Updated, 03/19/2018, 9:40pm PT: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the Vive Pro included 'Fallout 4 VR.' The game is included with the standard Vive package.
Original article, 3/19/2018, 6:00am PT:
HTC today announced the price for the highly-anticipated Vive Pro HMD, and it’s a hard pill to swallow. The HMD-only upgrade kit for the existing Vive platform carries a staggering $799 price tag. If you can afford it, pre-orders are now open, and shipments are expected to begin on April 5.
In January, at CES 2018, HTC revealed an updated Vive headset that boasts higher resolution displays, better integrated headphones with upgraded microphone, a revised mechanical head strap system, dual front-facing cameras, and support for Valve’s upcoming SteamVR Tracking 2.0 technology. HTC teased that the headset would be available in the first quarter of the year, but the company refused to talk about pricing.
Now that we know the price, we’re not surprised the company kept it under wraps until now. We didn’t expect the Vive Pro headset to be cheap--HTC said that it would be a premium product-- but weren’t expecting the HMD-only upgrade to be $799. HTC asked $799 for the full Vive package on launch day in 2016, which included the HMD, two base stations, two controllers, and all the cables to plug it in. The Vive Pro is not a complete package; it does not include base stations or controllers.
For just shy of $800, you get a Vive Pro HMD, the new link box with the proprietary data port, and the cables for the link box. You need a set of base stations and controllers before you can use the new headset.
HTC’s Vive Pro is a big upgrade from the original Vive headset. The new device features Samsung’s new high-resolution 1440x1600, low-persistence display panels, which are the same screens found in the Samsung Odyssey headset. The combined resolution of the two panels is 2880x1600, which is a 78% increase in pixels compared to the original headset’s 2160x1200 resolution.
The headset features a completely redesigned head strap, which includes built-in headphones and a mechanical adjustment like the Deluxe Audio Head Strap. HTC said that the new design offers improved weight distribution and comfort. HTC said that the new headphones feature “high-performance” speakers, and the headset includes a built-in amplifier to deliver a premium audio experience.
The Vive Pro also features dual, front-facing chaperone cameras that developers could use for advanced features. HTC hasn’t said much about the potential of the stereo cameras, but we’ve heard rumors of potential hand-tracking capabilities, like a Leap Motion sensor. At the least, it should provide better depth perception in the visual chaperone mode.
Ready For The Future
In 2016, the HTC Vive became the first headset to support Valve’s SteamVR Tracking technology, and now, the Vive Pro is the first HMD to support Valve's SteamVR Tracking 2.0 technology. Valve started talking about SteamVR Tracking 2.0 last year. The upcoming tracking technology offers tracking volumes up to 10m x 10m, and also enables communication between up to four base stations in one room.
SteamVR Tracking 2.0 isn’t quite available yet. Valve started shipping base station samples to hardware designers, but we don’t know when the new base stations would be available for consumers. However, the Vive Pro headset is ready for the new system when Valve releases it. The original Vive won’t work with the new base stations because the sensors in the headset aren’t compatible with the over-the-air identification system in the new base stations. The new headset features the updated sensors, which make it compatible with the original base stations, and the upcoming base stations.
Pre-Order Now, Receive Early April
HTC opened pre-orders for the Vive Pro headset today, and the company said that the first shipments would be delivered on April 5, which we should have guessed. April 5, 2018, is the two-year anniversary of the original Vive system's launch.
HTC is also throwing in a free six-month trial subscription for Viveport, which allows you to rent up to five titles per month. HTC said the promotional deal would apply to all Vive Pro purchases made before June 3, after which new orders would include a two-month trial.
Anniversary Price Drop
If you don’t already have a Vive, but you would like to get a Vive Pro, you could purchase the base stations and controller individually. However, at $135 per base station and $129 per controller, you’d be better off buying a standard Vive system plus the new HMD, especially now that HTC lowered the price of the original Vive system.
When HTC launched the Vive system in 2016, it set the price at $799. Last fall, after Oculus slashed the price of the Oculus Rift, HTC dropped the asking price for the Vive to $599 to stimulate sales. Now that the premium Vive Pro headset is available, HTC trimmed another $100 off the standard Vive to bring its price down to $499. The headset also includes a redemption code for Bethesda’s Fallout 4 VR, which is a $60 value.
“With the Vive Pro we are delivering the best quality display and visual experience to the most discerning VR enthusiasts. Our goal has always been to offer the most premium VR platform available and to drive adoption for VR,” said Daniel O’Brien, GM U.S, VIVE. “By lowering the price of the current Vive, we are making VR more accessible while expanding the potential market for developers. Whether you're a VR enthusiast or new to the platform, there’s never been a better time to join the most complete VR platform available.”
The new price puts the Vive into much more competitive territory for today's market, and it gives consumers an excellent range of options in several price segments. The basic Windows Mixed Reality headsets from Acer, HP, and Lenovo are often on sale for ~$200-250, the Oculus Rift sells for $399, and the Samsung Odyssey premium Windows MR headset sells for $449. At $499, an original Vive remains a reasonable solution, especially if you favor tracking volume over visual fidelity.