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The HTC Vive Review

The HTC Vive has all of the ingredients to successfully challenge the Oculus Rift, including its 6DoF hand controllers, the ability to walk around in virtual spaces and 100+ games on the way.

How We Tested The HTC Vive

We used two different computers for our Vive evaluation. The first one, our standard test rig, employs an Intel Core i7-5930K, 16GB of Crucial Ballistix DDR4 memory, a pair of 500GB Crucial MX200 SSDs and an MSI X99S Xpower AC motherboard. We used this system to record all of our performance metrics.

We tested a series of 10 different GPUs with the Vive, including several VR-ready cards and a few that likely have no business powering a VR HMD.

XFX provided us with one of its R9 390X cards and an R9 Fury for our VR testing. PowerColor sent an R9 380X Myst Edition, and Zotac sent its top dog, a GTX 980Ti AMP! Extreme, to represent a best-case scenario.

ProductsPowerColor R9 380X Myst EditionXFX R9 390XXFX R9 FuryZotac GTX 980Ti AMP! Edition
Pricing
GPUAntiqua XTGrenada XTGM206GM200
Shaders2048281635842816
Texture Units125176224176
ROPs32646496
Max Core Clock1020MHz1050MHz1000MHz1253MHz
Max GDDR5 Transfer5900MT/s6000MT/s7220MT/s

We also dug into our graphics card stash to provide results from a Gigabyte GTX 970 Windforce, an Asus GTX 980 Matrix Platinum and Sapphire’s R9 390 Nitro. We don’t have an R9 280 on hand to test the Vive's suggested minimum specification, but we do have an Asus R9 285 Strix that we'll throw into the mix.

Our testing utilizes current drivers, including GeForce Game Ready Driver 364.72 and Radeon Software Crimson 16.3.2.

After getting our hands on as many games as possible, we picked five for benchmarking the Vive. Our procedure calls for gathering performance data for two minutes at a time. Curiously, none of our game choices appear to offer configurable detail settings. Rather, each one launches straight into the action.

Benchmarks
Job SimulatorTwo-minute test - Office Worker scenario
Tilt BrushTwo-minute test - Space Dragon drawing replay
Space Pirate TrainerTwo-minute test - Gameplay from round one
The GalleryTwo-minute test - Gameplay after opening scene
Vanishing RealmsTwo-minute test - Gameplay starting after leaving training room

For our real-world testing, we used the same rig and a lower-end machine with an Intel Core i5-4670K, 8GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3, three 128GB SanDisk SSDs and an Asus Z87 WS motherboard. We armed that second system with a GeForce GTX 970 to represent the lower threshold of recommended hardware.

VRMark

The VR benchmarking landscape is somewhat barren right now (for our insights on HMD performance testing — such as it is so far — refer to our explanations regarding the complexity of VR testing in our Rift review). Basemark’s VRScore isn’t due out until later this year, so we weren’t able to include it today. Last week when we tried to run VRMark on the Rift, we learned that Oculus' latest runtime isn't compatible with the metric. Fortunately, the Vive doesn’t suffer the same fate.

VRMark relies on SteamVR to access the HMD, which is what the Vive is built upon. Naturally, it just works. The press build is still very early though, and Futuremark tells us it's still evaluating which tests are valuable and which ones aren't as important.

The measurement we have access to at this early stage conveys the time between a draw call and an image appearing on-screen. VRMark sends a signal to the HMD and an external sensor is used to detect when the display initializes and when it goes dark again. The software then compares the measurements with the draw call to determine the total draw latency, response time and frame persistence. For a more detailed explanation of how the test works, see our VRMark Preview.

The sensor that Futuremark provides can test one lens at a time. We ran VRMark on each side of the HMD to facilitate comparisons between panels. Ideally, you want the measurements to be as similar as possible. It’s unlikely that you'll see two panels perform exactly in sync, but the closer the better.

The left eye of our review sample returns 45ms of total draw latency and 11ms for both response time and frame persistence. The right eye is slightly lower, reporting 44ms of total draw latency, 9ms response time and 10ms frame persistence. We used our Radeon R9 Fury for this testing.

  • comedichistorian
    Well it looks like as of 7:30 AM on April 5th you can't order one from the official site if you're from the US or Australia. It doesn't say this anywhere on the site, they just won't let you continue on after the order summary. However, if I select "Ireland" as my location I am able to go to the next step and presumably complete the order. Anyone have any ideas as to what this might mean? Anyone else able to actually complete an order after having selected US?
    Reply
  • DrakeFS
    They have got to do something about that cable. I fully expect a base station and belt receiver accessories to be sold soon, probably not by HTC\Oculus though. The latency that a wireless solution would add to an application sensitive to latency may be the reason both HMDs are cabled. Then again, it could just be cost, after all $800 sounds a lot better than $1000.

    Guess if it annoys me enough, I could always do a ceiling mount.
    Reply
  • comedichistorian
    Ooooh yeah I like that idea. An easy/cheap yet surprisingly reliable option would be one of those Command Strip units. Get a few loops that'll hold 5lbs and mount them wherever needed in your room and you're done. Those things really hold up, I've mounted heavy pictures with them and they've been holding up fine even with all the temp changes and a small quake we got here.
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    This makes me now want to dish out the extra $200 for this over the Oculus. Except, I actually don't have the open room, I don't even have 5x5 feet so I don't think it's a possibility.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    They have got to do something about that cable. I fully expect a base station and belt receiver accessories to be sold soon, probably not by HTC\Oculus though. The latency that a wireless solution would add to an application sensitive to latency may be the reason both HMDs are cabled. Then again, it could just be cost, after all $800 sounds a lot better than $1000.

    Guess if it annoys me enough, I could always do a ceiling mount.
    Ooooh yeah I like that idea. An easy/cheap yet surprisingly reliable option would be one of those Command Strip units. Get a few loops that'll hold 5lbs and mount them wherever needed in your room and you're done. Those things really hold up, I've mounted heavy pictures with them and they've been holding up fine even with all the temp changes and a small quake we got here.


    The problem with a ceiling mount is the length of the cable isn't enoug for that.
    you'd have to run the cable up the wall, which would require at least 7 feet, likely more, than across the ceiling to your play space - which would be around 5 feet from the wall or more.
    You might have enough range to reach your head, but you definitly won't be walking around in a room-scale space like that.

    The cable is somethign we're just going to have to live with for now. It's not going away for the first generation, so get used to it. We're looking at probably two years or more with the current hardware before any major iterations hit the market. I may be wrong about that, it could end up being like the cell phone market, but for now, this is what we have to work with.

    It's really not as big of a concern as people think. Yes, you are aware of it always. No, it doesn't detract from the experience enough to brush it off due to a tether.
    Reply
  • Borisblade7
    They have got to do something about that cable. I fully expect a base station and belt receiver accessories to be sold soon, probably not by HTC\Oculus though. The latency that a wireless solution would add to an application sensitive to latency may be the reason both HMDs are cabled. Then again, it could just be cost, after all $800 sounds a lot better than $1000.

    Yeah its teh latency added by the wifi. Until someone finds some work around, its going to be cabled. It doesnt matter so much with the Rift since you can only sit on your ass and play it, but with this being superior with its ability to actually move around, being tethered can cause issues. Having said that, most every vid i've seen of people using this, it really wasnt much of an issue.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    This makes me now want to dish out the extra $200 for this over the Oculus. Except, I actually don't have the open room, I don't even have 5x5 feet so I don't think it's a possibility.

    You can filter the SteamVR store to show you what is available for Standing experiences. These games still use the hand controlls, but they don't required that you walk around.
    A quick search on steam showed there are 54 titles that support standing configurations and don't need room scale.
    Over 30 of those titles launched today and are true VR games designed from the ground up on Vive.

    http://store.steampowered.com/search/#sort_by=Released_DESC&sort_order=DESC&category1=998&tags=-1&vrsupport=101%2C302&page=1
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    Ahh okay, that's good to know.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    They have got to do something about that cable. I fully expect a base station and belt receiver accessories to be sold soon, probably not by HTC\Oculus though. The latency that a wireless solution would add to an application sensitive to latency may be the reason both HMDs are cabled. Then again, it could just be cost, after all $800 sounds a lot better than $1000.

    Yeah its teh latency added by the wifi. Until someone finds some work around, its going to be cabled. It doesnt matter so much with the Rift since you can only sit on your ass and play it, but with this being superior with its ability to actually move around, being tethered can cause issues. Having said that, most every vid i've seen of people using this, it really wasnt much of an issue.


    For smooth graphics in VR, the target is 11.11ms of latency. GPUs are just barely able to deliver that reliably over HDMI, adding a wireless signal in there will make it far higher, making it infeasible for the majority of people.
    I'm sure there's a wireless version in some research lab somewhere, but we're likely going to have to wait a while for that to hit consumer markets.
    Reply
  • hoofhearted
    Intel NUC, GTX980 MXM, a lith battery and a backpack will solve the cable issue. Maybe something that converts methane gas to electricity combined with an anal probe will solve the power issue. Throw in a free can of beans.
    Reply