HTC Vive Pro 2 review: expensive but best VR headset

The HTC Vive Pro 2 is a VR fan’s dream. Its 120Hz 5K display is so good that VR experience will never be the same after it. The design of the helmet hasn’t changed much compared to the 2018 model, it is just as comfortable for prolonged VR sessions. However, the very high price and old controllers are unlikely to make the Pro 2 an attractive purchase for the mainstream user. Sitting proudly on the throne of budget helmets is the $ 299 Oculus Quest 2, and it won’t be easy to shove it out of there.

But the HTC Vive Pro 2 isn’t aimed at the mainstream at all. As in the case of the standalone Vive Focus 3, the new HTC is aiming straight at those who plan to use this helmet for work purposes. But unlike the Focus, it also has a lot to offer gamers. Spending $ 1,399 for the full Vive Pro 2 set means playing Half Life: Alyx with the best gaming experience so far. In addition, if you have already bought a Vive Pro or Valve Index before, then buying a new version of Pro without a complete set will cost you $ 799.

Make sure you buy the right Vive Pro because the old and new versions look pretty much the same. The Pro 2 is painted in a black and purple palette, but its front panel, shoulder strap and headphones look exactly the same as before. However, the difference becomes apparent as soon as you put the Pro 2 on your head: thanks to the 5K display, a picture with a resolution of 2448 x 2448 is fed to each eye – a huge leap forward compared to 1440 x 1600 for the Pro. In addition, the Pro 2 LCD displays have RGB subpixels for a much sharper picture. The maximum screen frequency has also increased – from 90 Hz in the previous version to 120 Hz in Pro 2. I would also like to note the 120-degree viewing angle, thanks to which the immersive effect is even more powerful.

All of these specs might sound familiar to you, though, because the Vive Focus 3 already had a 5K display (although the refresh rate remained at 90Hz). But Pro 2 wins in that I can run any VR game or program on it, while only a limited number of mobile titles could be run on the Focus 3, and I never managed to properly stream a high quality VR picture to it from a PC. … And if you still succeed in doing this, image streaming is still a cut below the native launch of games.

I tried new games on Pro 2 and relaunched old ones and they all looked fantastic. In Half-Life: Alyx, I was constantly distracted from the game itself, just looking at the details of the environment – the game looked great on Index, but in Pro 2 resolution it looks even more amazing. It’s like watching 1080p video for 10 years and then discovering 4K.When I turned on Superhot again, I thought it was Superhot 2. The cyberpunk room with computers was just full of all sorts of details. Although the graphics in Superhot are quite minimalistic, the enemies, weapons and environment in the new helmet still looked more detailed than before. And when I launched Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, I literally stared at everything around and could not believe my eyes. This game looks fantastic on a regular monitor, but Senui’s incredibly detailed model looks even cooler in 5K.

In general, the picture is excellent, but it would be even better if HTC also updated the controllers in addition to this. The Pro 2 comes with the same sticks that the original Vive had back in 2016. They work well enough, but they’re not even nearly as ergonomic as the Oculus controllers or even the Focus 3. After Index’s Steam VR hand-tracking controllers, they feel archaic. But since the Pro 2 is a headset on Steam VR, you can always plug in the Index controllers, but that’s another $ 280 on top for an already expensive pleasure.

It would also be great if HTC could just slightly redesign the Pro 2. No, the helmet is still comfortable thanks to the plush front and back cushions and balanced weight. But the developers have always had the option of at least a little peek at the Valve Index. For example, it would be great if the on-ear headphones were replaced with near-field headphones, because my head quickly gets hot without them. The displays themselves give off a lot of heat, which is why during extended gaming sessions I sometimes literally drenched in sweat.

You will have to spend some time getting the Vive Pro 2 set up, but with VR headsets this is common. You will need to install two SteamVR Base Stations in opposite corners of the game room, as well as connect USB 3.0 and DisplayPort cables to the junction box. If you have base stations from the original Vive Pro or Valve Index, these will work too. If there are no stations, make sure to buy the complete Pro 2 kit – it includes both base stations and VR controllers.

What hardware is needed for HTC Vive Pro 2

And to get the most out of the Vive Pro 2, you’ll need a powerful PC system. I tested the headset on a computer with an NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti, AMD Ryzen 7 5800X, and 32GB of RAM. This was enough to achieve a good frame rate at the maximum resolution of the helmet, but the bar with the cherished 120 fps could not be reached. Despite this, I did not notice any delays or sagging. The most ardent VR fans pack their systems with even more powerful hardware, so I bet their framerate experience is about the same as mine.If you can’t upgrade to faster hardware (for example, you have no desire to fight to the death for a new GPU), then I strongly recommend just buying a less demanding VR headset. In such cases, I always recommend the Oculus Quest 2 – here you have a sparing price, and autonomy, and fast connection to a PC. Another good option is the HP Reverb G2 (at least thanks to the resolution), but I don’t really like its controllers.

HTC Vive Pro 2 pushed Valve Index

Pros:

Superb and fast 5K display

Excellent ergonomics

Best immersion VR gaming experience on PC yet

Minuses:

Need SteamVR Controllers

Very expensive

Sold with old HTC Vive controllers

To summarize, the Vive Pro 2, in my opinion, is not the best buy compared to almost all VR headsets on the market, and a lot of this is due to the exorbitant $ 1,399 price. This illustrates one of the biggest problems in the VR industry today: good VR requires a huge investment, not to mention the messy setup and annoying cables. But of course, for true fans and businesses that are chasing the best VR to stay at the forefront of their industries, the Vive Pro 2 is a new milestone and standard.

Photo by Tech Advisor.