It’s been about three years since we met the HTC Vive Pro and it shook up the VR world. Now, we’re looking at the HTC Vive Pro 2, the brand’s latest entry in the PC VR market. And once again, the company is showing favor to the enterprise market.
While there's nothing really stopping gamers from using the Vive Pro 2, the price point will undoubtedly deter many. At $799 for just the headset or $1,399 for the complete package, you'd have to be a dedicated VR gamer with deep pockets to opt for this solution over other options.
The Vive Pro 2 serves a specific purpose, and sadly, that purpose is not to be the best VR headset for gaming. As HTC has said, the Vive Pro 2 is best suited for business customers. But even then, this headset serves a niche within the enterprise niche. Tracking accuracy and the ability to bring in accessories are often far more important than visual quality, and any headset with SteamVR tracking will give you accurate tracking.
That said, the Vive Pro 2 does deliver a premium VR experience overall. The upgrade to displays with a 120 Hz refresh rate and nearly the highest resolution available is nice if you can overlook the price to get there. There are instances where resolution takes top priority, such as in product design where minute details matter or simulations that involve interacting with complex equipment, such as an airplane cockpit. In those instances, the Vive Pro 2 is a much better option than a standard Vive Pro.
HTC Vive Pro 2 Specs
|Per-eye Resolution||2448 × 2448|
|Display Technology||2x RGB low persistence LCD|
|Refresh Rate||90 Hz or 120 Hz|
|Horizontal FOV||Up to 120 degrees|
|Interpupillary Distance (IPD)||2.24 - 2.76 inches / 57-70mm|
|Sensors||G-sensor, gyroscope, proximity, IPD|
|Tracking Technology||SteamVR V2.0 (compatible with SteamVR 1.0 and 2.0 base stations)|
|Cables||Proprietary cable (headset to Link Box), Link Xox cable, USB 3.0 cable, Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable, 18W 12V power adapter|
|Connectivity||USB-C, Bluetooth , dual-integrated microphones|
|Audio||Hi-Res-certified headphones (removable), high-impedance headphones support (via USB-C analog signal)|
|Weight (without cable)||1.9 pounds (855g)|
Meet the HTC Vive Pro 2
The Vive Pro 2 isn’t redesigned from the ground up. HTC put most of its recent design efforts into the upcoming Focus 3, a standalone headset (doesn’t require a connection to a system). For the Vive Pro 2, HTC reused much of the old design for the Vive Pro 2. The new headset shares the same shell as the original Vive Pro, as well as the Vive Pro Eye and Vive Pro Secure, which is designed for businesses with high security needs. The only difference is in the exterior color. You can tell you're looking at a Vive Pro 2 from the black housing that encases the visor and the contrasting blue accent around the front cameras and on the headstrap.
The Vive Pro 2 retains all the features that Vive Pro users have known since day one. The headset includes the same rigid headstrap that came with the original Vive Pro, but the rear tension dial is updated slightly. The dial has a softer clicking sound than that of the original Vive Pro. Otherwise, the dial is identical to what’s on the old headset.
The Vive Pro 2 includes built-in headphones that have multi-angle adjustment, so you can get the perfect fit for your ears. The headphones are mounted to a 360-degree swivel. The arm they attach to has a vertical adjustment, and they can flip out. That means you can pull the speakers away from your ears when you take the headset off, avoiding snagging. You’ll find the volume and microphone mute buttons on the earcups.
The Vive Pro 2 also retains the eye relief adjustment button and the IPD adjustment (more on that in the next section) dial, as well as the dual monochrome cameras on the front that enable passthrough view. Unfortunately, HTC also retained the sub-par microphone from the original Vive Pro headset. It would have been nice to see an improvement on that front.
The new headset even retains HTC's Link Box system, which gives you a single proprietary cable that carries the power, USB and DisplayPort signals to the headset. The Link Box features a Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0 port, and a 12V barrel plug for power. The new Link Box is compatible with the old Vive Pro and HTC Vive Cosmos headsets, but the Vive Pro 2 will not function with the older Link Boxes.
Cables included are a proprietary data cable from the headset to the Link Box, a Link Box cable, a USB cable, Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable and an 18w 12v power adapter. The full package also includes two 5W charge blocks, two Micro USB cables for charging the controllers.and two 30W 12V power adaptors for the base stations.
The speakers in the Vive Pro 2 produce 3D sound that help further the immersion in VR experiences. But compared to the Valve Index, HP Reverb G2 or a Pimax headset with the proprietary DMAS headphones, the Vive Pro 2 does not produce much bass.
HTC's decision to carry over the design of the original Vive Pro may seem like a lazy move, but we don't think it was a bad move. The Vive Pro has always offered good weight balance and comfort, and the Vive Pro 2 is no different. We said in our Vive Pro review that HTC set an example for comfort in an HMD with the original Pro, and while the Index and the Reverb G2 may be slightly more comfortable, the difference doesn't merit the R&D budget necessary to get closer to perfection. The Vive Pro 2 is one of the more comfortable headset options available.
The only real upgrade that the Vive Pro 2 brings to the table is a significant step up in display resolution and a new type of lens, which allowed HTC to increase the horizontal field of view (FOV) by a slight margin.
HTC says the headset offers a 120-degree FOV, which is 10 degrees more than the HTC Vive and original Vive Pro. The company isn't wrong when it says the FOV is wider, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The new shape of the lenses in the Vive Pro 2 makes the shape of the viewport a little bit different than that of previous Vive headsets, which alters the perceived FOV.
The new lenses give you more horizontal FOV, but the lens shape negatively impacts the vertical FoV. It's not significantly trimmed down compared to the Vive Pro, but if you're used to the tall FOV that Valve's Index provides, you'll quickly notice the difference. The disparity is mainly due to Valve rotating the Index screens vertically for a taller view. HTC's displays have an even pixel count in both directions, so you don't get the perceived height advantage.
When it comes to the new lens type dubbe dual-element lenses, implementation feels more like an afterthought. The dual-element lenses have a somewhat square shape. HTC gave the lens housing a mild redesign but mostly retrofitted the new lenses into the space designed for the old Fresnel lenses.
The new lenses are slightly smaller than the old design, which enables a broader IPD range than previous Vive models. The Vive Pro 2 supports 57-70mm IPD, with fine adjustment to the decimal point.
As mentioned, the Vive Pro 2 offers eye relief adjustment like the Vive and Vive Pro, but the new lenses protrude from the inner shell. So even when you bring the lenses as close to your eyes as possible, you still get a bit of a tunnel vision effect.
Replacing the stock foam with a thin VRCover can bring the lenses closer to your eyes, resulting in a mild increase in FOV in all directions, but the depth of the lenses still gives it that tunnel feeling. Another issue with adding a thinner cushion is the new lenses don't have a nose cut-out, so people with narrow pupil spacing may find the lenses touch their nose. Plus, the edge of the housing is relatively sharp and can easily scrape your skin.
No More AMOLED
The Vive Pro 2 includes new high resolution, high refresh rate RGB LCD panels. The new screens increase the per-eye resolution from 1440 x 1600 (2880 x 1600 total) in the Vive Pro to 2448 x 2448 per eye (4896 x 2448 total) in the Vive Pro 2. The increased resolution, coupled with the RGB subpixel panel, makes the idea of screen door effect a thing of the past.
RGB LCD panels generally have the significant advantage of operating at higher frequencies, and HTC's new panels follow suit. The Vive Pro offers 90 Hz and 120 Hz modes, with the default configuration leaning towards the higher frequency to improve performance. Generally speaking, the higher the framerate, the better your VR experience gets in terms of motion to photon response and reduced susceptibility to motion sickness. The Vive Pro 2, like the Valve Index and several of Pimax's headsets, allows you to crank up the refresh rate if your best graphics card can handle it.
If your computer doesn't have the power to drive the headset at full resolution, you can still adjust the headset’s resolution at 90 Hz to match your computer's capabilities. The headset includes companion software, where you can control the panel resolution and the refresh rate.
Wireless Compatible, But Not Really
The Vive Pro 2 supports the HTC Vive Wireless Adapter. However, with the wireless accessory, you must run the Vive Pro 2 at a lower bandwidth configuration than even the lowest wired option. Removing the tether forces the headset output to 2448 x 1224 at 90 Hz. HTC's website indicates that a firmware upgrade is in the works that will unlock Balanced mode over wireless, but at the time of testing, that update has not yet materialized.
The Vive Pro 2 requires the upgraded battery pack that HTC released for the Vive Cosmos headset to run wirelessly. We were able to turn the headset on with the battery from the original Vive Wireless Kit, but it did not stay on long enough for us to run any tests. The battery dropped to three of four bars within a few minutes, and the signal promptly cut out, shutting the displays off.
Setup and Configuration of HTC Vive Pro 2
The setup process for the Vive Pro 2 is relatively simple though not as straightforward as the original Vive Pro setup. Whereas the original Vive Pro integrated directly with SteamVR and did not require additional software, the Vive Pro 2, like the Vive Cosmos, requires other software from HTC to make it function. The Vive Pro 2 software setup installs HTC's Viveport distribution platform, which you can opt-out of using, but cannot opt-out of installing.
The setup also includes the Vive Console software, which gives you access to the settings for the headset, such as resolution and refresh rate. The software has five display modes available. Somewhat annoyingly, HTC does not allow you to configure the resolution and refresh rate independently, and the pre-configured options do not allow you to use 120 Hz on all resolution options. The fast refresh rate is restricted to the highest and lowest resolution options.
Performance mode sets the resolution to 2448 x 1224 (lower than the original Vive Pro resolution) and adjusts the refresh rate to 120 Hz. This mode would enable lower-end computers to drive a high framerate experience with reduced image quality. Balanced (3264 x 1632), High (3672 x 1636) and Ultra (4896 x 2448) operate at 90 Hz. As the name suggests, Extreme mode is the most demanding option, with the full 5K resolution and 120 Hz enabled.
But the resolution settings in Vive Console are more like suggestions than hard settings. Despite the resolution setting in Vive Console, SteamVR will choose its own resolution, based on the hardware in your computer. If Steam senses that your system isn't up to par, it will lower the resolution accordingly.
For example, we tested the Vive Pro in Extreme mode and Ultra mode, which should give us 4896 x 2448 pixels at 120 Hz and 90 Hz, respectively. However, with our RTX 2080, SteamVR's 100% render target for 90 Hz is 2138 x 2138, and for 120 Hz it drops to 1880 x 1880 per eye.
HTC Vive Pro 2 Image Quality
If you're coming from an original Vive, the Vive Pro 2 offers a significant screen upgrade, but it's not as noticeable if you're already running a Vive Pro or similar headset.
Image quality is the primary reason to consider the Vive Pro 2. During testing, the increased resolution made a big difference in clarity, allowing us to read text or pick out fine details in textures and 3D objects. The crispness of the Vive Pro 2 rivals headsets with the best image quality we’ve seen, including the HP Reverb G2 and the Pimax 8K X. The Vive Pro 2 lands somewhere between the Reverb G2 and the Pimax 8K X for finest visual fidelity, with the G2 still holding that crown -- that is, if your computer can drive the screens at their full resolution.
If you need to run the headset at lower settings, you're not getting any of the advantages of the Vive Pro 2 and would likely be better off with a Vive Pro or Valve Index.
The high resolution RGB subpixel displays do wonders at hiding the gaps between pixels that usually cause the dreaded screen door effect. If we looked closely in some scenes, we could make out a faint dot pattern, but we needed to go out of our way to spot it. You wouldn’t notice a problem during normal use.
HTC may have beat the screen door effect, but it has not vanquished every issue that plagued the original Vive. Sadly, the new lenses do not solve the dreaded godray distortion effect. The godrays in the Vive Pro 2 are arguably worse than the original Vive headset. If you're looking at white text or objects on a black background, the distortion effect is prominent, but it's also visible in bright scenes, like the SteamVR Home environment. The refraction effect also works in reverse. If you have any light leak from the physical environment, it will refract off the lenses and affect your view.
Godrays aside, the new lenses appear to have a defined virtual focal depth. If you get too close to virtual items, the visuals start to get slightly hazy and out of focus. We found the sharpest images at approximately 1-2 feet away from the eyes.
The new lenses also have a very tight sweet spot. If we didn’t dial the IPD in just right and place the headset at the optimal height for our pupils, the screens got highly blurry. The dramatic distortion makes it easy to identify the clearest position for you, but you'll have a hard time seeing fine details if you don't dial it in perfectly. When you line it up properly, you'll be greeted with exceptional image quality.
HTC Vive Pro 2 System Requirements
|Full 5K resolution @ 120 Hz||Minimum PC specification (3264x1632 @ 90Hz)|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 1500 equivalent or greater||Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 1500 equivalent or greater|
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 / AMD Radeon RX 5700 equivalent or greater||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 equivalent or greater|
|RAM||8GB or more||8GB or more|
|Video Out||DisplayPort 1.4 or higher (DSC required)||DisplayPort 1.2 or higher|
|USB Ports||1x USB 3.0 or newer||1x USB 3.0* or newer|
|OS||Windows 10||Windows 10|
We put the HTC Vive Pro 2 to the test on our dedicated VR test system, which consists of an Intel Core i7-8700K in an Asus Prime Z370-A, paired with two sticks of G.Skill Ripjawz DDR4-3600 RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition.
HTC says the Vive Pro 2 is compatible with any 2000-series or better Nvidia GPU or 5000 series or better from AMD because the headset leverages display stream compression (DSC) to receive the high-fidelity signal from your computer. We suggest targeting a higher end GPU (if you can get your hands on one) because our RTX 2080 wasn’t quite powerful enough to enjoy the full resolution and framerate that the Pro 2 is meant for.
We used Nvidia Game Ready Driver version 466.63, and the performance tests were recorded on SteamVR version 1.17.12. Vive Console was updated to version 188.8.131.52 (Beta).
As usual, we tested the HMD with Beat Saber, Half-Life: Alyx, Pistol Whip and Shadow Legend VR. We captured our performance tests with the Vive Pro 2 configured in Ultra mode and Extreme mode.
We ran our performance tests with SteamVR's 100% render value, which would normally be close to the actual panel resolution. However, SteamVR picked a much lower render target than the native resolution. We also included tests at 150% render scale, which adjusts the pixel count much closer to the native resolution. At 90 Hz, 150% gave us 2620 x 2620 per eye, and at 120 Hz, 150% gave us 2352 x 2352 per eye.