Up Close With the HTC Vive Pro Headset
HTC would have you believe that the Vive Pro is for professionals, businesses, and enthusiasts. But one glance at the box, and it’s clear that the company is really trying to capture gamers. The Vive Pro’s box is decorated like a box for a console, with images of games that work with the headset. The box is approximately the size of a game console, too.
Inside the box, you’ll find the Vive Pro HMD, which ships in a form-fitted plastic insert to keep it secured and a plastic bag to keep dust out. The first thing we noticed about the headset is the dark blue plastic that it’s made of. The color of the device isn’t exactly important, but somehow the shade of blue that HTC used gives it a premium appearance to our eyes. The contrast between the blue and black just looks sharp.
At first glance, the Vive Pro is largely the same shape as the original Vive, though the visor is a little less bulbous. The top is slightly less round, but it’s a subtle change that you would need an eye for detail to notice. The biggest change to the front of the headset is the Vive Pro’s inclusion of a pair of chaperone cameras front and center. HTC also reworked the sensor placements, though it didn’t add additional sensors to the headset.
The Vive Pro features a rigid head strap, which is becoming a major trend with VR HMDs. The Windows Mixed Reality headsets all offer rigid straps with mechanical adjustments, as does Sony’s PlayStation VR. Even the Oculus Rift offers a semi-rigid head-strap design. HTC’s new design is quite different from other head straps that we’ve encountered, though. The head band has a curvature that wraps up and over your ears, and back down toward the lower backside of your head.
The new headset also has a fabric overhead strap with Velcro for adjustments, like the original Vive. HTC chose a nicer material for the strap this time and added a plastic tab, which makes gripping the end easier. The overhead strap weaves through a hinge on the front, which is attached to the body of the HMD, not the moveable front cover like on the HTC Vive.
The Vive Pro includes a pair of 2.5” headphones, which are attached to arms that articulate in several directions. You can move the earpieces forward, back, up, and down, as well as pivot them to ensure the cans line up to your ears. The arms also flip outward, so you can pull the speakers away from your ears to hear the real world. The headphones feature leather-wrapped padding that is moisture-proof but not removable. The left headphone includes volume-adjustment buttons, and the right headphone includes a mute button, which cuts off the Vive Pro’s dual array microphones.
The Vive Pro headset also includes a new Link Box, which features a power button to turn the HMD off when not in use, and a proprietary plug for the headset's cable. The Link Box still requires a power source, a USB source, and a video source, but HTC updated the interfaces for the Vive Pro. The original Vive supports HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, and USB 2.0, while the new Link Box features mini-DisplayPort, but no HDMI. The new unit also requires a USB 3.0 or 3.1 Type-A USB port.
Clever Cable Management
The Vive Pro’s tether cable connects to the left side of the HMD and wraps around the head-strap hinge, which prevents kinks in the cable when rotating the visor swivel. The cable runs through a channel along the head strap, and through a small horn-shaped loop that gently directs the cord toward the center of your back.
To remove the cable, you should adjust the lens relief to its maximum distance. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble with the cable head clearing the tight space. We managed to get ours out, but we found it impossible to put it back in without adjusting the relief. With the cable out of the headset port, unwind it from the hinge and remove it from the channel that holds it in place. The bell-shaped loop has a cut in it that allows you to pull the cable out without running the full length through the loop.
The Vive Pro tether cable features a proprietary plug, which carries the power, video, and USB signals. The plug looks a lot like the one on the Oculus Rift’s cable, but close inspection reveals that HTC's plug is quite a bit larger.
Hidden Serial Number
Upon pulling out the lenses to the maximum distance to reinstall the tether cable, we discovered that HTC hid the serial number for the Vive Pro headset in a somewhat inconvenient location. If you ever need to make a warranty claim, you’ll have to disconnect the cable from your device, because it’s tucked under the cable and the blue cover of the headset. At least it's not likely to wear off from use while hiding behind the cable.
Setting up the Vive Pro should be familiar to anyone who buys it, because the process is almost the same as plugging in the Vive that they likely already own. Plug in the power cord, the USB 3.0 cable, and the DisplayPort cable for the Link Box, and then plug the headset into the Link Box. With everything plugged in, press the blue power button to activate the Vive.
Windows should automatically detect the headset and install the drivers. Open SteamVR, and the software will automatically configure itself for the Vive Pro. SteamVR will prompt you to install a new Bluetooth driver, which you must do to enable communication with your existing Vive controllers. If you switch back to the old Vive, SteamVR will reinstall the old driver automatically. In our setup, the new headset assumed the room-scale setup from the existing Vive.
If you’re running a desktop PC, you probably won’t run into a problem setting up the Vive Pro, but laptop users might have a problem. VR-Ready laptops always have HDMI ports, but not all of them offer DisplayPort. As with many aspects of cutting-edge tech, you may need an adapter.