HTC VIVE XR Elite: what’s in this new high-end headset?

The new headphones have a modular design that allows you to customize battery life, weight and how you use it. Photo: HTC.

When Meta unveiled its Meta Quest Pro headset, the company clarified that the headset is aimed more at businesses than the general public. At €1,800 a helmet (starting price), it’s easy to understand. For consumer customers, Meta evokes Quest 2 instead.

HTC is doing the exact opposite with the launch of its VIVE XR Elite headset, a high-end headset designed for the general public as well. It was also introduced at CES 2023.

HTC VIVE XR Elite device

The physical design of HTC’s new model leans heavily on the frame aesthetics of the HTC VIVE Flow headset. However, while those headphones are primarily designed for media consumption, the VIVE XR Elite is designed to, well… do it all.

HTC has really stuck to the all-in-one concept by packing the device with enough performance hardware to handle everything from mixed reality apps viewed through its RGB color cameras to gaming casual VR. or intense, through the experience of social spaces in the new VIVERSE, HTC’s own “metaverse version”.

HTC's VIVE HR headset with its controllers

The headphones come with two controllers and a “headphone battery holder”. Photo: HTC.

This level of versatility requires two things: powerful hardware and a modular design.

When it comes to hardware, the VIVE XR Elite has some of the most impressive specs on the consumer VR market to date. Although it weighs just 625g in its heaviest configuration, the device offers a 110-degree field of view, 4K resolution, 90Hz refresh rate and adjustable lenses that can fit even most users who would normally need corrective lenses in other helmets. This goes beyond the usual inter-pupillary distance (DIP) adjustment that most headphones are limited to, which is also the case.

You can tell what the diopter indicators are probably on the outer adjustment rings that surround the lens to help you adjust your vision to fit your optical prescription. Photo: HTC.

The tracking capabilities are just as important as the visual capability of the headset. For this task, HTC included four wide-field-of-view cameras to deliver “excellent 6DoF spatial accuracy [6 degrés de liberté]”, a depth sensor, hand tracker and sensors that can detect finger movements on the controller. The VIVE XR Elite also supports hand tracking or even physical object tracking, such as a baseball bat or tennis racket.

To better accommodate the wide range of games, activities and applications that this device can support, HTC has designed the VIVE XR Elite to be modular. While it looks a lot like offerings like the Quest Pro with the attached “Battery Cradle,” you can also detach the battery and wear the device like a pair of glasses, as seen above. This allows for more casual, less intensive uses on the go, like watching videos on the plane, attending virtual meetings at the office, or just kicking back with the occasional game on the couch.

The aforementioned “battery cradle” which can be hot swapped or detached to allow the device to be used as glasses. Photo: HTC.

When not connected to the included battery holder, which is capable of 30W fast charging, the VIVE XR Elite can also be powered by USB power sources, such as external chargers or airplane seats.

This same USB-C connection also allows gamers to use the XR Elite to play VR content on PC from VIVEPORT and Steam. Or, if you prefer to go cable-free, the headset can connect to a computer wirelessly via Wi-Fi 6E for low-latency PCVR gaming without connecting to your desktop or gaming laptop.

HTC VIVE XR Elite Software

HTC VIVE XR Elite carrying case

The VIVE XR Elite’s modular design and foldable temples allow it to fit into this compact cylindrical case. Photo: HTC.

To take advantage of all this hardware, HTC plans to launch the VIVE XR Elite along with a host of software and services that can take advantage of it. Among the software planned by the company for the launch window are:

  • The creation of a new “customizable social space” which will serve as a virtual home for the wearer. Through this space, users will be able to access their games and applications, visit “new worlds” and access HTC’s VIVERSE virtual universe.
  • VIVERSE itself, which will use the open VRM standard to allow 3D modeling platforms like Sketchfab and other partners to create free 3D assets that users can import into their virtual home.
  • A series of virtual stories, starting with “The Little Prince” later in 2023.
  • Partnerships with media companies for avatar props and music experiences.
  • A collaboration with Lamina1 to create an “open metaverse ecosystem for society” to facilitate “worldwide, cross-platform asset sharing” for things like avatars, clothing, artwork and more.
  • Over 100 games and apps coming to the VIVEPORT store in time for the launch window, including titles like Figmin, Hubris, Yuki, Maestro, Les Mills Body Combat and more.

Price and availability

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, HTC has every intention of making the VIVE XR Elite accessible not only to large enterprises, but also to the average consumer. While it’s by no means a budget device, its €1,200 starting price puts it well below the €1,800 Meta’s Quest Pro headset, and barely more than a quality gaming laptop or, for that matter, a card good desktop graphics.

If you think the HTC VIVE XR Elite is your next headset, keep in mind that shipments should start at the end of February.

The company also said it plans to offer bundles that include the headset and games or XR content in select geographies, as well as direct sales to business users later this year.

As for the future, HTC talked about a “Face and Eye Tracker” unit planned for 2023, but did not give further details about the planned addition.

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