HTC has announced the details on its new Vive Pro 2, a headset that seems destined to improve everything about your virtual reality experience with their hardware except the price you pay for it. The new Vive Pro 2 will offer a 5K resolution, with 2448×2448 pixels per eye (4896×2448 combined). I’m not sure how 2448×2448 winds up being called 5K, especially since it’s actually 6MP. But it’s a substantial upgrade in resolution over the original Vive and the later Vive Pro.
The FOV on the new Vive Pro 2 is supposed to be larger (120 degrees, up from 110) and the panel supports up to 120Hz refresh rates, instead of the 90Hz found on the Vive and Vive Pro. The display is an LCD instead of an OLED and HTC is promising that the screen door effect found on early headsets is now virtually invisible. The Vive Pro 2 also supports Display Stream Compression, a visually lossless signal compression method that allows for higher resolution support on comparatively narrow amounts of bandwidth.
Products created for the HTC Vive, like the Vive Wireless Adapter, will continue to work with the HTC Vive Pro 2. The Vive Pro 2 is also compatible with the Vive Facial Tracker and existing SteamVR accessories like the BaseStation 1.0 and 2.0 and controllers like Valve’s Index controller. If you’re plugged into both ecosystems, there’s some agreeable overlap.
These are good, solid, evolutionary improvements, albeit delivered at a very high price. The headset-only version of the Vive Pro 2 is $799 ($749 if preordered). At launch, the original Vive Pro (headset only) was $799, the Vive Pro + 2x BaseStation 1.0 x2 was $1,099, and the Vive Pro + Base Station 2.0 x2 was $1,399. HTC appears to be duplicating at least part of this price stack, with the Vive Pro 2 slotting in at $799 and the full kit costing $1,399.
It’s nice to see HTC offering higher specs, but $1,399 is exactly the wrong price point for any product that hopes to make it into the mass market one day. If you care about PC gaming and VR right now, you have a mix of bad options. You can buy an Oculus Quest 2 and accept Facebook’s data collection as a mandatory requirement or you can pay $1,000+. When the Oculus Quest and Vive Pro debuted, they were $599 and $799 for entire product kits.
There appears to be no one working to bring cheaper, higher-quality PC VR to market. Facebook’s integration on Oculus has killed that product family, as far as I’m personally concerned. Then, you’ve got the Valve Index at $1,000, and in the future, the HTC Vive Pro 2 at $1,400. Against the Index, the Vive Pro 2 compares well, with higher resolution displays compared to what Valve is offering.
But back in 2016, people were looking forward to the day when $400 to $600 products would feature the same resolution that HTC now sells for $799, sans additional necessary hardware. I don’t doubt that the HTC Vive Pro 2 will be a superior piece of kit to what HTC launched with the Vive back in 2016. It’s just unfortunate that these increases in quality have arrived at these prices. It speaks to what the company’s priorities actually are.
PC-based VR will never catch on so long as the hardware to drive an acceptable experience is $600 or more. If you aren’t willing to use Facebook hardware, we’re farther away from affordable PC VR today than we were five years ago. Hopefully, the PlayStation’s PSVR 2 will be something special. HTC is focusing on enterprise customers with the Vive Pro 2, not gamers. That’s HTC’s right, of course, but it’s a shame to see the company that took a strong position as an Oculus competitor in 2016 clearly throwing the towel in on the idea of affordable tethered PC gaming VR in 2021.
HTC executives have made it clear that the company isn’t interested in “downstream” opportunities, meaning, it wants to make bank on selling hardware, not sales revenue from stores or subscriptions.
- PCMag: The Best VR Headsets for 2021
- Will Microsoft Mesh Replace Video Calls?
- Sony Will Ship New VR Hardware for PS5, but Not in 2021