The HTC Vive has long been our favourite VR headset. Although expensive, and although the Oculus Rift has gained ground since the devices launched, it still offers the best premium virtual reality experience. So, we were delighted when HTC announced the Vive Pro; an improved version of the standard headset. We were less enthusiastic when we saw the hefty price tag that it came with, but hoped that it would help usher in the next generation of VR.
You may be wondering what differences there are between the standard and Pro version or how it compares to other headsets on the market. Worry not; we have you covered. We go into full details about this top tier device, what it’s capable of, and how it stacks up against competitors.
What is the HTC Vive Pro?
The best way to think of the HTC Vive Pro is as an improved version of the original HTC Vive. It’s not a direct step up from the first, more of a half-step. It’s the culmination of everything that HTC learned so far about VR and what consumers want from it. They’ve made it more comfortable, more refined looking, more convenient, and given it a higher resolution screen. HTC has paid attention to the weak points of the HTC Vive and made improvements, without creating an entirely new generation of headsets.
They’ve made it more comfortable, more refined looking, more convenient, and given it a higher resolution screen.
Much of the architecture is the same, and it has mostly the same selection of games and content. It’s a virtual reality headset aimed at serious users who have the money and computing power to make the most out of the medium. Like the Vive, it offers 6 degrees of freedom tracking in a wide virtual space, making use of external base station sensors. This means you can walk around in and interact with a virtual environment. The motion controllers facilitate this interaction, and HTC recently demoed real-time track of hands and fingers with the Pro.
Unfortunately, the Pro version of the headset doesn’t necessarily come bundled with either the controllers or the sensors, meaning you’ll have to buy them separately if you don’t already own them.
How the HTC Vive Pro Works
The headset works in much the same way as its predecessor. You plug the device into your (powerful) PC, set up the external sensors and motion controllers, and dive in. The computer does most of the processing, serving up content an OLED screen which two lenses focus on. This creates a stereoscopic image that you can interact with using the controllers.
To use the room-scale tracking, you’ll have to set up two base stations, ideally on tripods. You’ll also need a clear space that’s at least 2m x 1.5m in size. Some games require more space than this, so you’ll have to make sure that you can create a big enough area without obstacles. HTC have streamlined this process, although it’s still a bit of a hassle trying to make space and mount the sensors. Thankfully, a wireless sensor is incoming, meaning you’ll be able to play without being physically tethered to a PC.
HTC Vive Pro Requirements
Officially, the requirements for the Pro are the same as the original Vive. However, to make full use of the updated screen and resolution, you may need to up those specs a bit more. Below, we’ve highlighted the official specs that HTC put out:
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480. Either equivalent to these or better is recommended.
At least an Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350.
At least 4 GB of RAM.
An HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2 or more recent.
1 x USB 2.0 or better.
Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1 or later, Windows 10.
As you can see, those are some pretty hefty requirements. They’re beyond what a standard user would have access to. Again, this demonstrates just how much of a niche audience HTC is aiming for.
How Much Does the HTC Vive Pro Cost?
It’s the cost that makes the headset rather less appealing. On the official HTC website, the Vive Pro VR full kit costs an eye-watering £1,299/$1098. This includes two controllers and two base stations. The headset alone costs £799/$799.
Such a high price tag puts this far beyond the reach of the average gamer. The standard Vive costs just £499/$499, and that comes bundled with everything you need to get started. The gulf in price is huge; particularly when you consider the cost of the PC you’ll need to run it. Realistically, you’re going to have to spend around £700/$700 minimum on a gaming PC if you don’t have one already.
HTC Vive Pro vs HTC Vive
The Pro does offer a significant improvement over what is already a fantastic headset. The design looks and feels better, and the strap is significantly stronger and supports the weight of the device more. It handles more like a premium product. Perhaps the biggest improvement is to the screen. With a resolution of 1,440 x1,600 pixels per eye, it has a 78% higher resolution than the vive. Unfortunately, it keeps the same 110-degree field of view. This is narrower than some of the other more advanced headsets coming to the market.
Although it’s definitely a better headset, the difference in price will make most consumers think twice before upgrading. At the moment, there isn’t enough justification. If money isn’t a factor, the Vive Pro is the better headset. Realistically though, the average user will find the Vive more than sufficient at this stage.
HTC Vive Pro vs Oculus Rift
In our opinion, the Vive has a slight edge over the Oculus Rift. It’s a bit more of a premium product and just about takes the number one spot in terms of quality and performance. However, the Rift has made big strides since launch, meaning the gap is ever-narrower. The Vive Pro does open a gulf in visual quality and performance, as well as in comfort and design. However, the cost difference is even greater here. It’s just £349/$399 for the Rift set. In our opinion, the Rift offers better value for money.
The controllers on the Oculus headset are the best we’ve encountered so far. They’re beautifully designed and incredibly responsive. Although the tracking on the device isn’t quite as impressive as the Vive, it’s still more than adequate. Overall, the Vive Pro is technically better in many respects, providing you can afford it.
HTC Vive Pro vs PSVR
We really like the PSVR. As the sole headset available for consoles, it’s done an impressive job of providing affordability and gameplay experience. It has some of the very best games available in VR and has held a number of exclusives over the years. However, it’s not quite at the same level as the Vive Pro, or even the Rift in terms of visuals, performance, and tracking. On the flip side, it’s a lot more affordable, even if you have to buy a PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro.
The design of the PlayStation VR is perhaps one of our favourites out of all the headsets. It has a certain retro-futurism charm. It’s also incredibly comfortable. The Vive Pro matches it in comfort but not in looks. However, we’re not huge fans of the PSVR’s Move controllers. They pale in comparison to the Rift and Vive offerings. Ultimately, if you’re looking to get a premium level of VR gaming without the cost, the PSVR represents an excellent choice.
HTC Vive Pro for Education
Part of the reason we love HTC’s headsets is that they offer more than just gaming. With the level of immersion and the graphical processing power, the headsets can transport the user to myriad virtual worlds. Recently, HTC collaborated with the co-founder of Pixar to give a virtual classroom experience.
With the use of the Vive Pro, students were given a chance to explore the moon in VR. The students were at school in Slough, while the expert was live in the US. This is just one example of how the Vive Pro can be used as a tool for learning.
There are many different experiences and opportunities to use VR technology in education and training. The Vive Pro represents the very best tool on the consumer market for this. The headset offers so much more than just gaming and excels at both.
HTC Vive Pro for Gaming
Although you could argue that gamers aren’t the target market for the Vive Pro, given the high price point and demanding requirements, it still wipes the floor with everything else available. The improvements over the Vive are seen in almost every aspect. Games look better, thanks to the improved screen and play better thanks to technological advancements. They even sound better, due to the in-built stereo headphones.
It’s responsive, it looks gorgeous (providing you have the PC specs to match it), and is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Overall, it’s an absolute beast for VR gaming.
HTC Vive Pro Top Games
There are so many great VR games available for the HTC Vive Pro right now. The SteamVR platform is one of the best of there, with a broad catalogue of games. Some are free, while others cost as much as any other premium game. We’ve highlighted some that look particularly great on the improved screen of the headset:
A. Noire – The VR Case Files
This game has made it onto a few of our other lists and with good reason. If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to be a 1940s Los Angeles cop, now’s your chance. It’s so immersive (apart from a few goofy bugs) that has plenty of interactivity and challenges.
Another game we’ve written about before. It’s a rhythm game with lightsabres. What more could you possibly want? It’s fun, addictive, has so much replayability, and is one of the best uses for VR we’ve seen so far.
Part of the appeal of VR is that it allows you to explore far off galaxies from the comfort of your own home. Elite: Dangerous gives you the chance to pilot your own space ship through a vast open environment. It looks great and totally draws you in.
HTC Vive Pro Review
In our full HTC Vive Pro review, we get down to the finer details of this truly amazing headset. It represents the very best of consumer VR at the moment, as well as the most expensive. It’s hard to see how the average user could ever afford this, or why they’d choose it over the more modestly priced HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Both offer excellent performance in many areas and cost around half what the Pro does. Similarly, if you’re only looking for a casual experience, the PSVR is a great choice.
The Pro does improve on nearly every aspect of the Vive, but perhaps not enough to warrant the giant price tag. Hopefully, it becomes more affordable or at least paves the way for the next generation of VR headsets.
It does everything the original Vive does, but better.
Improvements are made all around, especially with the screen.
It looks less like a prototype and is far more comfortable than the HTC Vive.
The price tag puts it out of reach for the casual consumer, especially when you take into account the hardware needed to run it.
The HTC Vive Pro is undoubtedly the best VR headset currently on the market. From the hardware to the content, the design to the features, everything is simply fantastic. But the price is prohibitively expensive for the average user.