As more high-end VR headsets arrive, HTC’s new Vive XR Elite looks 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 computers.
Screen resolution and clarity
One of the most important details in the design of a VR headset is the display quality. An immersive experience relies on vivid colors and sharp details, delivered at a speed fast enough to minimize VR motion sickness.
HTC’s Vive XR Elite uses thin pancake lenses like the Meta Quest Pro. This widens the sweet spot to provide much greater edge clarity compared to the typical Fresnel lenses of older VR headsets. The Vive XR Elite also boasts a slightly higher resolution, 1920 x 1920 pixels per eye, while the Quest Pro has a 1800 x 1920 resolution. That’s only a 6% difference, and you might not notice it. Similarly, the Vive XR Elite has a slightly wider field of view: 110 degrees versus the Quest Pro’s 106 degrees. Both earbuds also have a 90Hz refresh rate.
The Quest Pro’s mini-LED backlight provides 500 dimming zones to increase dynamic range, while the Vive XR Elite uses standard backlighting. The downside of mini-LED backlights is the inevitable blooming in high-contrast scenes with fine details. In most cases, a higher dynamic range is preferable.
HTC gave the Vive XR Elite a unique display feature that you might like if you’re nearsighted. There are diopter adjustments in front of each lens for each eye. With a turn of the dials, up to 6 diopters of correction are possible. That will make glasses unnecessary for many users who might otherwise want to keep them on headphones.
However, wearing glasses can be difficult with the Vive XR Elite if it’s outside of that range for either 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 room for glasses.
HTC and Meta both have great app libraries. There’s no question, though, that Meta’s Quest app store has more games and apps than HTC’s Viveport. The Vive XR Elite fills that gap with the PCVR option, while that’s just a bonus for Quest Pro owners.
HTC is using the venerable Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor that has served as a standalone solution for nearly every flagship VR headset since 2020. Meta added a bit more power to the Quest Pro with an upgraded Snapdragon XR2+, which Meta claims has 50% more power. performance than the XR2 in the Quest 2.
Given the Quest 2’s significant acceleration, it’s unclear if the Quest Pro will be noticeably faster than the Vive XR Elite.
The HTC Vive XR Elite has inside-out tracking for the earbuds that’s similar to Meta’s Quest Pro. That means there’s no need to track base stations. Meta takes the lead, however, with its advanced Touch Pro controllers that also track themselves.
HTC uses drivers that have tracking rings that identify the headset. That works fine in most cases, but fails when your hands are out of sight or when one controller is blocking the other.
Both the Vive XR Elite and Quest Pro have the ability to connect to a desktop or laptop computer to handle more challenging tasks than the integrated low-power processors can handle. HTC and Meta support USB-C and Wi-Fi 6E for fast connections to a computer.
Since HTC has been making Vive headsets for PCVR for many years, it should be relatively easy to connect to a Windows PC to play SteamVR games or draw from HTC PC games on the VivePort. Meta’s Quest Pro can be connected to a Windows PC and is one of the few VR headsets that is also compatible with a Mac. Meta creates a remote desktop app that can be used to display three virtual Mac screens in your app. productivity, Horizon Workrooms.
With a nice screen, 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 any of the VR headsets here.
Eye and face tracking
This is a feature that can make all the difference depending on how you intend to use your VR headset. For online meetings, bringing your virtual self to life by animating your avatar with your eyes and natural 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, viewing content, and solo work in VR, this feature is of little value right now. 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 view, specifically around the hands. This may be fixed with the final release, but it was around for the first few demos during CES 2023.
The Quest Pro also combines multiple camera views to create its mixed reality transfer, but the error in the area between the eyes is minimal.
On the other hand, the Vive XR Elite’s passthrough resolution is higher, solving a common complaint among Quest Pro users. Meta hasn’t shared the resolution of its MR passthrough camera, but HTC’s 16MP seems to be better, at least. under the bright light of his CES booth.
Meta lets you map your surroundings, and HTC has a built-in depth sensor to automatically collect this data. In both cases, you’ll receive alerts about physical obstacles, so there’s no need to view them through the walk-through camera when in VR. While mixed reality will grow in importance in the coming years, the need for this capability in a VR headset is currently limited.
The most compelling mixed reality experiences will come with AR headsets planned for 2023, 2024, and beyond. However, it’s nice to be able to see when friends, family, and co-workers approach you. Also, there are some cool VR games and apps that make good use of mixed reality, like Demeusthat puts a virtual board game on your real table.
Which one should you buy?
The HTC Vive XR Elite is quite similar to Meta’s Quest Pro in many ways. While it’s $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’s.
HTC Vive XR Elite is expected to arrive within the next two months. After a brief period of use at CES, we found it to be an interesting VR headset that challenges the Meta Quest Pro in some ways. It’s lighter at 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. That is by far the most unique feature of the XR Elite.
Before we make a definitive recommendation, we’ll need some more time with HTC’s latest VR headset. For now, the HTC Vive XR Elite looks like a good alternative to the competitively priced Quest Pro.
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