Next-gen VR brings per­fectly clear vi­sion and a more com­fort­able head­set, so now you can truly lose your­self in an­other world

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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)

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.

Eye candy

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

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