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 went back to the simple Vive moniker for the final consumer edition. With it finally out in the wild, here's everything you need to know about the headset, just in case you still have a few lingering questions.
HTC Vive: Release date and price
The consumer version of HTC Vive was released in April 2016.
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.
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.
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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
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.
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.
Minimum system requirements match up closely to those for Oculus Rift. Valve and HTC also published their own list (albeit a lot later than Rift) with a SteamVR system compatibility check.
Here's what you need to run Vive on PC: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or greater, Intel i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater, 4GB+ of RAM, HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer, 1x USB 2.0 or greater port and finally Windows 7 SP1 or newer.
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 more like you're exploring a space.
The base stations have been updated so they now have more accurate tracking, plus they're smaller and quieter.
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.
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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 steadily growing its games library since launch. HTC already 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.
Despite Valve's big library, though, most of its games are pretty short. Finished titles like #SelfieTennis and Cloudlands: Mini Golf are more like mini-games though they're good to show off for friends who haven't used VR before. With your Vive purchase, you also get Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption while The Lab is free to download. All of them are great but again, they're more like mini-games (heck, both Job Simulator and The Lab are basically comprised of smaller games).
Still, there are already fan favourites like Hover Junkers and Valve has updated The Lab already with more content and better features so there's definitely hope. The most recent E3 has already given us teasers of what to expect for Vive including Fallout 4 and Doom – however it's likely we'll see these in VR next year.
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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.