The buzz around the union of Valve, the operator of the biggest game distribution platform in the world — HTC has caused a distinct bustle in the Virtual Reality kingdom, amidst its loyal followers. Even non-gamers have flocked around the launch of the HTC Vive, which will have the best of both gaming and mobile technology. Gamers everywhere remain hugely excited by the prospect of Valve, a critically acclaimed developer in its right, entering the VR space. HTC, due to its heavy background in mobile technology already has something of a pedigree when it comes to working with the type of hardware that goes into VR headsets.
This HTC steam VR review will explore more about this new headset features and its major features than the rivals in the market. HTC Vive has not only chosen to serve their loyal gamers with virtual reality but also has collaborated with HBO (Home television series distributors), Lions Gate (film studio) and Google to create content in providing non-gaming experiences. It is obvious that the partnership of these two giant companies will aim to leverage it as a wholesome multimedia platform.
Much like Valve’s Steam Machines initiative, Steam VR will see multiple hardware partners to provide the actual devices themselves. The first, to fall into this major line-up of collaborations and the best-known hardware provider is HTC.
HTC Vive/Steam VR Review
HTC Vive VR: Design
The Steam VR headset has rather chosen to conform towards functionality over form. It does not look rather nice like the Oculus Rift. But, really who would care when you are busy fighting the Alien’s Den? Anyone would be ridiculous with a headset strapped to the face, but this consumer version is different from the Pre, it is comfortable and smaller.
Most of you who probably have glasses due to heavy duty gaming would rejoice to the fact that the HTC Steam headset has slotted spaces for specs, nicely fitting into the HMD. Therefore, the Vive is comfortable to wear no matter what shape your head is. You have the swappable foam inserts, a nose gasket, and the adjustable straps to find your right fit. Most HTC Vive users have not complained about motion sickness even after dwelling deep enough 4-5 hours in the immersive VR technology the Vive has to offer.
The HTC VR wins over the Samsung Gear VR on the “lenses not getting foggy part”. The Steam headset compared to Oculus or the PlayStation VR would fall on the lighter side and less unwieldy. The PC tethering cords only need a little getting used to during maneuvering time. Otherwise, they are long enough to give you good room to be moving and gaming around.
HTC Vive VR: Display & Resolution
The HTC Vive Steam VR headset has a display that includes two screens (1080 x 1200 pixels for each eye). The aspect ratio of the picture display is 9:5 than opposed to your regular other headsets that have the more standard 16:9. What you see is, in fact, a taller image which works perfectly through the VR technology giving you a more natural, convincing and comfortable feeling. As this aspect ratio works perfectly well, tricking your brain into forgetting that a helmet is strapped onto the face.
The pixel density is essentially increased to eliminate what you call, “The Screen Door Effect,” where prolonged use shows you the lines between pixels. Well of course, unless you don’t go looking for it. It allows the gamer to look up with their eyeballs rather than craning the neck.
The screen runs at a pace of 9Hz, which is quite on par with its main competitor the Oculus Rift. A bigger shark in the market, Sony’s Project Morpheus runs at a more glorious pace of 120 Hz. This is a crucial issue, as high frame rate and low latency are essential to providing a smooth VR experience. Would this cause a major or very noticeable difference in the display rendering between the two regarding VR experience, it is only left to be seen.
HTC Vive VR: Camera
An interesting and worth exploring option of the Steam VR headset is the front-facing camera. The VIVE we can’t forget is the interlinking of two powerful technologies. Whatever this camera is recording belongs to the world outside of your VR headset. The real world can be chosen to lay over the display of your Unreal-world. This particular addition is an excellent way to help movers explore real-world environments in movement without interrupting the drama happening in front of your eyes on the VR headset display. Talking about the future of gaming, the implementation possibilities of this brilliant idea could open up a range of possibilities in augmented experiences.
HTC Vive VR: Performance
Well, it could happen that when you are viewing objects from a far off distance, the display would be crisp and clean but as you lean in closer, the object appears pixelated and electronic, they start smoothing out and become less life-like. This is just a rare case, which can be improved upon in the later versions to come. Credit can never be taken from Steam VR for developing the ultimate virtual viewing headset with a brilliant resolution. Entering the world of Vive is breathtaking in itself.
Connect With Your Smart Phones
The Vive’s ability to connect to iPhone’s and Android phones to deliver alerts and messages when you are in VR is called the Vive Phone Services. Just like the camera inclusion helps in keeping in touch with the real world as the user spends time in the VR games and movies.
The Steam VR has promised to reduce the connection of the HTC Vive to a gaming computer to a single HDMI cable in the final version. For now, a bundle of data cables is tethered to the Headset. Headphones can easily be connected to the headset through a 3.5 mm audio jack situated at the side of the headset.
HTC Vive VR Tracking Features
The Steam VR experiences hit up a notch with its tracking abilities when compared to the Oculus Rift that has only one tracking device. Out of the 70 sensors that do the sniffing, 37 sensors are placed on the Headset & those in either controller; the rest pick up signals from two wireless infrared emitters placed in two corners of the room.
The beauty of this system is that it works like a safety net in your own “War-Zone” preventing you from hitting yourself with random objects. The Vive will track your head as it moves from side to side, up and down, and what movements your hands are making (the controllers) by where you are present in the room.
Steam VR headsets use a gyroscope, laser position sensor, and accelerometer to track the user’s head movement to detect where they are looking while playing on the game set. Unlike the Gear VR and, to a lesser extent, Sony’s Project Morpheus, here your PC will do the graphical heavy lifting.
The advantage of this approach is that the headset can be light and comfortable, and PC upgrades can keep it up to date. This can be seen in the other available VR visors (Oculus and PSVR) in the market.
HTC Vive Room Tracking Technology
What is interesting about the HTC Vive is its unique feature that uses Lighthouse Technology. This unique find in position tracking uses the headset that is supplied with two “base stations”. These stations have sensors sitting in opposite corners of space so that a player enjoys his/her virtual reality experience.
The sensors are meant to track your physical movement over a maximum area of 15 square feet. This new and innovative function allow you to get up, move around objects as well as interact with the virtual world in real-time. Plus, a built-in camera to further progress your VR encounter. In its competition, both Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR offers only support for stationary head tracking. It has also said to work with more than one headset, which is likely to confuse and frighten your parents when they walk into your first Steam VR party.
HTC Vive VR Controllers
A set of handheld motion controllers deepens the sweetness of the affair. These slick looking handsets feel like a joystick control with all the free movement your hands will be able to offer. The user can now get the feeling of realistic manipulation of objects on the virtual plane. Others in the competition, like the PSVR, their old Move controller, and Oculus is expected to announce their Half-moon prototype for similar tracking methods. They are a vertically bisected version of the Steam Controller, with a track pad, buttons and a pressure-sensitive grip in each hand. It is very responsive and natural, and the perfect way to interact with a virtual world. Design updated in early 2016 for the second-gen model.
Presently, wireless and battery powered, the controls include a home button and a similar, textured circular touchpad with a dual stage trigger button under each forefinger, as before. Haptic feedback helps to let you know when you’ve completed the correct action.
HTC has a huge advantage over other companies making VR headsets in its partnership with Valve. Naturally, a massive amount of Steam games that already have the necessary code to work with the Oculus Rift, and Valve is releasing an open-source API (application programming interface). This would have developers make their products (not just games) compatible with Steam VR.
TV and film-style content is more important than games to eventual get the general public gunning for virtual reality. It will surely take a while to get there and see the world on par with VR.
HTC Vive VR: Release Date and Price
The Steam VR consumer version has been made available to the gamers with pre-orders starting on 29th February 2016. However, it was officially launched in 5th April 2016.
Comparing the prices of the Gadget Pack, the Oculus Rift consumer edition costs $500 while the Vive surpasses it with a cost benched at $799. There is a doubt that both these headsets are meant to serve varied purpose crowd, but the fact remains that the Vive has edged on bringing in some cool features.
Adding to the list of hardware are the two controllers, some ear buds, Lighthouse base stations, and to copies of games Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives and Fantastic Contraption. You need to use a solidly built PC that will be able to offer an ultimate experience. The Oculus already has a list of options to choose from its PC bundles; Vive has lagged behind for a bit there.
HTC Vive VR Verdict
Also read this: Oculus Rift Review: The VR Race Began To The Future!