HTC Vive Cosmos VR Headset Review
HTC first unveiled its Vive virtual reality headset three years ago. In the intervening period, the Taiwanese tech giant has gone on to release other versions of VR headsets including the Vive Focus, Vive Pro, Vive Pro Eye and the Vive Focus Plus for businesses and developers (enterprise users).
Today, HTC announced that its new Vive Cosmos VR headset will be shipping on October 3rd and it has already opened the product for pre-orders. The device will be retailing at $699 and early bird buyers will also get it with a trial Viveport Infinity subscription: a 12-month trial for preorders before October 3rd or a six-month trial for orders made afterwards.
The Vive Cosmos headset is a significant improvement over the original HTC Vive headset. It comes with features such as inside-out tracking, flip-up goggles, new controllers, modular faceplates as well as a very high-resolution display, the highest-res so far in the marketplace. Like the HTC Vive Pro, the Vive Cosmos headset will also have integrated headphones but on Cosmos, these will be removable and swappable with your own sets of headphones.
The Vive Cosmos is a tethered headset. You will need to connect it to a PC for the processing power but HTC offers users a separate Vive Wireless Adapter which goes for $300 and lets users untether the headset from the PC.
The Vive Cosmos headset has been designed for performance, ease of use and versatility. Its new Vive tracking system gives users a simplified setup that significantly reduces the barrier to entry, offers improved performance and make it even easier and faster to get started on virtual reality. The six camera sensors provide for a wider and accurate inside-out tracking and allow for 310-degree tracking. The new tracking system gives users a simplified setup that makes it not only easier but also a lot faster for beginners to get onto VR.
The HTC Vive Cosmos has a resolution of 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye or 2880 x 1700 combined resolution. This is an impressive 88% improvement in resolution over that of the original Vive, assuring end users of crystal-clear text and graphics. The device’s new LCD panels also helps cut down on the distance between the pixels. This ultra-high resolution together with the RGB also helps in reducing the screen-door effect.
In comparison, the original HTC Vive had a resolution of 1080 x 1200 per eye for a combined 2160 x 1200 while the Vive Pro had a resolution 1440 x 1600 per eye.
The Cosmos also has a unique flip-up design which will enable users to transition between the virtual reality environment and the actual reality in a matter of seconds without necessarily disrupting the virtual reality journeys. It has a refresh rate of 90Hz as well as a field-of-view of 110 degrees.
HTC has also changed the halo design of the headset to ensure better weight distribution. Now wearers can simply flip it up to go from the virtual world to the real world.
The Cosmos also has built-in headphones but these are removable and swappable. It has a USB 3.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity as well as USB-C 3.0 peripheral ports to allow for proprietary connection to mods. Users won’t have to grapple with any minimum space requirements for either standing or seated virtual reality experience. The room-scale virtual reality with Cosmos will require a space of 2m by 1.5m.
The ergonomics and comfort level have improved considerably allowing users to get extended virtual reality experiences. The integrated on-ear headphones also allow you to experience immersive sounds within the VR environment.
The controllers have been completely redesigned to help maximize the functionality within virtual reality and ensure maximum comfort during extended play sessions. The controllers will feel quite comfortable in your hands and they aren’t as bulky as the previous controllers.
HTC added the X, Y, A and B buttons, going from the trackpad to the thumb to the joystick. HTC says it incorporated this functionality in response to requests from the gaming community.
If you want to enjoy your virtual reality experience without being tethered to a PC, then you can use the Vive Wireless Adapter which is compatible with the Cosmos. Unlike the enterprise HTC Vive Pro Eye, the Vive Cosmos does not have native eye-tracking.
HTC unveils first mod
The Cosmos has a modular faceplate design making it a more versatile premium virtual reality headset. It has been designed with future accessories in mind which will help transform its functionality and enable users to grow with the headset as new tech features are launched into the marketplace.
HTC announced the first official mod, the Vive Cosmos External Tracking Mod, which has been built for customers who wish to continue using their existing Lighthouse base stations for tracking functions. It will also allow users to fully leverage the superior performance of the Vive Cosmos headset.
This mod is base-station compatible and provides support for the Vive’s large and growing ecosystem of hardware peripherals such as the Vive Tracker. It provides end users with a great deal of input freedom for the virtual reality controls. The Vive Cosmos External Tracking Mod will be available to users from the first quarter of 2020.
Apart from the impressive hardware specs, the Vive Cosmos is also coming with a 12-month Viveport Infinity subscription for users who pre-order by October 2. Afterwards, users will get a bundled 6-month Viveport Infinity subscription with their pre-orders. This will grant them access to a vast library of more than 700 titles.
Viveport Infinity gives users access to a massive library of top-rated virtual reality apps, games as well as videos including A Fisherman’s Tale, Ninja Legends and Fujii. Users will also get access to premium videos from Animal Planet, GoPro and Discovery Channel among other top brands. To go with the Cosmos launch, Viveport is also planning to add more titles such as Doctor Who: The Edge of Time by Maze Theory, Playstack and BBC; Gloomy Eyes by Atlas V and 3dar; Battlewake by Survios; Swords of Gargantua by Yomuneco and gumi; Eleven Eleven by Syfy and MLB Home Run Derby VR by MLB.
Vive Reality System
With the new Vive Reality System, the Vive Cosmos headset will offer users an out-of-box virtual reality experience that is easy to set up and launch into the virtual environment. The Cosmos will be the first VR headset to offer users the Vive Reality System which is a repurposed core software rendering for Vive. The Vive Reality System represents a new virtual reality design experience that will make virtual reality experiences feel more like moving between worlds rather than the launching of apps on a device.
The Cosmos headset includes a redesigned interface known as Lens which will enables users to easily navigate XR and the Viveport Infinity applications. There is also a dynamic new home space known as Origin. The Origin space will be the launchpad for virtual reality applications as well as the interactive experiences that will come up over time.
The process of setting up the play-space is fairly easy and straightforward and takes roughly a minute. Players can put on the headset and see the play space around them as the cameras have the “pass through” functionality, enabling players to see the outside world through the cameras even when they are wearing the headset. This feature lets you draw your own boundaries within the play-space to avoid hitting obstacles.
The Vive Cosmos can be preordered online from the Vive website or through the various partner retail websites such as GameStop, Amazon, Walmart, Newegg, Best Buy Canada and B&HH Photo.
The Vive Cosmos does a great job at delivering top-notch quality next-generation virtual reality experience. It offers users better visuals as well as standardized controllers at affordable pricing. It’s further proof that the tethered VR experience via a PC that does the actual processing is still the best way to render high quality VR experience. There are of course standalone headsets such as the Oculus Quest and Vive Focus Plus but they do not push the envelope in terms of the quality of the experience. The Vive Cosmos does that and pushes the edge with superb delivery of graphics. The headset is also more affordable and accessible through inside-out tracking. However, users will still need a good PC and that will limit its portability.
In spite of the latest option, the virtual reality consumer market still faces challenges. Hardware manufacturers still have to make tradeoffs in the visual quality, costs as well as mobility and that often means that consumers do not get the hardware of their dreams. To get the best quality hardware, consumers have to dig deeper into their pockets and the choices are so far quite limited. By offering reasonably good technical specs at a relatively good price, the HTC Vive Cosmos represents another great milestone towards the advancement of virtual reality.