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 back 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. 

Heavy Metal

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.

Three batteries in the aluminum pack, at ~3.8V each in series, 3166 mAh each, supplying 11.34 Volts in total.

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.

Headbands

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—not quite as hard to get into as a pair of AirPods Pro, but almost.

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.

The locking design is great, but why couldn’t it be USB-C Apple? WHY?

This connector means that you can’t just swap in the USB-C battery pack you already own. Lame.

Aww, such a cute family snap!

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.

Guess who was wearing makeup?

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.

EyeSight Display

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.

Why Does EyeSight Look So Wonky?

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, its 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.

The curved ridges of the lenticular lens layer.

Pixels bending and shining through the lenticular layer

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 through 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
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