It’s been a little over two years since the original HTC Vive first graced our heads and, along with the Oculus Rift, began offering those with wallets large enough an impressive virtual reality experience.
The original Vive was far from perfect, with its long, easy-to-trip-on HDMI cable, weighty headset and the necessity of a wireless headset to get an immersive experience giving early adopters a few extra things to consider when weighing up a potential purchase. Valve and HTC didn’t rest on their laurels once the Vive was released, offering multiple revisions of the Vive right up until the announcement of the Vive Pro in January this year.
The HTC Vive Pro is a VR headset positioned to offer a more complete VR experience right out of the box. It comes within-built headphones and a microphone to offer both communication and some noise cancelling to double down on immersion, as well a better designed headstrap to balance the headsets weight. On top of this the headset is lighter overall and now offers a DisplayPort connection instead of HDMI to support the new combined 2880×1600 (that’s 1440×1600 per eye) pixel resolution. In short, it’s an improvement in every way, and we’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to tinker with one these past few weeks.
Despite the tangled mess of wires (the wireless adapter can’t come soon enough) the Vive Pro is a cinch to setup. Once the base stations have had their firmware updated and you’ve found a way to mount them in your chosen space, you’re required to map out a play space with the aid of SteamVR. We used a 2mx2m space, but really the more space you can find the better as you’ll be flailing your arms around madly in many games and you don’t want to risk an expensive accident.
Once that setup is complete then you’re good to go, launching games from your desktop or directly from the headset itself using the software’s in-built browser. In my time with the Vive Pro I tried a variety of new titles, classics and some early access ones too, and wow is this thing impressive. The enhanced resolution is immediately noticeable and provides an even more immersive experience. Hours are lost easily in virtual reality, and more than once did day turn to night while I had the headset on. It’s somewhat of a shock emerging back into the real world, and I was often left with a strange Black Mirror-esque sensation when trying to readjust to normal movement.
While the Pro is definitely an improvement over the classic it’s still not entirely perfect. For one the headset is still quite heavy, even if lighter than the 550gm of the on-launch original, and I had a sore neck after a few of the longer sessions. The headphones aren’t amazing either, while they do sound decent they’re unfortunately an on-ear design – a necessary compromise but with none of the benefits of over-ear or in-ear. I personally had a tough time getting them to sit correctly on my ears, and they were an unfortunate and constant source of annoyance during extended use.
Then of course there’s the price. If you already own a Vive and feel the need to upgrade then you can pick up the headset only for around $1100.00 AUD from most major retailers. If you’re just now looking to get into virtual reality then you can expect to pay a whopping $2000.00 to get the headset, 2 controllers and the latest versions of the Vive base stations and controllers. That is, of course, on top of the cost of actually owning a computer that can handle the intensity of virtual reality.
Is the Vive Pro worth the price of admission? Yes, resoundingly yes. If you have room in your budget and the system to drive it then I can 100% recommend investing in the full headset kit. Can I recommend it to everyone though? Well, that’s where things get muddy. Yes the headset is great, but if you’ve already got an HTC Vive and a good set of headphones then the additional cost gets harder to justify. Maybe consider a new T.V. or a GPU instead.