HTC Vive’s Pro 2 and Focus 3 are high-powered 5K VR headsets for pros

HTC Vive isn’t letting Oculus have the entire VR market to itself. While the Oculus Quest 2 is taking over the consumer side of inexpensive, consumer-friendly virtual reality, HTC Vive is doubling down on professional-grade VR with the Vive Pro 2 and Focus 3 headsets. The names say it all: the Vive Pro 2 is a direct sequel to 2018’s Vive Pro, which was notable for fixing all of the ergonomic issues we had with the original Vive. The Focus 3, meanwhile, is a successor to the Focus Plus standalone headset.

Gallery: HTC Vive Pro 2 and Focus 3 | 16 Photos

Gallery: HTC Vive Pro 2 and Focus 3 | 16 Photos

Both devices offer 5K displays (giving each eye 2.5K); an expansive 120-degree field of view (compared to 110-degrees on the last models); and real RGB subpixels, which helps make everything look sharp and reduces the screen-door effect that plagues cheaper headsets. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay a lot for all of that tech. The Vive Pro 2 costs $749 on its own, and $1,399 if you need the SteamVR base stations and Vive controllers. (And we thought the Valve Index was pricey at $999!) The Vive Focus 3 is even harder to stomach at $1,300 — a full $1,000 more than the Oculus Quest 2.

The Vive Pro 2 looks the same as the original design-wise, but according to HTC there wasn’t much that needed to change. The Vive Pro is still one of the most comfortable headsets around, after all. Instead, HTC focused on useful internal upgrades, like that new 5K screen, which runs at a smooth 120Hz refresh rate. The company was also able to increase its field-of-view by introducing a stacked dual-lens system. That means VR worlds will take up even more of your vision (cheaper headsets with lower FOVs sometimes feel like you’re just looking through a pair of binoculars).

HTC Vive Focus 3

HTC Vive

Clearly, HTC Vive spent more time refining the design of the Focus 3. That makes sense, as the original Focus and Focus Plus never felt comfortable to me. HTC says it rebalanced the Focus 3’s weight distribution, which should make it more comfortable to wear, and is using a new strap design to secure it to your noggin. The battery is now located on the rear headstrap, and it’s hot swappable within seconds. That’ll be helpful to anyone running VR training sessions, as you can conceivably keep one headset going all day with minimal downtime.

The Vive Focus 3 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 platform, but HTC Vive says it also optimized that hardware to run at peak performance. There’s a copper heat pipe and cooling fan in front of the headset’s display, which brings in cool air from the bottom and spits out heat towards the top. That’s another upgrade that could make the Focus 3 easier to wear, as less heat should lead to less sweating during VR sessions. You’ll also be able to connect the Focus 3 to a powerful PC for tethered VR (using the separate Vive Streaming Cable), similar to Oculus Quest’s Link feature.  

When it comes to input devices, the Focus 3 has new controllers that closely resemble the Oculus Quest’s gamepads. The full Vive Pro 2 kit, meanwhile, still comes with the original Vive wands. The company says you can also connect any SteamVR controller, including the Index’s excellent finger-tracking devices, but it’s still a shame there hasn’t been much of an evolution with its own offerings.

May 11, 2021 at 10:21PM

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