The HTC Vive Pro 2 is a terrifically powerful headset, bringing commercial-class VR capability to the home. It’s certainly not for everybody, but if the RTX 3090 graphics card is for gaming enthusiasts, then the Vive Pro 2 is for VR fanatics.
Over the past year, I’ve had the joy of playing with a Meta Quest 2, the most casual-friendly VR headset ever made. It’s a terrific headset: one that offers plug-and-play capability lightyears ahead of the competition at a much lower price.
But now, I’ve had an opportunity to try out the HTC Vive Pro 2, one of the longtime heavyweights of the VR hardware industry. Developed alongside Valve and its sister headset the Valve Index, the HTC Vive Pro 2 offers incredible visuals and great build quality, although I must say it doesn’t feel sufficiently justified as a product when we compare it to cheaper (and often better) alternatives.
The HTC Vive Pro 2 is in a different league, and I’m not sure if it’s for the better.
The HTC Vive Pro 2
WHAT IS IT?
The latest high-performance VR headset from HTC.
$1,299 for the headset, $2,199 for the full kit
Beautiful visuals, terrific sound, awesome build quality, ambidextrous controllers.
Extremely expensive, uses external tracking, lots of cables, requires a large space, requires a very powerful PC.
Seeing things differently
I wish I was more impressed with the HTC Vive Pro 2, but in the past decade, while virtual reality tech has had time to develop, the technical difference between a “cheap” headset like the Meta Quest 2 and a high-performance headset like the HTC Vive Pro 2 has become vague.
They’re meant to appeal to the same market: VR gaming, as it stands today, is largely for gaming enthusiasts. At best, it’s several hundred dollars to get a headset, plus the cost of a VR-ready gaming PC, plus the cost of VR-ready games and plus the cost of supportive things (cables, batteries, prescription lenses, even a room big enough for VR play).
To alleviate this, there’s the Meta Quest 2, which is priced at $573 at the time of writing (subject to a recent price rise), a price point that is far under what the technology should be worth. The Quest 2’s impressive price point was Meta’s way of shoulder-barging into the VR industry and soaking up the userbase (leveraging the Oculus Store for software sales to make the cash back), while its closest competitors were still hundreds of dollars above it (and not for the sake of better technology).
A VR experience or game has you in the action: the headset strapped on, special controllers in each hand, and something tracking your motions. For the HTC Vive Pro 2, it’s through motion tracking cameras located in opposing corners of the playing space, but for the Meta Quest 2, it’s through internally-contained sensors.
You can probably begin to tell why the comparison to the Meta Quest 2 is so important. Cheaper, easier to use, with less setup and still capable of the same games, it’s an uphill battle for the legendary Vive, which once turned heads when excitement around their Valve partnership was at a high.
So what does the Vive do good then? Genuinely, quite a lot. But it’s for VR diehards, which makes the sales pitch quite difficult for most people.
For this review, I’ll try not to harp on too much about how it compares to the Meta Quest 2, for the sake of avoiding a rant. Perhaps I will write another article on that entirely.
My vision is augmented
The screen on the HTC Vive Pro 2 is beautiful, without argument the best VR display available. Packing a sick 5K display, the headset is able to render game quality well above most of the competition (Meta Quest 2 is 1080p, Valve Index is 2K). This comes with the added requirement of not just a VR-capable computer, but a computer capable of rendering games well above 1080p or 2K, but again, we’re not talking about a basic device here, are we?
On that front, let’s just talk about the build quality for a second. Second to none, the build quality of the HTC Vive Pro 2 is astounding. It’s one of the best put-together devices I’ve ever reviewed, with solid ambidextrous controls, strong plastics, and easy-to-use comfort straps on the headset.
Not that this is a surprise: it’s the pro model and the second of its name. With a “pro” device, you’d absolutely expect these things.
But let’s come back to that point on PC VR capability. My computer runs the following specs: RTX 3060, Ryzen 5 3600, 32GB DDR4 RAM at 3200mHz with VR games installed on an NVMe.
Those are specs that best the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, but this computer really struggles to reach the soaring highs of the 5K display in the HTC Vive Pro 2. It’s truly a shame that in F1 22, though the game is able to render in 4K on the headset, I’d have to turn the settings down to medium because my gaming PC couldn’t handle the game’s steep performance requirements. That being said, this was a terrific game to try out with VR.
I didn’t have a problem with performance playing Half-Life: Alyx, Pavlov VR or Blade and Sorcery, however, but my problems on those fronts were more… Me.
The eyes of a renter
My apartment is, comparatively, quite big when put beside other one-bedroom apartments in Sydney’s inner west, however, the nature of this “Pro” headset has you tripping over things without end.
In the box, HTC provides wall mounts for the lighthouses. I would have loved to use them, as it would have kept me from meticulously stacking boxes on my desk to get the tracking to work optimally, but I’m a lowly renter. No permanent modifications for this place. The lighthouses need to be above you in the room, ideally in the corners of it so that they can capture the entire play space.
The Vive also has a minimum space requirement for non-stationary gameplay (as in, gameplay where you can walk around a big space), so that’s not ideal for small rooms.
And, for the most part, the experience was fine when using the stationary mode. At its best, I was able to do everything I wanted in VR: swing swords, shoot guns, pick up objects and interact with virtual worlds.
At its worst, if somehow the lighthouses could no longer see the controls (if I were to body block one camera and be outside of the other’s cone of vision), the entire thing would fall apart. If it can’t see the controllers, you can’t use them.
Alright, I will break my one rule here, because it’s the worst part of this gadget. The Meta Quest 2 doesn’t use lighthouses: it’s all tracked internally via the headset. This means that you’re not restricted by separate, external objects and what they can see.
Of all the things that make the HTC Vive Pro 2 unique, this is the one feature that I suspect isn’t long for the world. It’s a lower price for the Meta Quest 2’s internal tracking, and I’m not convinced that lighthouses add better tracking.
Additionally, unless you want to spend $599 on an adapter, the Vive Pro 2 only supports wired gameplay, meaning you’re always going to have a cable coming out of the headset. The Meta Quest 2, quite easily, offers wireless gameplay, both internally and to a PC.
Let’s talk about the cables. This thing requires six cables to run, including:
- Three that run directly to wall power (the two lighthouses and the base system)
- The Display Port cable that runs directly to the graphics card (from the base system)
- The VR cable (runs between the headset and the base system)
- A USB port (runs between the computer and the base system)
That’s a lot of tripping over to avoid. Of course this leans back into the philosophy of the wall mounts: it’s for permanent setups.
But that’s so much to configure and so much to check if something were to hypothetically go wrong. Thankfully, the packing box is arranged into numbered parts, to make things less confusing).
On the Vive website, HTC insists that the Pro series is intended for businesses and hardcore gamers, a target market that I’d have to agree with based upon the price alone. $2,199 is a steep price to pay for what is largely still seen as a gimmick and is a difficult product to sell when the much easier-to-use Meta Quest 2 is only $573.
Critically though, I’m sure the Meta Quest 2 feeds into this target market, and so I’d have to say there’s a need for the HTC Vive to rescale and take on that headset directly. After all, VR is a hardcore segment of gaming to begin with, and businesses that use the tech are surely few and far between.
All of this said: if you don’t mind splashing the cash and want the best visuals and best sound in VR gaming right now, then the HTC Vive Pro 2 is for you.
If you care more about your wallet and are strapped for space, you probably won’t want the HTC Vive Pro 2.
Where to buy the HTC Vive Pro 2 full kit
Headset-only options are also available at these stores.