CES 2018: HTC’s new Vive Pro looks like it will eat your soul (and wallet)

Vive Pro

HTC announced a new version of its Vive VR headset last night in the form of the eye-boggling, potentially soul-stealing Vive Pro. Upgrades include sharper OLED displays, all new headphones and a shiny redesigned headband. But the true star of HTC’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) line-up is arguably the first official Vive Wireless Adaptor, allowing you to cut the cables on both the Pro and regular Vive for a completely wire-free VR experience.

The Wireless Adaptor – not to be confused with TPCast’s wireless add on that HTC helped finance last year – will likely be a separate purchase for both headsets (there might be a Pro/Wireless Adaptor bundle at launch, but don’t get your hopes up), but this tiny chunk of plastic (see below) should make VR a whole lot easier, dramatically cutting the likelihood of falling flat on your backside after tripping over a wire.

Operating in the interference-free 60GHz band, it uses Intel’s WiGig (or wireless gigabit) tech to communicate with your PC, and thus should result in low latency and high performance. There’s no word yet on how much it will cost, but it expect it to start shipping sometime between July and September this year.

Vive Wireless Adaptor

Behold, the Vive Wireless Adaptor

It should make a particularly good companion for the new Vive Pro, which has been completely redesigned for high-end VR fanatics. Now in a fetching shade of blue, the Vive Pro comes with dual OLED displays and a combined resolution of 2880×1600. That’s a 78% increase in the number of pixels over the regular Vive, which had a resolution of 2160 x 1200 (4480000 pixels vs 2592000, if you want to get real deep about it), so images should look a whole lot sharper and less like someone’s smeared a load of Vaseline in front of your eyeballs.

Of course, a higher resolution means your graphics card will also have to work that much harder to produce that many pixels, but HTC’s yet to say whether it will be making any changes to its recommended PC specification. The headset’s refresh rate, meanwhile, remains at 90Hz.

The Vive Pro also comes with what HTC’s calling ‘high performance headphones’. These now support 3D spatial sound for more immersive audio, and come with a built-in amplifier – a marked improvement on the decidedly headphone-less Vive of yore.

The headstrap, face cushion and nose pad block have been redesigned for added comfort as well. The former now has a sizing dial to help the headset feel more balanced on your face and decrease the amount of weight pressing down on your nose, while the cushion is meant to block out more light from your surroundings.

You’ll also find dual microphones with active noise cancellation and, of course, those soul-eating front-facing cameras that make the whole thing look a little bit too much like WALL-E’s evil cousin for me to be completely at ease with it.

“There’s a clear need in the VR market for a premium VR experience with high resolution display, integrated audio and the best components available today in a headset,” said Daniel O’Brien, general manager of Vive US. “Vive Pro offers an immediate upgrade for both VR enthusiasts and enterprises that want to utilise the best VR experience.”

Well, ‘immediate’ might not be quite the right word, as details on the Vive Pro’s availability and how much it will cost are still very much TBC at the moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended being more of a commercial headset rather than one you’d set up at home, but hopefully we’ll find out soon.

45 Comments

  1. n0z0n3 says:

    Not sayin it doesn’t look cool–actually, no, it doesn’t ‘look cool,’ but hey, you’re at home by yourself, right?– just sayin I already have the Vive v1, and it’s hangin on my shelf here, collectin dust & spiders in it…

    • FredSaberhagen says:

      Me too but it was really fuckin cool for the first 15 minutes at least right? Fruit ninja still the killer app imo

      • CerysPratt says:

        I’ve got my FIRST check total of $4k for a week, pretty cool. working from home saves money in several ways.I love this. I’ve recently started taking the steps to build my freelance Job career so that I can work from home. This is what i do… Click Here And Start Work

      • aspalmer says:

        Superhot VR and Gorn are way better, IMHO

      • TheRealHankHill says:

        Yeah forget Onward, Pavlov, Payday2 VR, Serious Sam 3, Doom 3, Half Life 1/Blueshift/Opposing Force, Gunheart, Fallout 4, BAM, AMF, The Gallery, The Solus Project. THERES NOTHING TO PLAY EXCEPT FOR ALL THOSE GAMES I LISTED AND MORE.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Same (collecting dust), until I played Rick & Morty recently and remembered how cool VR is, and how much potential it has for adventure and exploration type games and interfaces that are more “tactile” and intricate than a gun.

      Got LA Confidential Noire during the Steam xmas sale. Looking forward to playing it, especially after the glowing review from PCGamesN.

    • DLFReporter says:

      You should have gotten a Rift. :)

    • Williz says:

      I’ll take it off your hands.

    • KastaRules says:

      In my extremely humble opinion VR only makes sense when combined with a simulator.

  2. Kefren says:

    Ooh. :-) As long as they come up with an equivalent to Oculus Touch, I’d be tempted.

    Recently I bought a new PC and Oculus Rift after many demos of a Vive sold me on VR.

    I loved the Rift and experiences. Touch was great when it was implemented. It got me playing games standing up and moving, which is wonderful for someone who spends most of their time sat in the same chair (author and editor).

    I recently sold the Rift and PC (at only a minor loss) since I’m moving house and needed both the money and to make the living room look tidy (I doubt if an extra PC there plus cameras and cables would give the best impression to buyers – especially when the room already had a hi-fi, music amps, projector etc). My room wasn’t very big either. But my plan was that after I move and have a much bigger room as a combined office and games room I would get the kit again once I’d saved up. I’m totally sold on VR, but want to have a better place to do it in. If getting back into it is combined with new kit and better options in terms of connectivity, even better (though to be honest the cables weren’t a major headache – and had the bonus of one fewer battery/recharger to worry about).

    • Chaz says:

      I’m looking to move out my flat and into a new house by spring. Will have to take down all my “roomscale” cables and sensors from my living room too when I put it on the market. I’ll just keep it with my PC for seated stuff in my office area though.

      • Kefren says:

        That was my second option – move the kit upstairs and use it seated. For a second-best option, it’s still a good one!

        • Chaz says:

          Well 90% of my VR time is still spent playing Elite and Aerofly FS2, so no roomscale isn’t quite the big loss for me.

          • Alonso says:

            What’s your mapping for controlling the ED Galaxy Map in VR? How do you handle the tracing of routes with no keyboard?

    • geldonyetich says:

      Ooh. :-) As long as they come up with an equivalent to Oculus Touch, I’d be tempted.

      My feelings in a nutshell. The higher resolution and wireless backpack is definitely tempting, but I don’t feel like holding those sticks that the Vive calls motion controllers. They’re not as conductive to immersion, and my gamer sensibilities favor the detached gamepad feel of the touch.

  3. BadCatWillum says:

    The Windows MR headsets may well drive down the value of the integrated headphones and the higher res displays. For example, at the top end of the WinMR brood, the $500 Samsung Odyssey that’s been out for a couple of months has the same resolution (probably the same panel) and FOV as the newly announced Vive Pro, a broadly similar strap and headphone solution and IPD adjustment. So Vive Pro feels like it’s bringing the specs into line with the rest of the market for the system with the best tracking.

    Features like ‘High performance headphones’ and ‘3D spatial sound’ are just fluff – most of us with the original Vive were already pairing it with good headphones, and every VR experience does 3D spatial audio in software.

    HTC’s strongest card will be to use their experience with Vive Pre, Vive, and Deluxe Audio Strap and provide superior ergonomics and durability for something that should be comfortable and capable of being played with energetically for hours.

    I still doubt that’s enough overall to justify a massive price hike to a large market. Save that for a true Gen 2 with wider FOV, same or better angular resolution, and Knuckles controllers. Is Vive Pro there to maintain HTC’s claim on the high ground until such a HMD is released?

  4. bovine3dom says:

    completely redesigned

    They’ve put some slightly higher resolution displays in (1 extra pixel for every 2), reduced the weight, tweaked and integrated the “Deluxe Audio Strap”, swapped the lighthouse-sensors for the newer version wot Valve made, changed the colour, added an extra microphone, changed the front facing camera, potentially added automatic IPD adjustment, tweaked the “facial interface” (i.e. the foam padding) and changed how the headset can be moved closer / further from your face. I realise that it’s beginning to sound a bit like “what did the Romans ever do for us?” but everything I didn’t mention hasn’t changed. I feel like “HTC makes minor tweaks to Vive after it realises the power of market segmentation” would potentially be a fairer summation.

    Here’s a handy comparison of what the increased resolution probably means in practice: link to i.imgur.com (the “Vive” is the current model, and the “Odyssey” is a Samsung HMD which has the same display that the Vive Pro will use).

    On a personal note, I’m concerned that it’s using DisplayPort rather than HDMI, as DisplayPort has a much shorter range. Currently one can quite happily run ~15m of cable and have the Vive in a separate room to the PC; with DisplayPort this could require expensive active booster boxes or perhaps just not be possible at all.

    • BadCatWillum says:

      The existing Vive’s Link box is already an active HDMI repeater. This is how it achieves reliable 15′ connections, no matter what video card is driving it. Do you know whether a Displayport repeater would be more expensive, or is signal loss a greater factor with Displayport cables?

      • bovine3dom says:

        According to link to planar.com, the passive cables go about 1/3 as far.

        link to reddit.com has a big list of HDMI cables that work (and a big list of cables that don’t). The prices of the cables seem to have gone up in the time since I bought them – the cable I bought cost about £30, but now sells for £45. A DisplayPort cable of the same length costs about £70, with no guarantee that it will work.

        • BadCatWillum says:

          Thanks for the info. I wonder whether there will be a link box in the Pro system to boost the DP 1.2 signal to the desired range, and whether replacement DP cables will be an option at all, given that the cable connection to the HMD is now a single cable on the left side, instead of the hidden set deep-but-standard ports under the forehead strap (see 3rd photo at link to roadtovr.com).

          When my original Vive arrived with a DOA giving me green snow using the 3-in-1 cable, I was still able to use it seated using the supplied link box to PC HDMI cable to connect it directly to the PC during the month that HTC Support did its thing.

  5. Chaz says:

    I wonder what the battery life of the wireless adaptor is, as it will obviously have to power the HMD too? Would also be nice to know if they’ve managed to improve the screen door effect that is quite noticeable in the current Vive, or if there’s any improvements to the lenses. Improved resolution is all well and good, but it won’t count for much if the SDE is still bad.

    I find it funny that the inclusion of the headphones is now being considered a marked improvement, when the built-in headphones of the Rift in the original Vive/Rift comparisons were often considered to be detrimental for the Rift by many reviewers, despite the fact you could remove them.

    I have to agree with the new looks. It does look rather menacing from the front now. Like some sort of sinister Half Life style cyborg implant. You’d almost feel a bit wary about putting it on lest it turned you into a Cyberman.

    My understanding is that this is being aimed at the “enthusiast” VR market, so should still be just about affordable for the home, but given how expensive most of the Vive stuff still currently is, you know it’s going to be quite pricey.

    Need some hands on reviews really before we can figure out what improvements it really delivers. I really hope they’ve improved the SDE and the fresnel lenses though, as they will go a long way in improving the clarity in the current Vive, probably more so than just a brute force improvement in resolution. Never found light bleed to be a problem in the current Vive, but anything to improve the comfort of it is all good. I’d still much prefer a design like the PSVR that takes most of the weight and pressure off your face though.

  6. Babymech says:

    Vive… has such sights to show you…

  7. mrt181 says:

    Like the evil cyborg look. Has anyone tried rift, vive whatever for normal desktop stuff, like web browsing, text editing, running terminals. I wonder if I could use such a headset for office work (writing code)

    • BadCatWillum says:

      It’s pretty rubbish for that. I’ve used SteamVR’s desktop views, and the current resolution is too low, so the virtual screen is huge and close by, making text at its extremities barely legible and giving you a neck strain. Finding your keyboard and mouse is reliant on good muscle memory.

      You can just about use it to watch 2D movies on a virtual screen.

      Unless you want to make a futuristic IDE where you can locate code modules around a virtual 3D space and define control flow with loops of laser string, I’d be waiting for much higher resolution HMDs.

  8. Pliqu3011 says:

    Reminder that “3D spatial sound headphones” is just marketing. Literally every headphone is capable of full 3D spatial sound: all the hardware you need is a speaker on both sides of your head, the rest is handled by software which emulates the delay of sound between your ears and the interference of your own body through a Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF).
    Source: I’m writing a Unity plugin doing exactly this.

    • GDorn says:

      Unless the headphones have multiple drivers, 3D sound is nonsense. You can fake the left/right/forward positioning slightly with delay, but you can’t produce a sound that seems to come from behind you unless you have a speaker positioned just for that.

      Turtle Beach made a set of real 5.1 surround sound headphones a while back. Unlike most headphones that claim to support 5.1 sound (but actually downmix to stereo), there are multiple speakers in each ear cup. I have a pair. It works, mostly, but very few games make use of it correctly.

      • Machinedrum says:

        Binaural recordings can create the experience of sound from behind. The key is the shape of your ears. With the right eq you can fool the brain. In VR you have the added value that you get instant feedback if you turn your head. I do agree that unless they have more drives, it isn’t more 3d sound then any other headset.

  9. caff says:

    Intrigued by this. Wireless sounds great but at what additional cost? I’ll bet the Pro headset itself will be £800 plus another £300 for wireless.

    I still think we need a much higher res before these things become truly immersive to the extent you’ll want to play on it every day.

    • Addie says:

      They’ll probably throw one of these in for free when you buy the graphics card(s) that will drive 4.5 MPixels at a consistent 90 Hz+.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Well this is neat. It’s something that has hampered VR tech for a while now: all the cords.

    But that said, it’s got to come with drawbacks, right? Certainly shorter battery life compared to, you know, being plugged in. But what about throughput? Can the wireless really handle 90hz of the new resolution? Do you have to downsample to manage it?

    Also that’s even ignoring the cost of buying a new headset to gather dust next to my Rift. Also, I want this for the Rift instead. But seriously, new set and wireless thinger? $1000 is a conservative estimate, don’t you think? That’s even ignoring the 1080Ti you’ll need to run the damn thing.

    It’s a nice idea. Hell it’s a great idea. But I just don’t know how practical it all is, let alone affordable.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      I imagine it’d have to be some custom version of WiGig, because Intel’s only supports up to 7Gbps, and this new display would require nearly 10Gbps uncompressed. Compression is almost out of the question at these latencies. This also doesn’t include audio or input data. At that frequency you also need decent line of sight. It wasn’t designed for someone moving and spinning around. How will it handle temporary drops in reception due to occlusion or interference? So there’s questions unanswered. This is why it’s nice they’re offering both.

  11. aben.aben says:

    Majora’s Mask…

  12. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    >There’s a clear need in the VR market for a premium VR experience

    Ironically, we already got it in the form of RE7, which was also on PSVR, which is probably one quarter the cost of this new headset. The market is already crowded with players, the actual software segment needs some maturation before we start focusing on the bleeding edge of the technology.

  13. jeremyalexander says:

    I got to try a VIVE about a year ago and it was fantastic. The problem is the cost. I would have to upgrade my computer to start with and then the VIVE is just too expensive. If it released for 300 dollars, I’m in, but between a new system and the 600 dollars the VIVE costs, I can’t justify it any time soon.

    • fish99 says:

      The Rift is considerably cheaper, plus you don’t need an amazing PC, just a decent GPU. You can probably get away with a 1060 6gb, definitely a 1070. CPU wise a 3570 is enough and then 12-16gb ram.

  14. fish99 says:

    Lots of words in that press release (‘premium’ ‘enthusiasts’ ‘enterprise’ ‘best’) making me think this will cost more than the current Vive price. I’m still surprised they didn’t feel the need to compete when Oculus dropped their prices, Oculus must have had a considerable sales boost in the last 6 months (we now own 2 Rifts). I was hoping the trend would be for lower prices, a £800-900 Vive Pro (inc wireless) isn’t going to sell many units. Also a shame the FOV hasn’t increased.

    In general though it’s good to see the tech advance. More pixels and wireless are 2 of the 3 big improvements needed (the other being wider FOV) and hopefully prices will come down over time.

  15. PancreaticDefect says:

    Too bad I wont live long enough for them to shrink this tech down to a pair of contact lenses. Because thats probably the only form factor I would buy it in.

  16. cloudnein says:

    the “interocular distance” between the two cameras seems kinda narrow (not likely as wide as most adult eyes) which would reduce the three-dimensionality of what you’d see when you use the headset in AR mode…But perhaps that’s by design to reduce eyestrain/seasickness?

  17. KastaRules says:

    I am super excited about this but I don’t think that even the best PC nowadays could run any sim/game at that resolution @ 90fps. It is gonna be puke inducing ’till we get considerably better compuiting power…

    • DoomBroom says:

      I run the same resolution totally fine with 90fps on my Samsung Odyssey with lots of supersampling going on in most games. If I put the supersampling down to default at 1.0 in Steam I could even handle higher resolution headsets. I have 1080Ti GPU.

    • Cederic says:

      My 1070 is happily running most of my games at 90+ fps with fully prettiness at 2560×1440. Drop the prettiness a little, add a beefier graphics card and I think people will be fine.

      Now look a year ahead to new graphics cards, and also factor in the relatively simple graphics in may VR games.. no reasons not to put that resolution into a headset that wont even be released for a few months.

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