The original HTC Vive was one of T3's favourite VR headsets. Yes, it was notably more expensive at launch than its rival, the Oculus Rift, but it let you roam around while wearing its headset, tracking your movement as well as what you’re looking at. It also had proper 3D, motion-sensing controllers – like Wii on steroids.
Alas, Oculus subsequently matched or bettered those features but the game ain’t over till it’s over: HTC announced a new version of Vive at CES 2018 and the Vive Pro is a big leap forward.
We had a chance to try out the new headset in Las Vegas – these are our initial impressions.
HTC Vive vs HTC Vive Pro
The Vive Pro improves on the original headset in pretty much every way.
The headline figure is the higher resolution display, which now offers 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye (2880 x 1600 overall).
That's a significant step up from the 2160 x 1200 of the original Vive. A 78-percent increase, to be specific.
The Vive Pro also now features built-in headphones and dual microphones. It's lighter than the original, and the head straps have been redesigned to be more comfortable.
HTC probably could have gotten away with calling this Vive 2, but we suspect they'll continue selling the original Vive at a discounted price, and, in the future, release a Vive 2 and Vive Pro 2.
There will be new lighthouse sensors and controllers to go alongside the Vive Pro as well, but it'll also be compatible with your original accessories (so you don't have to upgrade everything).
The new sensors will support much larger tracking areas, now capable of covering 10x10m (so 100 square metres, for you mathmaticians). Much larger than most living rooms, but conceivably useful for corporate or public demos and people who own football clubs.
The one big question mark we still have is over price – HTC hasn‘t told us how much the Vive Pro will cost.
HTC Vive Pro Design
The first thing you'll notice about the Vive Pro is its colourful new makeover. The headset is now an unsubtle shade of blue.
Obviously, this doesn't make a difference while wearing the Vive Pro, but it sets itself apart from the other generic black/grey headsets available.
The other noticeable change is the addition of a second front-facing camera. HTC hadn't stated what this is used for yet, but has suggested another announcement in the future will reveal all.
Looking at the side of the Vive Pro and you'll see the new built-in headphones.
HTC claims the head strap has been completely reworked to reduce neck strain and block out more light.
The results are impressive – we found the Vive Pro both more comfortable and more immersive than its predecessor, with weight more evenly distributed across the headset.
Wires still run from the back of the headset to a PC for now, but HTC Vive Pro and the original HTC Vive will get a new wireless adapter (also announced at CES 2018), which we're very excited about.
So, do all of these upgrades actually make a difference? Well, after several laps driving around Leguna Seca in Assetto Corsa, and some time exploring a Ready Player One world, we walked away feeling positive about the direction HTC is going in.
The numbers really do tell the whole story here, the HTC Vive Pro is almost exactly 78-percent better than the original: that’s just maths.
The 2880 x 1600 screen looks sharper, and, while it's still possible to see the faint outlines of each pixel, the overall picture is very impressive.
Where the extra resolution really helps is the text and small details. The speedometer on the car's dashboard was easier to read, and the names above the characters in Ready Player One were sharper.
Sure, it doesn't totally revolutionise your VR experience, but it's clearly a step in the right direction.
What was really impressive was the absence of lag.
We expected the higher resolution of the Vive Pro, running on the same PC hardware, to cause some issues, such as juddering or lag, but it didn't.
We also enjoyed the addition of the built-in headphones. Not only did they make the experience more slick (taking the headset on and off was easier), but they also sounded pretty good, although, they didn't block out as much ambient noise as the ‘proper‘ pair of headphones we used to use.
The Vive Pro also features dual microphones for better audio capture, but we couldn't test this during our time with the headset.
The HTC Vive Pro is a pretty impressive step forward, offering graphical improvements which make games more immersive, and a headset that’s more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.
There's still one big unknown, and that's the price. Hopefully it won’t be too caustic.
Stay tuned to T3.com for a full review and more details on HTC Vive Pro as we get them.