In the wake of aggressive price slashing from the competition in recent months, HTC just showed the world that it is committed to VR, now and into the future. At CES, the company announced the Vive Pro, a upgraded version of the original Vive VR headset with a higher resolution and other tweaks, and a new wireless adapter that is compatible with both the original Vive and the new Vive Pro.
Let's start with the new headset. The Vive Pro's biggest upgrade is the resolution—it has been bumped up to 2880x1660, or 1440x1600 per eye, which translates to 615 pixels per inch. Some were expecting an upgrade to 4K, but what HTC unveiled instead is a 78 percent increase over the Vive's 2160x1200 (1080x1200 per eye) resolution, and a 37 percent increase in the Vive's pixels per inch count.
The reason this matters is because current generation VR headsets all suffer to some extent from a so-called screen door effect. While that is not a problem on larger monitors with the same resolution, it's a different story when your face is plopped so close to the display, as is the case when wearing a VR headset. The result is that you can see the space between pixels, like looking at a screen door up close, hence the term.
"This premium resolution enhances immersion for VR enthusiasts, and the improved clarity means text, graphics and overall experience all come into sharper view," HTC said.
HTC's Vive Pro will not likely eliminate the screen door effect completely, but it should reduce it quite a bit, offering users a better overall VR experience. To go along with that, HTC also redesigned the face cushion and nose pad block to make them lighter and more comfortable. And the Vive Pro includes a size dial for a more balanced fit that decreases the weight on the front of the headset.
In addition, HTC integrated high-performance headphones into the Vive Pro, with a built-in amplifier for rich sound. This is accompanied by dual microphones with active noise cancellation and dual front-facing cameras.
"There’s a clear need in the VR market for a premium VR experience with high resolution display, integrated audio and the best components available today in a headset," said Daniel O’Brien, GM U.S., VIVE. "Vive Pro offers an immediate upgrade for both VR enthusiasts and enterprises that want to utilize the best VR experience."
HTC has not yet said when the Vive Pro will be available or how much it will cost, but did say it will offer it both bundled with redesigned motion trackers, and as a standalone headset that is compatible with the original Vive motion sensors.
HTC also unveiled the Vive Wireless Adapter, calming it is the first to market with a truly wireless VR headset integration for both the Vive and Vive Pro. The adapter uses Intel's WiGig technology and operates in the "interference-free" 60GHz band. HTC says that going with 60Hz means lower latency and better performance.
"Wireless VR has been on nearly every VR user’s wishlist since the technology was unveiled," said Frank Soqui, General Manager Virtual Reality Group at Intel Corporation. "By collaborating with HTC to commercialize Intel’s WiGig technology, we will guarantee that wireless VR meets the most discerning quality bar for home users and business VR customers."
The wireless adapter won't ship until sometime this summer. Like the Vive Pro, pricing has not yet been announced.