HTC VIVE VR System
The experience of using an HTC VIVE VR is genuinely wonderful but, to do so, you’ll need a beast of a PC. However, thanks to Nvidia and AMD launching new cards, the cost of acquiring a PC that meets HTC Vive’s recommended specs has dropped somewhat since launch. We’re not talking about a $500-600 PC yet, but you should be able to put one together for around $1,000 instead of closer to $1,500.
Comparing the HTC Vive’s specs against those of the PlayStation VR, you’ll see that HTC’s headset blows the PSVR out of the water in terms of raw numbers. Compared to Oculus Rift, however, they’re practically identical on paper. Both have 2,160 x 1,200 panels shared across each eye with 110 degrees of view and 90Hz refresh rate, but they aren’t built alike.
The Vive’s screen tends to appear brighter and sharper than that of the Oculus Rift, and its design is also friendlier to those with glasses although it really depends on your glasses. Because of this, the HTC Vive feels nicer to use for longer periods of time. Its wand-like controllers are also incredibly accurate and seem to be more accurate and cut out less often than Rift’s Touch controllers.
In regards to the HTC Vive setup process, it’s all rather straightforward, despite the mountains of cables and peripherals that need to be hooked up. Before you start unpacking your Vive’s various components, you need to make sure you’ve got enough space available to play in. Unless you’re planning to play your Vive seated, you need to make sure there’s at least 2 x 3m space for you to stand up in. Ideally, you’ll want the maximum 4 x 4m space to play within, though. You also need to place both sensors at least 2m off the ground.
Once that’s done, the included setup instructions and the digital tutorial found in the Vive software actually makes the whole process rather straightforward. In fact, during our testing, the hardest part was finding a room big enough for us to use. We also had issues finding a surface high enough to place the HTC Vive’s lighthouse beacons, but thankfully HTC has included wall mounts, so that will be less of an issue for those installing it permanently into their homes.
The mountain of cables isn’t so bad once out of the box, either. While you can connect sensors together with a wire, the beacons sync wirelessly so won’t be needed when you’re playing. The 3m cable from the HTC Vive headset to your computer is also rather compact and goes via a small breakout box to keep it a little tidier. Other than that, you’ll just have the power cables for both beacons and the headset, and the USB to micro-USB plugs for each Vive controller.
All in all, the setup process for the HTC VIVE VR takes around an hour from unboxing to jumping into a game. If you’ve got a second pair of hands (and aren’t screwing beacons into the wall), you can probably get it done in less time.
In terms of games and apps, the choice is increasing all the time. Elite Dangerous is definitely worth picking up if you want to experience a truly fantastic VR game, although it’s at its best when played with a flight stick setup – adding to the cost of your newly purchased VR rig.
Thankfully there are plenty of enjoyable indie games and short little titles to sink your teeth into. Valve’s own playground The Lab is great fun for both a quick VR gaming blast and as a way to show your friends just how immersive VR gaming experiences can be. There’s also the truly bizarre Selfie Tennis, which sees you playing tennis with yourself while candy-coloured, tennis-ball-headed jesters dance around the outside edge of the court. CCP Games’ upcoming VR Tron-style arena battler Sparc is also on the way to HTC Vive later this year and, having played a prototype build back in April 2016, this could well be the first major VR release to come to PC unless Valve rolls something out soon. Still, don’t let that discourage you from buying a HTC Vive. If you have the cash and fancy dipping your toes into VR, you won’t be disappointed.
In its price range, the HTC Vive VR isn’t cheap. To compare, Oculus Rift now comes with Oculus Touch in the box and you get an Xbox One controller thrown in too. The extra cost by the Vive in comparison is really being spent on Vive’s room-scale setup, which would cost you a fair bit if you opted for Oculus’ room-scale solution as you need to buy an extra sensor to get it to work.
Picking up an Oculus Rift may sound very tempting, then, but Rift’s room-scale solution is currently in its experimental stages and many games still don’t work in room-scale. Room-scale Vive games don’t all work with Oculus yet, and Vive’s playable area is also larger than Rift’s – if you’re looking for a full room-scale setup, Vive is still the headset for you.
However, it remains the best VR headset on the market right now, and HTC has doubled down on its future by continually pushing new innovations to its software and hardware. We’d say Vive is better than it ever has been; its software catalogue has expanded, although there’s still room for improvement; and it remains the best VR headset on the market. Just because it’s the best doesn’t automatically mean you should rush out and pick one up. If you have to pause for a moment to consider the cost, don’t bother. But for those that don’t, you can’t do better than an HTC Vive VR.
The cost of the Vive and a compatible PC for your living room will be prohibitive for most, as will dedicating a whole room to it. Still, if you can afford it, nothing else compares. The HTC Vive’s far more immersive than the Oculus Rift – so much so that you forgive the pixelated screen and irritating software foibles. But if you plan to immerse yourself in a virtual world while sitting down, the Rift makes a lot more sense. If you can afford it and have the room for it, the HTC Vive offers, quite simply, the best virtual-reality experience you can get.