HTC Vive XR Elite Review: A Uniquely Versatile VR Headset | Digital trends

Alan actually plays with the HTC Vive XR Elite.

HTC Vive XR Elite

MSRP $1,099.00

DT recommended product

“The Vive XR Elite is one of the most versatile mixed reality headsets you can buy.”

Pros

  • A virtual reality headset that you wear like glasses

  • MR Gasket eliminates face pressure

  • Works well for PC VR

  • Great standalone app store

Cons

  • Screen resolution is lower than Quest 3

  • The app store is smaller than Meta’s

The HTC Vive XR Elite is a unique and versatile VR headset that transforms into different shapes, giving you the freedom to choose which features you want at any time. Even though it’s now a year old, the Vive XR Elite continues to improve and is still worth considering.

Meta stands out as the maker of the Quest 2, the world’s most popular VR headset, but HTC’s solution is good enough to earn a spot on our list of the best VR headsets for your PC and the best VR headsets on general

Let’s dig into the details and learn what makes the Vive XR Elite special.

Three ways to wear it

HTC's Vive XR Elite comes equipped with a full face interface and a rear battery.
HTC’s Vive XR Elite comes equipped with a full face interface and a rear battery. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

Comfort is critical for wearable products and they must be adjusted to fit people of all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, VR headsets don’t have a good track record when it comes to long-term comfort.

HTC took a bold approach to this problem, offering two ways to wear the Vive XR Elite at launch. A third option, my favorite, came later.

The standard method is a halo strap that tightens at the back, fitting a fabric pillow against my face. The rear battery balances the visor for even distribution of the headset’s 1.4-pound weight.

In this configuration, the Vive XR Elite is a bit heavy compared to the Quest 3 at 1.1 pounds, but lighter than the Quest Pro at 1.6 pounds. HTC improved an already comfortable VR headset with an option to remove the rear battery.

HTC includes headphones to convert the Vive XR Elite to this glasses mode.
HTC includes headphones to convert the Vive XR Elite to this glasses mode. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

The second way to wear the Vive XR Elite is by using headphones instead of the halo strap and battery. In this mode, I wear it like glasses. It looks like ski goggles and weighs only 10 ounces (0.6 pounds).

I use the cross strap that attaches to the back of each stem and rests on the top of my head to take any pressure off the ear. It is very light and comfortable in this configuration.

As impressive as it is, it gets better. I love the design of the Quest Pro as the visor floats in front of my eyes without pressing down on my face. HTC borrowed the idea and released an optional mixed reality interface that replaces the magnetically held pad with a forehead pad.

My favorite setting of the Vive XR Elite is the mixed reality interface in glasses mode.
My favorite setting of the Vive XR Elite is the mixed reality interface in glasses mode. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

I use the Vive XR Elite with the MR board, so I can see the sides and bottom. This allows me to see my phone and keyboard without relying on the pass-through camera view. It works with the battery strap and in glasses mode.

Virtual screens for my computer

I use the Vive XR Elite on my computer by connecting to the USB-C port.
I use the Vive XR Elite on my computer by connecting to the USB-C port. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

Connecting to my computer is my favorite way to use HTC’s Vive XR Elite. With the Vive Desk app, which is in beta testing, I can resize, tilt, and place three large virtual screens around me.

The pass mode on the Vive XR Elite is pretty sharp, making it easy to see my phone, computer keyboard, and mouse. It’s better than the Quest Pro, but not as nice as the Quest 3 or Vision Pro. The objects look a little enlarged compared to their actual size, but my mind quickly adjusted to this new reality.

It took me a few minutes to adjust the fit and focus. To maximize sharpness, the built-in diopter dials let me adjust to each eye, a nice touch considering how many people have at least a little nearsightedness. After this initial setup, I can put on my headset, connect, and start working in about a minute.

The screen resolution of 1920 by 1920 pixels per eye is as good as most VR headsets released before 2024, but it’s not as sharp as a Quest 3 and well below the Vision Pro’s 4K resolution. To compensate, I scaled my virtual screens to the size of 32-inch monitors to make the text easily readable.

It’s like a triple monitor setup that fills the room without requiring a lot of space, along with desktop and wall mounts. For movie lovers, there’s an option for a single giant 21:9 screen that fills the entire view.

If I wanted to connect to my Mac, I could use the immersive or virtual desktop. Both apps support Windows and macOS on the most popular standalone VR headsets.

Autonomous fun

For standalone gaming, I use goggle mode with an external battery belt.
For standalone gaming, I use goggle mode with an external battery belt. Photo by Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

The Vive XR Elite also has a standalone mode. The library isn’t as big as the Meta’s Quest store, but there are several good titles.

HTC includes a few games and apps to get you started with the headset before you visit the store. The most notable are hubrisan engaging sci-fi adventure game and OpenBrusha great virtual reality painting app that is available on many virtual reality headsets.

To use standalone mode, you need the halo strap which comes with a battery. If you prefer to play in glasses mode, you can connect an external battery. I have a PrismXR Carina battery belt and it worked fine.

The Vive XR Elite supports manual tracking, has good mixed reality, and several ways to define a safe space to move around when fully immersed in a VR game. The experience is very similar to the more popular Meta Quest headphones.

Is the Vive XR Elite right for you?

You can order the HTC Vive XR Elite for $1,099. It’s a well-made VR headset with a thoughtful design that competes well with options like the Meta Quest Pro.

In fact, with the $25 MR Gasket accessory, the Vive XR Elite even matches the floating visor design of the Quest Pro. This, combined with the XR Elite’s unique glasses mode, the Vive XR Elite is currently the lightest and most comfortable VR headset that can connect wirelessly to your Windows PC. If you’re already on your computer, you can further minimize your gear by plugging it into a USB-C port. This allows you to disconnect the battery and skip Wi-Fi if your USB connection is good enough.

It goes without saying that the Quest 3 is still the headset most people should buy. It provides the virtual reality experience that most people want at a more affordable price. The Vive XR Elite isn’t meant to compete directly with the Vision Pro either, of course, especially at nearly a third of the price.

But if you want the option to play both PC and standalone VR games, HTC’s Vive XR Elite can serve both purposes, making it a great alternative to the Quest Pro.

However, there’s one last caveat before you go out and buy it: The Vive XR Elite is almost a year old. This means that a newer version could be released soon. In fact, Qualcomm has already mentioned that HTC is working on a VR headset powered by the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2. This processor is faster than the Meta Quest 3 and supports up to 4K resolution per eye. If you can wait until the end of the year, you’ll probably get an upgraded version of these headphones with better performance and image quality.

Editors’ recommendations






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