The HTC Vive Pro: Final Thoughts
With the Vive Pro, HTC set the bar for the next generation of VR devices—and it set the bar high. It’s clear that HTC is rapidly learning what makes a good VR headset.
The new displays are an excellent improvement over the first-generation HMD’s displays. But to say that the Vive Pro is just a higher-resolution Vive would be a major understatement. We believe the new design features that HTC introduced with the Vive Pro will have more of an impact than many people probably expect. The display resolution is almost secondary when you look at the larger picture.
When you ask people what they think it will take for mass adoption of VR hardware happen, many people will tell you that it comes down to price. VR headsets must have affordable price tags before the majority takes an interest. We don’t disagree with that assessment. There are only so many people who are willing to pay a large premium to play at the cutting edge of modern consumer tech. But before the price really matters, the hardware needs to be "good enough" for everyone--not just enthusiasts.
We would argue that for VR HMDs to be good enough to meet everyone’s expectations, they must be comfortable first. Screen resolutions and refresh rates are going up. We don’t have to guess about that; we know it’s happening. Everyone in the industry understands that displays need to get better, and many companies are working on that problem right now. But what do you think people are going to complain about next, when the screen-door effect and graphics aliasing in VR are a thing of the past? Fit and comfort, that’s what.
Microsoft is trying to sell the Windows Mixed Reality platform as a productivity medium, as well as an entertainment medium. But that will never happen with the current crop of Windows MR HMDs, because Microsoft’s hardware partners went after the budget segment of the VR market and didn’t put much effort into improving comfort. The Windows MR headsets that we’ve tried (including the more premium Samsung Odyssey) aren’t comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time, which makes them irrelevant for productivity use. However, we could imagine wearing the Vive Pro every day for hours at a stretch. We’re not saying HTC’s current execution with the Vive Pro is perfect, but it’s a big step in the right (comfortable) direction.
HTC is getting ahead of the curve and setting an example for every other company in the VR hardware market. If you’re in the business of building VR HMDs, consider the Vive Pro a template for where things need to go. Price, of course, must come down in time, but the consumer VR market is still too immature for most people anyway. It would be best to perfect the techniques to build a quality device before you focus on commoditizing the hardware.
Contrary to many arguments, we’re of the belief that expensive hardware does not hurt the growth of the VR industry. In these early years, we would rather see advancements in every aspect of VR hardware before the dramatic price drops become the norm.
HTC showed that it’s not afraid to pursue the pinnacle of high-end VR with the Vive Pro. The headset is still far from perfect, but it’s the closest thing that we have to it today, and it's a whole lot better than the best consumer VR system you could buy before.
Likely until the Pimax 8K hits the market later this year, HTC’s Vive Pro will offer the best visual experience that you can find a VR headset. It’s at least on par with the Samsung Odyssey headset, but with SteamVR’s bias towards the Vive Pro, it gets a higher input resolution out of the box, with more stable performance. That comes at the cost of higher GPU requirements (particularly if you're looking to maximize game settings). But if you’re looking for the best VR experience possible, you’re probably already rocking a recent high-end graphics card.
If you have an original HTC Vive and are happy with it, there's certainly no dire need to upgrade--especially if you have more-important things to spend $800 on. That said, no other VR headset comes close to the Vive Pro when you compare comfort. HTC's new headset is the most comfortable HMD that we’ve worn, period.
We're anxiously anticipating the headset that dethrones the Vive Pro, because it will have to be great. But for the time being, HTC gets our stamp of approval--at least for anyone who can afford it.
MORE: Virtual Reality Basics