HTC Vive: Everything you need to know about the SteamVR headset

Essential specs, release date, price, games and more
​HTC Vive SteamVR headset guide

Originally unveiled at MWC 2015, the HTC Vive is the Taiwanese company's first stab at a virtual reality headset, and it's now ready for prime time.

Its original unveiling generated teeth-chattering levels of anticipation thanks to HTC's partnership with Valve, the US games giant behind the Steam digital distribution system and the Half-Life, Portal and DOTA game franchises.

The verdict is in: HTC Vive review

A hardware update at CES 2016 saw it re-dubbed the HTC Vive Pre, but at this year's MWC HTC has gone back to the simple Vive moniker for the final consumer edition. Here's everything you need to know.

HTC Vive: Release date and price

The consumer version of HTC Vive will be available in April 2016 with pre-orders starting on 29 February.

Essential reading: Oculus Rift vs Project Morpheus

We originally guessed the Vive would be pricier than the Oculus Rift, and boy were we right. The Oculus Rift consumer edition costs $500 with the final cost at $599 after shipping, while the Vive surpasses it with the final cost sitting at $799.

However, you do get more hardware for your money. The HTC Vive bundle comes with two controllers, the Lighthouse base stations, some ear buds plus copies of the games Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives and Fantastic Contraption. You'll need to provide a solid PC that will be able to run the experiences. Vive and PC bundles haven't been announced yet, unlike Oculus which has already got several deals for you to choose from.

HTC Vive: Design and features

There's not too much change between the newest consumer Vive and the Pre in terms of specs and design, though the finalized details have yet to be released.

The updated design for the consumer release is much smaller and more comfortable to wear, with swappable foam inserts and what it's calling a nose 'gasket', as well as adjustable straps to get the fit right. And yes, you can use it with glasses.

Some new features and refinements have been added, such as a better headstrap and updated motors, which HTC says should make the headset even more comfortable.

The only real new feature is the Vive's ability to connect to iPhones and Android phones to deliver alerts and messages when you're in VR. It's called Vive Phone Services and, like the camera inclusion, seems to be there to help people spend time in VR games and movies while keeping in touch with the real world.

HTC Vive: Hardware specs

HTC Re Vive price, release date, review, specs - SteamVR headset

The HTC Vive includes a display featuring two 1080 x 1200 screens, one for each eye, and the pixel density is said to eliminate the screen door effect unless you really look for it.

This gives the Vive a total resolution of 2160 x 1200 pixels, and an aspect ratio of 9:5 as opposed to other headsets' more standard 16:9. The result is a taller image, but one which feels more natural and convincing – you can look up with your eyeballs rather than by craning your neck.

The screens run at 90Hz, which is on a par with Oculus Rift but lower than the 120Hz of Sony's Project Morpheus. Whether the difference will be noticeable remains to be seen, but we suspect that once you get into the realms above 90Hz gains are marginal.

Crescent Bay in-depth: How Oculus Rift works

There's also a front-facing camera, which means the real world can be overlaid onto the virtual. In terms of gaming this opens up new possibilities for augmented experiences, but critically it will also help users move around their real-world environments without removing the headset.

As it stands the headset is tethered to a gaming computer with a bundle of data cables, but it's believed that the final version will reduce this to a single HDMI cable. This does raise the question of whether you'll be able to add USB peripherals to the consumer unit, though. There's also a 3.5mm jack on the side of the headset so you can add your own headphones.

HTC Vive: Hardware

The headset contains a gyrosensor, an accelerometer and a laser position sensor, which work together to track the position of your head. Unlike the Gear VR and, to a lesser extent, Sony's Project Morpheus, here your PC will do the graphical heavy lifting. The advantage of this approach is that the headset can be light and comfortable, and PC upgrades can keep it up to date.

There's no word on minimum system requirements, but it's likely that Steam Machines will be built from the ground up to handle the Vive.

HTC Vive: Motion tracking

While the clarity of the Vive's screens is impressive, it's the motion tracking which is likely to make this the must-have VR headset of this year. It comes with two wireless infrared Lighthouse cameras, which are placed in the corners of a room, and follow the headset's 37 sensors (70 in total, including each controller).

The result is that you're able to move freely within your living room with the headset on and it'll track your every move, and this in turn helps make it feel like you're exploring a space.

The basestations have been updated for the Vive so they now have more accurate tracking, plus they're smaller and quieter.

Of course, there are inherent problems with the approach, such as how you're going to explore a vast alien planet without walking into the fireplace. Clever software design will probably solve that problem, and we think sofas and coffee tables are pretty overrated anyway.

It's also said to work with more than one headset, which is likely to confuse and frighten your parents when they walk into your first SteamVR party.

HTC Vive: Controllers

Interacting with virtual space is a problem that hasn't quite been solved yet, although Sony's ready-made Eye and Move controllers are a natural fit. The controllers supplied with the Vive have them beat, though.

Another contender? Xbox One VR headset rumours and news

They're basically a vertically bisected version of the Steam Controller, with a trackpad, buttons and a pressure-sensitive grip in each hand. It's responsive and natural, and the perfect way to interact with a virtual world.

Again, the design was updated in early 2016 for the second-gen model.

Now wireless and battery powered, the controls include a dual stage trigger button under each forefinger, a home button and a similar, textured circular touchpad as before. Haptic feedback helps to let you know when you've completed the correct action – helpful as with any new controller there's always a learning curve.

HTC Vive: Games and content

Vive has been shown off with a handful of demos, including one involving underwater exploration, another cooking up some tomato soup, a level based on Portal's Aperture Science laboratories and a tiny battlefield the player peers down on.

But HTC has a huge advantage over other companies making VR headsets in its partnership with Valve – there's a massive amount of Steam games that already have the necessary code to work with the Oculus Rift, and Valve is releasing an open source API (application programming interface) so that developers can make their products (not just games) compatible with SteamVR.

htc vive portal half life

The elephant in the room here is wearing a bright orange hazmat suit and horn-rimmed glasses. Not wanting to tempt fate, but we think it's more than likely that if Half-Life 3 does make an appearance it will be pretty damn soon, and it will have SteamVR compatibility. Valve tends to introduce new tech alongside its tent-pole releases – Half-Life 2 launched at the same time as Steam on the PC, and Portal 2 was used to debut Steam on the PlayStation 3.

Essential reading: The best games for Oculus Rift

HTC has also announced an impressive roster of content partners for Vive, including HBO, Lionsgate, Google and Taiwan's National Palace Museum. No word on what this content will involve, but it's arguable that TV and film-style content is more important than games when it comes to getting the general public into virtual reality.

36 Comments

  • a_P1atypus says:

    If the Vive will require a HDMI connection, how will a person walk around a room?

    • sbs says:

      it could be pulled off with a a modified tensioned slack line on ceiling, it can pull to within a half foot of slack to prevent tugging.

      • headbobgunpants says:

        Or you could get your mom to hold it.

    • Olivia_Wilde says:

      It plugs into the back of your head. You will not be moving around.

      They made a documentary about this device a while back. I believe it was titled "The Matrix".

      • Chrisd says:

        whahahahahah good one ;-)

      • shijocj says:

        LOL!! kicker!

      • Sparrow says:

        Ha ha ha, best comment ever!!!

      • annabel82 says:

        xD

    • mori says:

      easy through bluetooth plugin

    • Duongasaur says:

      The connection is through the receivers/sensors. Not the headset WTF

  • Zengrath says:

    You can do HDMI over wireless. i read somewhere that current prototype is wired but hoping for wireless for consumer version. 

    • JenR says:

      A company called Seisics actually produces a wireless link capable of broadcasting a high bandwidth video signal capable of carrying 3D Content. The issue is the transmitter/receiver sell for $2000.

      That price needs to come down quite a bit in order to make it practical for average consumer use.

      The problem is that you require several Gbps of bandwidth to properly carry the signal. You can not do this via 801.11 wireless standards (not even 5Ghz AC), BlueTooth, etc. Most HARDWIRED connections don't even have enough throughput: Gigabit Ethernet Cable, SATAIII, eSATA, SCSI, VGA, DVI (single-layer), HDMI 1.3... None of them can carry the signal. Even HDMI 1.4 and DVI-D (single layer) are BARELY adequate for a 3D video signal at [email protected] (which the Oculus DK2 uses). For 3D video in the 2K range you need at least a hardwired connection that uses DisplayPort 1.2 or Thunderbolt v2 (or better). So to broadcast that signal wirelessly means you need a device that can transmit 20Gbps+, which isn't easy (or cheap) to do.

      • shijocj says:

        Nah!!! I saw in Amazon some product which under US$250 which can do wireless HDMI and also ther are things which can make USB 3.0 wireless so for total You can have a batterypack + receivers strapped to your waist for 400+/- and make it  full wireless :D and it is available to but as of now!!

        • eviscerator says:

          The full wireless HDMI for $250 is only 1080p and only at 60Hz. You'd need a wireless transceiver that can handle at least (and with some head room) a 4K signal at 90Hz. A tall order technically and an even taller order for anything under several K $.

        • nonlogicaldev says:

          Its not just the frequency you need to optimize its also more importantly the lag, I am pretty sure most wireless HDMI devices have a lag that is just incompatible with VR, they already have to run prediction with wired connection for 2 frames ahead for your head and controller movement to mask the lag, I don't believe we will have wireless VR HMDs for a while unfortunately.

    • Sparrow says:

      Let´s hope lifi works with this devices in a soon future.

  • noDave says:

    Is rather have a light weight backpack with a battery and wifi than be tethered.  Also,  why not have gloves instead of controllers to hold. 

    • MarkCrocker10 says:

      Dave, I agree those gloves look fantastic, i read about them as well. Was it your idea???

      Yea, we could all wait for them and then another year for the sock you slip over your cock.

      It's got to launch sometime or you might as well wait for the holodeck.

      No!!!!Dave

      Regards

      Captain Picard (USS Vive)

      P.S The Holodeck isn't as good as it looks, I need a sit down after walking for more than 20 mins now

  • erich says:

    In practice, I think this is going to work great for VR experiences where you already expect to be seated (driving, flying, or any other vehicles). For the rest, I think people are going to have to accept that they can look around in 3D, but are still going to have to move with a controller. The article jokingly says sofas and coffee tables are overrated, but in truth, most people aren't going to dedicate an entire empty room to this. Even if they did, running through a level in Half-Life covers a lot more ground than an empty bedroom. It's not going to be immersive if every 5 steps you have something beeping that you're about to run into a wall and need a quick 180 that isn't displayed in the headset. I've heard suggestions of various types of treadmill-like devices... e.g. a giant trackball that you walk on, but realistically this is only going to appear in entertainment venues for cost reasons.

    I could, of course, be totally wrong. I thought the Wii was going to be a flop... "Who the hell would want to play Zelda where you have to simulate every sword swing???"

    • HurricaneC says:

      Hmmm...  Zelda....  In VR....  On a PC.... Make it so, Nintendo!

  • erich says:

    In practice, I think this is going to work great for VR experiences where you already expect to be seated (driving, flying, or any other vehicles). For the rest, I think people are going to have to accept that they can look around in 3D, but are still going to have to move with a controller. The article jokingly says sofas and coffee tables are overrated, but in truth, most people aren't going to dedicate an entire empty room to this. Even if they did, running through a level in Half-Life covers a lot more ground than an empty bedroom. It's not going to be immersive if every 5 steps you have something beeping that you're about to run into a wall and need a quick 180 that isn't displayed in the headset. I've heard suggestions of various types of treadmill-like devices... e.g. a giant trackball that you walk on, but realistically this is only going to appear in entertainment venues for cost reasons.

    I could, of course, be totally wrong. I thought the Wii was going to be a flop... "Who the hell would want to play Zelda where you have to simulate every sword swing???"

    • Duck says:

      Look up Hover Junkers. They developed the game for this VR headset, and basically you have a ship that you can walk around, but it's limited to the size of your room. Then you fly with the controller. Game developers are clever and tricky. :)

  • Titania says:

    If I know valve it will be mini display port not HDMI. With way more data throughput and more potential for connectivity options display port has soundly beat HDMI in the PC realm. 

  • starkca3 says:

    Isn't calling the two sensors "cameras" taking away from one of the biggest tracking tech differences between this and the rift? 

  • Reticuli says:

    9:5 = 1.8.  16:9 = 1.777...  These are virtually (pardon the pun) the same aspect ratio.

  • StateTheObvious says:

    It's "arguable that TV and film-style content is more important than games when it comes to getting the general public into virtual reality." (?!) For "film-style", read "porno."

  • CAVEwoman says:

    Just tried the HTC Vive system in Veldhoven, The Netherlands. 

    It was awesome !!!!!!!

    Hope to have one myself ASAP : )

    • Bostonian says:

      The gear vr is amazing and it's run on a phone. 

      I can't even imagine how the oculus rift is gonna be hooked up to my Alienware pc. Omg I can't wait. I tried vr in Disney 20 years ago but it wasn't even close to the gear vr immersion ...the best vr I've ever done is by far the naval air warfare trainer where your litterally in a spinning turning , up , down 4d simulator and you get to dog fight. That was amazing. 

  • Brinkshot says:

    "The Oculus Rift consumer edition costs $500, while the Vive surpasses it by almost $300 with the final cost sitting at $799"

    Wrong. Rift CV1 costs $599... please get your numbers right.

    At checkout: http://www.klgadgetguy.com/static/media/uploads/blog/oculusrift.jpg

  • Bostonian says:

    best idea ever. Have a camera man and a patrol of marines hooked up with 360 degree cameras and send em out on patrols in Afghanistan , get as close to experiencing war without actually having the chance of dying. I bought the 360 camera and will have it mounted to my dirt bike this summer. Now I need to find a way where you turn your head and it takes the trail you want to go on.  I'll have to ride every route out there but it will be a kickass ride. 

  • NID_Technology says:

    The two 'lighthouse' stations are actually dumb infrared emitters, they do nothing but emit invisible scanning laser lights in vertical/horizontal directions at timed intervals. It is the headset that does the tracking for both itself and the controllers using these as reference points (controllers link up via wireless to the headset). This allows the use of many headsets in the same space, or for you to expand the play area with more base stations, potentially indefinitely.

    The stuttering you experienced when turning your head quickly in some games is due to your graphics card not being able to keep up, it has nothing to do with the tracking/headset. Even with a Geforce 980Ti, there will be times when you drop below the minimum prescribed 90fps and the stutter occurs. VR is very demanding to render which is why most games use simpler cartoon style graphics.

    Good, comprehensive review overall.

  • JakeAKR says:

    a will it work with a 965 m

  • welcome3202 says:

    What OS would the Vive use because I have seen that the Oculus Rift has a minimum OS of Windows SP1 or newer.

  • meowmeowkitty says:

    Great! One step closer to Sword Art Online!

  • tanradical says:

    How much does the whole package weigh? I am trying to take this with me abroad.

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.