CES 2018: HTC Vive Pro Hands-on Impressions: Noticeable Improvement

Shacknews took a look at the latest high-end virtual reality experience at CES 2018.

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HTC Vive Pro is the next version of the Vive VR head-mounted display and Shacknews took a look at the latest high-end virtual reality experience at CES 2018.

HTC announced the Vive Pro at CES 2018. The HMD features a number of tweaks that the team clearly spent time iterating upon since the launch of the original HTC Vive. There are some obvious improvements, like moving the  placement of the wires that were on the top of the middle head-strap on the OG Vive. The rest of the updates are minimal in their nature, but they pack a big punch when you step back and look at the finished product. The HTC Vive Pro is a welcome update to the high-end VR HMD marketplace.

Technical Headset Specs

Screen: Dual AMOLED 3.5" diagonal
Resolution: 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye (2880 x 1600 pixels combined)
Refresh rate: 90 Hz
Field of view: 110 degrees
Audio: Hi-Res certificate headset
Hi-Res certificate headphone (removable)
High impedance headphone support
Input: Integrated microphones
Connections: USB-C 3.0, DP 1.2, Bluetooth
Sensors: SteamVR Tracking, G-sensor, gyroscope, proximity, IPD sensor
Ergonomics: Eye relief with lens distance adjustment
Adjustable IPD
Adjustable headphone
Adjustable head-strap

Ergonomics

The Vive Pro is way more comfortable than its predecessor. The team at HTC definitely listened to the criticisms of their users. Many of the suggestions I made in my review of the original HTC Vive made their way to this second version of the HMD.

The HMD now features its own headphones that are easily flipped up or to the side when users need to hear the outside world. They are also very comfortable and easily adjusted to sit perfectly on the ear. As I mentioned above, HTC has also moved the cables that ran along the top of the user’s head and updated the top head-strap while they were at it.

HTC definitely borrowed some inspiration from the PSVR when it came to the design of the back of the HMD as well as the counter balancing, but they took it a few steps further. The Vive Pro has a vastly improved center of gravity which leads to some of the best counter-balancing I have ever felt in an headset. Little things like improved face gasket cushions and added cushioning that molds to the back of the user’s head and neck make the HMD vastly more comfortable than the original Vive. The new face gasket allowed for more airflow and less light bleed, and is a welcome improvement.

One last design enhancement that is great for glasses-wearing VR users is the adjustable IPD. This allows users to easily switch out the HMD for their friends who don’t wear glasses and definitely added another level of comfortability to the device.

CES 2018 VR Demos

I tried out a few demos at HTC’s CES 2018 event at the Wynn. The first one was a side-by-side taste test of sorts. The HTC folks had an original HTC Vive sitting next to the Vive Pro with both running the same demo. This was a great way to demonstrate the 37% PPI bump and the 78% increase in pixels. The update to the screens in the Vive Pro are instantly noticeable. It is one of the clearest high-end VR experiences I have ever seen. The graphics are definitely crisper even if they are still running 90 frames-per-second like the original Vive.

The next demo was a FPS called Evasion. This is a co-op VR shooter that allows for up to 4 players to play together using the same tracking system or online. The demo at CES 2018 featured 3 people playing together to take down some alien bastards. It was definitely a fun demonstration for the Vive Pro’s new visual capabilities and we will be keeping an eye on Archiact, the studio behind Evasion, as the game comes closer to launch.

The last demo I tried out at CES was a VR racing simulation. CXC Simulations has built the ultimate VR racing seat. In the demonstration, I had to sit down and strap in as I raced around the track trying to not die. The seat is outfitted with a number of hydraulics that allow for users to feel a natural tilt or roll of the car as you are making your way around turns. It also increased the feeling of immersion when you slam on the brake or floor it to get going super fast. The Vive Pro definitely enhanced the visual experience, but I have to credit CXC Simulations for creating a great way to train racers and fans. The VR racing seat cost over $50,000 before buying an HMD, so Shackers may want to save up some bitcoins before preordering this very cool product.

One feature that HTC was super cagey about was the improved Chaperone component. The Vive Pro features a new stereoscopic front-facing camera, but none of the demos at CES 2018 showcased what exactly will come from the innovation. The new tracking was not something that was focused on at the event either, but several demos featured the new tracking system without any technical hiccups.

Conclusion

HTC Vive Pro is a welcome update to the VR HMD market. We will know more about how much it will cost for consumers as a bundle later this year, but current Vive owners will be able to upgrade for less than $400. The HTC Vive Pro is compatible with the old VR sensors and controllers, although the new sensors will ship later this year.

The HTC Vive Pro is a must-have for hardcore VR users, and I am surprised to see it hit the market so soon after the launch of the original Vive. It was especially surprising considering we have yet to hear a unit sales number from HTC. At the very least, the HTC Vive Pro is a signal from HTC that they are here to stay in the high-end VR space. The ergonomic improvements and increased screen resolution are the two major reasons I would recommend the device to anyone on the fence about upgrading, and if you have been sitting on the sideline, Vive Pro might be the perfect excuse to jump into VR. HTC has packaged together a number of smart improvements into a big upgrade for VR enthusiasts.


Find out more at the official HTC Vive Pro website.

CEO

Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 12, 2018 10:30 AM

    Asif Khan posted a new article, CES 2018: HTC Vive Pro Hands-on Impressions: Noticeable Improvement

    • reply
      January 12, 2018 10:46 AM

      ...but current Vive owners will be able to upgrade for less than $400.

      Wait they actually confirmed this or just rumor?

      • reply
        January 12, 2018 10:46 AM

        Also good writeup thanks.

      • reply
        January 12, 2018 10:53 AM

        I'm pretty sure he only heard the rumor, maybe didn't know it was just a rumor. It was 350 which sounds low considering it's HTC but also makes sense when other headsets have the full package near that price. Fingers crossed.

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        January 12, 2018 11:07 AM

        I think they are going to do a HMD only option, so if you already have the controllers and light houses it will be less expensive than the full package.

      • reply
        January 12, 2018 11:57 AM

        Wait, what?! I can upgrade to the latest for $400? Uhh.. I am in!

    • reply
      January 12, 2018 10:54 AM

      Nice write up, now I want to upgrade. Hopefully not too expensive for just the HMD.

    • reply
      January 12, 2018 11:00 AM

      Great write up Asif.

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      January 12, 2018 11:09 AM

      I think i'd be happier if it was just black, but that blue is nice too.
      It looks less like ski goggles now, and more like a robot spider eating your head which is, and should always be, the goal of industrial design.

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      January 12, 2018 11:13 AM

      How is watching movies/other content on VR?

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      January 12, 2018 11:14 AM

      It's sounds like a nice little bump, but I really want more from a new HMD.
      More work could go into the lenses, and or eye tracking to get the lenses into the optimal sweet spot for a person, foveated rendering (which I think you need eye tracking for), higher res screen of course, also everyone wants the new knuckles controllers (and I guess lighthouses).

      I think it's a bit of a hard sell for current Vive owners to upgrade. I don't know if they plan on releasing a new product yearly, but that makes me want to upgrade even less. I guess VR tech is still new and will quickly improve, which is good, but I don't want to drain my bank account trying to keep up.

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        January 12, 2018 11:20 AM

        Yeah the res bump is nice but I was hoping for wider fov or an improvement to the fresnel lenses used. I'll likely get one if they are $349 as rumored, see how much better the headstrap design is.

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        January 12, 2018 12:10 PM

        I don't think we should think of this as something primarily intended to sell to existing Vive owners.

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          January 12, 2018 12:17 PM

          Who are they selling it to then? High end VR still seems a little too niche to be releasing a product that's not targeted to your core customer base.

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            January 12, 2018 12:27 PM

            It's targeted at the same people who the Vive was targeted at unless you believe with only a few million units sold the Vive and Rift had already effectively saturated the addressable market.

            There's plenty of people in the old Vive and Rift threads here who were interested but holding out for a v2, waiting for there to be more software, waiting until they had a better room for it or a better PC for it, etc. And a new pro model only drives down the cost of the old model further which increases that version's addressable market.

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          January 12, 2018 12:47 PM

          Well currently Vive owners are the target market since the HMD upgrade will be the only available sku until later this year.

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            January 12, 2018 12:50 PM

            weird, is that just because they haven't sorted out the bundled v2 tracking/controller production yet (like Oculus v1)?

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              January 12, 2018 12:59 PM

              Not sure, but yes I assume the controller and lighthouse revision just weren't ready yet and they wanted to re-claim having the best headset on the market.

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      January 12, 2018 8:03 PM

      I can't believe it has the same fov. Wtf

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      January 13, 2018 4:04 AM

      Great writeup

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