March 15, 2018

New HTC Vive Pro

HTC Vive Pro

HTC have promised that the new HTC Vive Pro would be available by the end of Q1 2018 - and that’s barely two weeks away! But we’ve got a sneak preview of it today.

First of all, the HTC Vive Pro Link Box has been redesigned to avoid having three connections. The old link box (see below) had a USB Type-A port, an HDMI port and an AC power port on the headset side. On the computer side, it had a USB Type-B port, a power port for an AC adapter, an HDMI port and an alternative Mini DisplayPort as an alternative to HDMI.

Old HTC Vive link box

Old HTC Vive link box

The new Link Box, revealed by Cloudgate co-founder Steve Bowler, shows that on the headset side, providing power, data and video. On the computer side it has a power connection, a USB data connection and a DisplayPort for the video. This time, there is no HDMI alternative.

The New HTC Vive Pro Link Box

The New HTC Vive Pro Link Box

So what do we know about it? In design terms, it has a hinged headband to make it easy to put on or take off. This is not continuous or smooth. It snaps into two fixed positions: angled up 90 degrees and down in the normal worn position. And it can be worn over glasses - always a good thing. But what else? When you want to tighten or loosen it to fit right, you just turn a dial at the back, HTC, it would seem, have learned from others.

The result is a headset that is comfortable to wear and seems to have really good weight distribution. I say “seems to have” because you can only tell for sure if you wear it for a long time. I can say, that once you put it on and tighten it, you can count on it to stay in place, even as you play games that involve vigorous movement.

HTC Vive Pro from behind

HTC Vive Pro from behind - the dial is to tighten the headstrap

There is also better blocking out of ambient light from external sources, because the nose pad has also been redesigned.

Resolution is 2880 x 1600 (AMOLED) - up from 2160 x 1200 on the original HTC Vive. This is a 78% increase in overall pixels. And at 615 PPI, it is also a 37% increase in Pixels Per Inch. This means, in practice, that the Vive Pro (or Vive 2.0) matches the resolution of the Samsung Odyssey and beats the other Windows Mixed Reality headsets currently on the market. This is not enough to completely eliminate the screen door effect. Also, it still has the same old Fresnel lenses. This means that those occasional, annoying circular bands of light, still appear every now and then.

HTC Vive Pro frontal view

HTC Vive Pro frontal view

The resolution is also not enough to make text completely sharp. But it is a lot sharper than before and so this is a marked improvement on the first generation Vive. And the visual quality of the graphics as a whole was also a big improvement. But remember that you’ll need some pretty high spec processor power at the computer end to exploit this resolution at 90 Hz, without dropped frames or latency problems.

The headset also comes with its own headphones attached. Made of plastic, they have a volume control in the left ear. The control takes the form of two buttons. This is quite common for audio headsets in general, but not so common for Virtual Reality headsets. It is probably more useful in VR than in passive audio listening. After all, who wants to break off while in the middle of a game. That said, it is quite difficult to hit the right button when wielding a wand, but you get the hang of it eventually.

HTC Vive Pro from the side

HTC Vive Pro from the side

The sound quality itself was good, with no noticeable distortion. HTC have said that the market version will have noise-cancelling properties in the headphones.

The headset will also have a pair of forward facing cameras. This is presumably for a VR Chaperone system, to prevent you from bumping into walls or other obstacles when you play highly active games.

HTC Vive Pro looking up

HTC Vive Pro looking up

​​​As things stand, then, ​this headset matches the Samsung Odyssey on spec but it remains to be seen what the price point will be. But at least we’ll only have to wait two weeks and a bit to find out.

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