HTC Vive review: Virtual-reality headset is now £100 cheaper

£689
Price when reviewed

Having grown up on a diet of Star TrekThe Matrix and sci-fi anime, the idea of exploring virtual worlds has always appealed to me. But I never thought I’d see, let alone get to use, technology capable of transporting me to other places like the HTC Vive can.

Removing yourself from the virtual worlds beyond the HTC Vive’s lenses is like tearing a plaster off. It’s not so much you don’t want to return to the real world, but that it’s unnerving how realistic a virtual one can feel – even one that looks so far from reality it’s unbelievable.

The HTC Vive may not be the product that takes VR mass market – the high price will see to that – but it is the start of something truly beautiful.

HTC Vive review: Design

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The HTC Vive has always been the ugly duckling among the major virtual-reality headsets. Sony’s PlayStation VR looks futuristic, and the Oculus Rift has slimmed itself down over time, ditching its cheap plastic exterior for a sleek fabric-wrapped shell. HTC’s device, however, has maintained its pock-marked exterior, and while it’s trimmed the fat from its head-mounted display (HMD), it still looks a little bit pudgy compared with its peers.

Don’t let that fool you, though. As soon as you hold it in your hands it feels like the premium product that it is. Its plastic shell is soft and warm to the touch, the controllers feel smooth and light in your hands, and while the headset’s pockmarks are still there for tracking purposes, they’ve been smoothed out to create a headset with a character and style all of its own.

Of course, from an aesthetic point of view, none of this matters. Once you put Vive on you’re transported to another world and you really don’t care what you look like when you’re wearing it.

HTC Vive review: Hardware

While we’ll come onto what the world on the other side of Vive’s lenses is like, it’s worth noting that – unlike Oculus Rift’s various iterations – the Vive’s core specifications haven’t changed since it was first unveiled. It still has twin 1,200 x 1,080 OLED displays, two laser-emitting beacon modules to track you within a space up to 4 x 4m, and two fully tracked motion controllers to replicate your hands within VR experiences.

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While Vive’s resolution is identical to that of the final Oculus Rift, the Vive’s Fresnel Lenses produce a sharper, clearer picture than the Rift, which has far smaller lenses. This makes all the difference when you’re deep into a VR experience. The colours are bright and crisp, and there’s little to no ghosting of the image either. Text isn’t always clearly readable, even after making adjustments to the headset’s focus, but that’s largely down to individual pieces of software rather than a fault with the Vive itself.

If like me, you wear glasses, you’ll be relieved to hear that the Vive is more than comfortable to wear with them on. I’ve got some chunky-framed eyewear (although not those big hipster frames), and they fit inside the Vive’s housing with no problem or discomfort at all.

There’s also a camera mounted to the front of the Vive to help identify where objects are around your play space. While the camera is turned off by default, you can delve into the developer options to enable it, allowing you to view what’s around the room as you play or whenever you approach walls or other objects cluttering up your space.

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