The Vive Pro 2 is HTC’s latest PCVR headset that is aimed at enterprise customers and VR enthusiasts alike. It promises a wider 120° FOV and high-end VR experience thanks to its upgraded resolution of 2.5k * 2.5k pixels per eye and a higher 120hz refresh rate. Now does HTC keep those promises and is the device worth the 799$ asking price for the headset only?
The answer will depend on many factors, one being from which headset you want to upgrade from and what is important for you in a headset.
The Vive Pro 2 is a solid update as far as visuals are concerned but other than that plays it safe and does not stray away too much from the original Vive Pro formula. For some parts that’s good, for others it is quite hard to understand in a competitive environment that pits it against innovative headsets like the Valve Index or the Reverb G2.
Build-quality & Comfort
Let’s start with the basics. HTC has not made any design-changes. From outside you could not tell the Pro 1 and 2 apart if it was not for some slight color changes. That was probably the most economic way to bring the device to market, but that also does not help to make the device more exciting from a consumer’s standpoint.
However, the Pro 2 is just as sturdy and well built as its predecessor and it has just as many options to adjust it to the individual user. We have manual IPD adjustment with a range from 57mm to 70.5mm and there is eye relief so glasses wearers can make more room to wear their glasses within the headset.
The headstrap allows users to quickly adjust size with an adjustment knob and I personally prefer this over velcro solutions like the one of the Reverb G2 any day.
For the headphones HTC actually did make a change. They are still on-ear but at least the part that touches the user’s ears has been updated and feels better, especially for longer play sessions. This has to compete against the now industry Gold Standard of the floating Valve Index headphones though and we will get to that discussion when we talk about audio in this review.
Overall, the build quality is great. I especially want to point out the cable management here. It is well thought through and the cable is being led from the headset itself to the back of the headstrap in the most unobstructive and elegant way.
Talking about the cable, the Pro 2 is also compatible with the Vive Wireless module, so if you prefer wireless gameplay that is possible as well at an added expense of $349 and I will review the wireless performance in a separate review.
Since design-wise nothing has changed, the Pro 2 is also compatible with the HTC Vive Facial tracker which should be good news for anyone that is interested to use it for social VR experiences.
Comfort of the Pro 2 is great. Thanks to the excellent headstrap the device sits on your head in a balanced way. There is no front heaviness and cushions are as soft and accommodating as ever. Wearing the Pro 2 feels like putting your head into a comfy sofa. People coming from headsets that do not offer such lavish cushioning might have to get used to that kind of comfort first.
But now let’s get to the upgrades! Virtual Reality is all about immersion and the visuals play a major role in that. HTC has massively upgraded the Pro 2 in this department. The Pro 2 now features two LCD panels with a resolution of 2.5k by 2.5k pixels per eye that boast a refresh rate of 120hz. And boy do these panels look great!
As was to be expected, the screen door effect is now truly a thing of the past and there are no ugly pixel gaps left that would remind us of looking at a screen instead of just feeling immersed. The pixel density per degree that headsets like the Pro 2 or Reverb G2 offer seems to be the sweetspot for making that happen. Virtual worlds simply look fantastic within the Pro 2 and the resolution allows for sharpness and clarity that so far only the Reverb G2 could offer. VR veterans coming from all other major headset companies will without a doubt perceive this bump in the visual department and will adopt it as the new standard quickly.
The panels don’t just offer a high resolution, they also offer vibrant colors and high contrast. This is in fact the best LCD panel in terms of color reproduction that I have seen in a VR headset yet. The only panel that comes close in terms of colors for an LCD panel is that one of the Reverb G2, but if I had to chose the better one, I’d still give it to the Pro 2 because colors simply have a bit more intensity and contrast is a bit higher which makes for really dark blacks. It is still not an OLED panel, but LCD has actually made quite some improvements as far as contrast is concerned. If you are coming from the Valve Index, you will without a doubt directly be able to tell that the colors of this panel are superior, same goes for users that come from the Pimax headsets that sport an LCD panel.
Field of View! Oh yes, we always wanted more and now we have finally been heard! Does the Vive Pro 2 really deliver an FOV of 120° horizontally that is wider than that of the Valve Index? Yes it does!
But without a doubt I foresee quite a bit of controversy here because HTC chose an unfamiliar FOV ratio. So far in VR headsets the horizontal FOV kind of matched the vertical one. We looked into virtual worlds through oval windows, perhaps comparable to a 4:3 TV set. Now HTC expects us to learn a new trick and adapt to more of a wider 16:9 like ratio, because the vertical FOV is visibly smaller than the horizontal one. Also, the window into VR is now more squarish than oval and that does take getting used to.
So how large is that FOV then?
Using Risa2000’s hmdq tool we can find out the FOV that is actually rendered for the device, so that is the de facto maximum that you could see in the very best case. For the Pro 2 that is 117.25 deg horizontally and 96.54 deg vertically. For comparison, here are the values for Index and Reverb G2:
Pro 2: 117.25 deg (h) – 96.54 deg (v)
Reverb G2: 98.85 deg (h) – 90.85 deg (v)
Valve Index: 108.06 deg (h) – 109.16 deg (v)
How many degrees of FOV are being rendered and how many you actually see within the headset will also depend on how well optimized the device is and on your individual anatomy. I have a very standard IPD of 64mm and when I actually look through the device and measure how much I see using the TestHMD tools, I get to 114 deg (h) and 90 deg (v), using the standard facepad that comes with the device. That is better than the 108 deg (h) I see in the Index horizontally, but worse than the 100 deg (v) I see vertically there.
My very first reaction when I looked through the Pro 2 was: I am getting less FOV! I could not appreciate the wider horizontal FOV at all. Actually I had the feeling I would even see less. It honestly speaking felt weird for me to see that unfamiliar FOV ratio. It felt like looking at a 4:3 screen all my life and then looking at a 16:9 screen for the first time. My knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss the device and I am pretty sure we will see that initial knee-jerk reaction play out to its fullest hyperbole potential on YouTube as soon as the device drops! (“OMG, I AM LOOKING THROUGH A MAILBOX SLOT!!! SMALLEST FOV EVER!!!”).
However, I did give the device a chance to grow on me and that was a very good decision. On the second day, it did not feel weird to me at all anymore and I could appreciate that in fact I can see more of the virtual worlds than before. It is still unfortunate that we do not see that FOV increase vertically as well so we would not have to get used to this new kind of ratio.
My concerns about the FOV ratio completely faded though when I found out that there is plenty of room to increase the visible FOV by getting my eyes closer to the displays. The facial padding that comes with the device is kind of thick and therefore I simply replaced it with a thinner VR Cover and then I had the experience I was hoping for! I could finally enjoy the wider FOV to its fullest extent. With that thinner facepad I then measured an FOV of 116 deg (h) – 96 deg (v) and that did make a huge difference. So, FrankenFOV away, dear modders! For my modding, I used the Cool XG Foam form VR Cover. It is actually for Quest 2 but fits well and is really slim for much FOV. (US-Link, EU-Link, INT-Link)
You will even get better results here than modding the Reverb G2 using thinner facepads. So after modding, you get a visual experience that plays in Reverb G2 territory with a wider FOV than the Valve Index, and that is quite a proposition for all the people that care about visuals more than anything else in VR.
After having used the same lenses for years now HTC finally introduces new ones for the Pro 2. We are now looking through a double stacked pair of lenses, a technology that we know from the Valve Index. Just as with its direct competitor, this lens design allows for a wider field of view.
Unfortunately though Fresnel lenses with their typical concentric rings are being used once again. And as we know, those are prone to god rays. For non double stacked lens designs like those of the Reverb G2 or the Oculus headsets, glare has already been reduced to a degree that it is not a big issue anymore. For the double stacked design of the Valve Index though, we had huge problems with glare. Unfortunately, the Pro 2 also is plagued with similar problems. The glare is not as pronounced as in the Valve Index, but it is still a problem nonetheless. If the godray problem of the Valve Index put you off, you won’t feel differently here.
In standard playing sessions, you will likely not be bothered by it, just as it is the case with the Valve Index. In high contrast scenes you will see glare though, like white text on a black background. In these situations the glare will take away from the beautiful clarity of the panels and that is also the reason why in direct a/b comparisons with the Reverb G2 I often prefered the picture quality of the latter, simply because there is less lens glare. So if you are used to the Reverb G2, you will see more lens glare, if you are used to the Valve Index, you will see a little less, but in general you know what to expect.
Also in terms of sweetspot we unfortunately do not see any improvements. In order to get to the position that will grant you the sharpest picture quality over the complete panel, you will need to adjust the headset for quite a bit. If you are coming from headsets with better sweetspots like the Oculus ones, you will find that you probably need a bit longer to find that ideal position.
However, in direct comparison to the Valve Index, I do not see any disadvantages here since also with that headset you will need some time to find the perfect adjustment.
Once you are in that sweetspot though, you will get a clear picture.
Also the edge-to-edge clarity is on par with the Index. Like with all Fresnel lenses there is a certain amount of clarity degradation the further you get to the peripheral areas though and to get a completely perfect picture quality we simply need to go away from Fresnel lenses and reintroduce the clear aspheric lenses back to VR! The first company to do that for the consumer market will without any doubts not only get lots of goodwill but also the dollars of many happy customers.
So overall, the Pro 2 is a very solid visual upgrade that scores with its fantastic high resolution panels that offer best in class colors in that display category. The wider FOV is a nice add-on that especially shines when you are able to get your eyes as close as possible to the lenses. The viewing pleasure is only clouded by glare in high contrast scenes caused by lenses that do not improve on the Valve Index double-stacked lens formula.
The Valve Index has introduced a stellar audio solution with its floating headphone design that is now the de facto Gold standard. And any headset that plays in the high-end enthusiast market must compete with that standard.
The Pro 2 offers standard on-ear headphones that have been improved in terms of their design. They look better and more importantly feel better on your ears now also for longer playing sessions.
I have already gotten used to not having headphones touch my ears and I personally do prefer the Index solution. However, I can also appreciate the notion that some people want to be shut off completely from the real world. For these people on-ear headphones that block noise coming from the outside are preferable and the Pro 2 offers such a solution.
The audio quality itself will be good enough for the majority of consumers. I could tell that the Valve Index headphones offer a better audio quality, especially in the bass department, but the Pro 2 headphones also did not put me off. Audiophiles will without a doubt prefer the Valve Index solution though.
The headphones are an acceptable audio solution but HTC shows no ambition here to actually compete with the best solution that is on the market now.
Oh.My.God. It is hard to express how disappointing it is to see that HTC again did not manage to improve the microphone quality. In every single one of my previous Vive headset reviews I have pointed out that the microphone is just utter garbage. It was already quite unbelievable for me that the company did not improve the microphone from Original Vive to Vive Pro, but missing that upgrade again here is quite honestly inexplicable. The problem is not so much the audio quality itself, but the missing pop filter. Any “p” sound will result in loud and ugly pop noises that will easily identify you as a Vive customer in social VR situations. That is especially bad for enterprise customers that want to use the headset for Virtual meetings and quite frankly at this point simply embarrassing for HTC.
I have tried to improve the pop noise problem by attaching windfilters for camera microhphones and the results are actually pretty good. Those will cost not more than a dollar and will allow you to interact with other people in VR without giving away that you are using a Vive headset.
This is a really simple mod and the results are pretty good! You can buy those little self-adhesive pop filters here. This is the result:
I have reached out to HTC about the microphone issue and I was told they will try to improve the situation on the software side. That is the same answer I got when I reviewed the orignal Vive Pro so I am not hopeful here. HTC must pro-actively find a solution for this problem. I suggest at least putting a free pop filter in the box, as embarrassing as it might be.
The Vive Pro 2 does not come with any new controllers. If you go for the full package at $1399, you will receive a pair of base stations needed for tracking and the Vive Wand controllers.
The Wand controllers have been around since the very first Vive came out and I will not review them here again. For business customers they should do the trick but gaming enthusiasts will without a doubt use the Valve Index controllers instead which are fully compatible.
I was at first disappointed when I learned that we would not get any new controllers with the Pro 2 but considering the fact that this is most likely only interesting for enthusiasts anyways who upgrade from an existing lighthouse compatible headset, it is understandable. HTC told me a new controller offering for gamers would unlikely add any value to the existing eco-system.
That being the case I would have hoped for HTC to work together with Valve to offer the Pro 2 in a bundle with those Valve Index controllers for customers who are new to exactly this eco-system.
With all those pixels that need to be rendered, you rightfully ask yourself now: can you actually run this beast? The answer is YES, you can! At least that is what I deduct from my tests conducted on my RTX3080 system (no surprises here) but also on my weaker GTX1080ti machine. In both cases the Pro 2 ran very well and actually better than my Reverb G2.
On my RTX3080 the Vive software allowed me to choose from 5 settings:
Performance (2448*1224, 120hz)
Balanced (3264*1632, 90hz)
High (3672*1836, 90hz)
Ultra (4896*2448, 90hz)
Extreme (4896*2448, 120hz)
For my tests I chose the Extreme setting since I wanted to max out the Pro 2. I was pleasantly surprised by how well all my games were running at this maximum fidelity. I could play Half-Life: Alyx at its highest graphic settings at a constant 120 fps and it simply looked stunning.
We know that Half-Life Alyx is a very well optimized game that runs well on lots of machines so therefore I also tested more demanding titles such as Xplane 11 or Project Cars 2. For both games I managed to achieve a very respectable 60 fps, a feat that I could not pull off with my Reverb G2 at full visual fidelity on that same system.
In order to allow for better comparisons with other headsets, I ran the OpenVR Benchmark tool. For all readers who are not familiar with that benchmark: it is freely available on SteamVR and will render a very demanding scene that is designed to put the GPUs and the headsets connected to them to the test.
For the Vive Pro 2 I achieved a very respectable 33.6 fps on the RTX 3080. Compared to the 28fps that the Reverb G2 scored on the same system, you can tell that the Pro 2 performs quite a bit better than the Reverb G2. How is that possible? The Reverb G2 renders quite a higher resolution at 100% SS for its frame buffer and therefore is not quite as performant as the Pro 2. If you own an RTX 3080 you could run the OpenVR benchmark tool with your current VR headset and compare your results with the ones achieved with the Vive Pro 2.
On my GTX1080ti system, I could not choose the Ultra and Extreme option, so I went for the “High” setting. Of course I also ran Half-Life: Alxy here. Even at that lower resolution I saw a nice bump in visual fidelity over the Valve Index. The high fill-factor simply makes the difference and will eliminate any screen door effect, no matter if you run it at very high resolutions or not.
I was pleasantly surprised that I could run Half-Life: Alyx at a constant 90 fps on that older machine, with visuals that were absolutely gorgeous, still.
To be able to test the performance more generally, I also ran the OpenVR benchmark here. On that 1080ti machine the tool was able to render an average of 38.49 fps which was even a better result than I could get on the 3080 machine, at a lower resolution of course though.
If my results could be replicated on similar setups it would mean that the Pro 2 is an exciting upgrade proposition for enterprise customers and VR enthusiasts that want to enjoy wider FOVs and visuals without screen door effect using their existing setups, without the need to get faster GPUs. And that is truly a great proposition, especially in times like these, when it is hard to get by a new GPU.
The Vive Pro 2 is a solid upgrade in terms of visuals and FOV that many customers will enjoy. You can expect Reverb G2 level visuals on a wider than Valve Index FOV.
HTC played it a bit too safe here though to call the Pro 2 an “exciting” or “must-have” update: we didn’t get a facelift for the design (bearable), but more importantly HTC did not have the ambition to also compete for the best audio solution and they completely dropped the ball on the microphone (again).
For VR enthusiasts that are willing to mod that microphone though by adding a $1 pop filter and that do not insist on the floating Valve Index headphones, the Vive Pro 2 is a solid upgrade that will not force them to upgrade their existing GPUs. But once the high-end GPUs will be more broadly available, the headset will give you these “Ultra” and “Extreme” graphic settings to really show you what it can do.
In order to help you make a more informed purchasing decision, I will give you my advice based on the headset that you currently own.
If you own a Valve Index and are happy with it, I am not going to tell you that your Index is not good enough anymore. The Index is a hell of a headset and the panel still looks good enough, if you are not already used to higher resolution screens like that of the Reverb G2. It has a microphone that is so much better and an audio solution that still is unmatched. If you deeply care about that microphone and the floating headphones, sit this one out.
However, if you ever so enviously looked over at the Reverb G2 crowd and also wished to enjoy these incredibly sharp high-resolution panels with even better colors, you can now have that together with the tracking solution that you love and an even wider FOV. I myself am in exactly that category. I really enjoyed the Index, but the Reverb G2 has spoiled it for me in terms of visuals. I am therefore glad that we now have a lighthouse version with an even bigger FOV, therefore I will personally keep my pre-order for the Pro 2. I already bought a pack of 10 glue-on pop filters, so I will be alright with that microphone.
If you own a Reverb G2 though the situation is a bit different. You are already used to that high-end visual experience in VR and you even have better lenses with less glare. Moreover, if you do not own Lighthouse base stations and controllers, this upgrade would cost you $1400 for sure and that is quite a sum. If you cannot stand Reverb G2 controllers and look for better tracking and a wider FOV then that is the price you have to pay though. But perhaps you still have base stations and controllers lying around?
For owners of a Vive or a Vive Pro the Vive Pro 2 is a really good and even recommended update. Without the need to update your GPU you will get a much better visual fidelity and a wider FOV. For Vive Pro users who are used to their device running hot, you will now get a headset that is not plagued by this problem. However, you will feel the change from Oled to LCD, even though this is a really good LCD panel. But still, the blacks of OLED headsets are still unmatched by any LCD panel up to date.
If you own any of the Pimax headsets for their huge FOV then for the first time since the Valve Index, you might actually want to explore this new option though. Especially when modded, the Pro 2 can give you an FOV that will get into the FOV territory that you enjoy most, completely without any distortions.
In terms of visual quality the Pro 2 trumps all the Pimax offerings. The only Pimax headset that can compete in terms of pixel per degree is the 8 KX, however the colors are way better on the Pro 2 panel and you get that with 120hz.
If you own a Quest or Quest 2, and you want to get into the high-end PCVR market, you might consider picking this one up. You will get way better visuals, colors and FOV, however the expenditure is most probably too high, and you could rather just go for a G2 or an Index instead. Probably just keep that Quest 2 though and wait for the Quest 2 Pro.
Overall, the Vive Pro 2 is a solid update. Not an exciting one, but solid nevertheless and it will help us to bridge the time until we enthusiasts get that OLED, high-def beast that uses aspherical, no-glare lenses, that we are all dreaming of.
Sebastian Ang, 28th of May, 2021