TCL NXTWEAR S review: Fun and futuristic, but not without drawbacks

A fraction of Vision Pro for a fraction of the price...

TCL NXTWEAR S Review
(Image: © Future)

iMore Verdict

The TCL NXTWEAR S XR glasses are a fun extension of your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. While they’re not close to the immersive experience of Apple Vision Pro, they’re also a tenth of the price.

Pros

  • +

    One-tenth the cost of Apple Vision Pro

  • +

    Plug and play USB-C cable

  • +

    A home cinema packed into some oversized sunglasses

Cons

  • -

    Not particularly stylish

  • -

    Wearing them can generate fatigue

  • -

    Requires AirPods for the best experience

You can always trust iMore. Our team of Apple experts have years of experience testing all kinds of tech and gadgets, so you can be sure our recommendations and criticisms are accurate and helpful. Find out more about how we test.

With Apple Vision Pro here, the focus on mixed reality experiences in the Apple ecosystem is stronger than ever. Yet for everyone who lives outside of the U.S., or doesn’t have $3,499 to spend on a headset, what options do you have when it comes to augmented and mixed reality? Well, one such offering is the TCL NXTWEAR glasses. The company recently unveiled the new S+ version of its smart glasses, but for the last few weeks, I’ve been hands-on with their predecessor, the S, to see what all the fuss is about. 

In short, these are an impressive pair of smart glasses that any iPhone or iPad user will love. They’re not flawless and there are definitely some drawbacks to this kind of tech, but for a fraction of the price of Apple Vision Pro, you can have plenty of fun playing games and watching movies in your very own private cinema, all packed into a device not much bigger than your average pair of sunglasses.

TCL NXTWEAR S: Price and Availability

TCL NXTWEAR S Review

(Image credit: Future)

The TCL NXTWEAR S are available on Amazon in both the U.S. and the UK. In the U.S. they’ll set you back $349, however in the UK they’re more than £540. I can’t see any good reason for the price discrepancy, especially when UK customers can pick up the new NXTWEAR S+ for £399 instead.

TCL NXTWEAR S: The good

TCL NXTWEAR S Review

(Image credit: Future)

The TCL NXTWEAR S stats don’t wow on paper, offering dual Micro OLED displays that simulate watching a 201-inch screen from 6 meters, or around 140 inches at 4 meters. They also only offer 400 nits of brightness, and 1920 x 1080p. However, despite these stats, the viewing experience is tremendous. I was properly blown away by how good regular 2D content looks when viewing TVs and movies on Netflix and Apple TV Plus. 

Wearing TCL NXTWEAR is basically akin to sitting on the back row of a medium-sized cinema, everything feels quite far away, but not so far as to detract from the viewing experience. I fired up some Breaking Bad and was thoroughly impressed, and there didn’t feel like a huge difference between the NXTWEAR and my home 4K TV, or the Retina display on my iPad. The colors were all sharp and felt very accurate, too. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a much more colorful show, and everything felt bright and vibrant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an 8K QLED TV, or indeed the dual 4K Micro-OLED power of Vision Pro, but at 400 bucks it doesn’t need to be. The NXTWEAR S are a really fun breath of fresh air that have changed how I think about content on my iPhone and iPad completely. I often struggle to watch content on my iPad when traveling, I hate looking down at my iPad for long periods of time. On my recent trip to London, I took NXTWEAR with me and was able to enjoy content on the train and in my hotel completely free of neck or back strain.

The NXTWEAR S are so easy to use, too. They ship with a USB-C cable, which means that if you’ve got one of Apple’s best iPhones, the iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro, you simply plug them in, and off you go. The other end of the cable is attached to the glasses via a pogo-pin connector, and once both are connected the glasses will come on, immediately displaying a mirror of your iPhone or iPad screen. The glasses take power from your iPhone or iPad, which means there are no battery constraints beyond what your source device can handle. However, you won’t be able to charge and view at the same time, as the NXTWEAR S occupies the USB-C port on your device. I didn’t find the NXTWEAR caused significant battery drain over time, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, however. 

In the box, you get a premium carry case that’s just about big enough for your glasses and the cable. There are also some lens attachments that you can use to attach your prescription glasses. However, this strikes me as something of a DIY solution, as you’ll need to separate your lenses from your glasses to use them. There are no premium Apple Vision Pro ZEISS inserts to speak of here. You also get a darker outer cover for the glasses which I’d definitely recommend. They make the glasses look much more stylish and normal and darken the passthrough for a more immersive viewing experience.

TCL NXTWEAR S: What's not so good

TCL NXTWEAR S Review

(Image credit: Future)

The NXTWEAR S aren’t without their drawbacks. Most notably, these are Android-first glasses, which means iPhone can’t access the 3D experiences available through the Android app. That drastically limits their usefulness to USB-C screen mirroring. This is still a fun way to use them, but only with Android will you get the full experience. 

The styling of the NXTWEAR S leaves a little to be desired, they are quite clunky and it’ll be obvious to onlookers that you’re not wearing a normal pair of sunglasses. That being said, they’re much more discrete than Apple Vision Pro. 

While the NXTWEAR S glasses aren’t heavy, they do start to produce fatigue after a decent amount of time. After a 47-minute Breaking Bad episode, my nose was sore from the pressure of wearing them, but I didn’t notice until I took them off and it subsided pretty quickly. 

The screen is ever-so-slightly limited when it comes to viewing, in that the very bottom corners of regular 16:9 content get cut off by the edges of the display. For wider experiences like Dune, this wasn’t an issue for me, and it’s not too noticeable, but it is a quirk of the display configuration. 

I think the biggest limitation of these glasses is probably the audio. While they boast stereo sound, it’s nothing to write home about. On the plus side, it doesn’t disturb people around you unless you really crank the volume, which is controlled by a wheel on the left-hand side. However, at higher volumes, the sound is almost distorted, and definitely not a great experience. The sound is very shallow and thin, and while bearable for dialogue-heavy content, you wouldn’t want to watch Bladerunner 2049 with it. To that end, you really need a good pair of headphones to compliment the NXTWEAR S. I tried viewing with the AirPods Pro 2 and it transformed the experience. Not only does the noise-canceling add to the immersion, but the sound quality and spatial audio really connect you to the viewing experience in a way the onboard audio just can’t. As such, for a truly immersive experience with NXTWEAR S, you’ll need to add a pair of noise-canceling headphones to your shopping list. 

TCL NXTWEAR S: Competition

TCL NXTWEAR S Review

(Image credit: Future)

Last year we had a look at the TCL RayNEO Air 2. From the same company as the NXTWEAR, they have slightly different styling and some of the same drawbacks. There’s also the aforementioned NXTWEAR S+, which builds on the S with a 120Hz refresh rate and a slightly larger viewing space. XREAL also offers its Air 2 Pro AR Glasses. Meta’s Ray-Ban Wayfarer smart glasses, while cheaper, don’t offer the immersive viewing experience of the NXTWEAR S. 

TCL NXTWEAR S: Should you buy them?

TCL NXTWEAR S Review

(Image credit: Future)

You should buy them if

-You’re a tech enthusiast who wants to taste augmented reality
-You want some quirky tech for travel and entertainment
-You’ve got some noise-cancelling headphones to round out the experience



You shouldn’t buy them if

- You don’t want to spend extra on good headphones
- You’re worried about style and looking cool
- The limitations for non-Android users are a deal-breaker




TCL NXTWEAR S: Verdict

TCL NXTWEAR S Review

(Image credit: Future)

The NXTWEAR S smart glasses are pretty cool, and I’ve really enjoyed using them to view content on my iPhone. They won’t be for everyone, but for those who love quirky, futuristic tech they’d make a great gift or hobby purchase, just don’t expect IMAX-level viewing or Dolby Atmos Audio. 

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9