnetically, the Rokid Max’s cover snaps on around the lenses in a more clunky, manual fashion.

As for prescription lenses you get with your Nreal Air, you can order specific ones for yourself from Nreal, in order to get the best, and most comfortable viewing experience. Rokid makes up for not having that option, by allowing users to adjust their diopter directly from the glasses instead.

Audio quality

This is the category, where the most major difference I personally noticed between the Nreal Air and Rokid Max, is. Both of these AR glasses have stereo speakers, one under each frame, and both can blast sound that will reach your ears perfectly well, without ever irritating them, like in-ear headphones might.

The Nreal Air in particular have very nice and clear-sounding speakers. Watching YouTube videos, podcasts, it all sounds great, but while the high are crips and clear, the mids are lackluster, and there’s pretty much no bass whatsoever.

The Rokid Max, however, have louder speakers, with better mids, and even a bit of bass, which makes watching movies and gaming that much more immersive. You can even enjoy music on these, so long as it your enjoyment of music doesn’t depend on punchy bass too much.

So yeah, the Rokid Max are definitely a step up in the sound department, and while neither of these have speakers on the level of, say, the Oculus Quest 2 (and can’t, realistically), with that much fullness and bass, both provide a non-intrusive, quality stereo sound experience, at least in the higher frequencies.

If you’re wondering whether people around you will hear what you’re listening to it’s completely possible, if you crank up the volume. But even then, not enough that it should bother anyone. These aren’t bone-conduction speakers, after all, but normal ones. Their sound is going downwards from the glasses’ frames, towards your ears, so you’ll hear the sound way louder than anyone around you will, as it should be.

And in a busy environment, or if you listen to your content on low volume, you can be in full low-key mode; nobody will hear that K-pop that you’re embarrassed people may find out that you like, so you’re good.

Companion apps (optional)

Both the Nreal Air and Rokid Max can connect to pretty much any smart device that has display out support via USB Type-C. This could be your smartphone, your MacBook or Windows laptop, your PC, your SteamDeck or Nintendo Switch, or other gaming console

And both of these glasses will immediately serve as screen mirroring devices, as soon as you connect them to such devices. You’ll see a projection of your phone’s screen, for example, just as it is. And that projection will be fixed to your view, meaning if you look around, the projection will follow you as if it’s a picture taped to those lenses.

However, you can get an AR experience with both, meaning head tracking, a virtual screen that actually realistically moves around as you tilt your head, and so on. It’s optional, and I don’t recommend that you buy these for it, but you can.

Both the Nreal Air and Rokid Max have a companion app that you can download for your Android phone or tablet. Their apps serve mostly as launchers for AR-specific apps and games, but also enable an AR mode. It’s underwhelming, to say the least. I had problems with both Android apps for both glasses, and even when I got them to work properly, you don’t really get much out of the experience. Check out our reviews for each pair of glasses for a detailed description of those companion apps, but I advise not to bother with them.

However, Nreal does have something else to offer, which works way better, and is actually useful it’s called Nebula for Mac, and there’s also Nebula for Windows coming. What’s Nebula? Well, it’s an app for your laptop or PC, that not only gives you an AR mode when you plug in your Nreal Air into it, but it also makes the glasses work as extra displays, not just a single screen mirror.

When I tried Nebula for Mac with my Nreal Air I was amazed at the possibilities. You can not only use your MacBook’s regular display, but get up to three whole virtual screens too! That’s some super portable productivity on the go, if you’re in the market for it.

So far, Rokid doesn’t offer something as intricate as this, but you can still use the Rokid Max as both a mirror or an extended display for your computer. Meaning you still get one extra screen out of them, if you want it. No head tracking / AR mode on desktop with these, though.

Nreal Air vs Rokid Max specs comparison

Which should you buy Nreal Air or Rokid Max?

Even after having used them for a while, choosing a winner between the Nreal Air and Rokid Max is pretty difficult, as they’re on par in many aspects. Technically, though, the Rokid Max do have the upper hand in terms of specs.The screen resolution on both is the same, but the Rokid Max have a brighter projection, and refresh twice as smoothly too, at 120Hz. The Rokid Max also have notably better sound, which I personally really appreciate.

On top of all that, I find the Rokid Max more comfortable to wear, perhaps due to their slightly lighter build, and vertically smaller lenses (which doesn’t affect their higher FOV).

On the other hand, the Nreal Air are also quite fantastic, cheaper, with a much more traditional (and in my eyes better) design. Less bulky, with metal hinges, a braided cable, and a lens cover that conveniently snaps-on magnetically, not to mention the fantastic Nebula app, which really gives them the potential to be more than just a portable entertainment device, but an actual productivity accessory.

So, whether you should get the Nreal Air or the Rokid Max is ultimately up to your preferences, but basically, you can’t go wrong with either of these.

Just don’t buy them hoping for some incredible AR experience via their Android companion apps. Those are lackluster at best, frustrating at worst.

The best reason to get the Nreal Air or Rokid Max is for private entertainment on the go, or while working out at the gym, or wherever else you feel a super portable display for your smartphone may come in handy.

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