HTC VIVE PRO
Next-gen VR brings perfectly clear vision and a more comfortable headset, so now you can truly lose yourself in another world
Next-gen VR has landed, but is it worth the mega price tag HTC wants to charge us? We strap on the Vive Pro and venture into lands unknown
$1,629 (complete set) vive.com
The HTC Vive has always been the leading virtual reality experience when it comes to room-scale immersion. Although rival headsets such as the Oculus Rift have since expanded to help you physically move around to navigate in a VR, and the PlayStation VR does it to a point, no other headset has quite been able to replicate what the Vive offers.
Tech me on
While still in the lead, HTC is now surpassing even itself by launching the Vive Pro, an upgraded headset with higher-resolution displays and a more ergonomic design.
On the tech side there are two big changes. First is an increase in pixels, climbing to 2880x1600 (1440x1600 per eye) and representing a 78 per cent increase from the original Vive. Second is high-res audio headphones built into the headset.
It’s clear from the way HTC has positioned the Vive Pro that it’s intended for those who are already very familiar with virtual reality headsets. But after you’ve forked out the staggering $1,199 price you might be surprised as to what you actually get in the box: just the headset, the link box, a DisplayPort and USB cables for connecting the Vive Pro to
your PC, a power adapter and the mounting pad for strapping down that link box. And that’s it.
To actually use the Vive Pro, HTC is expecting you to already own the pair of controllers and the two base stations required for tracking all of your movements. There’s currently no simple bundle that gets you all of the necessary kit in one box, though HTC is doing a deal when you buy the Vive Pro that offers two Vive 1.0 controllers and two 1.0 base stations for $430. The total amount ($1,629) is a rather large investment. Hell, even shelling out $1,199 for the headset is a lot to ask, especially if you have previously spent a bundle of cash on accessories.
Room with a view
The good news is that the Vive Pro will work perfectly with your existing Vive kit, so it’s a matter of swapping out the headsets and link boxes to use in your VR space. On that note, we had no problems getting it running.
If you’re new to the VR game you need to prepare for what a debacle it is getting everything set up properly. You have to download the drivers from the HTC Vive website, run the setup software and get everything plugged in. Then you must position the sensor units up high enough by balancing them on bookcases, tripods or screwing them into your walls; map the space that you want to use to play Vive Pro games; then finally run through the tutorial. That’s before you factor in whether you’ll need to clear extra space in your room to properly play. There’s a standing-only option if you have a small space, but for the true Vive experience – one that makes it worth the big outlay – you’ll need a space at least 2x1.5m/6.5x5 feet.
For a lot of homes, keeping that much room clear on a regular basis isn’t easy. And it doesn’t help that, despite running the room setup several times over the course of testing, the software kept shifting our play space to the right, putting us in constant proximity to breakable things and a brimming fish tank.
The tracking isn’t always perfect, occasionally losing sight of one or both controllers mid-game. In fact, it’s a little immersion-breaking when you’re trying to take on a swarm of aliens in DoomVFR. Regardless of the complexity of the setup, there’s nothing more rewarding in games than the virtual experience the Vive Pro has to offer when it’s in full swing. The difference between the first Vive and the Pro is staggering.
The biggest upgrade is the improved sharpness. The twin OLED screens don’t just deliver a higher-resolution experience overall (the original Vive’s resolution was 2160x1200 total), it also means that pixel density is increased by 37 per cent.
The upshot is that having many more pixels in the same space means you can’t see the individual dots any more. The ‘screen door effect’, as it’s known, was prevalent on the first Vive, the Oculus Rift and especially the PlayStation VR, which is lower resolution than the other two. Seeing the pixels that make up the screen heavily detracts from the immersion you get from the games you’re playing
The Vive Pro design is improved when it comes to comfort, but it’s still not the most beautiful bit of tech you’ll ever own