The virtual reality wars are really starting to heat up as the second of “the big three” manufacturers reveals its hand.
QUICK GUIDE: Cost - Release Date - Compare - Specs - Games
What is HTC Vive?
26 February 2016: The HTC Vive is a virtual reality headset resulting from a partnership between telecommunications giant HTC, and video game publisher, developer and distributor Valve Software (Steam, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal, Left 4 Dead). The former has provided the hardware technology and manufacturing, while the latter has provided the operating system and software distribution channel. The HTC Vive is the main rival of the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift headset, but will also compete for market share with PlayStation VR (formerly Project Morpheus). Despite a number of other virtual reality headsets releasing or (in the case of the Samsung Gear VR) already released in 2016, these three products have the largest brand awareness and level of consumer anticipation.
While the Oculus Rift’s pricing and release strategy has already been detailed, we’ve only just now received news of the HTC Vive’s launch plans. And for gamers and tech aficionados with tight wallets, it is not good news.
The HTC Vive will cost US$799. As of the end of February 2016, no distribution into Australian retailers has been announced, and we currently expect the HTC Vive will follow a similar model to the Oculus Rift and require local consumers to order the device direct from the USA. This will greatly impact the cost of the device due to the Australian dollar’s declining value (currently 70c against the US dollar), the addition of GST and significant shipping costs.
So, when you add on the GST (US$79.90), a conservative shopping price (US$60) and then make the conversion, an Australian gamer can anticipate a price around the $1300 to $1400 mark. Please note; it is unclear if the HTC Vive will ship from Asia – where the HTC phones are made – directly, or from elsewhere, which could impact shipping costs.
When looking at its rivals, the base price of the HTC Vive is $200 more than the Oculus Rift, but does come with more in the bundle (see below). The details of the PlayStation VR have yet to be revealed. Early hands-on reports do attest to the HTC Vive being the best in terms of hardware and user experience of the three upcoming headsets, which is no doubt reflected in the price, too.
Pre-orders for the HTC Vive begin on February 29, 2016, with the device set to ship in early April 2016. Australia is included in the 24 countries that will have access to the device in April, which is great news given that for the Oculus Rift, it’s a six week to two month delay before it will be shipped to Australia.. Unlike the Oculus Rift, HTC and Sony both have local teams in Australia, which could increase our chances of a retail release, as opposed to an import from overseas.
What is included in the HTC Vive bundle?
Importantly, and unlike the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive will ship with its two purpose built, motion-based controllers. (The Oculus Rift ships with an Xbox One controller, with the virtual reality focused controllers available late in 2016). In addition, it ships with the “room scale sensors” required to give the device one of its defining features - the ability to map your room and to read your movements through it.
Early adopters, and all those who pre-order the HTC Vive, will receive two free games in their bundle as well; Job Simulator (by Owlchemy Labs) and Fantastic Contraption (by Northway Games).
As you might hope from its price, the HTC Vive is the premium option of the big three. Offering a faster experience, a good field-of-view and sharper visuals, it’s also quite comfortable to wear and comes with two excellent controllers. Two main features on the headset itself help it stand out, too. The forward-facing camera gives the headset the ability to let you jump from the virtual world to the real one without taking the headset off, or indeed merge the two worlds together for an experience more akin to augmented reality.
The HTC Vive also offers more depth in its play space. By using sensors placed throughout your room, it can map your location – taking into account objects like couches and coffee tables – and read your movements within that space. This effectively allows you to walk around without breaking out of the game experience or indeed to enhance gameplay – the PlayStation VR and the Oculus Rift require you to remain in the same location and cannot calculate where you are in relation to other objects in the room.
Just announced, the HTC Vive has an inbuilt phone service, literally called HTC Phone Service, which allows you to sync your mobile to the headset via Bluetooth. You will then be able to receive and answer phone calls, text messages and calendar requests from within the virtual world, so you don’t have to take off the headset
The recommended PC Specs for the HTC Vive
For a smooth virtual reality experience using the HTC Vive, the creator recommends the following minimum PC specifications: note that some upgrade costs to your PC may be required to get the best experience, which will in-turn increase your launch costs.
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or better
CPU: Intel i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better
Video Output: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
Ports: 1x USB 2.0
OS: Windows 7 SP1 or later
There are already over 100 games planned for the HTC Vive, including Valve's lauded Half-Life series, Alien: Isolation and The Talos Principle. Click here for a full list of HTC Vive games.
|Owner(s)||HTC and Valve|
|Price (including GST)||$US879|
|Display Resolution||2160 x 1200 (1080 x 1200 per eye)|
|Refresh Rate (Hz)||90|
|Maximum Frame-Rate||90 frames-per-second|
|Field of View||110-degrees or more|
|Bluetooth Mobile Integration||Yes|
|Forward Facing Camera||Yes|
|Head Tracking||Lighthouse - 2 base stations emitting pulsed laser - gyro sensor and accelerometer|
|Body Tracking||Yes, via laser position sensors over a 15-foot by 15-foot area|
|Controller||2 x SteamVR controllers (one for each hand)|
|Bundled With||Steam, Room Scale Sensors, 2 x SteamVR Controllers - Games: Job Simulator, Fantastic Contraption|
|Virtual Reality Store||TBC|
|Games Highlights||Has the backing of Valve (Half-Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead, Counter-Strike) and will be integrated into Steam distribution network. Supported by popular, multiformat middleware solution Unreal Engine 4.|
|Advised PC Specs||GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or better|
|CPU: Intel i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better|
|RAM: 4 GB or more|
|Video Output: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2 or newer|
|USB Port: 1x USB 2.0 or better port|
|Operating System: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1 or later, Windows 10|