HTC’s Vive Pro with the “Vive Wireless Adapter” isn’t exactly wireless.
On top of your head there is a receiver with a USB cord on the back bringing power up from a battery pack clipped to your clothing. Packaged with a Vive Pro, this add-on is also heavy, bulky, expensive and gets warm on the top of your head from regular usage. And yet, I believe the Vive Pro with Vive Wireless Adapter is the best consumer VR experience on the market in 2018
The “Vive Wireless Adapter” is $360 or so with the “additional attachment kit” required for Vive Pro on top of what is currently termed the “Vive Pro Starter Kit”, costing around $1,100. That’s two first generation SteamVR Tracking base stations, two controllers, the Vive Pro head-mounted display with integrated audio, WiGig card for your PC, WiGig antenna for your PC, receiver for the Vive Pro, battery pack for your side and an extra pad for the Vive Pro to keep the heat from the receiver away from your head. All that together costs around $1,500. Plus you’ll need a PC that likely costs at least $700 to render the virtual worlds for you to play or work inside. You can cut some money from this investment by going for a regular $500 Vive instead of the Pro, but you’re still looking at around $800 in dedicated VR equipment (not including the PC) to put a single person with hand controllers in an untethered virtual space.
Games like Beat Saber, Superhot, Creed VR and Space Pirate Trainer play better with the freedom of the Vive Wireless Adapter and Vive Pro than with any tethered headset I’ve tried, and yet we expect most or all of those games to play pretty well on the standalone Oculus Quest as well in 2019. Oculus Quest should cost only $400 per player for a similar (albeit less powerful) overall experience. This means if you skip getting a wireless Vive now in less than nine months you could buy at least two complete Oculus Quest systems for the same price.
For a certain segment of our readers, their preference for PC as an open platform not tied to an account managed by Facebook is reason enough to never consider an Oculus-branded VR headset. And for those earlier adopters who’ve already made part of the investment in the Vive ecosystem or prefer to use a powerful PC at the core of their digital life — the wireless Vive Pro should provide the best VR experience of 2018, though we’ll admit to not having tried TPCast since CES at the start of this year
Even so, the first takeaway here is that the best consumer VR experience available to buy in 2018 is way more expensive than other options we will have in 2019.
Freedom From Wires
With the Vive Pro HMD, there’s a pathway to potentially supporting multiple wireless headsets across very large rooms with only four next-generation SteamVR base stations tracking all the accessories, controllers and headsets in the space.
This is something arcade owners and location-based VR operators might consider, or perhaps folks with the largest setups and budgets. It is a hefty investment but nonetheless a tempting one for folks who have been wanting to cut the cord to their HTC Vive for two years now. For all my warnings about price, it’s all still cheaper than a $2,300 Magic Leap One Creator Edition. There is something truly magical about a wireless headset of this quality with access to the robust and growing SteamVR content library. That will be a dream come true for some at any price.
After using Vive Pro with the Vive Wireless Adapter I never want to disconnect the wireless unit. This is partially because the experience is so freeing (and ultimately superior to a wired Vive Pro) but also because it’s a scary conversion process to disconnect the lengthy wire and connect the new short cord.