At the time of this review the HTC Vive is now more than 2 years old. It is one of the original first VR consumer headsets and until this point in time it has a strong fan base of users who love the device. What’s the reason for that and is the original Vive still worth to buy in 2018 even though the Vive Pro is already on the market? Let’s find out!
Let’s start with the display and the lenses. Just like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive has a resolution of 1080 * 1200 per eye and therefore cannot quite compete with the likes of Samsung Odyssey or Vive Pro, which both sport a resolution of 1400 * 1600 per eye. The difference is indeed visible and once your eyes got used to the higher resolution displays it is not easy to go back. But would I say that the resolution is unbearable in summer of 2018? I would not say so at all. It’s like buying a Full HD TV even though there are 4k TVs on the market. If you are not used to 4k TVs yet, there is no harm in getting a great Full HD TV set. The same is true here. As a first headset, I don’t think the resolution would be a big problem. If you come from the Oculus Go though and are used to its higher resolution, you might need to adjust your expectations. The Vive’s display does not look as good as the Oculus Go one. The same is true for the lenses. It’s a first generation device which was plagued by quite a bit of god rays. It is not as bad as the god rays of Oculus Rift but it is still very visible in high contrast scenes. What the FOV, the Field Of View is concerned, the HTC Vive offers 110° and that is now the industry standard for VR headsets. In direct comparison with the Oculus Rift, which also claims to have a 110° FOV it seems though that the Vive’s FOV actually is even a bit better.
Now let’s talk about the big advantage of the HTC Vive as compared to most other headsets on the market: the Tracking. The Vive uses Steam’s lighthouse system and why not get straight to the point: it is simply the best tracking available on the market right now. It is fantastic and a joy to use. The controllers are being tracked in absolute perfection and the same is true for the headset. The system is even expendable with accessories like the Vive trackers that will allow you to track other things in VR, like table tennis rackets, VR riffles etc. It is just the tracking method of choice for VR enthusiasts that want the best tracking available.
Is the Vive tracking better than the Oculus Rift tracking? I can answer this question with a resounding YES! First of all, you only need 2 base stations for perfect 360° tracking. For the Oculus Rift, you will need 3 base stations to make 360° tracking work perfect. Another big difference is that you do not need to connect the base stations to your computer as opposed to the Oculus Rift ones that will take up 3 USB ports. Simply connect the 2 Vive base stations to a power outlet and that’s it. It is so much more convenient. The setup process itself is simple too. Where I had to spend quite some time to position the Rift base stations, for the Vive base stations it worked in the first try. Also the area that can be tracked is bigger than what the Oculus solution offers. There is simply no arguing here that the Vive tracking is far superior.
Unfortunately the superiority ends when looking at the controllers. Even though the Vive Wands are perfectly tracked, they still can’t quite compete with most of the other VR controllers as what comfort is concerned. They are quite clunky and as opposed to the Oculus Rift Touch controllers, you won’t forget that you are holding them in your hand. Also you won’t find any thumbsticks here. The Vive Wands are touchpad only. I would not say that the controllers are bad, and in some instances, like when you are holding something substantial in VR as well, like a gun or a sword, actually their weight feels kind of right. But when it comes to hand presence in VR, you should definitely look elsewhere. However, there is hope, because the upcoming Valve Knuckles controllers will be compatible with the Vive and therefore will make for a great replacement of the Wand controllers.
Another accessory that actually is a must buy for the original HTC Vive is the Deluxe Audio Strap. It’s a $100 purchase that makes the headset much more comfortable and adds the much needed headphones that are not included in the original package. While the original Vive headstrap is not uncomfortable, it is still a bit too front-heavy for my personal taste and the Deluxe Audio Strap is the remedy here. It makes the Vive one of the most comfortable headsets in my opinion and is well worth the money.
Talking about the money let’s have a look at the price of the Vive in 2018. After the Vive Pro came out earlier this year the Original Vive got a $100 price cut. You can now get it for $499 including the controllers and the base stations. That is still quite a bit more expensive than the $399 Oculus Rift, but you must keep in mind that you won’t need to buy another base station. Also, another advantage over the Oculus Rift is that you have a clear upgrade path. If you want a better resolution you can simply get the Vive Pro headset without having to buy new base stations or controllers. The same is true for the upcoming Pimax 8k headset which is also compatible with the lighthouse tracking system and the controllers.
One thing to be aware of though is the less than stellar customer service. If you follow my channel you know that I had quite some problems after my Vive broke. My advice is to keep on fighting for your rights as a customer even though HTC might first want to charge you for all kind of repairs even though your Vive is still under warranty. The customer service is definitely something that HTC has to improve a lot if they want to stay competitive.