HTC is opening preorders for a new virtual and augmented reality headset, the Vive XR Elite. The XR Elite is a $1,099 standalone headset that’s designed to compete with Meta’s Quest headsets and the rumored Apple AR / VR device. Shipping in late February worldwide, it supports the gamut of consumer games and software HTC has offered on past VR headsets, plus mixed reality experiences using full-color passthrough video.
The Vive XR Elite is aimed at consumers who want games, passive media, and productivity tools in a relatively lightweight package. HTC promised a small and light design, and the XR Elite weighs in at 625 grams, making it heavier than the Meta Quest 2 but notably lighter than the 722-gram Quest Pro. It offers mixed reality with color cameras and a depth sensor for additional situational awareness, something Meta initially planned but cut from its Quest Pro.
Most of the XR Elite’s other specs are respectable but not groundbreaking for a 2023 VR headset. It offers a screen resolution of around 2K pixels per eye, a 110-degree diagonal field of view, a 90Hz refresh rate, 12GB of memory, 128GB of storage, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2, the same chip that’s in the 2021 Meta Quest 2. It features four wide-angle cameras that let it track the user’s hands or a pair of motion controllers using the design from HTC’s earlier Vive Focus 3. “We’re going to have a lot of consumer content, gaming, fitness, entertainment, but it will also do things like productivity,” says Vive general manager Dan O’Brien.
But the headset also has a few more unusual features, some of which HTC teased in an interview with The Verge last year. For people who wear glasses, there’s a lens diopter adjustment option that’s supposed to let you use the device without them in addition to an adjustor for the distance between lenses. The headset’s weight includes a back-mounted battery that HTC promises will last around two hours. For longer periods of use, it’s hot-swappable — a small backup battery built into the main headset will keep it running for around 10 minutes while you replace the spent main battery with a fresh one. (The Vive Focus 3 had replaceable batteries, but the headset couldn’t run while you were changing them.) The headset charges over USB-C, and its controllers are also rechargeable, offering a battery life of closer to 10 hours.
The XR Elite supports an additional “glasses mode” that’s supposed to make the headset far lighter. Like the Quest Pro and Apple’s rumored headset, the default setup includes a strap that fits around the back of your head. Glasses mode lets you snap off the strap and battery and replace them with a pair of plastic pieces that rest over your ears and — according to HTC — reduce the weight to 240 grams. That’s a little over twice as heavy as the Nreal Light AR glasses and about 50 grams more than the Vive Flow, a glasses-style headset HTC launched in 2021. You can then plug the headset into a power outlet or a laptop and use it for relatively stationary experiences, like watching movies or using a virtual big-screen display. In this mode, the headset folds up like sunglasses and fits into a carrying case, much like the Vive Flow.
As HTC hinted earlier, the XR Elite will also get two optional accessories: one enabling eye tracking and the other enabling full face tracking. It also supports the optional wrist tracker that HTC introduced for the Vive Focus 3. The headset’s $1,099 package will ship with the headset, one battery, and two motion controllers — plus a games / app bundle in some markets. An enterprise package will be announced around Mobile World Congress later this spring.
The XR Elite won’t replace HTC’s existing professional headsets. O’Brien says the Vive Focus 3 will remain on sale and so will the Vive Pro 2 PC-based headset — and PC VR fans will apparently get some “interesting announcements” in the first quarter of 2023. But he says HTC will likely retire the consumer-oriented Vive Flow around the end of the year.
HTC could face a stiff challenge in consumer and productivity-oriented VR since its past success has been largely concentrated in simulation training, arcade-style location-based entertainment, and industrial VR. The XR Elite costs more than twice as much as the popular $399 Quest 2, and its benefits might seem optional to consumers. Passthrough AR is still in an experimental stage, and while HTC has promised greater privacy inside VR than the data-hungry and ad-driven Meta, that’s a slightly abstract value-add.
But the XR Elite is targeting a standalone VR / AR market that HTC — as well as Meta, Apple, and other companies — believes will flourish in the coming years. We’re looking forward to testing the XR Elite’s capabilities to see how it stacks up to the competition.