HTC Vive review: HTC now shipping Vive directly and 8 other things you need to know
Thinking about buying a HTC Vive? HTC is now shipping new headsets within days of purchase
The HTC Vive may be wonderful, but it’s not the future of entertainment just yet. You have no idea how much it pained me to write that sentence, but it’s true. While the Vive fulfilled my wishes of whisking me away to a world of new possibilities that I just couldn’t imagine, it’s not the fantastic, future-defining piece of kit everyone wants it to be.
Obviously, when you’re forking over £689, it’s really worth understanding what it is you’re getting for that money. So, while you can read my full, in-depth review on the following pages, here’s a quick summary of everything you need to take into account before taking the plunge on HTC’s virtual-reality device.
1. You can now buy a Vive without waiting
Unlike Oculus Rift, which still has an uncomfortably long waiting list, HTC has now made Vive available to all within just a few days. You can jump on to HTC.com, buy a Vive and have it shipped to you within three days. A very tempting proposition.
HTC also announced that “select” retailers would finally get hold of Vive units from the end of June. While ordering online will always be much easier (the Vive box is massive), it’s good to know that a VR headset will soon be something you can literally buy from the high street. You’ll know VR’s made it big when it starts appearing in Tesco.
After months of promising that Oculus Rift units would arrive at retail in April, none have yet materialised. It’s unclear when HTC’s biggest competitor will venture into that space, but I’m sure Sony is hoping its PlayStation VR will make the biggest splash on the high street when it launches on 13 October.
2. It’s very pretty but doesn’t look as polished as Oculus Rift
Since the initial HTC Vive developer kit, HTC has smoothed out its pock-marked headset into a compact and, reasonably, stylish form. It’s got nothing on the futuristic aesthetics of Sony’s PlayStation VR or the premium fabric-wrapped finish of Oculus Rift, but it certainly won’t look out of place alongside your PC or TV.
It’s also worth noting that, while it may look like it’s made of cheap matte plastic, once you feel it in your hands it’s clearly a premium product. It has that solid yet warm and soft matte feel to it. Perfect for long play sessions holding the controllers.
3. Prepare to fork out for a high-end PC if you don’t already have one
While £689 isn’t actually all that much for an experience as incredibly immersive as Vive, unless you already own a PC capable of running it, things can get very expensive. The PC I used in my review was equipped with a Skylake i7 and two Nvidia GTX 980 SLI together, costing around £1,500. While that was excessively powerful for the Vive’s minimum requirements, it does give you an idea of what you might be paying for a high-end VR capable PC.
4. Decide if you really need the HTC Vive Business Edition
Oooh, look at that hint of blue
Oooh, look at that hint of blue
Recently announced and known generally as the Vive BE, HTC's newest version of the Vive is little more than a rebranded headset with some extra business perks. You don't need to be a business to buy one, but if you'd like a headset complete with snazzy blue trim and a dedicated customer support line and 12-month warranty, the £849 Vive BE is for you.
Available from June, the Vive BE is designed for individuals or small businesses who use Vive for commercial reasons. This isn't the headset you'll be using for viewing spreadsheets and tackling emails, this is the headset you'll use if you want to open up your own VR amusement arcade or take it to events as an experiential thing.
5. You definitely need lots of room – and high ceilings.
While my height is going to skew the need for high ceilings compared to other Vive users, it’s definitely something you need to consider. I can’t count the times I whacked my hand on the ceiling whilst trying to reach for an arrow, shoot an enemy above me, or perform an overly-vigorous serve in Selfie Tennis.
HTC don’t mention the need for high ceilings, but in general Vive can work in a space up to 4 x 4m, and both beacons need to be at least 2m off the ground to track you. If you want space around you for others to watch or walk without getting in the way of the sensors, you’ll need a lot of space.
ALSO READ: The best VR apps and games so far
6. HTC Vive makes people sweat, like, a lot
While you definitely won’t care what people think of you when you’re playing inside VR, you may be more bothered by the red face mark the Vive leaves behind after a few minutes of vigorous play. It’s no big deal, but for some players that also means they’ll sweat a lot, and I mean a lot.
The best way to remedy this is to have the Vive’s other “narrow” face padding handy to switch out to once one pad becomes sodden. Generally the Vive runs pretty cool, and the pads keep the device snug without cutting off airflow to the face. Still, nobody likes putting wet foam on their face.
7. It’s a bitch to set up
While Vive is a breeze to play with, getting it to that point isn’t as simple as you’d hope. Not only do you have to find a room that’s the right size, but you’ll need to have enough plug sockets to get everything running. You’ll need at least a minimum of three sockets to get going (Vive headset and the two beacons) but if you also need to charge controllers quickly, you’ll need five.
If that’s no issue to you, you’ll also need to make sure you have an active internet connection during setup (although one isn’t necessarily needed for play). Once that’s out of the way, the actual guided setup process isn’t too taxing and can be done reasonably quickly. Just make sure to double check calibration as I ran into a couple of issues during setup.
8. VR games are largely throwaway for now
While virtual reality is pretty fantastic, the major issue with it is a severe lack of content. Obviously, I don’t mean to belittle the high-quality games and experiences currently available for VR, but most of these are largely drop-in, drop-out bite-size experiences intended for a few minutes at a time. Elite Dangerous provides a tantalising glimpse towards where we could see fully fledged VR titles going in the future, but for now games seem more like a novelty than an essential experience.
9. Now I’ve used it, I can’t imagine a future without it
Having used the other major headsets on the market, I can safely say that the Vive is, by far, the best one out there right now. Room-scale VR is unparalleled. There’s nothing quite like the experience of being dropped into a virtual space and feeling like you can literally walk around and touch everything inside that space.
Your brain becomes accustomed to this virtual space very quickly and the worry is that, when you remove yourself from it, the weight of actual reality hits you because, for a moment, you were so convinced you were somewhere else.
Still unsure if the Vive is for you? Go read our full review of the HTC Vive on the next page.