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HTC VIVE test: the Rolls-Royce of VR headsets evaluated in detail

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Tom Chatfield
@tomchatfield
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Summary

  • HTC VIVE test: unboxing and installation
    • Unboxing
    • New packaging
    • The installation
    • Calibration
    • Small interference concerns
  • HTC VIVE test: design and ergonomics
    • Bulky cables
  • HTC VIVE test: features and performance
    • Functionalities
    • The Lab
    • Vanishing Realms
    • The Brookhaven Experiment
    • performances
  • HTC VIVE test: quality / price ratio
  • HTC VIVE test: the VIVE against the competition
    • A very good room-scale system
    • Surely the best wired VR headset
  • HTC VIVE review: the future of HTC VIVE
    • Many quality games in the pipeline
    • 7invensun aGlass: an accessory for retinal tracking on HTC VIVE
    • TPCast: towards the disappearance of cables from HTC VIVE
    • VIVE Deluxe Audio Strap: an audio headset designed for the HTC VIVE
    • VIVE Tracker
  • Is the HTC Vive Pro its replacement?
    • A template for arcades and developers
  • HTC Vive facing the Vive Cosmos
    • Differences between the two models
    • Which one to choose ?
  • Buy HTC Vive at the best price
  • The HTC Vive against the Valve Index
    • What differentiates the two VR headsets
    • Which one to choose ?
  • HTC VIVE test: conclusion
  • notation

Gamer friends, you were expecting it, here it is. Announced in February 2015 and marketed in April 2016, the Vive headset, a product of the collaboration between HTC and Steam, mysteriously appeared in our editorial staff. True to our passions, we have tested it for a long time and we tell you all about our impressions. From unboxing to the verdict of games already available, find out everything you need to know in our HTC VIVE test.





HTC VIVE test: unboxing and installation

Unboxing

MASSIVE. This is the first word that comes to mind to describe the box delivered for the HTC VIVE test. Closer to the safe than to a simple cardboard box, the packaging is surprisingly high quality: solid, decorated with small relief engravings and lined with a thick layer of protective foam, everything is present to arouse pleasure from the unboxing.

The size of the box is explained by the impressive number of elements included. Indeed, in addition to the helmet in question are two controllers (called controllers), two base stations (or position sensors, these are not integrated in the helmet) and a veritable army of cables. More precisely, we find there:

– 1 plan d’installation,
- 1 user manual for the base stations,
- 1 synchronization cable,
- 2 adapters for base stations,
- 1 assembly kit,
- 1 connection box,
- 1 mounting pad for the connection box,
- 1 adapter for the connection box,
- 1 HDMI cable,
- 1 USB cable,
- 1 pair of headphones,
- 1 spare face pad,
- 1 cleaning cloth,
- 2 micro-USB chargers.

After having freed all these elements from their padded prison, one observation becomes obvious: installing all this will not be a piece of fun. Internet is full of conflicting opinions on this subject: some testers rail against the complexity of installation, others praise the simplicity of the HTC Vive. On our side, following the HTC VIVE test, our opinion is rather mixed: installation and configuration is not really difficult, but we encountered some serious usability issues when setting up the room. We will come back to it.



New packaging

During the last summer, HTC revised the packaging of its HTC Vive. Previously quite big and heavy enough, the one we received for the HTC VIVE test is practically half the size, making it easier to carry. All the elements are however present in this new box. HTC has therefore set about optimizing the space in its packaging, probably in response to criticism about its ergonomics.

The protective foam inside the box has also been changed. Nothing extraordinary here, but the smell that emanated from the box and which gave us the impression of having bought ourselves a new car is meant to be more subtle. Finally, the back strap of the helmet is more rigid than in the past, and therefore offers better stability when worn.

The installation

After unpacking all your equipment, the installation plan (the first paper that we consult) suggests visit the HTC Vive website to install the appropriate software (and Steam, of course). It is during the installation of this one that it will indicate to you the various connections to be made in order to install your play area. These are divided into two stages:

- Connect the headset to the computer. As you will soon notice, three cables come out of the HTC Vive: one HDMI, one USB and power. These peripherals should not be directly connected to the computer, but to a small connection box which will centralize all your connections. Subsequently, other HDMI and USB cables (both supplied) will connect to your computer, while the power supply ... well, you get it.


- Install base stations in your game room. At first glance, nothing complicated here, but we advise you to be very meticulous. The base stations will allow you to locate you in space. Ideally, they should be located in opposite corners of the room, high up, and always keep the headset and controllers in sight. To do this, HTC Vive provides a mounting kit for each of the bases, allowing it to be attached to a wall or ceiling.


To check that all the elements are correctly connected to the system, the SteamVR window constantly affirms the state of the two bases, the two controllers and the headset. If all are plugged in and in sight of the bases, the five lights are green and all you have to do is calibrate your play area.

Calibration

Here comes the stage that almost lost us. Basically, the system needs to know certain details of where one is playing, be it the size and layout of the room, the ground level, or the direction of the screen. Two choices are available to you:

- Playing standing : In which case the calibration wizard will ask you to stand where you want to play and put the controllers on the ground.

- Calibrate to room scale : which forces you to set the ground level, point the direction of your screen and trace the outline of your play area thanks to the controllers. For information, the minimum size of the room must be 2m x 1,5m. By performing this calibration, you will be able to take advantage of the HTC VIVE's room scale functionality, allowing you to move in VR and in reality simultaneously.

As soon as this is done, a 360 ° tutorial will explain the use of the different buttons and will serve as an immersion in the world of HTC. If this sequence is displayed correctly, the calibration has been carried out. It was at this point that we were stuck for long hours in our HTC VIVE test. For good reason: the helmet located us under the ground, several meters from the test area, which prevented us from completing the tutorial and the calibration of the room. The reason is still unknown to us, but after changing rooms and installing the bases at ceiling height, we finally (and miraculously) managed to fix the problem.

Small interference concerns

According to some information gleaned from the Internet, the problem could come from the overabundance of Wi-Fi networks, or from the presence of reflective surfaces (mirrors, windows ... anything likely to deflect the lasers emitted by the bases) or simply the height of the bases. In short, if you have an idea, do not hesitate to share.

Note, however, that this problem is far from systematic. In most cases, installing and calibrating the VIVE is very intuitive, provided you have enough space to install the sensors. Note that HTC recently modified its Lighthouse sensors. and that these new sensors may well be more efficient.

HTC VIVE test: design and ergonomics

As soon as you open the box, the quality of the design surprises. The packaging is neat, the shell of the headset and controllers are solid. All this leads to a massive and rather heavy device: about 600g. Concretely, we feared that its weight would prove to be tiring or handicapping in the long run. If we haven't noticed anything like this yet, it should be noted that this detail could spoil very long gaming sessions.

Moreover, the appreciation of the appearance of the helmet and the controllers will remain at the discretion of each one. We are not fans of the aesthetics of devices, in particular hollows which mark the presence of the integrated sensors (32 for the helmet, 24 for each of the controllers), even if it will make you look like Major Motoko Kusanag from Ghost in the Shell. We would have preferred a more sober device like the Oculus Rift, but hey, the tastes and colors ...

As long as we are in the negatives, we must mention the main black point that we retain from the HTC Vive test: the cables. As these are constantly plugged into the headphones and the computer, it is difficult to move without tangling your feet in a pile of threads (almost five meters in total). Nothing like a little break to free your feet to break the immersion. A slight but constant problem, which most regular users will quickly get used to.

Bulky cables

However, a wireless kit recently released allows us to free ourselves from this constraint. It is already available in China, and should arrive in Europe by the end of 2017. In the meantime, there are several solutions to manage VIVE cables, but none is really convincing.

Note also that unlike the Oculus, HTC Vive sound output is not included in the headset but to a jack, in which you can plug your own headphones. A pair is delivered in the kit, but the length is too short and you tend to lose them quickly when you turn your head. Luckily, the straps of the Vive are discreet enough to allow you to use a gaming headset, more comfortable and immersive, as long as you don't mind an additional accessory.

Despite these few shortcomings, the HTC Vive remains an excellent headset. It includes a camera, another system button (on the left) and a dial (on the right) able to adjust the distance between lenses. For information, it is also possible to customize the depth of the helmet for those who wear glasses. Note that we haven't noticed any noticeable change in lens settings, but those with vision problems will surely appreciate it.

HTC VIVE test: features and performance

Functionalities

Functional level, by its origins, the HTC Vive is clearly oriented towards the practice of video games. The interface with which you will switch from one screen to another is none other than SteamVR, specially designed for the HTC by the online video game platform Steam. It is therefore necessary to have an account, and it is through this that you will download and launch your favorite games.

The HTC Vive has a whole little visual universe, both futuristic and zany, directly inspired by the Portal series. Not very surprising when we know that Portal is signed by Valve, the creators of Steam. Thus, the helmet tutorial is given by one of the modules seen at the end of Portal 2, in a room cruelly evoking the architecture of Aperture Science. The robots of the multiplayer mode were also seen in The Lab, a game offering several mini-games (a 3D space invaders, archery, or even throwing-stick-with-a-cub -robotic-dog-in-the-icelandic-moors) in order to become familiar with virtual reality.

When it comes to games, it can be said that the Steam VR library is starting to get full. In addition, to mark its graphic universe, HTC was inspired by Oculus Home to create Viveport, an interface with little original content, but more representative of the universe of the Taiwanese brand. Here are some games you can use to get your hands on your new virtual reality headset. Don't hesitate to check out our top of the best HTC VIVE games.

The Lab

The Lab consists of a series of mini-games that will familiarize you with your HTC Vive and its features. Taking up the universe of Portal without hiding, you can quickly take control of your helmet in archery or catapult sessions. In addition, it is free, so no reason to deprive yourself. 

Vanishing Realms

Armed with a sword, you explore a mysterious world filled with fantastic creatures. This game offers a good overview of what a virtual reality Zelda could look like (which may be released on Nintendo NX one day). Despite a few small flaws when the almost annoying proximity of monsters, you will quickly fall under the spell of this universe available for € 19,99 on Steam.

The Brookhaven Experiment

The Brookhaven Experiment is a zombie game that will delight fans of The Walking Dead. Offering a Scenario mode with its share of jumps, but with an unconvincing storyline, this game also offers a Survival mode where you will have to survive the different waves of increasingly numerous and more powerful enemies. It is available for € 19,99 on Steam.

For more content, you can also check out our top 15 best HTC Vive games.

performances

Here, no doubt, we are dealing with a quality helmet. With a 2160 x 1200 resolution pixels, 32 sensors integrated in the helmet and 24 in each controller, the HTC Vive test does not give the impression of witnessing a simulation of reality, but that of being immersed in another reality.

The rendering of 3D and distances is perfect, the picture is really good (We spent long minutes contemplating the striking shadow effects on our hands in the torchlight of The Gallery), and the precision of our head and hand movements is startling. In addition, we noticed no latency between a real movement and its transcription in the game. For once, there is no procrastination: the visual performances are very convincing.

So of course, we're not gonna lie to each other, you will need to have a war beast to run some games. As good geeks, we tried to take off in our Elite Dangerous ships, but although we had the most decent bike, there were a number of display problems. Do not hesitate to check the minimum configuration to have to be able to indulge in your favorite gamesotherwise you risk losing out.

HTC VIVE test: quality / price ratio

After an HTC VIVE test, you don't have to be an expert to realize that the HTC Vive is a quality headset. From our perspective, along with the Oculus Rift, this is one of the best VR headsets out there. On this side, few testers disagree.

Of course, this quality comes at a price. 899 € in this case. By adding taxes and shipping costs, we arrive at a price of around 1.000 € for the time being. And it's not including the price of the computer, which will have to be well made if you want to succeed in getting something out of it.  To help you choose your machine, you can consult our comparison of VR Ready PCs. For information, here is the minimum configuration to enjoy the HTC Vive:

- Graphics card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 or higher.
- Processor: Intel I5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 or higher.
– RAM : 4Go minimum.
- Video output: HDMI 1.4 / DisplayPort 1.2 or higher.
- USB port: 1 port 2.0 or higher.
- Operating system: Windows 7 SP1 or higher.

HTC VIVE test verdict: it's expensive, even for a headset of this stature. Don't get me wrong: we all loved the HTC Vive review, and it is necessary to put to its credit that it is directly delivered with controllers, but even as avid gamers, few of us would be able to shell out $ 1.000 for a VR headset. To see how this price evolves, therefore… and those of the competition.

HTC VIVE test: the VIVE against the competition

The HTC Vive is far from the only headset to offer virtual reality, evidenced by our comparison of VR headsets, but it is certainly the most expensive. For comparison, the Oculus Rift is available for around € 600 and the Playstation VR for € 399.

As a reminder, the HTC Vive offers an image resolution of 1080 × 1200 pixels. The Oculus Rift is at 2160 x 1200 pixels, which is equivalent quality. The price difference is partially explained by the presence of the two controllers delivered with the helmet. However, the Oculus Touch controllers for the Oculus Rift are now available for € 120, bringing the total price of the Oculus Rift and its Touch controllers to € 720.

Le HTC VIVE's main strong point therefore remains the Room Scale system, allowing to move in virtual reality and in the real world simultaneously on the scale of a room. The VIVE is indeed the first VR headset to offer this technology.

Concretely, only a few games are compatible with this system, but these games are all of excellent quality. Among these games are Raw Data, Vanishing Realms, Arizona Sunshine, Space Pirate Trainer, Google Tilt Brush ... for example, in shooting games, the room-scale allows you to physically move to avoid enemy fire and to take cover behind an element of the scenery.

A very good room-scale system

This is a great alternative to the teleportation system adopted by most VR games. However, this system is still limited by several factors. To take advantage of it, you will need a lot of free space, since the minimum space required is 1,5 x 2 meters. Likewise, cables are likely to get in your way, to the point of avoiding the desire to take advantage of this system. Finally, the room scale does not completely replace teleportation. In most compatible games it is possible to move freely in a small space, but you will have to teleport to go further.

Recently, the Oculus Rift has also offered to use a third sensor to take advantage of room-scale and 360-degree tracking technology. However, this system is still in the experimental stage and cannot compete with that of the HTC VIVE, thought upstream during the design of the headset. The Room Scale is therefore a real advantage for the VIVE, provided there is sufficient space to enjoy it.

Surely the best wired VR headset

This allows us to see the main difference between the two main VR device kits on the market. With its laser sensors to position in its room and controllers provided, HTC demonstrates its intention to offer a very "physical" approach to gaming and a truly immersive virtual reality experience. Everything to encourage the user to lift his buttocks from his chair and move around to experience the adventure (even, of course, you can have fun while sitting in front of your keyboard). More traditional, the Oculus does not bother with such accessories and can easily offer lower prices.

In conclusion of this HTC VIVE test, we can say that the VIVE is not aimed particularly at the average player, but that it is for the moment the headset that best exploits the concept of virtual reality. Following the fall in the price of the Oculus Rift, we can even consider that the VIVE and the Rift are no longer direct competitors and are no longer located in the same market.

HTC VIVE review: the future of HTC VIVE

Many quality games in the pipeline

Valve has decided to take the future of the HTC VIVE into its own hands, and the game catalog should expand with excellent titles in the months to come. The firm is preparing several games itself, without however providing details. Likewise, the biggest video game studios are gradually launching into virtual reality. In June 2017, Bethesda presented a VR adaptation of Fallout 4 that immediately established itself as one of the best virtual reality games. The other video game giants should gradually follow suit.

7invensun aGlass: an accessory for retinal tracking on HTC VIVE

The startup 7invensun recently launched an aGlass kit. This kit includes a retinal tracking add-on for the HTC VIVE. A small camera follows the user's gaze and sends the data to the computer. This system makes it possible in particular to avoid peripheral reduction in resolution by centering the image according to the user's gaze. The kit also features adjustable corrective lenses allowing nearsighted people to use the VIVE without glasses.

TPCast: towards the disappearance of cables from HTC VIVE

TPCast is an adapter for using HTC VIVE wirelessly. So, he It is possible to take full advantage of the room-scale, and even to indulge in acrobatic figures while wearing the helmet on your nose. For now, this adapter is only available in China, but should arrive in our regions before the end of 2017. From then on, one of the main problems of the VIVE will be corrected. However, some experts are concerned about the dangers of the waves used by this system. Other companies are also working on similar adapters.

VIVE Deluxe Audio Strap: an audio headset designed for the HTC VIVE

Le VIVE Deluxe Audio Strap is an audio headset specially designed for the HTC VIVE. It offers maximum comfort, and maximizes the feeling of immersion in virtual reality thanks to 360-degree sound. It is not yet known when this headphones will be marketed.

VIVE Tracker

The VIVE Tracker is a small sensor that turns any object into a VR controller. Concretely, for example, it suffices to attach this sensor to a baseball bat so that it is detected and materialized in virtual reality. It is then possible to use it to play a game of baseball. However, to be able to use the Tracker with an object, a game must be designed in advance for this accessory. A first series of Vive Trackers have been delivered to developers, and many games taking advantage of the possibilities offered should soon see the light of day.

Is the HTC Vive Pro its replacement?

Last July the HTC Vive Pro was released. This is a wireless version of the virtual reality headset but which brings various improvements to its predecessor. The HTC Vive Pro is not, however, the replacement for the HTC Vive but much more a version intended for professionals, companies and virtual reality enthusiasts. Its price places it definitely in this category.

A template for arcades and developers

Marketed at a price of 1.399 euros, it is clearly placed outside of a consumer product. Count 879 euros for the helmet alone if you already own the base stations. A really steep bill that reserves the product for professionals, especially as HTC recommends a PC even more powerful than the HTC Vive to make the headset work in optimal conditions especially with regard to the video card which must be very high end. The release of the Pro version, however, had an impact on the price of the HTC Vive since this has been reduced to 599 euros or 200 euros less than before.

In addition to having a wireless mode that cuts the cord with the PC, the HTC Vive Pro offers improvements over the HTC Vive. The professional version offers a resolution of 2.880 x 1.600 pixels against 2.160 x 1.200 pixels for the classic Vive. The refresh rate is similar to 90Hz as well as the 110 degree field of view.

The HTC Vive Pro also offers more powerful headphones with amplification for richer sound.

HTC Vive facing the Vive Cosmos

Available since October 2019, the Vive Cosmos is one of the successors of the HTC Vive. But what sets these two VR headsets apart? And which one to choose? Here are some answers.

Differences between the two models

From a design point of view, the Vive Cosmos is immediately different from its ability to operate without external sensors. To do this, it can count on its six cameras, where the HTC Vive has only one.

In addition, the Cosmos takes up some ideas of Widows Mixed Reality headsets, including the viewfinder that opens by tilting it up. Like the Vive Pro, it also incorporates a headset, but this time with a spatialized 3D sound for more immersion.

With a resolution of 1080 x 1200 pixels per eye and a refresh rate of 90 Hz, the HTC Vive was the ultimate in VR headsets when it was released. The Cosmos improves on this with its 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye, which is a 88% increase in resolution compared to its predecessor.

Which one to choose ?

If you're on a budget, HTC Vive represents an excellent choice, its price having fallen since its release. For its part, the Cosmos seems to be the ideal option if you are simply looking for a good VR headset. However, it does not have the latest technologies, including eye-tracking.

Buy HTC Vive at the best price

The HTC Vive against the Valve Index

What differentiates the two VR headsets

2160 x 1200OLED

only HTC Vive includes two controllers

Which one to choose ?

much more modern features of the Valve Index

HTC VIVE test: conclusion

Good points

  • Great picture quality
  • Accuracy of controllers and motion sensors
  • L’interface Steam VR
  • Controllers included

Negative points

  • His price
  • The cables in which we get confused
  • No big flagship games

notation

8

Very good

Installation: Given the amount of equipment to install and cables to connect, the HTC Vive system is doing quite well. We only regret a few difficulties during the calibration of the part.

Design & ergonomics: If the design can be improved and the device rather large and massive, the controllers are really easy to use and allow intuitive use.

features: Everything about the HTC is optimized for video games. The only problem: the lack of video games to be worth it at the moment. In the absence of headlines, the HTC may tire quite quickly.

Performance: The strong point of Vive. Everything is neat, from the image quality to the precision of the movements. We are not in a simulation of reality, we are transported to another reality.

Quality / price ratio: Obviously, quality at a price. From the top of its almost 1.000 €, HTC Vive is one of the most expensive headphones on the market at the moment.

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