HTC Vive Pro review: More luxury than landmark

HTC Vive Pro
  • HTC Vive Pro
  • HTC Vive Pro
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Best-in-class display resolution
  • Versatile ergonomics

Cons

  • Disappointing headphones
  • Relies on DisplayPort

Bottom Line

The lack of significant differences between the experiences you get out of this and the regular Vive leave the Vive Pro looking more like a luxury product than it is a landmark one.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

The HTC Vive launched two years ago, it seemed like a side-bet from the Taiwanese tech company. Back then, virtual reality was as much an emerging idea as much as it was an emerging market. However, if their current fiscal condition continues to deteriorate, the Vive may well outlive their smartphones. It hasn’t taken long for the formula for what a modern, consumer-ready VR experience looks like to take a more solid shape - due in no part to the impact and popularity of the original Vive.

Touting sharper specs and a more ambitious design, the new HTC Vive Pro makes an attempt to build on that legacy.

Make no mistake - this is a VR headset designed to appeal to the already-converted. However, even as someone who falls directly into that category, it just didn’t do quite enough for me to want to buy in. Compared to the original Vive headset, it’s indisputably-superior. Unfortunately, it fails to solve any lingering issues or consumer pain-points in the experience.

As a direct consequence of this unwillingness (or inability) to meaningfully-innovate (or make VR a more-affordable proposition), the Vive Pro fails to amount to anything more than a better, premium alternative for those with cash to burn.

Specs

Display size and type: Dual AMOLED 3.5-inch

Display resolution: 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye

Refresh rate: 90Hz

FOV: 110 degrees

Integrated microphone: Yes

Integrated headphones: Yes

Ports: USB-C 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2,

Connectivity: Bluetooth

Price: $1999

Design

To the eye, the Vive Pro looks to have been cast from much the same mould as its non-Pro predecessor. HTC have opted for a delicious shade of blue rather than the standard matte black here but otherwise, this thing looks more-or-less synonymous with their previous VR headset - with a few smart additions here and there. More on them later.

Like the regular Vive, the Vive Pro comes bundled with both two controllers and a pair of base stations used for room-scale VR experiences. As far as these things go, it includes basically everything you need to get started. Minus a VR-capable PC. Of course, with an asking price almost double that of the regular Vive and almost triple that of the Oculus Rift, you’d hope it would.

Credit: HTC

As far as the differences go, they’re largely internal. The HTC Vive Pro’s binocular display  features the best resolution you can find in a VR headset. At least, at the time of writing. If you’re after fidelity, it’s got it. The Pro also comes with support for larger room-scale experiences (33 feet x 33 feet) and the bundled controllers feature SteamVR Tracking 2.0 sensors for more-reliable motion inputs.

The Vive Pro also been fitted out with a slew of ergonomic improvements, a fair few of which look to have been directly inspired by the competition. Like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive Pro now features a set of built-in over-ear headphones. Unfortunately, I found this addition a little underwhelming in action. It always felt awkwardly positioned and never really isolated me from outside sound in any meaningful way. It’s nice that they’re here - but given the price, I wish the execution and design was a bit more robust.

The Vive Pro is also a lot more customizable in terms of fitting. There’s easy lens distance adjustment, adjustable headphone cups and an adjustable head-strap. These might sound like small additions but they serve to make the Pro a whole lot more versatile and flexible than the earlier Vive ever was.

In stark contrast to these gains, the cabling situation for the Vive Pro proved genuinely frustrating. Rather than use HDMI (as most other VR headsets do), the HTC Vive relies on a DisplayPort connection run through a hub unit called the Link Box. In addition to creating a bunch of extra cabling hassle, this led to the Vive Pro being particularly infuriating to test as more than a few ‘VR-ready’ PCs and laptops only feature HDMI inputs rather than DisplayPort ones. Yes, bringing dongles and converters into the mix is a possible stopgap here, but our attempts to remedy the situation proved dicey at best.

Performance  

HTC are using the Vive Pro to promote the new wireless VR dongle accessory - but unfortunately that’s not included here. If it was, then maybe this would be easier to recommend as an upgrade for VR early adopters looking to raise their game.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Without it, the experience of using the HTC Vive Pro is just not all that different to what’s offered by the regular HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. As is always the case with VR, your mileage is going to come down to software as much as it hardware. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on your VR setup, if you don’t have anything you actually want to do in VR - you’re simply not going to get the value out of that purchase to make it worthwhile.

The fact that the Vive Pro supports both SteamVR experiences and VivePort ones does give it slight-edge over the Oculus Rift in terms of available content but not necessarily enough of concrete advantage that I’d recommend it over the regular Vive. Sure, on a technical level, it’s definitely the best headset of the three -  but the price-tag here just isn’t geared towards giving value to consumer users.

Things look better through the HTC Pro’s high-resolution lenses - but they don’t look that much better.

If anything, the HTC Vive Pro is more of a product designed for emerged VR-businesses. It shaves off some of the corners, inconsistencies and omissions found in the previous Vive headset and comes across as a much more-polished product as a result.

The Bottom Line

The HTC Vive Pro isn’t the forerunner of the next-generation of VR headsets. It’s more of a greatest-hits album for the current era. It learns from previous missteps and introduces some of the key variables that competitors tried have made their own - but when it comes to actually leveraging HTC’s considerable reputation for innovation, it falls short.

Credit: HTC

The HTC Vive Pro is - by-far - the best VR headset money can buy. However, the lack of significant differences between the experiences you get out of it and the regular Vive leave the Vive Pro looking more like a luxury product than it is a landmark one.

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Read more on these topics: htc, HTC Vive, HTC Vive Pro
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