HTC Vive XR Elite Review VR: We got our hands on HTC’s new headset, which aims to take virtual reality to a new level.
HTC is best known for paving the way for modern Android phones at the beginning of the 2010s. These days, it puts most of its efforts into making VR headsets. With the original HTC Vive, the company was one of the big players in high-end VR. Over time, the number of devices in this family has grown.
The HTC Vive XR Elite passes in a new direction. It improves on HTC’s previous mobile solution by getting rid of the wires and making a lightweight headset that can be used in many different ways. We tried it out at CES 2023 to see if HTC’s newest headset will start a new chapter in the history of virtual reality.
HTC Vive XR Elite Review VR
The next-gen headset from HTC offers a versatile design, able to be standalone or connected, with a hot-swappable battery. It’s nice and light, while the front RGB camera offer a great passthrough experience to support its XR skills. It’s expensive, however, so much will depend on the pipeline of content for this headset.
- Lightweight design
- Hot-swappable battery
- Standalone or tethered
- Great controllers
The HTC Vive XR Elite starts with the design of the Vive Flow and changes it to make it work on its own. The old Vive Flow had to be wired to a smartphone and was worn like a pair of glasses. The Vive XR Elite has a similar small goggle shape, but instead of arms like a pair of glasses, it now connects to a battery pack on the back of your head with a pad for the back of your head.
On the rear of the Vive XR Elite is a dial that lets you change the tension. There is also a strap that goes over your head and is about at the same level as your ears. The Vive XR Elite is surprisingly stable for how light it is, and it was comfortable to wear.
A big part of this is the pad at the front, which is a baffle that blocks light around your eyes and feels good against your face. This baffle can be taken out of the way, so it’s easy to change, clean, or take out for any other reason.
But the Vive XR Eilte is modular, so you can take the battery out and swap the arms to make it more like the Vive Flow. We didn’t get to test this part of the device, though. The battery can also be changed while the device is running, giving it a lot of options.
The HTC Vive XR Elite uses the same controllers as the Vive Focus 3. This lets you move and control things in a wide range of ways, and the headset can also track your movements.
The Tech Specs
Inside the Vive XR Elite, there are adjusters that let you make changes to fit your eyes and get the lenses for the display to focus on the right spot. That should mean that people who wear glasses don’t have to worry about special lenses, but you should check the Vive XR Elite’s features to see if the dioptre adjustment will work for you.
There are two screens, each with 1920 x 1920 pixels and a refresh rate of 90 Hz to try to keep things smooth. The field of view is up to 110 degrees.
The headset is run by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2, which is also used by the Meta Quest 2 and the Pico 4. You can use it on its own or connect it to a PC to get more content. We only tested it as a stand-alone device that played content from its own storage.
There is 128GB of storage and 12GB of RAM, but we didn’t have enough time with the device during our first hands-on time to see how well the interface and day-to-day use work together.
The internal sensors give you 6 DoF (degrees of freedom), and the external cameras give you full-color passthrough vision so you can see the real world around you and power those mixed reality or extended reality experiences (hence the XR in the name).
The headset also has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for connecting to other devices. It also has speakers built in, but we didn’t have much time to test the sound.
HTC Vive XR Elite Review VR performance and battery life
In the short time we had with the Vive XR Elite at CES 2023, we tried it out in a variety of ways to cover a wide range of its features. First, the battery life is said to be 2 hours, but we didn’t have a chance to test it. However, it’s hot-swappable, so you could extend your sessions or, more likely, not have to worry about always fully charging before you start.
The first thing we did was an experiment with mixed reality. This shows you the real world in full color using the RGB cameras on the front of the headset. This isn’t as common as you might think, since most headsets can only pass through black and white. With XR or MR in mind, however, what you see in this mode is much more accurate.
Even though the demo was great—we painted on a virtual easel in a pretty standard XR demo, then switched to making 3D things until we gave up on painting and made a virtual hellscape instead—it was something else that showed how good the passthrough experience is.
The HTC rep offered to take pictures of us while we wore the headset. We could pick up the camera, change all the settings, check those settings on the display on the back, and give instructions all without taking off the headset. So much care had been taken.
HTC was impressed enough by the XR experience to want to show off Viverse, especially some of the shared spaces that could one day replace your office. Even though real things are made in a virtual world, this kind of experience still makes me feel a little cheated. Even though the view from the window was nice, we still think it’s a strange idea.
But we opened a lot of files to look at live data, as if on three huge screens, and the clarity was great. We had no trouble reading the information, which suggests that this kind of content wouldn’t be a problem in a virtual working environment.
The last thing we did was play Hubris, which is a VR game that you can get on Steam, PSVR, and Oculus/Meta Quest. This was a better example of the type of game environment and controls that could be used. Hubris has great graphics, and you can swim and climb using the controllers, but you also have a lot of freedom in how you move around the world.
HTC Vive XR Elite Review VR: First impressions
We like how light the HTC Vive XR Elite hardware is and how many different buttons it has. This headset looks like it can be used in a lot of different ways. As with all of these kinds of devices, a lot will depend on what you can do with them beyond just playing games.
It’s great to wear a headset that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to eat your head, and the passthrough experience from the RGB cameras on the front is really impressive. But $1099, £1299, or €1399 is a lot of money to ask for this headset. At that price, the HTC Vive XR Elite will really need to deliver on the content pipeline to be appealing to consumers.
Is HTC Vive better than Oculus?
Even though the HTC VIVE Pro costs a bit more than the Oculus Quest 2, it has a much higher resolution and works better because of it. You also get a longer battery life, which is nice, but this doesn’t mean that every user will have a better time.
Does Vive have inside-out tracking?
Faceplate in Motion
With six camera sensors, you can move in more ways. With a wide field of view (FOV) and six degrees of freedom (6DoF), you can get accurate tracking from the inside out.
Do VIVE Trackers need Bluetooth?
The VIVE Tracker was designed and made by Vive, but the core tracking technology comes from SteamVR (Valve). The trackers have their own Bluetooth connection, which only works when SteamVR is running.