TCL NXTWear S AR glasses review: Defying all odds

Joel Loynds
TCL NXTWear S glasses

The roster of augmented reality glasses is filling out, with TCL being the latest contender to throw its hat into the ring. How does the NXTWEAR S hold up in the real world?

After reviewing the disappointing XReal Air glasses, the thought of another pair of “augmented reality” glasses wasn’t positive. Even as they appear to be gaining some traction, the way these glasses operate isn’t something we wanted to delve into again.

When TCL reached out about the NXTWear S, hesitation took over. Did we really want to sit in front of two projected OLED screens that we could hardly make out again?

We dove in eyes-first to find out.


Back of the TCL glasses

The TCL NXTWear S has a premium quality to it, with the sleek black plastic helping blend the device into normalcy. Like the XReal Air, the rim is thick as this is where the tech is housed, but it doesn’t ever feel like a burden on your head.

We’re still enticed by the overall design of how TCL – and XReal – have designed the projection. It functions like a periscope, with the two panels pointing down and mirrored out into one big image. It’s flawless in its execution, with the device never really getting hot over extended periods of time.

While we’ll get into the connector in a bit, it isn’t as integrated as we’d like. It features a magnetic connector to USB-C, and while sturdy, can easily come loose when knocked.

We’re currently training a puppy, and when the bundle of energy leaped into our laps, the glasses would immediately disconnect as they investigated. The magnet isn’t weak by any means, but a big enough tug can ruin your game time.

We also can’t help but laugh at these glasses when the shades are disconnected. These clip on with magnets too, but are light enough that we never saw any real issues with them dropping off.

TCL Glasses underneath the shades

Underneath, there are these two egg-shaped covers for the OLED panels, and they look pretty outlandish. It made us never want to use them without the shades, out of fear of looking even more ridiculous.


Moving back to the cable, we’re not sure what the decision behind the USB-C cable using a proprietary connector was. The thing about the XReal glasses was that if you had a display port-capable USB-C cable, you could continue to use the device even after losing the one included.

TCL Cable

Here, TCL has limited usability in the name of presumed profit. The cable’s magnet is already loose enough, and the added fear of it breaking leaves us consistently nervous when using the NXTWear S.

We’re positive that if it did break TCL would offer a replacement. Though, it’s concerning that there’s no evidence of a purchasable spare anywhere on their website.

Device compatibility

Despite all of this, the TCL NXTWear S still has a lot of issues other competitors do. It’s compatible with many things, but it’s still not just a plug-and-play device. On macOS and Windows devices, there was no trouble hooking the glasses up.

On an iPhone 14 Pro and a Google Pixel 6A, we had to use a hub that TCL sells separately. While the hub is genuinely fantastic, it doesn’t really make it better that there’s another step and another thing to purchase.

Using the TCL NXTWear S

TCL NXTWear S glasses in use

Despite the negativity, once we put the glasses on and began playing games or using it usually, our fears melted away.

Our biggest issue with the XReal Air specs was that we couldn’t see. There’s no focus wheel or way to move the image once it’s projecting in the external display mode.

The same goes for the TCL NXTWear S, but the difference is that the image is a lot closer to the eye. Playing Fallout New Vegas and Dave the Diver on the Ayaneo 2S, we never felt hindered by the glasses.

In fact, it was quite a comfortable way to play while the TV was taken up with reality shows. We could hear and partially see Captain Lee’s exit from Below Deck while pretending to focus on sending ghouls to the moon.

Audio and brightness

TCL Glasses without the shades

This is made possible by the rather good audio. It sits on the outer ear, but none of it really leaks out into the public. Despite not having coverings, you can lose yourself in a game as your brain adjusts to the alternative audio delivery method.

However, the brightness of the device still felt lackluster in direct sunlight. Even with the shades on, the OLED panels just never get bright enough to really break through Mother Nature, even with the shades attached.

In prime conditions, however, using the glasses is an absolute delight. Movies, games, and even general usage of the device connected feel natural, even with the massive 1080p projected screen floating in your direct sight.

TCL NXTWear S software

Exclusive to Windows, the augmented reality of the hardware starts to appear. It’s not technically augmented reality though, as it doesn’t actively interact with the environment in any capacity. It’s still a mirrored projection of a flat image.

It allows you to use multiple screens and layouts, but we just don’t find it useful. In fact, on hardware where we’d use the device more frequently, it’s either not available or impacts performance.

TCL has made this one of its biggest advertising efforts, but it just feels a bit overstated. The hardware is at its best when you’re just beaming games or content into your eyes. Though the efforts are welcome, there is clearly more work to be done.

TCL NXTWear S Gaming performance

TCL glasses in use from the side

There are some major use cases for the TCL NXTWear S glasses and gaming, we just don’t think it’d be great for everything.

The glasses have a hard 60Hz cap, meaning esports titles are mostly out of the window. Single-player games like Fallout and the like work considerably better, with a noticeable lack of lag between controller and display.

We think it’s more of a question of what device would you play games with the TCL specs on. We found them great for some privacy in public on the Steam Deck or Ayaneo, but wouldn’t consider them for our home PC. Why sacrifice our real, 1440p ultra-wide monitor for a projected 120” 1080p screen?

It’s more about use cases, and a lot of the time, we just didn’t feel the need for the NXTWear S in our day-to-day lives.

They draw too much attention while out in public, and we rarely wanted to pull them out for sessions on our selection of handhelds.

The Verdict: 3/5

With a significantly better view without glasses and a lack of emphasis on needing software for a bad mixed reality experience, these are already much better than the competitors.

Where the TCL NXTWear S falls short is in its need for proprietary cables and some middling brightness. We hope that TCL takes those lessons away, as this is the most promising effort we’ve seen from a manufacturer thus far.

If you plan on picking them up, just remember that they’re at their best when out of direct sunlight.