Why is the Simula One so expensive?

Time 9 minute read Calendar 2022-01-13 Person George Singer Pricetags #update and #timeline

1 What is the Simula One?

The Simula One headset is a VRC ("VR Computer"). To us, VRCs are a new category of computing device (alongside PCs & laptops) which allow people to get stuff done.

Since we are attempting to create a new product category (the "VR Computer"), it can be hard to situate it against other products fairly. There aren't, as far as we know, any other VR Computers available in the market right now (even Windows VR Computers), though there are some standalone AR headsets (HoloLens) which might fairly be called "AR Computers", and of course there are many premium laptops and gaming headsets too. Until VRCs become more prevalent, we think we should be compared against all of these different things (gaming headsets, premium laptops, and standalone AR devices) when consumers evaluate our price.

2 Why is the Simula One so expensive?

First, let's be honest: the Simula One is an expensive, early adopter product. From our perspective, it has been really hard to get a hardware product off the ground with a small team, zero economies of scale, and no interested institutional backers. We decided early on that, given the cards we were dealt, it's better to build a premium headset with a high price than to build a low-quality headset with a low price. This is because lower-end VR technology (e.g. the Quest 2) is simply not good enough for someone wanting to work several hours per day in a VR Computer instead of their laptop -- even if most people don't realize this yet. So our plan has been to charge a high/breakeven price for our first headset iteration, then lower it during future iterations as we build a better operation.

With all that said, the Simula One, as priced today, is still reasonably competitive against other premium office laptops and ultra-premium (high PPD) VR/AR gaming headsets. Roughly speaking, we're offering a headset as good as the tethered Varjo Aero (priced at $2K), with a premium-spec computer as good as a top-shelf Lenovo X1 Carbon bolted on as well (making up for the remaining $799 in price).

Of course, working in VR is better than working on a traditional laptop (like an X1 Carbon) because it provides unlimited screens and better work immersion. But we won't lie and say there are zero tradeoffs in choosing the Simula One over more traditional options (e.g., long lead times and lower battery life due to the resource-intensive nature of VR). Below, we make these tradeoffs as clear as possible, so you can make an informed choice about whether working in a VRC is right for you at this stage in its S-curve.

3 Simula One vs. Premium Laptops

While the Simula One can be used as premium gaming VR device in tethered mode, it is primarily designed to replace laptops & PCs with a completely different computing experience. So here is how our VRC compares with some other premium laptops in specs and price:

Simula OneThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 Intel (14")Framework Laptop (Professional Edition)
Price$2,799 Preorder Price; $3,500 MSRP$3,409 MSRP$1,999 MSRP
LinuxWindows 10 Pro (default OS)Windows 10 Pro (default OS)
Type of HeadsetVR Computer (VRC)Laptop ComputerLaptop Computer
PPD35.5 [1]N/AN/A
Resolution2448x2448 per eye1920 x 1200 14" single screen2256x1504 13.5" single screen
Refresh Rate90 hz60 Hz60 Hz
3.5mm Audio Jack
Ports1 USB4/Thunderbolt 4; 3-4 USB3.2 Gen 2 via USB-C with DisplayPort alt modeThunderbolt™ 4 power input; Thunderbolt 4; USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 x 2Customizable (USB-C / USB-A)
Video ConnectionDisplayPort 1.4a, USB 3HDMICustomizable (HDMI / DisplayPort)
WiFiWi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 6WiFi 6 with vPro
BluetoothBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.2
CPUi7-1165G7 Processor (EDIT: We are now providing i7-1165U Processor (12th Gen))i7-1165G7 ProcessorIntel® Core™ i7-1185G7
GPUIris Xe graphicsIntel Iris Xe GraphicsIntel Iris Xe Graphics
Memory16 GB16 GB32 GB
Storage1 TB1 TB1 TB
SD Card SlotTBDCustomizable (Micro SD)
Battery LifeTBD (EST: 3-4 hours)15 hours10-11 hours

4 Simula One vs. Gaming VR Headsets

Simula's headset itself is also very premium: the combination of our high-resolution displays and sophisticated optics provide a higher PPD experience than any other portable VR headset on the market. We emphasize this because PPD is the most important metric when evaluating a VR Computer (even more important than raw display resolution!), since it ultimately determines how crisp text and other fine details will appear. We could have easily cut headset costs by sacrificing on PPD, but we decided it was too important to VR Computing adoption to half-ass on, so we leaned towards a premium experience.

With that in mind, here is how the Simula One compares to other VR gaming headsets in the market:

Simula OneVarjo Aero (Tethered)Valve Index (Tethered)Oculus Quest 2
Price$1,999 Tethered-Only Price; $2,799 Full Price (Preorder)$1,990$1,000$299 ($799 w/o Facebook login)
LinuxVarjo / SteamVRSteamVROculus Home, SteamVR (Facebook account required)
Type of HeadsetVR Computer (VRC)Tethered Gaming/Entertainment DeviceTethered Gaming/Entertainment DeviceGaming/Entertainment Device
Resolution2448x2448 per eye2880x2720 per eye1440x1600 per eye1832x1920 per eye
Refresh Rate90 hz90 Hz144 Hz120 Hz
Field of View100° horizontal; 100° vertical115° horizontal;107° horizontal; 104° vertical89° horizontal; 93° vertical
Passthrough CamerasDual wide-angle high-resolution RGB camerasN/ADual 960x960 passthrough camerasGrayscale via tracking cameras
IPD Range55mm-77mm hardware adjustable (automatic as stretch goal)57-73 mm hardware adjustable (automatic)58-70 mm hardware adjustable58-68 mm (hardware adjustable); 3 fixed IPD settings: 58mm, 63mm, 68mm

5 Simula One vs. Standalone AR Headsets

As mentioned above: there are no other VR Computers (even Windows VR Computers!) to compare the Simula One to, but there are some comparable AR headsets out there that we can compare ourselves to. Here is how we stack up:

Simula OneHoloLens 2Magic Leap 1
Price$2,799 Preorder Price; $3,500 MSRP$3,500$2,295
LinuxWindows Mixed RealityLumenOS (Android Based)
Type of HeadsetVR Computer (VRC)AR ComputerOriginally Gaming/Entertainment; now has "Enterprise Solutions"
Resolution2448x2448 per eye1440x936 per eye1280x960 per eye
PPD35.5 [2]20 PPD (measured) [3]30
Refresh Rate90 hz60 Hz122 Hz
Field of View100°43° horizontal; 29° vertical; 52° diagonal40° horizonal; 30° vertical; 50° diagonal
PassthroughDual wide-angle high-resolution RGB camerasNative passthrough, IMP camera @ 30fpsNative passthrough, 1080p camera @ 30fps
SpeakersIntegrated stereo speakersIntegrated stereo speakers
3.5mm Audio Jack
Ports1 USB4/Thunderbolt 4; 3-4 USB3.2 Gen 2 via USB-C with DisplayPort alt modeUSB Type-CUSB Type-C
Video ConnectionDisplayPort 1.4a, USB 3
WiFiWi-Fi 6WiFi 5 (802.11ac 2x2)WiFi 5 802.11a/g/b/n/ac, dual-band
BluetoothBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 4.2
ChipsetIntegratedQualcomm Snapdragon 850
CPUi7-1165G7 Processor (EDIT: We are now providing i7-1165U Processor (12th Gen))Octa-core Kryo 385 (4x 2.96 GHz, 4 x 1.8 GHz)NVIDIA® Parker SOC CPU
GPUIris Xe graphicsAdreno 630NVIDIA Pascal™
Memory16 GB4 GB8 GB
Storage1 TB64 GB128 GB
SD Card SlotTBD
Battery LifeTBD (EST: 3-4 hours)3 hours3 hours

[1] See https://kguttag.com/2020/07/08/hololens-2-display-evaluation-part-2-comparison-to-hololens-1/ for calculation of the Hololens' PPD.