(Pocket-lint) - HTC originally announced an updated version of the HTC Vive, dubbed the HTC Vive Pro, during CES 2018 in Las Vegas. Since then the company has also unveiled the HTC Vive Pro Eye and HTC Vive Cosmos. That's now four VR headsets with different specs and features.
If you're wondering what the differences are, keep reading as we compare the headsets and tell you everything we know.
- HTC Vive: Single front-facing camera, adjustable velcro straps
- HTC Vive Pro: Dual front-facing cameras, adjustable comfort dial
- HTC Vive Pro Eye: Dual front-facing cameras, adjustable comfort dial, eye-tracking technology
- HTC Vive Cosmos: Six camera sensors for inside out tracking, flip-up visor and modular faceplate design
The original HTC Vive is a striking VR headset with a funky black finish and an unmistakable pocked-marked design. It's a wired virtual reality headset (that can be made wireless with some upgrades) which needs to be tethered to a fairly high-end gaming PC in order to work.
It has a single front-facing camera which allows for a room view while gaming. It comes with two controllers and two base stations that work as sensors to detect and monitor your movement in the VR playspace. A combination of sensors on the headset pick up the signals from the controllers and the base stations to accurately track your head and hands as you play.
The HTC Vive Pro is immediately recognisable despite some striking design changes. Where the original headset came in black, the HTC Vive Pro comes in a bold blue with two front-facing cameras.
The classic pocked-marked design remains - the sensors still a key part of the VR tracking experience, but the new design now includes some comfort upgrades missing from the original Vive.
Where the HTC Vive features three velcro straps that need adjusting to get the right fit, the HTC Vive Pro has an updated design that allows for a more comfortable fit and easy adjustment. The new design is similar to the deluxe audio strap which is an optional extra for the HTC Vive but standard for the HTC Vive Pro. A dial at the back allows for easy fit and comfort adjustment.
The design of the HTC Vive Pro also features enhanced ergonomics to give a more balanced fit by decreasing weight on the front of your face while you play. This includes a redesigned face cushion and nose pad combination which blocks out more light than the current design on the original HTC Vive.
The HTC Vive Pro has two front-facing cameras that look like eyes on the front of the headset. These are primarily designed for developers to take advantage of, but allow for better tracking of your environment as you game too.
Where the HTC Vive uses an HDMI cable for connecting to your gaming machine, the HTC Vive Pro uses a DisplayPort 1.2 connection. This is something to bear in mind if you're considering the upgrade or purchase of the HTC Vive Pro - as not all graphics cards have a DisplayPort output. The Vive Pro wouldn't work with our gaming laptop, as an example.
- HTC Vive review: An experience that’s out of this world
- HTC Vive Pro review: The best VR experience... if you can afford it
- HTC Vive Pro Eye review: The future of VR is controller-free
Meanwhile, the Vive Pro Eye is the most recent addition to the line-up. This is a powerful headset that's apparently aimed at "professional" users and marks a move towards enterprise uses for Vive devices.
It features similar design aesthetics to the HTC Vive Pro but stands out as having rings around the two front-facing cameras. The highlight of this device is the internal tech though as the HTC Vive Pro Eye features eye-tracking technology. This design, therefore, includes LED sensors around the lenses that both track and analyse eye movements as you observe the virtual world.
Like the HTC Vive Pro, the HTC Vive Pro Eye also features adjustable headphones, head strap and eye relief system to ensure you get a comfortable gaming experience. All these headsets are compatible with a wide range of games available from Steam and Viveport.
Details on the Vive Cosmos have been officially confirmed and this new headset is said to be "the latest premium PC-based virtual reality system" but one that's designed with ergonomics and usability in mind.
Though it still requires a PC to run, the Vive Cosmos is different from the other HTC VR headsets as it is designed to work without the need for external sensors. There are no base stations here, instead, the Vive Cosmos packs six sensor cameras built into the headset itself. This is a similar inside-out tracking setup to that we've seen on both the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest. These sensors are designed to track movement and the accompanying controllers.
The Vive Cosmos also features similar design highlights to those we've seen on various Windows Mixed Reality headsets in the form of a flip-up visor. We love this as it's great to be able to quickly and easily move a VR headset out of the way to get a view of the real world. A "comfortable weight distribution" and an easy size adjustment wheel also appear alongside soft, breathable materials to ensure the new headset remains comfortable during use.
The Vive Cosmos appears to include similar integrated headphones to the Vive Pro as standard. Again, this is designed to keep things comfortable with fewer wires and less pressure on your noggin while you play. These headphones also offer "unprecedented" 3D spatial audio capabilities.
Vive Cosmos is also bringing brand new controllers. A pair of new controllers with a fresh new design that actually looks similar to those on the Oculus Quest. Raised loops on these controllers no doubt act to help the headset track their movement. These new VR controllers are also designed to glow during use to not only look snazzy but make it easier for the tracking sensors to pick them up.
Another interesting point of note regarding the Vive Cosmos is the fact that it features a design that's modularly customisable. HTC says there will be an "ever-increasing suite of modular customisations" for this headset. The first of these is, oddly, an External Tracking Mod that lets the headset work with HTC's Lighthouse tracking base stations. We assume this is for more accurate tracking but could also have special use cases - like multiple Vive Cosmos users in one room.
Like the other HTC Vive headsets, the Vive Cosmos can also be upgraded to ditch the cables with the additional purchase of the wireless adapter.
Display resolution and specifications
- HTC Vive: 1080 x 1200 per eye (2160 x 1200 overall resolution), 110-degree field of view, 90Hz refresh rate
- HTC Vive Pro: 1400 x 1600 per eye (2800 x 1600 overall resolution), 110-degree field of view, 90Hz refresh rate
- HTC Vive Pro Eye: 1400 x 1600 per eye (2800 x 1600 overall resolution), 615 PPI, 110-degree field of view, 90Hz refresh rate
- HTC Vive Cosmos: 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye (2880 x 1700 pixels overall resolution), 110-degree field of view, 90Hz refresh rate
The original HTC Vive was the pinnacle of VR when we first reviewed it. It's still fantastic too. It offers a brilliant VR experience with some impressive specs that include lenses that offer a resolution of 1080 x 1200 pixels per eye. It has a wide 110-degree field of view and a 90Hz refresh rate. Based on those specs, it's easy to see why it requires a reasonably beefy PC to run well.
The recommended specifications are:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350, equivalent or better.
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX1060 or AMD Radeon RX480, equivalent or better.
- Memory: 4 GB RAM or more
- Video out: DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
- USB ports: 1x USB 3.0 or newer port
- Operating system: Microsoft Windows 8.1 or Windows 10
The HTC Vive Pro increases in resolution to deliver an even better optical experience. With the HTC Vive Pro, HTC has increased the resolution of the dual-OLED displays to 2880 x 1600. That's 1400 x 1600 per eye compared to 1080 x 1200 per eye on the original HTC Vive. Now with 615ppi, the HTC Vive Pro is said to have a 78 per cent increase in resolution compared with the original headset.
This resolution change improves clarity during gaming as well as enhancing immersion for gamers. The HTC Vive Pro offers clearer text rendering and a crisper picture whether playing games or watching videos while using the headset. In-game textures are smoother and more realistic as well as stunning to look at.
The HTC Vive Pro does not offer a 4K resolution, but this means that the headset is still accessible to a wide market of gamers without requiring extreme gaming machines.
Despite these changes, the Vive Pro can still run on similarly specced gaming PCs.
The HTC Vive Pro Eye doesn't feature any changes in terms of visual specifications - instead, the differences come in the way this headset tracks your eyes.
The Vive Cosmos packs a dual 3.4-inch LCD diagonal screen that's capable of displaying 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye. That's a slight increase in pixel count compared to all the other Vive headsets and an 88 per cent increase over the original Vive. The company also claims that the new LCD panel will help minimise screen-door effect and enhance visuals further. Otherwise, this headset includes the same field of view and refresh rate to the other Vive headsets.
Audio quality and features
- HTC Vive: 3.5mm headphone input/concealed USB input, built-in microphone
- HTC Vive Pro: High-performance Hi-Res certified headphones with a built-in amplifier and 3D spatial sound, dual microphones with active noise cancellation
- HTC Vive Pro Eye: Hi-Res certified headphones, built-in digital amplifier, 3D spatial sound, dual microphones with active noise cancellation
- HTC Vive Cosmos: Built-in stereo headphones with 3D spatial sound capabilities and integrated microphones
Out-of-the-box, the original HTC Vive offers a good audio experience, but only by using your own headphones, earphones or gaming headset. This requires extra cables which is a pain, unless you choose to splash out extra cash for the Deluxe Audio Headstrap. A built-in microphone makes it easy to communicate with friends or use your voice in games and apps though.
The HTC Vive Pro includes earcups built right into the design. These headphones offer a similar design to the Deluxe Audio Strap upgrade for the HTC Vive, but with improvements to enhance them further.
The HTC Vive Pro includes high-performance headphones with a built-in amplifier that delivers a superior audio experience including a "heightened sense of presence" and better spatial sound.
The HTC Vive Pro only requires a single cable to connect to the link box which then attaches to your PC, so there are far fewer cables to get in the way as you game.
The headphones click down into place when you need them and click up out of the way when you don't.
The design of the HTC Vive Pro also includes dual built-in microphones with active noise cancellation for a superior communication experience when playing multiplayer or co-op games. These headphones also include volume controls and a mic mute button built right into the design for easy access while you play.
The HTC Vive Pro Eye offers the same audio experience as the HTC Vive Pro. There are no upgrades here as far as we can see from the specs or from testing.
The Vive Cosmos apparently includes an out-of-the-box experience with integrated headphones that promise 3D spatial audio. These look similar to those on the original Vive with the Deluxe Audio head strap upgrade so should be comfortable, capable and easy to use.
Tracking compatibility and upgrades
- HTC Vive: Two standard base stations for VR tracking
- HTC Vive Pro: Backwards compatibility with original base stations (sold separately)
- HTC Vive Pro Eye: SteamVR Tracking, G-sensor, gyroscope, proximity, IPD sensor, eye-tracking
- HTC Vive Cosmos: G-Sensor, gyroscope, IPD sensor, Six camera sensors
The original HTC Vive required users to plug two base stations into the mains power supply in the room that would make up the playspace. These sensors would then help track and relay movement data of both the headset and controllers back to the PC. With a base station in either corner of the room, users can achieve a Room-Scale play space of around 4x3 metres.
The HTC Vive uses sensors that make it capable of tracking six degrees of movement - meaning it can track all movement up and down, back and forth and around the play space as long as the base stations can see you.
The HTC Vive Pro is compatible with the original HTC Vive base stations meaning theoretically if you own the original VR device you can just buy the new headset and it will work fine with the original setup. New and improved base stations also offer an increased level of Room-Scale tracking with up to 10x10 metre playspace.
As we mentioned earlier, the HTC Vive Pro Eye boasts an upgrade in terms of its tracking capabilities that includes LED sensors that monitor eye movements. This is said to not only allow your eyes to act as a controller but also allows the headset to gather data on your eye movements while you play or look around the virtual environment.
In practice, this will result in faster reactions in gaming and useful data for businesses who are trying to track audience gaze. For example, monitoring what products or virtual objects get the most attention from a lingering look. It also presents the possibility of controlling games with just your eyes - whether indicating where you want to go or by controlling different menus within the game.
The main highlight to the Vive Cosmos is likely to be the built-in, inside-out tracking sensors. Six camera sensors are built into the face of the headset to track the world around you and the movement of the upgraded, newly designed controllers. This means there's no need for base stations and should mean you can use this VR headset in more places. Plug it into a laptop in a suitable room with enough space to move and away you go. We love this feature on the Oculus Rift S so it's bound to please here too. The Vive Cosmos also has an IPD sensor and manual adjustment wheel to ensure the visuals are just right, even for glasses wearers.
Which is the right HTC headset for you?
The HTC Vive and Vive Pro are the main headsets available for purchase currently. The Vive Pro is a fairly hefty investment, but it does deliver the best VR experience until the HTC Vive Pro Eye is launched. That device is aimed more at professionals and businesses though, so we're not sure how accessible it is going to be to the layman.
The HTC Vive is the most affordable and still presents an excellent VR experience. While the HTC Vive Pro represents a welcome upgrade to the VR experience from HTC. It has better audio, visuals and comfort to boot. We expect the HTC Vive Pro Eye to offer similar comfort and a brilliant experience.
The HTC Vive is available as a full kit with everything you need for around £499/$499.
The Vive Cosmos is available to order for $699/£699 and might now be the most accessible VR headset on this list. It doesn't have eye-tracking or the high-end functional possibility like lip-tracking, but for the average person it might be the most logical choice.