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(Pocket-lint) - The HTC Vive Pro was revealed as the successor to the HTC Vive, back at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. Since then the company has launched the HTC Vive Pro Eye and HTC Vive Cosmos. In 2021, at Vivecon, the company the revealed the HTC Vive Pro 2.  

While Oculus is focussing on making accessible and affordable VR headsets for the masses with the Oculus Quest line-up, HTC is very much aiming for the top-tier, best-in-class VR experience. 

We're summarising the differences between the headsets so you know what's changed. 

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Design features

  • 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 Pro 2: Dual front-facing cameras, adjustable comfort dial

The original HTC Vive was a striking VR headset with a funky black finish and an unmistakable pocked-marked design. A wired virtual reality headset that required a fairly high-end gaming PC in order to work. This headset was the start of serious VR headsets from HTC and the company has continued to improve upon an award-winning formula since then with various iterations of the Vive Pro line-up. 

The HTC Vive Pro is immediately recognisable thanks to some striking design changes. Where the original headset came in black, the HTC Vive Pro came in a bold blue with two front-facing cameras. 

The classic pocked-marked design remained with the sensors still a key part of the VR tracking experience, but the Vive Pro included some comfort upgrades missing from the original Vive. As well as other improvements too. 

Where the HTC Vive featured three velcro straps that need adjusting to get the right fit, the Vive Pro had an updated design that includes a solid strap, integrated headphones and a clever comfort system. This included a dial at the back that 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. 

The HTC Vive Pro 2 has mostly maintained the same outward design aesthetics as the Vive Pro. The main difference being the front faceplate is now black instead of blue. A lot has changed under the hood, but HTC has taken an "if it isn't broken don't fix it" attitude to the general setup of the headset itself. 

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 and you might need an adapter. 

Despite significantly upgraded visuals, it's said that any machine capable of running the Vive Pro will be handle the Vive Pro 2 as well. That's thanks to something called "Display Stream Compression" which downscales visuals if necessary on lesser hardware. 

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The Vive Pro Eye was an interesting addition to the Vive line-up. A powerful VR headset that's was more aimed at "professional" users than gamers.  

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. 

The HTC Vive Pro, the HTC Vive Pro Eye and Vive Pro 2 all 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

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Display resolution and specifications

  • 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 Pro 2: 2448 x 2448 pixels per eye (4896 x 2448 overall resolution), 120-degree field of view, 120Hz refresh rate

The original HTC Vive was the pinnacle of VR when we first reviewed it. Things have come a long way since then and screen technology has changed a lot. 

The HTC Vive Pro offered an increased resolution to deliver an even better optical experience. Dual-OLED displays on the headset offered a total resolution of 2880 x 1600. That's 1400 x 1600 per eye compared to 1080 x 1200 per eye on the original HTC Vive. 

The HTC Vive Pro Eye offered the same visual specifications as the Vive Pro. With the only difference being in the way this headset tracks your eyes. 

The HTC Vive Pro 2 has lept forward even more with the offer of not only 4896 x 2448 pixels but a faster 120Hz refresh rate and a wider field of view too. 

HTC claims the Vive Pro 2 has the "best-in-class" display with the highest resolution to date, even compared to top-of-the-line competitors like the HP Reverb G2 and Valve Index. 

This resolution change improves clarity during gaming as well as enhancing immersion for gamers. The HTC Vive Pro 2 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. 

HTC has also improved the Vive Pro 2 with the addition of a dual-stack lens design with two lenses redirecting the image for a wider field of view. This is said to have a bigger sweet spot and a more realistic view of the world around you. The fast-switch LCD IPS panel also sports RGB subpixel technology and that, combined with the high pixel count should result in virtually no screen-door effect. 

Despite these changes, the Vive Pro 2 can still run on similarly specced gaming PCs:

The minimum 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: 8 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

Recommended specifications for full 5K resolution and 120Hz refresh rate:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350, equivalent or better.
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 or AMD Radeon RX 5700, equivalent or better.
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM or more
  • Video out: DisplayPort 1.4 or newer
  • USB ports: 1x USB 3.0 or newer port
  • Operating system: Microsoft Windows 10

Audio quality and features

  • 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

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 and the HTC Vive Pro 2 offer 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. It is worth noting though that the headphones on the HTC Vive Pro 2 are detachable so you can pop them off and use your own if you so wish. 

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Tracking compatibility and upgrades

  • 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

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. 

Similarly, the Vive Pro 2 follows the same logic and with the headset available to buy on its own it makes a logical upgrade path for anyone who owns the original headsets. 

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 Vive Pro 2 is interesting as it's still compatible with the HTC Vive wireless adapter, it will also work with the Facial Tracker and with the Vive Tracker 3.0 setup which means you can theoretically track anything in the real world. 

The Vive Pro 2 will also work with both Vive wand controllers and Valve's Knuckle controllers, giving you more options to control the headset with ease. 

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Which is the right HTC headset for you?

The HTC Vive Pro 2 is now the most logical choice for those considering an HTC VR headset. It isn't cheap, but if you're upgrading from previous HTC headsets then you can save some money by just purchasing the headset and nothing else. 

For those who are new to VR, the HTC Vive Pro 2's price tag might seem high compared to the likes of the Oculus Quest 2, but with some serious specs under the hood, it should be the pinnacle of VR. Though you'll need a high-end PC to make the most of the headset and the full kit in order to successfully track it. 

We thought the HTC Vive Pro was one of the best VR headsets money could buy and the Vive Pro 2 should continue that trend too. 

Writing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on 8 January 2018.