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This article was published on April 3, 2018

Review: HTC’s Vive Pro is clearly the world’s best VR headset

Review: HTC’s Vive Pro is clearly the world’s best VR headset
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

HTC will soon begin shipping the Vive Pro, the world’s most advanced virtual reality headset for consumers. TNW received a review unit, and I’ve spent the past week trying to decide if the Vive Pro’s asking price is worth the upgrade.

Let’s get this out of the way: the HTC Vive Pro retails for $799. And you’re just getting the headset. If you don’t already have controllers and tracking stations you’ll need to purchase them separately. Luckily, HTC is also announcing the release of a SteamVR 1.0 tracking bundle that contains controllers and tracking stations for $299, saving you over $200 versus purchasing the items individually.

But, enough about the cost for now. Let’s get down to the good parts. Everything about the Vive Pro feels like a premium update to the original:

  • Two OLED screens at 2880×1600 resolution give the Pro a 78 percent increase over the current model
  • Two cameras give the headset rudimentary depth-sensing and hand/boundary tracking capabilities, versus the original’s single camera
  • Over-the-ear headphones with a built-in amplifier provide vastly upgraded audio fidelity and immersion
  • Better support straps and a more comfortable fit

The experience of using the HTC Vive Pro is a premium one from the moment you get started. It’s incredibly easy to put on and adjust and that makes a bigger difference than I thought it would.

I found myself taking just one more turn a lot more often knowing that I wouldn’t have to struggle to get things adjusted just right. With the original Vive I was constantly wondering if I had my headset sitting on my face perfectly – knowing otherwise would lead to extra blurriness. The Vive Pro feels solid and well-positioned each time you strap it on.

Once you put it on your head and log in to SteamVR you’ll immediately notice the resolution difference. It’s easier to read text, the edges of images are crisper, and the colors seem a bit more vibrant. And, best of all, the blurriness of VR is minimized.

Unfortunately, if you’re prone to VR sickness, even the Vive Pro’s better optics won’t remedy that. The resolution increase is definitely noticeable, but it’s still not quite on par with the resolution of reality. It does, however, help a little bit.

The first game I tested the Vive Pro with was Bethesda’s excellent Fallout 4 VR. It’s arguably the best experience you can have in VR. I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into Fallout 4 on the Xbox and, while it’s novel and fun on the Vive, the graphics are pretty far apart. The Vive Pro, however, made me feel much more at home. It’s pretty close, graphically, to what I’m used to on console and that makes it more comfortable to play without turning on the teleport movement feature.

Using the original Vive headset, I can normally only traverse the game’s Wasteland world using the ‘intense’ travel-mode for about 30 minutes before I need to take a break due to eye-fatigue. With the Vive Pro I found myself playing for nearly an hour before taking a break just to rest my legs.

The Vive Pro also made other gaming experiences better in unexpected ways. Playing Rockstar’s LA Noire: The VR Case Files was a better experience on the Vive Pro than the original thanks to much improved headphones which provided greater audio immersion — and, as the PC I was reviewing it on wasn’t able to run it at max specs, I really appreciated the Vive Pro’s better visuals.

All that being said, I’m not sure if I can justify the price to anyone who’s new to VR. For most people the original is a better choice, based on cost alone.

I do think the Vive Pro will find a home in arcades and casinos, however. During my review period I checked out an archery simulator called Siege VR that really showcases how these ‘expensive’ headsets may actually be a ‘cheap’ replacement for carnival games and arcade machines that can cost thousands of dollars.

In my week with the device in my home however, I learned what it’s like playing games in VR using the best consumer headset on the planet. It’s better. How much better depends on how much you like VR already. If you’ve tried premium games like Fallout 4 and LA Noire: The VR Case Files in VR and still found yourself a solid “meh” in the past, this isn’t likely to change your mind.

But if you’re the type of person who wants the very best VR experience you can get, you’ll need an HTC Vive Pro for that.

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