HTC Vive: In Depth Review

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Virtual Reality is making a resurgence.  Like so many things from the past that just won’t die—I’m look at YOU neon colored everything!—it’s being dusted off and shined with some new hotness in order to take your hard earn money from you, and there isn’t just one name in the game this time.  Take a hop over to amazon and you’ll find a WHOLE shit ton of cheap VR “experiences” and many name brand and higher end versions as well.  We’ll talk a little bit about the fragmentation of this a little later, but right now let’s focus on a single device that sucker punched the Oculus Rift out of it’s promises of an immersive experience, jumped in front while it was reeling from the blow and actually…”delivered.”(?)

Unboxing:

So, what’s in the box?

Stuff. Stuff is in the box. get over it and lets move on, shall we?

Okay, okay, fine.  Lets take a look at all of the goodies that come in the package:

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Packaging isn’t anything flashy and uses some nice looking matte against gloss finish to show the headset.  When you open the box up you are greeted with a large, quick setup guide, its actually best just to go to the website and go from there as there are videos to help install the sensors.  The little guide says it’s about 30mins and if you are rushing through that shit it’s probably true.  It took me a little over an hour to get everything setup and ready.

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20161109_114642Once the enormous reminder to go to the website is moved we are met with several actual goodies!  Right up front are the main attractions: in the left pic we have the headset, the two motion controllers and the 2 sensors called the Base stations.  The picture to the right shows what is under the sensors and controllers and that is all of the connections: no fewer than FIVE power adapters for the two controllers, 2 sensors, and one for the linkbox.  We have a couple USB cables, wall mounts for the base stations…and a cleaning cloth.   Also, a bunch of paper that I didn’t bother reading, an extra face cushion labeled “Narrow” for smaller faced individuals, and an HDMI cable.

So, lets have a look at some of this stuff, shall we?

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I’ve heard many people say they do not like the look of this thing.  To each there own in that front because I really dig the cyberpunk aesthetic of it.  it’s a no-nonsense design it no flash or gaudy extra crap. It’s purely function over style which is something I really prefer.  Each one of those little “pock” marks is a sensor that communicates with the base stations.  There is a knob in the bottom right (while on your face, bottom left in this picture.) that controls the separation of the lenses inside the headset which helps with Chromatic Aberration around your outer view.  Something the Rift has, but the GearVR sorely lacks.  the light grey rings around the strap anchors can actually be pulled out and turned in order to adjust the distance of the headset to your face.  Nice design but it isn’t the smoothest action.  Oh, also… it’s got about 10ft of cord coming out of the thing.  A little unruly, but manageable.

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The controllers might look awkward, but in game, when they turn into something else, you don’t really notice them at all.  They also have a number of pock marks for talking with the base stations and also the headset itself.  The trackpads (Steam just loves trackpads, right?) don’t quite feel as good as they did on the Stream controller, which a larger ring around the outer perimeter that seems dead.  Maybe that is for accidental presses while playing or… who knows.  The trigger is a very subtle 2-stage system that allows analog style travel and has a little click at the end for a secondary action if a game so chooses to use it, I’m assuming.  Above the trackpad is a menu/pause button that works in game, while the bottom is a system button that brings up the Steam Overlay.  This is a multi-functional button if you have the camera setup.  If you double-press it quickly you’ll get a matrix-esque view of your play area.  neat and useful.  although full color would have been preferred.  May technical reasons kept that from being possible?  And finally on the bottom of the control (not pictured) is a button on either side of the actual hand grip: the grip buttons.  basically used in most games to “grab” something and hold it.  it’s rather immersive having to grab things that way.  some games opt for just the trigger.

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This is one of the two Base Stations, or “Lighthouse” as you might see on reddit or the SteamVR forums.  This little thing is literally just a box with infrared sensors inside including a couple laser emitters that make a high-pitch whine when powered up.  Once in game it isn’t noticeable because of the headphones, but in a quiet room they sound a little eerie.

Let’s move on to some actual reviewing, shall we?

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