SEATTLE– After almost a year of teases, HTC has actually taken the complete covers off its next PC-VR headset, the Vive Universe. The business welcomed me to its American Vive head office to validate a release strategy: beginning October 3, HTC will start offering the complete system for $699, and this system lastly disposes the old HTC Vive “lighthouse” tracking boxes in favor of integrated, “inside-out” tracking video cameras.

Nevertheless, HTC likewise welcomed me to check the Universe in a couple of VR video games, and while I didn’t check for enough time to create a conclusive evaluation, I’m presently left questioning whether HTC’s most current VR system has what it requires to take on either the costlier Valve Index or the very best of the market’s less expensive, inside-out tracking headsets.

One advance, one action back?

On a technical level, Vice Universe presents a brand-new set of VR lenses that take a one-step-forward, one-step-back relocation compared to comparable lenses in the HTC Vive Pro. Universe apparently has actually a somewhat increased “integrated” resolution for both eyes, approximately 2,880 x 1,700 compared to the Vive Pro’s 2,880 x 1,600 resolution. HTC representatives firmly insist that this brand-new panel in addition boosts the subpixel resolution to lower the fundamental “screen door” result seen in older VR headsets.

The important things is, Universe disposes HTC’s typical OLED panels in favor of fast-switching LCDs, a shift we have actually seen in a variety of brand-new VR headsets over the previous year. Like the other great ones, Vive Universe’s LCDs certainly make the most of an enhanced subpixel resolution without experiencing ghosting, and they perform at the VR market’s basic refresh rate of 90 Hz. However LCDs aren’t approximately the exact same color recreation snuff as OLEDs, and the Vice Universe headset I checked had perhaps the most soft color scheme I have actually seen in a 2019 LCD headset. I was directed to a “dynamic” color toggle to attempt and repair this, however it didn’t suffice.

What’s more, I didn’t have more recent VR panels to compare the Universe to at the occasion, simply 2016’s initial HTC Vive. So I can’t speak plainly to why the Universe’s high-resolution panels looked a bit smeary. Some text recreation was remarkably blurred in apps like the Museum of Other Truths, which may be a concern with how the headset manages its subpixel plan; the HP Reverb has a comparable pixel-smoothing system in location, which’ll likely depend on user’s choices, in regards to how they feel about it.

Likewise, that resolution count does not inform the entire story. The Vive Universe does not utilize an additional 100 pixels of vertical resolution to increase its obvious field of vision (FOV). Possibly I have actually simply gotten utilized to the Valve Index, however the Universe felt a bit claustrophobic in practice, in regards to its “110 degree” FOV ranking.

Inside-out concerns

In order to dispose the older Vive systems’ dependence on lighthouse tracking boxes, HTC has actually selected a tremendous six-camera range on the Vive Universe. 4 sensing units scan ahead, above, and listed below the headset on its front face, while an extra set of sensing units flanks the headset’s left and best sides.

However my own individual warning went off when I asked HTC’s representatives for my preferred screening app: Beat Saber This video game is a terrific procedure of “regular” VR hand motion for a couple factors: it does not need waving hands behind the head (where video cameras generally can’t track), however it still requires a mix of wild gesticulation and fast motion to beat its rhythm-matching levels. HTC didn’t have a copy of the video game convenient, the representatives stated.

Rather, I was used a sword-swinging app, which just asked me to wave my hands ahead of me to parry and strike enemies. This movement was extremely less extreme than what’s needed from an “specialist” Beat Saber tune, yet I was still left sensation worried. For one, something about the Vive Universe’s tracking range kept losing my hands for “appropriate however visible” split seconds regularly.

This exact same concern stopped me from advising numerous first-generation Windows Mixed Truth headsets, which likewise count on integrated sensing units and inside-out tracking. If this stays up to date with the last, delivering Vive Universe, I’ll be singing the exact same downhearted tune. I’m rather positive that HTC can tweak this concern ahead of the October launch, however it’s certainly visible for HTC’s very first huge inside-out tracking item.

Heft in the hands: Not always great news

Worse, there’s something else awry. HTC has actually lastly chosen to change the old Vive wand controllers with a controller similar to Oculus Touch, which need to be absolutely nothing however great news. It feels durable in the hand; it provides a great range of joysticks, buttons, and activates; and it maps 1:1 with Oculus’s strong basic range, plus bonus offer buttons that do not obstruct.

However unlike Oculus Touch, Valve Knuckles, and even WMR, the Vive Universe controllers have actually been constructed to highlight intense lights, which the Universe’s sensing units search for in tracking your VR hands. That indicates this is quickly the heaviest VR controller I have actually seen paired with a commercial-grade headset. WMR is the just other traditional controller with integrated lights, however those controllers have small LEDs, instead of the huge, lit-up patterns on the Universe pads.

After 15 minutes of evaluating the Vive Universe and perhaps 3 minutes swinging a VR sword in my last demonstration, I felt weary. I’m a quite healthy individual without any lack of waving-like-a-VR-idiot experience. I’m most likely the high-end of users who can forgive needed VR effort. If HTC does not create an option for these controllers’ weight quickly, they remain in difficulty in regards to the broader market.

In great news, a minimum of, the Vive Universe has modularity in mind, as can be seen in the above images. The very first Vive Universe add-on face plate alternative, coming “early 2020,” will include a constellation of trackable dots for the sake of older HTC Vive lighthouse tracking boxes, need to VR owners wish to integrate the Universe with existing hardware. As the above gallery tips, more face plates might be on their method.

And HTC has other existing Vive hardware in mind for Universe, especially the Vive Wireless Adapter. An “connect package” will be offered “quickly” to adjust existing Vive Wireless Adapters to deal with the Vive Universe, however no release date or cost for that was yet used.

And I mored than happy to see a revamped Vive Truth software application suite presented in my Universe demonstration. Think about it like another “VR house” where you can find material, just like SteamVR House. HTC’s brand-new take nicely serves and markets a variety of video games and apps as served by the Viveport membership service.

It does not take much to exceed the game-shuffling user interface constructed into SteamVR, so HTC is worthy of props for cleaning this up with huge, clear icons and easy controls to skim a lot software application. Still, all Vive systems still depend on SteamVR as an introducing hook for their video games and software application, and my pre-release Vive Truth test consisted of one crash while attempting to feed a Viveport app to SteamVR’s booting system.

Plainly, I have some appointments about Vive Universe’s VR capacity. Oculus Rift S is presently a much snappier system in regards to trustworthy inside-out tracking. And Valve Index does not cost that far more to blow Universe away in regards to LCD panel efficiency and FOV increases. (Let’s not forget Oculus Mission, which still leads my “finest VR headsets of 2019” list by more than a slim margin.)

We’ll prepare to go back to the Universe next month with an evaluation. Till then, we’re keeping our VR fingers crossed that robust tests and last-minute tweaks will expose that HTC has some secret sauce loaded into the depths of its Universe.

Noting image by Sam Machkovech