Just days after the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset began shipping, rival HTC has begun shipping its Vive headset and VR system to customers. And the early reviews are in.
Priced at $799, the HTC Vive is about $200 more expensive than an Oculus Rift… and that price doesn’t include the cost of the powerful computer you’ll need to plug the headset into.
But the Vive does have a few nice things going for it, including motion controllers and a system that keeps you from walking into walls when you move about the room… making it easier to safely move about a room.
The first reviews are in, and it seems like early testers really like a lot of things about the hardware and software… but some features can still be a bit glitchy at times, and some of the apps, games, and experiences designed to take advantage of full-room, motion-controlled virtual reality still feel a bit like a work in progress.
While the Vive and Rift both offers similar visual quality, HTC’s headset is heavier. But in addition to supporting full-room VR in a way that the Rift won’t be able to until later this year, HTC’s system was also designed in partnership with Valve, the company behind the Steam game system. And that alone could be a selling point for some users.
It’s the full-room experience that really sets the Vive apart though. Not only does it include motion controllers, but there are also a pair of “lighthouse” infrared laser sensors that you place in the room to detect your position, and a camera in the headset that can show you a picture of the room when you approach the wall (or press a button). You can also pair the Vive with your phone to view notifications without removing your headset.
Several reviews have noted that the HTC Vive is currently the closest thing you can get to a Star Trek-style holodeck. But that assumes you’re cool with entering the holodeck all by yourself. If anyone else is in the room, they’ll probably block some of the laser lights and mess with the Vive’s ability to track your location.
Right now I get the feeling that both of the big-name VR products on the market are still best suited for early adopters willing to put up with first-generation hardware in an effort to get in the ground floor of something that could be truly great eventually… and which is occasionally truly great today.
You might not have to wait for second or third-gen hardware for things to get better though. Many of the shortcomings experienced by reviewers could likely be addressed through better games, improved system software, and maybe new third-party accessories in the future.
Anyway, that’s my takeaway after reading through a bunch of reviews… but if you want to take a look for yourself, here’s a roundup of some of the most informative reviews I could find so far:
- Ars Technica
- PC World
- Wall Street Journal
- The Verge
VentureBeat, meanwhile, is streaming some games in real-time… although the experience of watchingv ia a YouTube live stream is kind of weird.