The HTC Vive Brief Review — on a barely qualifying computer

When I purchased the HTC Vive, I did so knowing that my computer barely met the minimum requirements (in particular, my GTX 960 graphics card is a bottleneck of performance). I also ordered a powerful new computer to dedicate completely to Virtual Reality, but until it arrives I’m having to make do with what I’ve got.

So, up front? If you have $800 to spend on a Vive but not enough juice to power it, it’s probably not worth the trouble. It’s a demanding, not always user-friendly setup that is going through the growing pains of early technology. Job Simulator is unplayable (dropped frames), The Lab and Audioshield frequently crash or freeze, and I have been experiencing frequent audio glitches. The technical difficulties just break immersion too often.

More general comments: If video-watching is your preferred activity, you might want to invest in Google Daydream devices instead — there is no native support for YouTube yet (though surely it’s coming), and generally videos don’t look all that hot on the Vive. Rendered environments (such as those in games or simulators) look much better, and the quality of software seems to depend a lot on how well they utilize the controllers.

My biggest complaint about the hardware is that it’s very difficult to properly fit the headset on in a way that fits well comfortably for long-term use. Adjusting the straps, getting your eyes in just the right position, all of that stuff is actually quite a challenge… and even once you get it right, you’ll still be pretty hot “inside” that thing and may want a fan blowing on you.

So how does the room-scale stuff pan out? Well, from my experience you want to do VR in one of two ways: Sitting down, or with the full recommended area. Playing with a half-room to walk around in just feels clunky. It’s totally worth moving that couch to get the extra meter of space.

So, yeah, I’m getting a pretty watered-down experience so far… and I must say in spite of all that, it’s been super fun! I’m getting the impression that the Vive is the best VR option available -if- you can clear out a whole room, but otherwise the Oculus and PS VR might win out. I hope I can find more content besides Audioshield that I’ll actually want to revisit.

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