Home / Gaming / Games Accessory / HTC Vive

HTC Vive review

evan kypreos

By

Updated:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

1 of 34

HTC Vive 9
  • HTC Vive 9
  • HTC Vive 1
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive
  • WEVR Vive demo
  • HTC Vive controllers
  • HTC Vive controllers
  • HTC Vive controllers
  • HTC Vive controllers
  • Valve secret ship
  • HTC Vive 5
  • HTC Vive 7
  • HTC Vive 9
  • HTC Vive 11
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive 3
  • HTC Vive 5
  • HTC Vive 7
  • HTC Vive 11
  • HTC Vive setup
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive 3
  • HTC Vive 5
  • HTC Vive 7
  • HTC Vive 9
  • HTC Vive
  • HTC Vive

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Incredible, immersive free-moving VR
  • Intuitive controllers with good battery life
  • Solid selection of games already available
  • Nothing else quite like it

Cons

  • Pain to set up
  • Software is buggy
  • Expensive and needs lots of space

Best Deals for HTC Vive

  • amazon
  • ebay

Key Features

  • 1,200 x 1,080 resolution AMOLED screen for each eye
  • Requires a powerful gaming PC
  • HTC Vive controllers for each hand
  • Two tracking sensors
  • Bluetooth for phone connection
  • Front-facing camera
  • Manufacturer: HTC
  • Review Price: £759.00

*Editor's Note* Following Brexit the price of the HTC Vice has increased to £759, we have updated the review to reflect this change.

What is the HTC Vive?

If you’ve tried Google Cardboard, Gear VR or the Oculus Rift and think you know what virtual reality has to offer, then prepare for a rude awakening. The HTC Vive delivers the most immersive virtual reality experiences available right now. It’s incredible, and tops a promising 2016 for HTC after the excellent HTC 10.

Trying to describe it in words is a tall order – there are none that can do it justice. It’s like trying to draw a symphony or sculpt a ballet – the essence can be evoked, but it needs to be experienced to be truly understood.

This means that this review will be different to TrustedReviews’ usual ones. I’ll still make sure that all the positives and negatives are covered, but before you worry about any of that, you need to know that the HTC Vive is immense, wonderful and utterly fantastic.

Video: Watch our in-depth Vive vs Rift comparison

Getting started with the HTC Vive

Development may have started later than it did for its major competitor, the Oculus Rift, but in many ways the Vive is the more complete product.

You can walk around and interact with virtual worlds by using specialised controllers that come bundled with the Vive. This is its biggest strength. It’s also its biggest weakness.

The sheer amount of space you need to dedicate to make the most out of the HTC Vive will make it a challenge for many to have it in their home. It’s also the most expensive VR headset out there.

Still, if you’ve got the cash, and enough spare room, then the HTC Vive provides experiences you just can’t get anywhere else.

Related: PlayStation VR review

HTC Vive setup

Before you start doing anything, it’s worth making sure that your gaming PC is powerful enough to run the HTC Vive. Its minimum system requirements are a touch lighter than the Oculus Rift’s, but you’ll still need a good graphics card and a recent processor.

I tested it with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 970 and it worked fine, but if you want to max out the settings on some games you’ll need something heftier. The two screens within the headset – one for each eye – have a 1080 x 1200 resolution, and with the very high frame rate required you need about three times the power you would for gaming at 60fps on a Full HD monitor. I also tested the Vive with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 980Ti in the Titan Virtual Force PC and I found the experience a little slicker.

Related: Best Gaming PC: Build your own VR gaming PC

The sheer size and weight of the HTC Vive’s packaging is a little alarming. Thankfully, plenty of what’s inside is padding, but there are a lot of parts in there too.

Aside from the headset there are two sensor cubes, two chunky controllers, a link box and enough plugs and Micro USB cables to start a small airport electronics shop.

HTC Vive 7

The sensors are important. They’re what tell the Vive where you’re standing, but also the exact location of the controllers – a fine grid appears when you get a little too close to bumping into something. They come with mounting brackets, so they can be screwed into the wall, and need to be placed high (around 2m) and facing downwards a little to cover as large an area as possible.

Related: HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift

HTC recommends a 2 x 1.5-metre space, but I’d suggest at least a 2 x 2-metre one. Some games warn you if your setup doesn’t allow for a 3 x 3m area. I wasn’t joking, owning a Vive is a bit like having a pool table – you need a big space for it.

You can use the Vive as a sit-down or stand-still experience, but I really don’t see the point of that. Both the games and the controllers are designed for expansive movements and shackling yourself to a chair or a single spot is far too restraining.

No, it’s far better to just accept that you need to dedicate a space to it.

HTC Vive 5

This does make the Vive hard to setup. There are downloads and registrations and then further downloads until you think you’re done. And then everything needs a firmware update so you need to get the USB cables out and connected to your PC. All of this is interspersed with helpful tips such as “remove pets” so you don’t trip over them. HTC clearly hasn't met my cat.

A helpful step-by-step guide does its best to make the setup idiot-proof, but it still took me over an hour, 17 post-watershed swear words and a couple of PC restarts to get everything to work.

It’s worth noting the Vive takes up at least three plug sockets, too – one for each sensor and one for the link box that connects the headset to the PC. There are also two plugs and Micro USB cables for recharging the controllers, but I found it easier to just plug them into spare USB ports on the PC.

So setting up the Vive is a faff, but once it’s done you don’t need to tinker. I’ve had the Vive set up for over a week and it’s worked well every time I turn it on. Oh, well, there are crashes that need a restart to get it working again, and at times the sensors refuse to recognise the headset or controllers, but I never had a showstopper. It’s nowhere near as robust as the Oculus Rift, but the reward makes it easier to forgive the occasional gremlin.

HTC Vive 5

The headset itself is a good-looking thing. The dimpled plastic makes the Vive seem suitably futuristic and the straps are easy to adjust for a good fit. Whichever way you adjust it, though, it feels a little wobbly, as if it might fall off your head. It won’t, of course, and the more you use it the more you trust it will stay put.

More of an issue is the Vive’s weight. It’s 555g without the cables, and a fair bit more with them, and you need to add another couple of hundred grams if you want to use over-ear headphones. The bundled in-ear headphones are rubbish and keep popping out, so you’ll want to use your own.

HTC Vive

Initially, I found myself not bothered by the weight while playing, but a cricked neck a few hours later made me take note. I hope HTC can reduce the weight in the future, since I can use the Oculus Rift without discomfort for much longer than the Vive.

Related: What is virtual reality?

Controllers made for VR

The HTC Vive’s dual controllers are brilliant. Made of solid plastic, they’re ideal tools for interacting with a virtual environment. There are plenty of buttons and controls, but I never felt lost because everything is where it should be and the controllers are visible, floating through the air, when the visor is on.

HTC Vive 9

The triggers are perfectly placed and the grip feels like you're holding a gun. It makes them perfect for shooting games. I’ve spent hours on end firing a pistol in the brilliant multiplayer game Hover Junkers. It feels about as close to shooting a real gun as you can without the acrid smell of gunpowder filling your nostrils. The grip also serves well as a hilt when using a sword in a game.

Clench your fist a little more tightly and you can activate a button on the grip. It feels like trying to grasp something in real life and works well with games that require you to pick up items.

HTC Vive 3

The touchpads that I didn’t get on with on the Steam Controller are a revelation on the HTC Vive. They’re useful for scrolling, but the pad is also a button. Some games map different actions depending on where you press too, a bit like a D-pad.

If there’s one (minor) complaint, it’s that the "select" button is a little too high to get to easily. That’s eminently forgivable, though. The HTC Vive’s controllers are spot on for virtual reality, proving that Oculus' dedicated controllers can't come soon enough. The Xbox One controller is a poor substitute for VR.

Related: Best VR Games

Living with the HTC Vive

While the controllers are great, Steam VR and Vive Home are less of a triumph. HTC’s tried to emulate the Oculus Home environment, but it’s not as slick or robust. For starters, you can begin games from two environments: Steam or Vive Home. It’s confusing and I ended up switching between the two with neither quite fitting the brief. Some settings can be tweaked from one and some from the other. It’s all a bit messy.

I also found Steam VR to be temperamental – it's still in Beta and I can see why. I’ve had to restart my PC more than a dozen times due to games not exiting properly or from incorrect calibrations. Thankfully, the Vive worked every time following a quick reboot.

Yet, annoying as these issues are, I find them easy to forgive once you begin exploring the Vive's VR worlds.

Video: What is VR? A complete guide to virtual reality

There’s plenty to get stuck into, but the games the Vive come bundled with aren’t a patch on the Oculus Rift’s Lucky’s Tail or EVE: Valkyrie. They are fun, though. Job Simulator is cute, funny and a good entry to the world of VR, while Fantastic Contraption is a solid puzzler that reminds me of Besige and is brought to life by the controllers. Tilt Brush isn’t a game at all – made by Google, it lets you draw in 3D and people with a more artistic leaning than me may find hours of fun with it.

Happily there are a bunch of titles that you can buy on Steam that are excellent and I’ve already become obsessed with Hover Junkers.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, you’re in charge of a hovering ship. Your aim in the arenas is to pick up junk and store it or, more importantly, use it to form walls around your ship. This junk shields you from other junkers and gives you something to cower behind while you reload your weapons. As of writing there are only two weapons – a shotgun and pistol – but they feel solid and, if your aim is true, can be devastating.

Related: Battlezone review-in-progress

Ducking and dodging to get your shot in is brilliant – if this is what future multiplayer shooters will feel like then I can’t wait. Playing it is a proper workout. I squat behind cover and jump out to fire or run to the other end of the ship when my junk is shot off (which sounds more painful than it is) and I’m in the open. It may not be pretty, but there’s nothing else like it and it might lead to a new breed of super-fit gamers. We can dream.

Another game that I fell in love with is Vanishing Realms. This is a traditional dungeon RPG lifted to new heights by the HTC Vive and its controllers. I found myself literally crawling across the floor to avoid traps and pick up a little gold for a better sword. It’s utterly immersive to the point where I put a virtual-reality apple to my mouth to recover health and I ended up opening my mouth in real life. I felt like a total idiot, but I’ve seen others do exactly the same thing.

There are occasions when I wish the HTC Vive was wireless, though. Those long, trailing cables do get in the way when you’re walking around a virtual world, but I didn’t find this as annoying as I thought I would. You can feel them and just step over or kick them out of the way.

The Vive is packed with features, but some don’t work very well. It has Bluetooth so you can pair it with your phone and take calls with the visor on, but I couldn’t get this to work with the iPhone 6S or Huawei Mate 8.

The clever front-facing camera, on the other hand, lets a small screen appear near your right controller to give you a view of the outside world. Unfortunately, it’s not well realised – it’s either always on or always off, with no in-between. Room View can be toggled in-game by pressing the menu button twice, but this gives you a weird, ethereal view of your space. I imagine it’s a bit like Daredevil’s “vision”.

Not a hint of sickness

The virtual-reality landscape is already vibrant and rich, and the games are designed in a way that reduces virtual-reality sickness. I didn't experience any nausea while playing on the Vive, which is something I can’t say about the Oculus Rift.

It’s not the technology that’s better; it’s that the games are smarter. For example, Hover Junkers doesn't let you rotate your ship. You move forwards, backwards, left and right, but there’s no turning, and that makes all the difference.

Vanishing Realms lets you move around by “teleporting” you to locations that you point at with your controller. Most games and demos seem to use this mechanic. It’s clever and, while not quite as immersive as walking or running through areas, I’ll take it if it means not feeling sick.

Watch the 10 best games on HTC Vive:

Should I buy the HTC Vive?

If you have the space to dedicate to it and a PC good enough to power it, the Vive is a must-have gadget for every tech head. Those are big ifs, though. I can just about get it to work well in my living room, but guess what? That’s not where I keep my gaming PC.

The cost of the Vive and a compatible PC for your living room will be prohibitive for most, as will dedicating a whole room to it. Still, if you can afford it, nothing else compares.

The HTC Vive’s far more immersive than the Oculus Rift – so much so that you forgive the pixelated screen and irritating software foibles. But if you plan to immerse yourself in a virtual world while sitting down, the Rift makes a lot more sense. It’s not as impressive, but it still offers a fantastic experience, if you can avoid the games that might make you reach for a bucket.

Verdict

If you can afford it and have the room for it, the HTC Vive offers, quite simply, the best virtual-reality experience you can get.

Overall Score

9

Best Deals for HTC Vive

  • amazon
  • ebay

Willem Twijgenbos

April 22, 2016, 12:30 pm

As an owner of a Vive I agree with your findings, although I have not had any of the software problems you mention. Maybe that is because I went all the way and put together a brand new PC with top-notch specs (who can tell) i.e. i7x4, 32GB RAM, M2 SSD, 980TI.

I have not had the pleasure of trying the Rift, although after experiencing what room-scale does: I don't care either. The aspect of walking around combined with high precision tracking of the controllers (hands!) has too much of an impact that Rift simply cannot touch this.

If you are still doubting which one to choose (Vive or Rift) then go for Vive. No hesitation whatsoever. And if you do not have the room for room-scale then get a sledge hammer or sell your furniture on e-bay.

Robbie

April 28, 2016, 7:27 am

Without any experience with the Rift (and not DK1/2) how can you be in a position to recommend one over the other? The ability to walk around (rift can do this too) is so limited on both platforms to be pretty much a gimmick and Oculus has always pushed the Rift as a seated experience. Until both platforms can go wireless, as a tethered experience, it's pretty much unusable on both.

You appear to be totally hung up on the room-scale thing but I think it is too early to see how many take to this. You only have to look at XBOX Kinect, how much take-up is there with that? I've hardly seen any recent Kinect titles. Just look at the forums to see how many have rooms suitable.

Many will be perfectly happy with a seated experience and for flightsims and driving, that is exactly what you need.

Me and my son are working on a Paragliding simulator which will use a 'real' paragliding harness (your own if you already paraglide). In experiences like this, the tether is not a problem and many games are based on sitting in a cockpit.

You are not comparing like for like so your opinion is unreasonably biased and you don't even have any experience with the Rift.

As developers, we already have DK2. We've have tried the Vive and I agree, image quality appears better, especially the periphery but bare in mind, we're comparing with DK2 and the lens is vary basic. Resolution wise, we couldn't really tell the difference and that's not surprising, the Vive is only slightly higher than DK2 and is identical to the 'consumer' Rift. In fact, I think the optics in both are pretty much the same but until I've tried the consumer rift, like you, I'm in no position to comment.

FOV (Field Of View), again, was better in the Vive but once again, I'm comparing to DK2 which I now understand has been improved in the consumer version and is the same as the Vive.

The only things the Vive has over the 'Consumer' Rift is the camera (why not two for stereoscopic?) and the tracking technology which I feel is vastly superior on the Vive and should in practice, be a lot less demanding.

Notice that I'm not pushing the Rift, in fact, I'm still leaning to the Vive despite being an existing Oculus owner.

Do the decent thing, go try the ( consumer) Rift before casting a presumptuous judgement on something you have no experience with. I'll take display quality over gimmicks any day. I wonder how many others share the same opinion over a feature they know they won't be able to use? ;-)

UltimateSupreme

June 14, 2016, 2:18 pm

Yeah a review done by you is not trut worthy sorry to say that.
You need to let people come into your site and let them judge this HTC vive.
Because for me you have been paid to judge it.
This site is untrust worthy.
I saw it and saw some really testing of this product and it came out to be crap.
So if you are gonna give it such high score that means you have beern paid to do so.

comments powered by Disqus