The Vive XR Elite.

CES 2023

We tried HTC's new VR headset, and Meta should be worried

The $1,099 mixed reality goggles are cheaper than Meta's Quest Pro and more comfortable too.

HTC

HTC is ready to be back in the virtual reality limelight. The company announced the Vive XR Elite at CES 2023, its take on a mixed-reality device that just about anyone can enjoy.

With a single strap design, compact build, and high-fidelity screens, the $1,099 Vive XR Elite shares more than a few similarities with the Meta Quest Pro, but after trying the headset for myself, it’s the differences between the two early XR concepts that matter the most.

Comfort is king

The Vive XR Elite is cushioned, flexible, and well-balanced enough not to be uncomfortable to wear.HTC

Right off the bat, the Vive XR Elite feels good to wear, largely because it’s very light. The headset only weighs 625 grams with the battery attached, and much like Quest Pro, the weight is distributed in such a way that it feels balanced on your head. The big difference is, at least in my short demo, the Vive XR Elite didn’t feel like it was adding any extra pressure to my forehead, face, or the back of my head while I was wearing it. Some of that could be attributed to the fabric gasket that acts as the cushion between your face and the headset, but whatever the cause, I was pleased.

The added comfort could also be because I wasn’t wearing my glasses and the headset at the same time. The Vive XR Elite has IPD adjustments for changing lens spacing, but the bigger additions are built-in diopters (up to -6) for recreating your prescription in-headset. It worked great for me, but obviously has limitations — some people just have worse eyesight than that.

The front of the Vive XR Elite looks a bit like HTC’s Vive Flow glasses.Ian Carlos Campbell / Inverse
Without the face gasket attached, the Vive XR Elite is ridiculously thin.Ian Carlos Campbell / Inverse
The diopters around the lenses of the Vive XR Elite allow you to wear the headset without glasses.Ian Carlos Campbell / Inverse

But what are you looking at? The Vive XR Elite has a screen resolution of 2K pixels per eye (4K when you combine), a 110-degree field of view, and a 90Hz refresh rate. Onboard there’s 128GB of memory to go with 12GB of RAM, and the whole thing is run by a familiar Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2. Respectable specs, but not a dramatic jump forward in quality. On the outside of the device, the Vive XR Elite has four wide cameras for inside-out tracking, a depth sensor, and an RGB passthrough camera for mixed reality experiences.

The Vive XR Elite can swap its battery strap for attachments that turn the headset into glasses.HTC

The customizability extends to how you wear the Vive XR Elite too. My demo was using the headset with its hot-swappable battery attached, but the whole adjustable head strap can be popped off and replaced, turning the headset into something more akin to glasses. This lets the Vive XR Elite pack down smaller, but could also work for playing content off a connected laptop or Android phone or just doing a stationary VR experience. Battery life lasts about two hours with the normal battery attached and several minutes in glasses mode, so if you are more interested in the even lighter weight option, you’ll want to run some power off USB-C.

Real polish

The Vive XR Elite is real competition for other mixed-reality headsets.Ian Carlos Campbell / Inverse

The rest of the Vive XR Elite experience is familiar but in a good way. Hand-tracking is supported, along with Vive’s ringed controllers. The headset itself is full of thoughtful details. HTC’s global head of product Shen Ye made a point of showing the way the power cable is fed in and out of battery housing to keep it from bunching up when you adjust the size, just one of several nice bits of polish that could differentiate the Vive XR Elite from the competition. The main focus for the new Vive was really trying to be accommodating. “We want to give people options,” Ye explained.

You won’t have to wait long to see the headset for yourself. The Vive XR Elite is available for pre-order now for $1,099 and is expected to start shipping out to customers in late February.

INVERSE brings you everything from the fun and futuristic world of consumer technology at CES 2023. For all the latest technology coverage from the show, go to the INVERSE CES 2023 hub.

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