My impressions of the HTC Vive XR Elite at MWC 2023 don’t start off in the most ideal way, as I’m still groggy from the night before after maybe too much tapas and beer. On top of that, as a VR skeptic, I’m nervous. Am I going to get very dizzy? Are the shells from last night gonna bite me again? Well no, even after about an hour with the HTC Vive XR Elite I still had a great time.
As for the specs of the HTC Vive XR Elite, it packs pretty much everything you could want from the best VR headset and more. It has a 90Hz refresh rate, RGB pass-through, removable battery, and wired PC connectivity. The XR Elite is as versatile as it gets, capable of playing the best VR games and also offering mixed reality experiences.
This headset solves some key issues with the support I’ve had for years. Instead of the big, curvy, bulbous designs found on PSVR2, with a strap over the top and around your head, the XR looks more like a pair of glasses. This makes it more suitable for different head shapes, hairstyles and at only 625g with battery connected it’s good for extended gaming sessions.
Putting the headphones on is a cinch, with a dial on the back to tighten them, and the mesh fabric on the goggles fit my face quite comfortably. Best of all, as a wearer of glasses, the Vive XR Elite has internally adjustable lenses for nearsightedness down to minus six, so you don’t have to worry about blurring or adjusting your large mounts inside.
This form factor isn’t just fun: it gives you a sense of freedom that I haven’t personally experienced with VR. Running around the demo room playing Yuki, a fun mixed-reality arcade shooter from Brazilian developer Arvore, was kinda exciting, made even better by the fact that I didn’t have to worry about tripping. on wires.
The best thing though was how comfortable I felt playing the game. One issue I have with VR is being a bit claustrophobic, but thanks to the pass-by camera I could easily see my surroundings in color, unlike Meta Quest 2 with a double press of the power button.
Yuki uses the walkthrough camera to show you your surroundings filled with dark portals pumping out alien enemies, slowly filling your vision until you eliminate them. It meant that I always knew what was going on around me to some degree, removing that claustrophobia.
That versatility in what the XR can do doesn’t stop there: there’s also versatility in connectivity. With the ability to connect it to your PC via USB-C or Wi-Fi. HTC is planning future support for Android devices and packaged experiences, which means the XR is a machine that should fit all use case. Unless you want to use wired headphones – although you can connect via Bluetooth or use the built-in speakers, you can’t plug in headphones to get rid of latency, which is a shame.
The showroom was incredibly loud and crowded, and my roofless demo room caused two problems: I couldn’t test the speakers properly (they sounded good) and the showroom lighting was interfering with tracking hands. Thanks to the frequency of strobe lights in the exhibition center, the passing camera flickered slightly and became blurred.
However, considering all of this, the manual tracking did a pretty good job. In a game called Maestro, where you take the stage as the conductor, you can accentuate the rhythmic waves of your right hand with a sharp flick of your left hand, or point to a section of the orchestra to incorporate them in the melody.
It worked most of the time, even with the lighting issues, I could see my hand floating in-game, individual fingers moving, the hand pointing to the horn section. Under ideal conditions, I imagine this feature is pretty smooth.
The HTC Vive XR Elite combines hand-tracking with four wide-field-of-view cameras, 6DoF spatial accuracy, a depth sensor, and capacitive finger motion sensing on the controllers. It’s packed with features, which means it comes at a cost.
Priced at $1,099 USD / £1,299 GBP, this is a premium product. Compared to the PSVR2’s asking price, you’ll probably be a little surprised. So even if you can do everything, you must first ask yourself: why do I need it?
I can’t imagine there are many people out there who need the HTC Vive XR Elite Pro. But, for those looking for a VR headset that does it all, there’s a lot to like here. The fact that you can use it in an eyewear, battery-free, even completely portable form factor is a very impressive proposition.
So the HTC Vive XR Elite didn’t gag me and helped me overcome some long-standing VR qualms, all in a form factor that’s really easy to use and carry. However, whether it’s right for you probably depends on your bank balance.