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HTC Vive Pro Headset Review: A High Bar for Premium VR

Editor's Choice

HTC Vive Pro Performance Analysis

As noted previously, we ran all our tests using both our GTX 980 Ti, as well as the lesser GTX 970. We would not recommend buying a Vive Pro unless you have a powerful GPU. As you’ll see, our GTX 970 doesn’t quite have what it takes here. It will do the trick in less-demanding titles, but it won’t provide a great experience for all games.

Rick & Morty: Virtual Rick-ality

Rick & Morty: Virtual Rick-ality from Owlchemy Labs is the least-demanding title in our tests suite, and our GTX 970 had no trouble delivering buttery-smooth frame rates to the Vive Pro headset.

Despite the high rendering resolution, the GTX 970 kept the frame latency below 7ms. Curiously, we observed lower latency with the Vive Pro than with the Samsung Odyssey with the same hardware.

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When we switched to the GTX 980 Ti, we were surprised to see that the tables had turned. The higher-power GPU kept the latency below 7ms in the Odyssey, while the Vive Pro flirted with 8ms and beyond. We’re not sure how the GTX 970 kept the latency so low.

We were surprised to see how consistent the performance results from the 9-megapixel comparison test were. The Odyssey headset gave the GPU a harder time than the Vive Pro, but the difference is frankly irrelevant, which means the Vive Pro doesn’t actually offer an advantage in visual fidelity in Rick & Morty.

Gorn

Gorn is another lightweight VR game, although it's not as well optimized as Rick & Morty. As you can see from the graphs, the frame timing in this game is not as consistent. Even with the GTX 980 Ti, the graph is all over the place. We even observed a handful of dropped frames in Gorn with both graphics cards, especially with the higher-resolution HMDs.

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With both the Vive Pro and the Odyssey set with 9-megapixel rendering targets, the performance was consistent between the two headsets. We expected a performance deficit when using the Odyssey headset, but Valve updated SteamVR between our initial tests and the 1.8x render-target tests. So we could be seeing the fruits of recent optimizations.

Arizona Sunshine

Arizona Sunshine is a more demanding title than Rick & Morty and Gorn. In fact, Vertigo Games added features to the title that it claims work best on high-end Intel i7 CPUs. Our test rig features an older yet still upper-class i7 processor, so we turned up all the goodies for our tests.

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Our GTX 970 kept the latency below 10ms on the Vive and Rift with all the graphics settings dialed up. However, the higher pixel count of the new headsets pushed the limits of what the GTX 970 can handle. With the Odyssey headset, the frame timing was inconsistent. But with the Vive Pro, the experience was much worse.

Note that the graph shows that we experienced high dropped frames several times in our 60-second test. Those were moments when the chaperone came into view. Our GTX 970 was unable to render the game and provide basic chaperone information simultaneously.

We didn’t observe any issues when we used the GTX 980 Ti to drive the headsets. 

Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope

We can’t say that we were surprised with the results from our Unity games, but we wouldn’t call the results predictable, either. We would describe the performance in Serious Sam VR, though, as predictable. We already know that Serious Sam is well optimized, and our GTX 970 delivers low latency and stable frame rates with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive alike. The Odyssey headset demonstrated some performance issues, but Windows MR headset support on SteamVR is in beta, so we didn’t expect perfect results there.

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The Vive Pro results surprised us, though. Despite the 9-megapixel-per-second workload, the GTX 970 kept the latency below 9ms for the whole test. The GTX 980 Ti kept the latency of the Rift, Vive, and Odyssey well below 6ms, but the Vive Pro pushed the latency up beyond 7ms.

With both headsets on level playing fields, the frame timing is more stable with Vive Pro, but with slightly more latency.

Island 359

Island 359 is the heavy hitter of our test suite. The game is optimized to deliver smooth frame rates for an HTC Vive from a GTX 970, but Cloudgate pushed the limits to get there. With our GTX 970, we can run Island 359 at high settings on our Vive, and we get excellent performance, with few dropped frames and no major hitches. However, a close look at the graphs reveals that our GPU just barely managed to keep the frames coming in under the wire.

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Faced with the added strain of rendering another 4 megapixels per frame, our GTX 970 fell flat on its face when we ran the Vive Pro off it. The GPU dropped virtually every second frame and delivered frame times in the mid-20ms range.

Predictably, the GTX 980 Ti handled the workload with much better results. However, the previous-generation halo-GPU still struggled to keep the frame rate up to par. The first half of our benchmark was buttery smooth, but the last 30 seconds started to get a little rough, and the GPU started dropping frames. It appears our GTX 980 Ti’s Kryptonite is Island 359 with High settings on a Vive Pro.

Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews of graphics cards and virtual reality hardware.