Since Meta launched the $1,500 Meta Quest Pro, a high-end version of its ultra-popular Meta Quest 2, more and more manufacturers have released high-end VR headsets. HTC is now entering the game with the HTC Vive XR Elite, a new standalone VR headset that looks like an enhanced version of the Vive Flow headset but adds support for those needing vision correction and a mixed reality mode, which could prove its worth. $1,099 is a reasonable price.
At CES 2023, I spent some time trying out HTC’s upcoming headset and the impressive technology behind it.
• product: HTC Vive XR Elite
• launch date: Available for pre-order now on HTC’s website, expected to ship in late February.
• price: $1,099
• Why it’s worth your attention: The HTC Vive XR Elite subtly blends sleek aesthetics with functionality for a wider range of wearers. While the software offering is yet to be determined, the Vive XR Elite features a range of tweaks that allow glasses wearers to experience the headset with or without them — which feels like a real step forward, especially considering the headset has a hybrid Reality and virtual reality features.
Designed to look like an extension of the Vive Flow’s sunglass-like structure, the HTC Vive XR Elite requires a phone to fully function and weighs a hefty 625 grams. The Elite is a bit heavier than the Quest Pro, and its features definitely rival Meta’s premium headset. The HTC Vive XR Elite is powered by the Snapdragon XR 2 chipset paired with 12GB of RAM and 120GB of storage. At the same time, the VR headset is also equipped with a removable battery with hot-swappable function, which is convenient for users to continue to use. The Vive XR Elite has a battery life of up to two hours and can be fully charged in about 30 minutes with 30W fast charging.
The headset features an IPD (interpupillary distance) slider that tailors the headset to your eyes, making your content clearer than just adjusting with diopters. Users who wear glasses can take them off thanks to adjustable lenses that work similar to the optometrist you might be familiar with at an optometrist’s office. There is also a removable magnetic fabric face gasket for easy cleaning. Once on your head, the Vive XR Elite boasts a wide 110-degree field of view, 4K resolution, and a smooth 90Hz refresh rate, and HTC says the headset will feature directional audio and improved bass over its predecessor.
HTC hopes developers will use the Vive XR Elite not only for VR content, but also for mixed reality (MR). This is made possible by a full color RGB pass-through camera and hand tracking. The headset features four wide-field-of-view cameras, 6 degrees of freedom spatial precision, and a depth sensor. The controller input is similar to the Vive Focus 3, with 6 degrees of freedom, three face buttons, an analog stick and trigger buttons. Expect other add-ons around launch time, including a face-tracking module.
HTC has announced 100 new VR and MR content for the Vive XR Elite; while dates are to be confirmed, the company says they should be available “within the release window,” so likely sometime around the headset’s release in late Q1 2023. time. Along with titles like Hubris, Maestro: The Masterclass, and Unplugged: Air Guitar, the Vive XR Elite will be compatible with PC VR via USB-C or wirelessly via Wi-Fi 6E. Similar to the HTC Vive Flow, users can connect their headsets to an Android phone to enjoy content there.
HTC hopes its metaverse, the ViveRSE, can blur the lines between gaming, entertainment and productivity on the Vive XR Elite. So far, ViveRSE is a two-story social space where users can launch games, experience interactive paintings, hang out with friends in VR or use a virtual desktop-like setup.
While it’s cheaper than the Meta Quest Pro, the Vive XR Elite doesn’t like it. HTC’s Vive headsets to date have had striking designs, and the XR Elite looks great, like a cross between the Vive Flow and the Vive Focus 3. Not only does it look good, the Vive XR Elite feels great on the head and the weight distribution is excellent. As a glasses wearer, being able to switch the adjustable lens dial and see the sharp image quality without the glasses, It feels like a real technological advancement.
The passthrough capabilities of the Vive XR Elite are also impressive compared to the Meta Quest Pro. One of the best examples of a pass-through camera is the Mixed Reality Reaction Lights game, similar to FitXR’s HIIT workouts. Games like Hubris do a great job of showing that standalone VR can rival its PC-based counterparts.
Although immature at the moment, the real potential lies in ViveRSE, which goes beyond the software center and offers a way to work or hangout with friends. Making the avatar was also a lot of work. In addition to collaborating with Pixiv to give anime-style avatars, ELLE Taiwan is also creating virtual clothing. Beyond that, it will be interesting to see how the two compare to each other once HTC releases its latest VR headset next month.