HTC Vive is the only VR gadget that is complete in its entirety, at the time its competition is still passing through its development kit releases. Previously, Vive Pre was rolled out for devs, but now we finally have a consumer’s version.
The HTC Vive is one of the most exciting $800 hardware that you will ever bring to your home. While the Pre had many glitches and unfinished games, the fully-fledged Vive is a powerful VR headset, but bugs are still there. Since the first prototype appeared on the scene in early 2015, Vive has progressed a huge deal, in fact, it is the only headset that allows you to physically navigate a virtual environment.
Inside the Package
The black mask is the main piece of equipment that sits on your face, but there are many other components that you need to get familiar with. The system comes with,
- VR Headset which is a tech-upgraded Google Cardboard with straps
- A pair of motion detectors that go to corner of the room
- Wireless remote controls with front trigger, three buttons, and a trackpad
- Earbuds for audio, no headphones
- HDMI and USB Cables for connectivity with PC
- Link Box that connects your headset to the PC
The VR Headset
In plain words, the HTC Vive VR headset is heavy enough that you instantly grow a feeling of dislike for it. The straps that bind it to your head do help, however, you wish for the burden to go away. So the weight is a persistent factor. One good thing that you will really appreciate the creators for is its sweat-soaking ability, which is useful because games that require physical exertion (which has to include all of them because you are standing and strolling around) make you perspire significantly. With sweat stuck inside the headset, on your face would feel greasy and itchy, so thankfully that is not the case with Vive’s wearable mask.
HTC Vive’s controller trackpad has evolved through many schemes, finally settling with a wireless d-pad style experience, nonetheless, they have been designed very well to comfortably fit into your hands. The buttons and trackpad are easy to access with fingers and HTC has invested great thought in not letting VR voyagers get uncomfortable with controls they can’t really see while absorbed in virtual reality. So you should not get too disappointed when we say it will take some time for getting used to it. The controls have a long battery life and are recharged with Micro USB chargers.
Setting up HTC Vive isn’t like conquering a monster, but everyone has their own stamina of getting annoyed with trivial technicalities. In this case, it would take you ten to twenty minutes based on how fast pick up.
HTC Vive requires not just one but three power outlets: one for powering up the box that connects the mask to your PC, and two for the tracking devices. The tracking devices have to be placed diagonally in the room and they can be connected to each other with the help of a cable, length depending on the size of your room, but it cannot be greater than 15×15 feet.
The tower-like tracking devices can also communicate optically so you don’t have to wire them with the PC. To get the best VR experience it is better that you mount them on the wall or place them on a tall stand. The diagonal alignment of tracking system allows maximum coverage and higher they are placed, better they track.
- If another person gets into the area between the two tracking tower devices, the tracking functionality is visibly disrupted, sometimes even momentarily blacking out the feed on the headset.
- When setting up, HTC Vive requires calibrating room space from corner to corner to create the VR space of the same size. This calibration has to be done precisely, otherwise, the boundaries of the virtual room, including the floor height gets disoriented which also affects its tracking capabilities.
HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift
The resolution remains to be 1080×1200 pixels per eyes just as in Occulus Rift while the field of view is rounder in comparison, but it is not a very distinguishable feature. If we compare visual quality of the virtual reality content, none of the VR headsets is any less than the other. Taking the style appeal into the account, Facebook’s comparatively both delicate and comfortable as well because Vive is somewhat military-grade wearable with a larger and heavier mask. However, this also means that Vive is more resistant to drops and shocks, and handling Rift needs more care.
HTC Vive’s home screen is not very friendly compared to Rift, but it is more tech-savvy with a lot of options, so basically it is a matter of variety where the former is much better at the expense of convenience. 360-videos could have been really fun experience with Vive, but even Oculus Rift lacks this feature for now. Comparing controls of both VR headsets, the Facebook team is again a winner for creating grabbable controls that work smoothly.
HTC Vive VR headset experience
Apart from the games, some qualities of the VR headset are inbuilt that necessary for users safety and convenience. For example, while walking in the virtual environment who is to protect you from bumping your nose into the wall of the real room? The makers of the Vive were well-aware of the fact and they did find a solution.
When a user gets in close proximity to the wall (about 1 foot), the virtual environment shows a grid that represents walls of the real room so you can avoid it. Additionally, you can also set the system up to send call or text your smartphone if you are about the hit the marked perimeter.
Another safety feature that makes HTC Vive stand apart is the camera that partially takes you out from the VR to the real world so you can interact with your environment as well. Through the lens of the headset, the camera view appears like filtered monochrome vision. The color of the filter, like the safety grid system, is changeable according to your taste. To turn on the real world vision in the virtual world, you just double tap the home button to bring you back home.
The huge mask blocks most of the light except when you look straight down your nose. This is just so can get a very immersive VR experience. The home button takes to the home screen, which by default is a 3D wallpaper of a construction area. In front of the screen, you can deploy SteamVR which is the basic user interface, but with formidable customization options. It feels like looking at the huge wall of posters that you have to choose from with the help of a virtual laser pointer emanating from your controllers, but the layout looks just the same as in the desktop version.
This is also the place where you can buy and install games, get notifications, browse internet and stream videos from Netflix and YouTube. As previously stated, the controllers would need some getting used to, but you will feel irritating because sometimes the system does not recognize your selection. To input text, you have to use a trackpad-based keyboard which is also not a very daunting experience and hopefully, it will improve in time.
VR Game Titles for HTC Vive
Apart from walking around inside the gaming environment—which is only offered by HTC—there are plenty of sit-down games as well. Some of the most anticipated VR game titles for vive include Tilt Brush by Google, Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator, Cloudlands VR Minigolf and many other interesting games. But as to visual fidelity, Chronos or EVE: Valkyrie are the best games in the business.
Some games are pure entertainment package, you will absolutely enjoy survival horror game The Brookhaven Experiment. More games will be eventually uploaded to SteamVR where users can buy them. How controls work with different games? They get a different virtual shape and function: can be either a club in a golf game, a gun in a first player shooter, a sword in a close combat game or strange looking hands in some exploration VR game.
- A very creative way to experience virtual reality with amazing games
- Only VR headset to allow physical navigation with the help of its tracking system
- Versatile controls with variety of game functions
- Swap-to-real-world option with front camera
- Appreciable safety features, very tough material
- Facebook has sweat-soaking material, very useful for long gameplays
- Rich users interface with many personalization options
- The headset itself feels discomfortingly heavy on the front
- Wearing industrial looks, it is not a pretty piece of hardware
- There are few annoying glitches in the interface and games
- Most of the VR games for the platform still feel unfinished
The Final Verdict
For a newcomer, HTC Vive is not a bad VR experience, but it will need substantial improvement in the future both in terms of appearance, handling and quality of games. However, since not many of us have seen the future VR technologies, this is the best we can get. At a total cost of $799, HTC Vive VR headset is your chance to step into the world you have never seen.