When it comes to the world of VR, our firm favorite has to be the HTC Vive. While we’ve tested numerous VR kits, we always seems to drift back to the Vive time after time. It’s a great piece of kit, and so far has been pretty solid when it comes to room-scale VR experiences.
Since its original launch, people have been adding their own comments and feedback about the kit, and HTC is finally ready to show off what they’ve dubbed the HTC Vive Pro.
It’s not quite a Vive 2.0, but rather an improvement that focuses solely on the headset itself. The burning question of course, is whether or not this is a necessary upgrade if you’ve already got a perfectly functioning Vive setup.
The first bit of welcoming news with the Vive Pro is that it’s fully compatible with the original Vive hardware. So if you’ve painfully set up your Vive sensors and hidden all the cabling away neatly, you can still use them with the Vive Pro without unplugging anything.
The same goes for the original controllers, which is why the Vive Pro can be regarded as a somewhat marginal upgrade. It would make sense for HTC to offer consumers the option to buy a full Vive Pro kit that bundles with sensors and controllers, or just opt for the updated headset to use with an existing setup.
HTC Vive Pro price and release date
The HTC Vive Pro will be available for $799/£799/AU$1,199, with global pre-orders starting now. There will also be a $100 price reduction for the current Vive full kit, bringing it down to $499 across the globe.
That price tag includes only the headset, which clearly targets the Vive Pro for users who already own existing Vive hardware and want to get a much smoother VR experience. HTC is working on new controllers, as well as a Wireless Adapter piece built using Intel WiGig technology, that will be sold separately.
- Improved fit and comfort
- Built in headphones
- Compatible with previous Vive hardware
From a design point of view, the first noticeable change is the different color. The original Vive was a grey-black combo, while the Vive Pro has opted for a navy blue shade instead.
At the front you now have two front-facing cameras positioned right in the middle of the headset. HTC haven’t formally announced what the dual front-facing cameras on the Vive Pro can do, but our guess it’s for a combination of AR and for staying safe while in an immersive VR experience.
New to the Vive Pro are the built-in headphones. We’ve seen this before the HTC’s Deluxe Audio strap, but now it comes as a standard fit with the Vive Pro. These are easy to adjust up or down, and can be moved away if you don’t want to listen to in-game audio. They support 3D Spatial Audio, so creators can really play with the soundstage for individual VR experiences. Along with active noise cancelling, they make for a really good fit and feel, so you can really focus on what you’re playing. Volume controls are on the left earcup, while the right earcup has a mute button for the microphone.
The biggest improvement with the Vive Pro has to be the comfort levels when wearing the device. The Vive Pro is much more comfortable to wear, thanks to sturdy plastic support straps and plenty of padding. Most of it is fixed on with Velcro, making it super easy to remove and clean or replace. The updated fit also blocks out any light creeping in near your eyes or nose, which is a problem commonly faced with the original Vive.
Cabling has also been tidied up with the Vive Pro. A single cable not much thicker than a LAN cable, now snakes its way neatly from the front and along the sides of the unit.
The Link box now runs off a DisplayPort connection to your PC, rather than using HDMI like the original Vive. That shouldn’t be an issue for most PCs, as modern graphic cards have at least one free DisplayPort that you can use comfortably.
- Increased resolution of 1440 x 1600 (per eye)
- Greater image clarity
- No ‘screen-door’ effect
The biggest change for the Vive Pro is the resolution of the Dual AMOLED screens in the unit itself. While it’s the same 3.5 inches as the older Vive, the Vive Pro now runs at a resolution of 1440 x 1600 at 615PPI per eye, compared to the 1080 x 1200 448 PPI of the original Vive.
HTC haven’t explicitly said if this increase in resolution will change system requirements for the Vive, but our VR rig was perfectly capable of running both the Vive and Vive Pro without any difficulties (Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card). Having said that, expect the official system requirements for the Vive Pro to be slightly higher than the original Vive, just to ensure that your VR experience is as smooth as possible.
So does all of this actually make a difference when it comes down to performance? It absolutely does. The original Vive suffered greatly from a ‘screen-door’ effect when playing VR experiences. Since the screens were so close to your eyes, you could just about notice the individual pixels, and in brightly lit VR scenes this would make for a rather jarring viewing experience.
The Vive Pro greatly reduces this effect – you can still see a little of it if you squint slightly, but overall the viewing experience is a whole lot better, and much smoother. The fact that the fit is much better as well means that you’re not distracted by light creeping in, which is another bonus point.
The Vive Pro is a marked improvement both in terms of comfort and overall performance. Going back to playing on the original Vive was like night and day, and the increased resolution on the Vive Pro instantly be noticeable in pretty much any VR experience. It’s not quite Vive 2.0, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
If you’re a current Vive owner and really feel like you need a smoother gaming experience (and your PC can push itself just a tad bit further), then the Vive Pro is a no-brainer upgrade for your setup.
The only downside is the steep price tag, and the fact that no other additional hardware is included. This clearly sets up the Vive Pro as a device aimed for current Vive users only, which is a real shame.