The strangest thing about the Vision Pro is also the thing that makes it most uniquely Apple: it’s got a big shiny bubble glass front, which makes it stand out from the aluminum- and plastic-shrouded competition, even when it’s off. And when it’s on, it’s even stranger—instead of being fully transparent, behind the glass, an odd lenticular screen displays a 3D-ish video of the user’s eyes, emulating their gaze. Apple calls it the EyeSight display, and when the user is looking at you, it kind of, sort of, almost looks like you can see through smokey glass.
Tech journalists have called EyeSight “bizarre,” “uncanny,” and “of highly dubious utility.” But from a repair perspective, it seems like an achilles heel. Why introduce another screen, more connectors, and so many more points of failure—all for the sake of a slightly creepy feature? Of course, we had to dig in and figure out how it works.
We knew it would be tough to get inside (it was). We hoped we wouldn’t break anything (we did). But we knew it would be worth it to see all the new technology Apple squeezed into this thing, from the EyeSight display to the sensor array, the external battery pack to the R1 chip. We brought in the heavy hitters for this teardown, including x-ray views of the frame and high-resolution microscope shots of the displays.
We’ve got a lot of observations, some opinions, and a couple educated guesses about why we got the Vision Pro we have today on the teardown table. There is a lot in this device, so we’re splitting our analysis into two, with more detail on the lens system and silicon coming in a few days.
Let’s go spelunking into a never-before-explored cave of glass.
The glass panel is glued on, of course, and it took a lot of heat and time, but we removed it without breakage. Granted it didn’t come out unscathed—the glass has a protective plastic film that got a little peeled up and maybe a bit melted. Apple’s retail fixers might have faster hands than us—but they’ll charge you $799 to replace broken front glass.
At 34 grams, the glass may not be heavy on its own, but fully kitted out with the battery the Vision Pro weighs over a kilogram.
Here’s where Apple has a performed a bit of a sleight of hand. Carefully hidden in most publicity shots is the external battery, which rides along in your pocket rather than on your headset. As in the early days of VR, integrating the battery as it is now would make the device crazy heavy. And hey, we’re big fans of modular batteries, when the battery inevitably stops holding a charge in a year or three, you can replace it painlessly. Apple’s hardware team may also be anticipating the upcoming EU battery regulation, which will require all electronics to have user-replaceable batteries by 2027.
The battery pack alone weighs 353 grams and is made of three iPhone-sized batteries, delivering a grand total of 35.9 Wh, more than double an iPhone 15 Pro’s 17.3 Wh. The cells themselves are 184 g apiece, surprisingly only about half the weight of the full battery pack. To get inside, we had to soften some perimeter adhesive and release a set of single-use metal clips—then twist open Torx screws galore.
Add the weight of the battery pack and the headset together and you get, as mentioned above, over a kilogram—which would be a really heavy pair of glasses. For comparison, the Quest Pro weighs 722 g and the Quest 3 clocks in at 515 g.
But weight isn’t just about how it tips the scales. It’s about balance. The weight of the Vision Pro largely rests on your face, all the tech is at the front and even the Pro Dual Loop Band can’t overcome it all without a counterbalance. Apple patented a design for a rear-mounted battery pack, which might’ve helped balance out the heavy front—though it’s hard to imagine wanting to wear something 150% as heavy.
So if we’re just counting the weight on your face—the display module, sans battery, in the Meta Quest Pro is 522 grams. The same assembly in the Vision Pro is 532 grams, effectively the same. The key difference in these units is in the weight distribution, and a much heavier pocket battery in the Vision Pro.
First impressions, though, are pretty good. “The weight isn’t as bad as expected, although it’s definitely on my forehead/cheeks as opposed to my head which feels weird, like someone is pushing on my head to tilt it down,” says iFixit teardown veteran Sam Goldheart from the teardown lab.
The Vision Pro comes with both a 3D-knitted Solo Knit Band and a Dual Loop Band. These attach to the ends of the stems, just behind the speakers. The now-iconic Solo Knit Band is the one that seen in all the publicity shots, and it does look cool. It wraps around the back of your head, and you adjust the fit with a dial on the side, similar to how you might tighten a bike helmet.
So how does it feel? “The fabrics are sooo nice,” says Sam. There’s a very fine, cushy weave on the Solo Knit Band, and it is stretchy enough to accommodate a ponytail and still support the face unit.
The speakers are fixed onto the two rigid bands that join to the main headset. To release these, you use our old friend, the SIM-card removal tool. The holes are inside the temples of the main headset, and the removable bands have a row of electrical contacts, just like Lighting connectors, again. Easily removable parts? Only demands tools you’ve probably already got? We love to see it. This makes us hope that opening the headset might not be as daunting as we first assumed.
This modular design is similar to the AirPods Max, which we quite liked. Wearables are so easy to damage that it makes good sense to have easily swappable speaker modules. We tried to go further and pry the speaker out of the silicon frame, and instantly broke the molded cables inside. That’s all right, you’re not going to need to pry the speaker modules open.
The speakers themselves point back towards your ears. This is a pretty clear indication that you’re not meant to wear this anywhere noisy. You can wear your AirPods Pro if you prefer—and if you want lossless, low-latency audio, they’ll have to be the latest USB-C version.
On the left side is the proprietary battery cable connection, which snaps into place with a magnet and then twists to lock. We understand why Apple used a non-standard connector here, even if we don’t love it—at least it can’t be yanked out by a passing child, or when the cord inevitably catches on your chair. But the plug at the other end of the cable is unforgivable. Instead of terminating with a USB-C plug, it connects to the battery pack with what looks like a proprietary oversized Lightning connector, which you release using a paperclip or SIM-removal tool.
This connector means that you can’t just swap in the USB-C battery pack you already own. Lame.
Light Seals and Face Cushions
Every face is different, and Apple is selling 28 different light-seal parts to cover all the different face sizes and shapes. Your seal size also changes if you need Zeiss lens inserts. That’s because the seals and cushions are also used to make sure you have the correct eye position relative to the stereo screens and eye sensors. This is why Apple is hand-packing every Vision Pro order—there’s just no “standard” setup.
The seals attach to the main headset using magnets, which is Apple through-and-through—it’s either glued in place, or extremely easy to swap. This modularity is a brute force attempt to get an ideal fit on your face. It will be interesting to see if this is required long-term, or if future devices find a simpler way to accomplish this. For the time being, magnets are better than velcro because they can snap the seals into exact alignment. Think how MagSafe snatches the charger and lines it up perfectly over the iPhone’s inductive charging coil.
As for cleaning the seals, Apple recommends water and unscented dish soap, which will help stop these sweat-soaking parts from getting too gross, and will be especially good for anyone wearing makeup. In her Wall Street Journal video where she selflessly wore the headset for 24 hours, Joanna Stern said her makeup caked the inside of the seals. And our own Sam Goldheart had the exact same problem this morning.
Under the magnetic seals is a permanent seal, also wrapped in a knit fabric, but less likely to get smudged. It also happens to be the way into the interior of the headset. Removing it reveals another surprise: a thin stretchy sheet of plastic. Whether it’s to compensate for gaps in the knit, or to keep particulates out of the innner workings, we’re not to sure. But we are certain this bit looks very masked superhero.
The front-facing gogglebox is the defining feature of the Vision Pro, and, now that reviews are pouring in, one of its most controversial.
The patent for the EyeSight describes three display modes: “internal focus,” “external engagement,” and “do not disturb.” The patent has pages and pages of images that might be displayed on the screen—all kinds of cartoon animal eyes, biometric analysis captured by other sensors, hearts when the user is talking to a loved one. The internal camera might read emotional states and project images based on those emotional states.
Cool thought. In practice, the EyeSight display is so dim and low-resolution that reviewers say it’s hard to see much on it. The WSJ’s Joanna Stern called it “hard to see,” and Marques Brownlee (aka MKBHD) said, “You can barely see my eyes when I’m wearing the headset.”
It turns out that when the EyeSight displays your eyes, it isn’t just displaying a single video feed of your eyes; it’s showing a bunch of videos of your eyes. Exploring inside the glass shell, we found three layers for the front-facing display: a widening layer, a lenticular layer, and the OLED display itself.
Apple wanted to achieve something very specific: an animated, 3D-looking face with eyes. They had to make very strategic design choices and compromises to accomplish this.
Human brains are very sensitive to faces and expressions, it’s why the uncanny valley is a thing, and part of that is depth sensing. Apple needed to create a believable 3D effect. One reason why 3D renderings don’t look truly 3D is because they lack a stereoscopic effect. For something to look 3D, we need to see subtly different images with each eye. The Vision Pro tackles this problem with lenticular lenses.
A lenticular lens displays different images when viewed from different angles. You can use this effect to simulate movement with two frames of an action. Or, you can create a stereoscopic 3D effect with images of the same subject from different angles.
The Vision Pro has a lenticular layer on top of the exterior OLED panel. VisionOS renders multiple face images—call them A and B—slices them up, and displays A from one angle serving your left eye, and B from another serving your right eye. This creates a 3D face via the stereoscopic effect. And those angles are tiny, and they are legion, it takes a fancy Evident Scientific microscope to really see what we mean.
There are compromises to this approach. The horizontal resolution is dramatically reduced, being divided between each of the multiple images. For example, if two images are displayed on a 2000 pixel wide display, each image only has 1000 horizontal pixels to work with. Even though we don’t know the resolution of the display, nor do we know the number of images being interwoven, the resolution is necessarily reduced. And that is a major reason why EyeSight eyes seem blurry.
In front of the lenticular layer is another plastic lens layer, with similarly lenticular ridges. This layer appears to stretch the projected face wide enough to fit the width of the Vision Pro. Removing this layer and booting the Pro showcases some very oddly pinched eyes.
Additionally the lens likely limits the effective viewing angle. Limiting the effect to directly in front of the Vision Pro limits artifacting you might see at extreme angles, sort of like a privacy filter. The downside is that you’re passing an already complex, blurry image through yet another layer of lens. This makes it even blurrier and darker.
Lens Inserts, Stereo Displays
You can see the outline of the ovoid lens inserts in this x-rays from our illuminous friends at Creative Electron, who spent $3,500 so you could see this photo.
The Vision Pro itself performs an automatic interpupillary distance adjustment when you first put it on, with motors adjusting the positioning of the lenses. For everything else there’s prescription lenses.
Apple Stores have a machine to determine approximate prescription glasses strength when you come in for a demo. For users with eye conditions (like strabismus) that might interfere with eye tracking, the Vision Pro offers alternative interaction controls in the accessibility features. However, we have heard that lenses are not available for people who have astigmatism, which is 40% of the population. If you know anything more about that, leave it in the comments.
The prescription insert lenses themselves require “pairing” with the headset. The decision has already borne poor UI, John Gruber received an incorrect calibration code with his review unit that made eye tracking perform poorly. We hate parts pairing on principle, and there’s got to be a way to enable calibration while still allowing third party lenses.
Oh, and Creative Electron was bored after one photo so they shot us a 360 spin. Sweet!
R1 and M2 Chips
The headset runs on an M2 Mac chip, in tandem with the new R1 chip—which is specifically responsible for processing the input from 12 cameras, the LiDAR sensor, and the TrueDepth camera, all with a minimum of latency. With AR, you need to project the camera view of the real world into the user’s eyes as fast as possible, otherwise their perceived motions won’t match up with what they see, which is a fast ticket to Vomitsville.
To keep up, the R1 uses a real-time operating system. That means that tasks are always executed in a fixed amount of time. Most of our computers run on a time-sharing operating system, which schedules tasks on the fly, and can result in slowdowns. Think about jittery mouse cursors, or spinning beach balls, and you’ve got the idea. That won’t fly with something as critical as pass-through video and object rendering. Any glitch there would be like a glitch in the Matrix, and would be jarring at best, and utterly nauseating at worst. It might even cause you to stumble and fall.
An Incredible Feat, With One Really Weird Design Decision
The original iPhone did something similar. When its underpowered chips couldn’t keep up with rendering a fast-scrolling page, it would switch to a gray-and-white checkerboard, which kept up with all your flicks and swipes. Apple prioritized responsiveness over graphical fidelity. This time around, they have prioritized graphics fidelity and responsiveness, and taken the hit on battery life, weight, and heat. Given how important the experience is to Apple’s AR experience, this is probably the right choice for a first generation device.
The Vision Pro is insanely ambitious. Yes, it’s heavy, and the glass is fragile, and that tethered battery might get annoying. But Apple has managed to pack the power of a Mac, plus the performance of a new dedicated AR chip, into a computer that you can wear on your face.
Repairability-wise, it’s not great, but on the plus side, some of the connections are quite delightful. You should have seen our teardown team jump up when they realized that the side arms could be popped out using the SIM-removal tool, for example, and the magnetic cushions are yet more user-friendly.
So why, when this thing clearly took years and years to create—and is Apple’s latest bet on the future of computing—did Apple fail to live up to their own standards with the EyeSight screen?
It’s dim, it’s low-resolution, and it adds a lot of bulk, weight, complexity, and expense to the most weight-sensitive part of the headset. Did they finally hit the drop dead date and miss their targeted performance? Could it be a late-stage manufacturing error? Regardless, we’re sure bringing it to market was a difficult decision.
We’ve been disassembling VR headsets since the original Oculus, and they continue to surprise and delight. There is so much fascinating mechanical and optical design packed in here. Apple’s seamless integration of sensors for rock-solid location tracking is just phenomenal, and we’re eager to dive into how they did it.
We’re not done with our analysis: there’s lots more to investigate inside this device. Next time, we’ll dive into the internal displays, sensor arrays and we’ll award a repairability score.
What else are you excited to see? IPD calibration motors, cooling, specific chips or circuitry? Follow along on social media, or check back here in a few shakes, we’ve got plenty more coming.