The pinnacle of virtual reality gaming now comes in the form of the HTC Vive Pro. This is an incredibly powerful VR headset and a step up from the original HTC Vive. As we mentioned in the review, most of the upgrades are in the headset itself. All the tracking and controls are currently done via the same technology as the original HTC Vive - via the base stations and controllers.
The setup of the HTC Vive Pro is, for the most part, relatively straight-forward as long as you have enough space. We encountered some minor hiccups during our setup which make it worth us discussing the process and any stumbling blocks you might come across along the way.
We set up the HTC Vive Pro in an average sized living room with just about enough space for room-scale tracking. We also used a reasonably high-end gaming machine, freshly built and ready for VR.
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HTC Vive Pro unboxing
The new headset comes in a compact box on its own. There are no base stations or controllers in this box as they need to be purchased separately or harvested from your original HTC Vive system if you've just upgraded.
The new headset does include the new cables and upgraded link box though. This control box connects to the headset via a proprietary cable and then connects to your PC via a USB cable and DisplayPort connection.
Getting everything out of the box, the setup is relatively simple. Especially if you have a working idea of how to set up the original HTC Vive.
HTC Vive Pro software setup
Once installed, the Vive software will guide you through most of the process to ensure your system is setup properly and all the components are connected and set up the way they should be.
HTC Vive Pro base stations
In order to function, the HTC Vive Pro requires setup of two base stations which allow the headset to track where it is in the room and the movement of your head while you play. These base stations need to be purchased separately and set up in the room you intend to play in.
The base stations ideally need to be positioned above head height and angled downwards in opposite corners of the room. You can use camera tripods or a tall bookshelf or even wall-mounts to permanently fit the boxes to the wall, but they need a good view of the room if you want the best VR experience.
Getting both base stations above head height and correctly positioned with a good view of the area can be tricky depending on the layout of your room and the equipment you have to hand. We've done everything from balancing them on top of cupboards to popping on top of books, on a tripod and much more.
As well as ensuring the base stations are set up in the right place in the room, you'll also need to ensure they are near a power source as they both need to be plugged into the mains power supply in order to work.
Once you've got the setup right though, the little green lights on the base stations will let you know that everything is ok and tracking is working properly. The Steam VR software will also show these are tracking and warn you if they can't see the headset.
It's worth noting that occasionally the different components need updating with new firmware. This means plugging them into your machine - as unfortunately this cannot be done wirelessly. This can be a hassle, especially with base stations as you'll have to get them down from their perch to plug them in, but it's worth doing to ensure everything is working smoothly.
HTC Vive Pro wireless controllers
Another separate but essential purchase for the HTC Vive Pro are the wireless controllers. These are the same controllers that came with the original HTC Vive and they don't need improving at the moment as they just work so well.
These controllers do require regular charging though and they also need charging before you can play for the first time. They each come with Mini-USB to USB leads and charging adapters, so if you don't have enough USB sockets on a PC to do it, you need to find even more plug sockets. The controllers may also need firmware updates, so it's worth plugging them into your PC when you get a chance.
During the setup process, the Vive software will talk you through pairing the controllers with your system. Pressing the menu and system buttons together is enough to get them to link and this process is pretty straight-forward as long as they are fully charged.
HTC Vive Link box
To connect the HTC Vive Pro to your gaming PC, you need the link box in order for it to work. This link box is slightly different from the link box on the original HTC Vive. Previously, the VR headset connected to your PC via an HDMI cable, now on the HTC Vive Pro connects via DisplayPort.
This was an issue for us initially when we went to set up the HTC Vive Pro with the gaming laptop we usually use for VR gaming, only to find we couldn't connect to that machine as it only had an HDMI output. This might be an issue for you too. Most modern gaming machines will include a DisplayPort connection, but if not a converter might be required.
The link box also needs to be connected to the same gaming machine via USB and to a power source. The other difference here is the new control box has a power button on it. You need to be sure this is turned on during the setup process in order to get everything working smoothly.
Room setup and calibration
With all the hardware plugged in, paired and connected, the software then encourages you to calibrate according to the dimensions of your room and how you want to play.
Like the HTC Vive, the Vive Pro allows for seated, standing or room-scale play. For room scale, you need to map out the area using the controllers to let the system know the layout of your room and prevent you from bumping into household objects while you play.
This step-by-step calibration process is pretty straightforward. You'll be asked to calibrate the middle of your play space, the floor height and the edges of the room. You are asked to trace the outline of your play area using one of the controllers. We discovered that using the advanced option you could simply click in the four corners of the area and the software did the rest. This provided a more accurate reading too, but you need to be aware of obstacles in the room and how they might impact your gaming.
If you trace over the top of a sofa, thinking you'll be able to play near it, you might come unstuck when an object in the VR world is unreachable because it's underneath the sofa in the real world.
Finding a comfortable fit
The HTC Vive Pro is a lot easier to wear than other headsets we've tried, it's also easier to use than the original HTC Vive. The new design is far more comfortable, but getting the fit right makes a big difference to your gaming experience.
The first thing to do is to measure your Interpupillary Distance (IPD) - this is the distance between the middle of your pupils. There's a handy card supplied with the headset which talks you through using this measure and a mirror to get an accurate reading. You can then adjust the dial on the right hand of the headset to set the right IPD for your eyes.
Underneath the headset is a button which allows you to adjust the depth of the headset and bring the lenses closer to your eyes. This is another comfort adjustment which makes a big difference.
The headset should fit with the rear at the base of your skull and the front of the headset sitting comfortably on your face. There's an obvious cut out for your nose where the headset should rest. Then tighten the adjustment wheel and the velcro strap on top to get the best view and comfort. This might take a bit of fiddling the first few times, but it makes a big difference. The end result should be a clear view of the VR world without any dark areas or interruption from external light sources.
If everything is plugged in the way it should be and you're having connection issues where the PC won't recognise the HTC Vive Pro headset, then it could be that you're having the same problems we did.
The button underneath that allows you to adjust the depth of the headset can also mean that it springs out with quite a lot of vigour. So much so that we found the cable that attaches to the headset itself had disconnected and was stopping the headset from functioning. If you notice that this cable appears a bit loose, there is a solution.
Firstly extend the headset to its full depth setting. Then remove the padded facemask. Underneath that, you'll see a panel on the top left of the headset, which can be removed with a little gentle pressure and some wiggling. Under there is the USB-C connection port, but also where the main cable plugs into the headset. It's easy enough to then ensure the headset is properly plugged in and this should solve any issues you might be having.
HTC Vive Pro PC specifications
The minimum system requirements on the HTC Vive Pro are pretty similar to the original HTC Vive.
- Processor: Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 or better
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX1060 or AMD Radeon RX480 or better
- Memory: 4 GB RAM or more
- Video out: DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
- USB ports: 1x USB 3.0 or newer
- Operating system: Windows 8.1 or later
It is, however, a more powerful system with a resolution that's increased to 2800 x 1600 pixels (1400 x 1600 per eye). This can be intensive, so if you're having issues it might be you need to consider upgrading your gaming PC. Though we'd obviously recommend updating your PC with the latest graphics drivers first to ensure that's not the issue.
Crashes are a pretty normal experience of VR gaming - especially if you're playing early access VR games or running beta software, but any lag or disconnect might point to a bigger issue that needs addressing. We'd suggest ensuring the base stations have a good line of sight and aren't block and everything is properly plugged in and charged too.
That covered, you should now be up and running and free to enjoy all the joys of VR gaming with the HTC Vive Pro. We'd recommend these games to get you started: