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

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.

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