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(Pocket-lint) - Cables are a necessary evil of VR gaming on a high-end headset like the HTC Vive or Vive Pro. These devices need to be tethered to a powerful gaming PC to run smoothly but room-scale VR gaming can be frustrating when you can feel cables constantly tugging at the back of your head or knotting up around your legs. There's no better way to ruin your gaming immersion than falling flat on your face because you've been too busy playing to notice you're all tied up.

If you own an HTC Vive or HTC Vive Pro, there are now two options to consider to upgrade your VR headset and ditch your wires. The official HTC Vive wireless adapter and TPCAST. 

How does wireless VR work?

Both the official wireless adapter and the TPCAST system use transmitters and receivers in place of the traditional cable setup. They both require slight changes to your current setup to account for this, but then allow you to play with much more freedom. The only necessary cables for gaming then become those you use for headphones and a single lead to the accompanying battery pack. 

What's the difference between TPCAST and the official adapter?

There are some minor differences between the two wireless adapters worth knowing before you make a purchase. Each has a slightly different setup and specification that makes it appealing to different people. 

There's not a great deal of difference in terms of price, but there other things to consider.

The TPCAST adapter does not currently support the HTC Vive Pro while the official adapter does, but it requires an extra purchase (and more expense) to account for the design differences. 

The HTC Vive official adapter also requires the installation of a PCIe card in your gaming machine, making it incompatible with laptops and requiring some working knowledge of the internal workings of your PC. The TPCAST wireless adapter meanwhile is a bit more user-friendly as you don't need to install anything inside the machine, but you do need to set up transmitters to get it working. 

The installation and setup of both devices is slightly different, but the end results are roughly the same - wireless VR that brings new found joy to your gaming experiences. 

This guide will talk through how to set up each adapter and give you an idea of the differences.

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How the TPCAST Wireless Adapter works

The link box for the HTC Vive is plugged into a transmitter instead of directly into the headset. This little box then broadcasts the audio and visuals through the air to the receiver that's installed on the Vive itself.

With this upgrade in place, you're then free to enjoy virtual reality wirelessly - meaning all the fun of dodging, ducking and diving can be done in the real world without all the nasty cable hazards. 

TPCAST promises a less than 2ms latency and a seamlessness to the upgrade which maintains video and audio quality, with all the joyful freedom of wireless. But how do you get this upgrade?

Where to buy the adapter

The first step to ditching your VR cables and upgrading your headset is to make the purchase. The TPCAST wireless adapter is available from various different places including:

Once purchased, you just need to wait for it to arrive, then get stuck in with the installation. 

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What's included?

In the box, there are several different bits of kit which look fairly intimidating at first, but actually are pretty simple to install. The full kit includes:

  • HMD wireless receiver 
  • PC transmitter
  • Power box
  • 20,100mAh battery pack
  • Long three-in-one cable 
  • Short HDMI cable
  • Nylon mesh battery bag and belt strap
  • Wi-Fi router
  • Network cable

Each of these has its own role to play in the final result and they all need to be carefully installed to get the system working. 

How to set up the TPCAST wireless adapter 

The first step in the setup process is to disconnect the original cables from the headset, these are the cables you'd normally plug into the link box and connect to your gaming machine. 

Scroll through the galleries below to see the various setup steps. 

Removing the cables

Find a flat surface and lay the HTC Vive on it. Push your thumbs gently against the top of the headset where the HTC logo sits and the wires enter the device. Pushing down and forward will remove this cover and give you access to the cables and the inputs. 

Underneath you'll see the HDMI, USB, power and audio cables plugged into the corresponding holes. Unplug these cables and gently pull them out. You'll need to work them through the hole in the cover in order to get them out properly. They also need removing fully from the head strap. 

Once that's done you can then remove the cover from the head strap too. You'll need both the cables and the cover later, so keep them nearby. 

Installing the wireless receiver

The TPCAST wireless receiver then needs to be installed in place of these wires. There's a cable included which has three connections on one end and two on the other, as well as a small HDMI cable. These all need to be used to connect the receiver. 

Push the three cables through the loops underneath the receiver, starting at the end marked TPCAST. Once that's done, push the head strap through the same gap underneath. This should result in the two ports (USB and HDMI) on the receiver facing forward towards the headset. 

You can then refit the HTC Vive cover to the strap too and push the cables through the hole in that cover. The cables then logically plug into the headset and the receiver itself. You'll see they're clearly labelled to help you get them all in the right place. 

Make sure all the wireless at plugged in fully, then replace the cover. You'll need to push it quite far forward, line it up and push it back onto the headset. 

The other end of the cables can then be run through the rear support on the head strap and are ready to plug into the battery pack. 

Adding power

The power pack adds the power in place of the juice you'd otherwise get straight from the cables. This is obviously essential to powering the HTC Vive and allowing you to play wirelessly. 

Included in the box is an Anker 20,100mAh battery. This is capable of delivering around five hours of playtime, but it does require around 10 hours to fully charge using MicroUSB and a standard phone adapter. We'd recommend ensuring the battery is fully charged before you get started. 

Interestingly, these batteries are hot-swappable. This means if you don't want your gaming interrupted because the battery has run out of power, you could buy a spare to ensure one is always charged or charging while you play.  

View offers on the Anker PowerCore 20100 on Amazon US - Amazon UK

Plug the power and USB cable from the headset into the power box and then plug that into the Anker battery pack. You'll see the blue lights on the battery pack light up to show it's connected and how much power it has left. 

You can then put both of these in the protective bag for safe keeping. There's also a belt included that you can run through that bag to sling over your should or wear on your waist while you play. The battery is fairly heavy so it's worth doing that rather than trying to find a pocket to put it in. 

Setting up the transmitter

Now you need to install the transmitter. This box does the legwork to broadcast the signals from your gaming PC to the headset. You also need the original cables you removed from the headset in order to connect it as it plugs into the HTC Vive's link box and then into your PC. 

Take the 3-in-1 cable from the Vive and plug the HDMI and power cable with the light grey markings into the transmitter. The transmitter needs to be installed up high - TPCAST recommends placing it near a base station with a similar view of the room. It comes with a handy hole for screwing in a tripod, but we found we could also just pop it on a bookshelf or cupboard top as long as it was positioned to broadcast across the room. 

You'll notice the USB cable has nowhere to plug in, but that doesn't matter as it will still work. The other end of the cable plugs into the link box as normal. 

Installing the router

The next step is to connect the TPCAST router. This helps support the wireless broadcasting. It needs power to work and an ethernet connection to your PC. If you use ethernet for your broadband connection, you can plug your cable into this router and then connect the ethernet from the router into your machine.

Pairing the transmitter and receiver

With everything plugged in and powered on, you then need to pair the transmitter and receiver. This is a simple process that requires putting the transmitter near the headset and pressing the buttons on each until the lights go out. Once that happens, after a few seconds the lights come back on and the devices are paired. 

You only need to do this for the first initial setup, so after that, it should be a breeze to game. 

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Software and final setup

With everything plugged in and paired, you can run the TPCAST software to finalise setup. This software ensures everything is setup and working properly. It also talks you through the final steps like ensuring the battery pack is connected to the Wi-Fi on the router properly. 

Once that's all done you're told to launch Steam VR and start the headset. 

We found this set up worked surprisingly seamlessly and then we were away gaming with glorious wireless VR. Any niggles are covered in the FAQs if you have problems with setup, but it's usually something simple like cables not being plugged in fully or your machine needing a reboot. 

The official set up video is useful viewing too:

Does the TPCAST work with the Deluxe Audio Strap?

If you've already upgraded your HTC Vive with the official Deluxe Audio Strap and are wondering if the TPCAST wireless adapter works with that too, you'll be pleased to hear it does. 

The installation process is exactly the same too. 

Does the TPCAST adapter work with HTC Vive Pro?

TPCAST has told us that the current wireless does not work with the HTC Vive Pro but there may be another adapter in the future which will work with this VR headset so you can enjoy wireless VR with that too. 

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How the HTC Vive wireless adapter works

The official HTC Vive wireless adapter works slightly differently to the TPCAST in that it uses Intel's WiGig technology to support the transmission of data. This means it's perhaps more accurate and powerful than the TPCAST system, but also requires a little more initial fiddling to install. 

Like TPCAST, this wireless adapter requires you to replace the wires on your headset and attach a box to the straps that will then sit on top of your head while you play. This box replaces the standard link box that comes with the HTC Vive and HTC Vive Pro and its this box of tricks that does the leg work transmitting and receiving data while you game. 

Data is sent and recieved through the air via a sensor that attaches to your gaming PC that looks like a webcam but is essentially another smaller base station. The PCIe card plugged directly into your motherboard then helps with processing and results in "near-zero latency" wireless VR. 

This sytem allows for wireless gaming in a play area upto 6m x 6m (20ft x 20ft) large which is a bonus too.

Where to buy the official wireless adapter

The official wireless adapter is available from various different places including:

Once purchased, you just need to wait for it to arrive, then get stuck in with the installation. 

What's included?

The HTC Vive official adapter includes several different bits of kit that are fairly simple to install. If you have an HTC Vive Pro you also need some extra adapters. The full kit includes:

  • HMD wireless receiver
  • PCIe card
  • PC transmitter
  • 5700 mAh battery pack
  • USB-C cable (for charging)
  • USB cable for connecting to the battery pack
  • 3-in-1 cable to connect the reciever to the headset

Each of these has its own role to play in the final result and they all need to be carefully installed to get the system working. 

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How to set up the official wireless adapter 

Before you get started, we'd highly recommend plugging your HTC Vive in using the usual method and ensuring your room scale space is setup and mapped properly. Also, check Steam VR is up-to-date and you have the latest firmware for both the headset and the controllers. 

The battery pack will need charging and despite the fact it includes USB-C fast charging that might still take a few hours so don't expect to dive right in. 

Downloading the latest graphics drivers will also ensure smooth sailing. For any technical hiccups along the way, we'd recommend checking out the official technical user guides and FAQs

The next step is to unplug your machine from the mains and leave it for a while to cool down as you'll need to open it up to install the necessary PCIe card.

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How to install the PCIe card

HTC's set up instructions recommend installing the PCIe card in a PCIeX1 slot if you have one spare.  We almost immediately hit a problem with this part of the installation and you too might have this issue. 

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The card is relatively slim in design, but it also has two large screws which hold it to the coaxial style connection that will stick out of the back of your machine. We found these were rather tall and scraped along the heat shield on our motherboard that covers the standard ports making it impossible to fit. 

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Luckily, the other option is to install it in a PCIeX4 slot and HTC say this will work - it certainly did for us. Though it is preferable to fit the card in a PCIeX1 slot if you can manage. 

During installation, take care to use an anti-static wrist strap so as to not inadvertently damage any electronics in your machine. Grounding yourself is an important part of any internal work on a gaming PC.

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This is one of the fiddliest parts of the installation process and may put less tech-savvy HTC Vive owners off purchasing this adapter, but the card does not require extra power, so it's theroetically plug and play.

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Setting up the reciever

The next step is really easy. Once your PC is all plugged back in, you can plug the reciever directly into the PCIe card. This then sits on top of your monitor or in a position that has a good view of your play space.

It doesn't take up much room and doesn't need to be plugged into the mains so it's realtively easy to deal with. We also found it was really good at doing its job even when the view of the space was slighly obscured. 

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Removing and replacing the Vive cables

The next step is to swap the standard cables for the wireless versions. This process is similar to the TPCAST set up.

Push your thumbs gently against the top of the headset where the HTC logo sits and push forwards. This removes the cover to give you access to the cables underneath. You should see the standard HDMI, USB, power and audio cables plugged into the corresponding holes.

Unplug these cables and gently pull them out. Wiggle them out of the headset cover and remove them entirely from the headstrap too. You can then fit the wireless adapter to the top of the headset. This is done by simply slipping the hook underneath the adapter through the loop on the headsets straps that once held the wires. 

Plugging this adapter in is a breeze. The wires are labelled so it's easy to tell which goes where and which end goes into the headset. You'll need to loop them through the cover first though. Don't forget to attach your audio or headset cables too. 

On the other side of the wireless adapter, you'll find a single USB port - this is used with the accompanying cable to connect the headset to the power bank. You'll need to have that power bank with you while you play, but the good news is its small enough to fit in your pocket or clip to your belt. 

Pairing with your machine and gaming

Once that's done, you can then pair using the wireless app which needs to be installed on your machine.

Before you continue, be sure to unplug the original Vive cables (HDMI and USB) from your machine and the original link box too and put them out of harm's way. If you have them plugged in still it may confuse setup as the system is looking for both wireless and wired devices at the same time. 

Next, plug the battery pack in and ensure the lights are flashing on the power bank and the wireless adapter. Then press the Vive symbol, which doubles as a button, to ensure pairing (this part of the setup wasn't immediately obvious). Clicking "pair" on the app at the same time should ensure the headset pairs as long as it can be seen easily by the new receiver. 

Once the app confirms you're connected, launch Steam VR and begin your wireless gaming freedom! 

Be sure to keep an eye on battery charge as you'll get roughly 2.5 hours play out of the wire-free headset before the battery pack needs charging again. Once the juice has gone your gaming session will end abruptly. 

As you can see, both these devices present their own benefits, which you choose to use will depend on your technical knowledge and current gaming setup. 

Writing by Adrian Willings.