HTC Vive: In Depth Review

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Caveats:

So, it’s perfect and amazing and boner-inducing the whole time, right?.. “Where can I get one?” you might be asking.

Well, check your privilege and STF-down.

Remember all those caveats I said I’d mention? well, here they all are.  First, My setup was pretty smooth, but many have had issues getting the Light houses to sync, which requires them to use the provided “optional” sync cable.  A long aux cable that hooks from one base to the other.  That is another gaudy wire to be an eye sore.  Then we have the base stations not going into sleep mode even with the blue tooth drivers installed and running.  Sometimes it just won’t work, so you have to unplug them manually.  Also, the headset may not go to sleep properly, causing the HMD to just sit in waiting, with an off screen, mind you, but the headset stays warm which is a little alarming, so you’ll have to pull the power on that too.  Others have issue with the headset not tracking at all.  I personally had issues with running out of USB resources, something I didn’t know was possible given the nature of USB, but apparently there is an issue with many USB 3.0 connections that the Vive simply hates, so switching to USB 2.0 fixed those for me.  Then the Camera wasn’t working and when it was it was causing issues with tracking until I reduced the camera’s refresh rate to it’s lowest setting.  Sometimes the controllers lose sync with the base stations and they float or shift away awkwardly, sometimes things crash and you don’t even know it… standing there waiting for something to happen that simply won’t.  There are a LOT of little issues here and there that remove you from the experience and just get annoying when it keeps happening.

Barrier to Entry:
Look, VR…GOOD VR…is not going to be an easy thing for everyone to get into as there are many things that need to happen before you can even experience it unless you have a friend with the setup or you hit up a Best Buy which are currently doing Oculus Rift demos in select stores.  I highly recommend going and giving it a shot somewhere before dropping the cash.  Just make sure the guy cleans the eye port because screw getting eye-herpes.

The bare minimum system specs required to use the HTC Vive (and basically the Oculus as well.)

  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better.
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350 or greater.
  • RAM: 4GB or more.
  • Video port: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, or better.
  • USB port: 1 USB 2.0 or faster port.
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer.

That isn’t a typical desktop computer, mind you.  That’s a pretty good gaming PC.  Now, the 4GB of RAM isn’t entirely true as many VR games require more than that just to play such as Raw Data,  Serious Sam VR, SVRVIVE, and Project CARS. just to name a few of the higher profile games.

For reference, my system specs:

  • Graphics Card: ASUS GeForce GTX 1070 Turbo
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 – 3770K 3.6ghz
  • RAM: 20GB DDR3
  • 2x512GB SSD in RAID 0.
  • Windows 10

I’ll say my system is no slouch, allowing me to play all games at 4K with decent settings at playable framerates, or at 60fps, ultra settings and 1080p.  This isn’t to brag about my setup but to give perspective to say that I do get reprojection and even missed frames with those specs.  It’s nothing that makes games unplayable or even unenjoyable, but it does pull me out of the immersion a bit.  You know, reminds me that it’s just a game, something that VR is attempting to reduce.  VR needs a LOT of beef to be totally smooth and what portion of the population is going to have that available?

Eco-system fragmentation:
This one isn’t so much a problem with the HTC Vive as it is with virtual reality as a whole right now.  We have no fewer than a dozen different VR “systems” that can be purchased and that isn’t even including all of the knock-offs.  The Vive and Oculus at the higher cost and system requirements, PlayStation VR at slightly cheaper but essentially requires additional parts to fully enjoy (PS-Move ice cream cones and the PS Camera for tracking which are sold separately,) You have the Mobile and device specific GearVR, LG 360 VR, Google Daydream, and OnePlus VR which all require THEIR specific mobile devices, and Google Cardboard, MergeVR, FlyVR etc etc etc which can use any mobile device basically.

While getting VR into more hands is great, the uneven experience is going to burn people interested in REAL virtual reality experiences who bought a cheapo headset thinking they’d get the same thing.  It also creates a divide in available content as Oculus, who has been losing footing due to constant delays of it’s Touch controller, has been reduced to paying for exclusivity to keep them from the Vive, it’s biggest competitor which uses OpenVR, an open-source platform.

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