After several announcement teasers — including one less than a month ago — HTC unveiled an all-new virtual reality headset at CES 2023: the Vive XR Elite.
However, to call the Vive XR Elite a VR headset would underestimate this device’s capabilities, because just like the Meta Quest Pro (and the long-running popular Apple XR headset), this device is capable of providing users with virtual reality and mixed reality experiences – XR is an acronym For “extended reality”, a term that includes augmented reality (augmented reality) and virtual reality (augmented reality).
This is because not only is it equipped with a 4K display that offers a 110-degree field of view and operates at a 90Hz refresh rate (the minimum rate required for comfortable VR experiences); It’s also equipped with an RGB camera that allows full color pass-through (meaning you can see the real world in color while wearing a headset).
Furthermore, HTC Vive XR Elite has a depth sensor that allows it to accurately draw virtual characters and objects in the real world to make mixed reality games look more realistic.
If you want more from your headphones, HTC has announced that later this year it will be releasing optional add-ons that provide extra features like eye and face tracking, though it’s vague when exactly they’ll be available.
And you’ll have a good variety of software to try out on this device as well. At launch, the Vive XR Elite will support popular games like Demeo, The Last Clockwinder, and Ancient Dungeon, as well as some great apps like Les Mills Bodycombat workout app and Figmin XR build platform. HTC has confirmed that more titles will be coming to the platform soon, and we should find out more in the not too distant future.
Unfortunately, HTC’s new Vive headset has flaws that may hold it back. For one, the removable battery provides up to two hours of XR use on a full charge, and for the other, the device doesn’t come cheap.
HTC’s Vive XR Elite will set you back $1,099 / £1,299 (about AU$2,300) for a bundle that includes the headset, two controllers, and the headset’s battery cradle. This price is much higher than the likes of the Oculus Quest 2 and Pico 4 (which cost $400 / £400 / AU$630 and £380 (about $430 / AU$680) respectively), but it comes in a bit cheaper than the Meta Quest Pro ($1,500 / £1,500 / AU$2,450).
Despite these issues, I think the XR Elite may be the most interesting headset of 2023 thanks to HTC’s new approach to its design.
Do VR your way
Our writers who attended CES 2023 had a chance to try out the new headset — so look out for their hands-on experiences — but what got me excited about the Vive XR Elite was its modular design.
Everyone wants something a little different from the metaverse and XR experiences. I’m in the camp a lot because VR is best for entertainment, while others rely too much on their headset as a social tool—they meet in apps like VR Chat—and some people work in the metaverse for hours on end every day. So each of us needs something a little different for our devices.
I was really impressed with the Meta Quest Pro I was sent in for review, but for every amazing aspect there are some that I don’t care for, and others that I wish were better. If the Meta adopted a modular design, I could, for example, replace the face tracking with a better battery and get a headset that better suits my needs.
Users looking to be more social in VR might want to incorporate body tracking — perhaps with a suit that includes a few extra battery packs to facilitate longer gaming sessions — while a VR desktop jockey might want a lightweight design without a battery because they’ll only use it on launch their headphones into their workstation, so they can always plug it into a power source.
Modular designs have some drawbacks. Since fewer components are mass-produced and assembled, the cost of a full-featured model is likely to go up, plus the headphones may feel more overwhelming to someone who knows very little about the space. But in the long run, modular headphone designs could end up making the XR’s space more accessible.
If you’re as excited as I am to try out the Vive XR Elite headset, know that it’s up for pre-order now (Opens in a new tab)Units are expected to begin shipping in late February.
That means we won’t have long to wait and see if the HTC Vive XR Elite is a hit – and to see if its modularity proves popular. It sounds like a very interesting product, and if HTC sticks to it, it could end up being the best VR headset of 2023 — that is, unless Oculus Quest 3 usurps it when it launches later this year.
Check out our CES 2023 hub for the latest news and announcements from the show. We cover everything from 8K TVs and foldable screens to new phones, laptops and smart home gadgets.