With the arrival of other high-end VR headsets, the new HTC Vive XR Elite aims to challenge Meta’s Quest Pro as one of the best standalone VR headsets.
Let’s dive into the details of these two all-in-one solutions that can also be connected to PCVR gaming PCs.
Display resolution and clarity
One of the most important details in the design of a VR headset is the display quality. An immersive experience depends on vivid colors and sharp details delivered quickly enough to minimize motion sickness in VR.
The HTC Vive XR Elite uses thin pancake lenses like the Meta Quest Pro. This widens the sweet spot and provides much more edge clarity compared to the typical Fresnel lenses of older VR headsets. The Vive XR Elite also boasts a slightly higher resolution, at 1920 x 1920 pixels per eye, while the Quest Pro is at 1800 x 1920. That’s only a 6% difference and may not be noticeable. Similarly, the Vive XR Elite has a slightly wider field of view – 110 degrees versus the Quest Pro’s 106 degrees. Both headphones also have a 90Hz refresh rate.
The Quest Pro’s mini-LED backlighting provides 500 dimming zones to increase dynamic range, while the Vive XR Elite uses standard backlighting. The downside of mini-LED backlighting is the inevitable blooming in high-contrast scenes with fine details. In most cases, a larger dynamic range is preferable.
HTC has given the Vive XR Elite a unique display feature that you might like if you’re nearsighted. There are dioptric corrections for each eye in front of each lens. When turning the dials, a correction of up to 6 diopters is possible. This will make the glasses unnecessary for many users who would otherwise want them in a headset.
Wearing glasses can be difficult with the Vive XR Elite if you’re out of range for one eye, as the fit is tight enough that there’s no room for glasses with the headset. The Quest Pro is a larger headset with plenty of space for glasses.
HTC and Meta each have large app libraries. But there’s no doubt that Meta’s Quest app store has more top-notch games and apps than HTC’s Viveport. The Vive XR Elite fills that PCVR capability gap, while that’s just a bonus for Quest Pro owners.
HTC uses the venerable Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor, which has served as a standalone solution for almost every VR headset since 2020. Meta has added a bit more power to the Quest Pro with the upgraded Snapdragon XR2+, which Meta claims has 50% more performance. than XR2 in Quest 2.
Given the Quest 2’s significant limitation, it’s unclear whether the Quest Pro will be noticeably faster than the Vive XR Elite.
The HTC Vive XR Elite has inside-out tracking for the headset that’s similar to Meta’s Quest Pro. This means that there is no need to track base stations. However, the Meta takes the lead with its advanced Touch Pro controllers, which are also self-tracking.
HTC uses controllers that have tracking rings that the headset identifies. This works fine in most cases, but fails when your hands are out of sight or when one controller is blocked by another.
Use of PCVR
Both the Vive XR Elite and Quest Pro have the option of connecting to a desktop or laptop and can handle more demanding tasks than the built-in low-power processors can handle. Both HTC and Meta support USB-C and Wi-Fi 6E for fast PC connection.
Since HTC has been making Vive headsets for PCVR for many years, it should be relatively easy to connect to a Windows PC and play SteamVR games or draw from HTC’s PC games in the VivePort. Meta’s Quest Pro can be connected to a Windows PC and is one of the few VR headsets that is also Mac compatible. Meta creates a remote desktop app that can be used to view three virtual Mac displays in its Horizon Workrooms productivity app.
With a nice display, good connectivity, and a PC with a fast GPU, VR gaming will look great on the Vive XR Elite and Quest Pro. It’s hard to go wrong with either VR headset here.
Eye and face tracking
This is a feature that can be critical depending on how you intend to use the VR headset. For online encounters, bringing your virtual self to life through avatar animation with natural eye and facial movements is a game-changing experience.
Meta includes eye and face tracking in its Meta Quest Pro, but HTC will sell it as a separate module for the Vive XR Elite in the future. For most VR gaming, browsing, content viewing, and VR solo work, this feature is of little value at this point. In the future, eye tracking could be used as a quick way to select windows, buttons and direct movement.
Our first impressions were that the HTC Vive XR Elite has severe distortion in the mixed reality display, specifically around the hands. This may be fixed by the final launch, but it was present in early demos during CES 2023.
Quest Pro also combines multiple camera views to create its walkthrough in mixed reality, but the error in the area between the eyes is minimal.
On the other hand, the pass-through resolution of the Vive XR Elite is larger, addressing a common complaint among Quest Pro users. Meta didn’t share the resolution of its walk-through MR camera, but HTC’s 16MP appears to be better, at least in the bright light of its CES booth.
Meta allows you to map your environment, and HTC has a built-in depth sensor that automatically collects this data. In both cases, you’ll be alerted to physical obstacles so you don’t have to see them through the pass-through camera when you’re in VR. While mixed reality will grow in importance over the next few years, the need for this capability in a VR headset is currently limited.
The most compelling mixed reality experiences will come with AR glasses planned for 2023, 2024 and beyond. However, it is nice to see friends, family and co-workers reach out to you. There are also some interesting VR games and apps that make good use of mixed reality, such as Demeowhich puts a virtual board game on your real table.
Which should you buy?
The HTC Vive XR Elite is quite similar to Meta’s Quest Pro in many ways. Even though it costs $400 less, the Vive XR Elite lacks many of the Quest Pro’s advanced tracking features, and HTC’s selection of standalone apps isn’t as extensive as the Meta.
The HTC Vive XR Elite should arrive within the next two months. After using it briefly at CES, we found it to be an interesting VR headset that challenges the Meta Quest Pro in some ways. It’s lighter by just 625 grams (compared to the 772 gram Quest Pro) and has hot-swappable batteries to alleviate any battery life issues. The Vive XR Elite’s glasses mode is an interesting way to reduce the weight of the headset when used for productivity, reducing the weight of the headset to just 273 grams. This is by far the most unique feature of the XR Elite.
We’ll need more time with HTC’s latest VR headsets before making a definitive recommendation. For now, the HTC Vive XR Elite looks like a welcome alternative to the competitively priced Quest Pro.
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