HTC Vive Cosmos review: Is the Elite upgrade worth it?

After utilizing each the Cosmos and Cosmos Elite, there is a clear winner

The Vive Cosmos was first launched late 2019, and though the modular design of the headset was thrilling, there was a noticeable lack of equipment obtainable. That was till March 2020, when HTC unveiled three variants of the Cosmos: the Cosmos Play, Cosmos and Cosmos Elite, every with interchangeable faceplates that provide wildly totally different monitoring experiences. 

I’ve spent a number of time within the digital world in each the Vive Cosmos and Vive Cosmos Elite, and right here’s what I consider HTC’s newest VR headset vary. 

A largely improved design

The HTC Vive Cosmos is offered in three choices – Play, Cosmos and Elite – and though some options range, the core design and show tech are the identical throughout the vary. Meaning you’ll get the identical show high quality and headset design no matter whether or not you choose up the £599/$599, £799/$799 or £899/$899 variant of the Cosmos, so don’t really feel such as you’re downgrading on the general VR expertise on provide by choosing one of many cheaper variations. 

The Vive Cosmos encompasses a single 3.4in 2880 x 1700 LCD show break up at 1440 x 1700 per eye with a 90Hz refresh price, beating the likes of the Valve Index and Oculus Rift S and providing the most effective visuals I’ve ever seen from a VR headset. There’s additionally little or no Display screen Door Impact (SDE) because of a discount within the hole between every particular person pixel within the show – however I’ll speak extra about efficiency later.  

There’s additionally a bodily IPD adjustment knob on the headset itself, providing a one-up in comparison with the software-powered IPD adjustment of the Rift S, however in contrast to the unique Vive, you received’t discover eye aid adjustment right here.

That’s an issue as a result of though the Cosmos FOV is quoted as 110 levels, the identical as the unique Vive, the lack to maneuver the shows nearer or additional away out of your eyes makes it really feel somewhat narrower than the unique, and you may simply see black edges to the image in the event you shift your imaginative and prescient left or proper.

So, two steps ahead and one step again, it appears.

Usually talking, the Vive Cosmos sports activities a typical halo design with a prime velcro strap to offer further assist and a wheel on the again that tightens and loosens the principle headband. It was a design first launched with the PlayStation VR earlier than making an look on most subsequent VR headsets, and with the Halo design offering a extra superior, safe match in comparison with the ski mask-esque headstraps of the first-gen Vive and Oculus Rift, it’s straightforward to see why. 

However even the superior Halo design isn’t sufficient to cease you from noticing the front-heavy nature of the headset over longer durations of play. Even when securely fitted, the HMD feels weighty and might even really feel somewhat unwieldy throughout some fast-paced moments, and that’s not nice for general consolation.

Whereas the Halo design is turning into the usual within the VR market, the Cosmos HMD is exclusive in that it may be lifted up, permitting you to work together with the true world with out having to take the headset off. It’s very best if you wish to rapidly change a setting in your PC, reply the door or simply wish to wipe your face throughout a sweaty VR train session, and though it’s a comparatively minor function, it reveals the eye to element current right here.

You’ll additionally discover two front-facing cameras, whatever the variant of Cosmos you go for. These provide the identical passthrough performance obtainable on the first-gen Vive, permitting you to see the true world throughout the digital, however I’d argue it’s not fairly as crucial this time round with the power to only flip the HMD up at a second’s discover. However hey, it’s there if individuals want it! 

Oh, and it’s price noting that whereas the Cosmos affords inside-out monitoring by default, negating the necessity for exterior base stations, it nonetheless wants a reasonably succesful PC to work and it’s wired by default too. You’ll want a DisplayPort and a USB 3.zero port in your PC – a change from the HDMI enter of the unique Vive – together with a plug for the headset’s personal energy supply. 

An odd selection of controller

Providing an inside-out monitoring system by default, HTC couldn’t use the unique all-black Vive controllers, and as a substitute headed again to the drafting board to create one thing new for the next-gen controller – with middling outcomes.  

The very first thing you’re more likely to discover concerning the Vive Cosmos controllers are the intense LED rings that encircle the buttons of the controllers. This mild helps the headset preserve observe of the place of the controllers when you’re within the digital world, though it’s far more in-your-face than the small, elegant controllers supplied with the Oculus Rift S. 

That over-the-top theme extends to the buttons on provide; you’ve acquired your customary ABXY buttons, together with two concave management sticks with L3 and R3 performance, two grip buttons and each a bumper and set off button on every too. It’s lots to get your head round initially, particularly in the event you’re coming from the unique Vive with a totally totally different format. The true draw back is that many present VR apps – even the likes of Half-Life: Alyx –  don’t reap the benefits of all of the buttons on provide, though that would effectively change in future. 

It’s additionally over-the-top within the energy division, with every controller requiring two AA batteries – double that required by the Rift S and admittedly most different VR controllers in the marketplace proper now. The excellent news is that the controllers appear to be effectively optimised – I haven’t needed to change the batteries since first organising the system a couple of weeks in the past – nevertheless it’s nonetheless inconvenient in comparison with the rechargeable nature of the unique Vive controllers. 

Primarily, the Vive Cosmos controllers are over-the-top in mainly each space, and whereas it does technically imply they’re among the many most succesful obtainable, it additionally means they’re a lot heavier and bulkier than a lot of the competitors. 

The Cosmos expertise

The expertise you get from the Vive Cosmos largely relies on the faceplate that you simply’re utilizing; the entry-level Cosmos Play affords 4 cameras, the usual Cosmos affords six cameras and the high-end Cosmos Elite ditches inside-out monitoring for the extra dependable SteamVR monitoring.

Whereas it could appear annoying having three totally different variations of the headset, the great thing about the Cosmos is that it’s modular in design, permitting you to purchase a less expensive bundle initially and purchase the faceplate and never a wholly new headset if/while you determine to improve. It additionally means HTC can proceed so as to add new performance through totally different faceplates in future – it already has an AR Passthrough faceplate dubbed Cosmos XR within the works. 

To begin, let’s discuss what you’ll get from the usual Vive Cosmos expertise. As famous above, you’ll get the identical 3.4in show whatever the variant you choose up, offering an extremely crisp and sharp VR expertise higher than a lot of the competitors.

Textual content is simple to learn and the digital worlds I visited appeared noticeably extra detailed than different headsets, bettering the immersive expertise on provide – bar the slim field-of-view. The mixture of improved decision and a discount within the area between the person pixels means SDE is barely noticeable, though it’s there in the event you actually search for it. 

It’s within the monitoring division that you simply’ll discover an actual distinction in efficiency. The Vive Cosmos utilises six exterior cameras to trace its place and that of the Cosmos controllers, providing a a lot less complicated setup course of than earlier headsets that require bodily base stations for monitoring, however as you’d in all probability think about, the monitoring isn’t flawless.

Whereas the monitoring is completely effective when the controllers are instantly in entrance of the headset, points come up after they depart the digicam’s discipline of view. It’s clear that HTC has employed some sort of tech to estimate the place of the controller as soon as it leaves the sector of view, nevertheless it’s inaccurate a lot of the time, and the annoying rubber banding impact when your controller snaps again into place as soon as monitoring has resumed will be jarring in fast-paced titles like Half-Life: Alyx and Fallout four VR. 

That being mentioned, it does do an amazing job at monitoring in much less intense VR titles like Beat Saber, Area Pirate Coach and Audica that require your palms to be in entrance of you always. Even when the controllers drift from the headset’s discipline of view, they don’t actually require true 1:1 monitoring so that you can have an pleasant time.

It’s additionally greater than sufficient for almost all of interactive VR experiences, so in the event you’re extra of an informal gamer that’d use the VR headset for train and leisure than a hardcore gamer trying to sink 40 hours right into a full-length action-packed VR title, the usual Cosmos ought to suffice. 

The Cosmos Elite expertise

It’s protected to say that the Cosmos Elite offers a wholly totally different monitoring expertise, from setup to efficiency.

Just like the first-gen HTC Vive, the Cosmos Elite utilises SteamVR monitoring through wall-mountable base stations that observe the headset and controllers with true 1:1 accuracy. The upgraded monitoring offers true room-scale 360-degree monitoring, permitting you to succeed in behind your again and never having to fret concerning the lack of monitoring. It’s a game-changer for general gameplay, making intricate actions simpler and bettering general accuracy in shooters – be gone, slight wobble! 

It’s particularly noticeable in fast-paced VR titles, with no lack of monitoring at any level – regardless of how frantic the motion acquired. The 1:1 monitoring provides to the immersive nature of digital actuality, completely simulating the motion of your palms as you progress. 

However whereas the Cosmos Elite monitoring efficiency is amongst the most effective you’ll discover proper now, it’s nowhere close to as straightforward to arrange as the usual inside-out monitoring Cosmos. You see, the bottom stations should be mounted to partitions in your setting – a quite everlasting possibility – or positioned excessive up within the room on tripods. Both means, it’s much more effort than merely placing the headset on and tracing your play space, and it additionally means you’ll be able to solely use the Elite in a single space until you are taking the stations off the partitions and reattach them in one other room.

In case you’re on the lookout for a VR headset you could take across the dwelling – and even pals homes – the Elite in all probability isn’t the choice for you. Whether or not the additional effort in setup is well worth the improved efficiency is essentially down to non-public opinion, however with such a excessive stage of monitoring accuracy on provide, I’d argue that it’s in all probability price it. 

My important gripe with the Cosmos Elite is the inclusion of the unique HTC Vive controllers. Whereas the 1:1 monitoring on provide from the Vive wands is welcome, I feel HTC ought to’ve launched a brand new SteamVR-enabled controller with components of design from the Cosmos controllers. Whereas not excellent, the Cosmos controllers use the way more correct analogue sticks for enter in comparison with contact enter of the unique Vive wands, making exploring open-world video games like Fallout four somewhat irritating at instances. 

In case you’re making the leap from the first-gen Vive then you definately received’t have any complaints right here, because the controllers are actually similar, however you may really feel prefer it’s a step within the flawed course in the event you’re coming from an Oculus headset. You may at all times splash out for SteamVR-enabled Valve Index knuckle controllers for an improved expertise, however at £899 for the Cosmos Elite package and £259/$279 for the knuckle controllers, it’ll be a expensive aftermarket improve. 

Modular design comes at a premium

The Vive Cosmos technically begins at £599/$599 with the Cosmos Play, however contemplating that’s but to be launched, we’ll focus extra on the Cosmos and Cosmos Elite, each of that are available for purchase worldwide proper now.

The £699/$699 price ticket of Vive Cosmos is nearly double that of the £399/$399 Oculus Rift S, making it a tough promote – particularly when the 2 provide similar inside-out monitoring. Nevertheless, the improved decision on provide from the Cosmos does translate to noticeably clearer experiences in VR, so it’s not as clear-cut as some could assume. 

There’s additionally the modular nature of the Cosmos: certain, it prices extra, however you’ll then pay means much less to get future upgrades. That’s not one thing supplied by any of the competitors, which means you’ll should fork out for a wholly new headset when options are introduced in the event you go for Oculus’ possibility. It’s available for purchase from HTC, together with the likes of Amazon each within the UK and US

The Cosmos Elite is £200/$200 extra at £899/$899, placing it according to the high-end £919/$999 Valve Index, and whereas the monitoring is nice I do assume the first-gen Vive wands do cut back the general worth of the package – particularly while you evaluate them to the extra superior Index knuckle controllers. Nonetheless, in order for you the excessive decision of the Cosmos and a real 1:1 monitoring expertise, it’s the one possibility you’ve at present acquired. 

If the Cosmos Elite is the headset for you, it’s obtainable from HTC and eBuyer proper now.

It basically boils down as to whether you assume you’ll be an informal person that dips in each on occasion or somebody that’ll stay and breathe VR and can wish to put money into all of the non-compulsory upgrades that come alongside in future. If it’s the previous, you is perhaps higher off with the £399 Oculus Rift S, however in order for you one thing you could proceed to boost over time, it is perhaps price investing within the Cosmos or Cosmos Elite.  

For extra VR inspiration, check out our choice of the most effective VR headsets. 

Verdict

The Vive Cosmos, it doesn’t matter what possibility you go for, isn’t what I’d think about entry-level PC VR – particularly when you should purchase the Oculus Rift S for £399/$399, nearly half the value of the Cosmos, with an analogous six-camera monitoring system on provide. However, with a a lot increased decision than the competitors, the Vive Cosmos undoubtedly offers one of the vital detailed digital experiences obtainable proper now. 

It’s the modular nature that makes the Cosmos vary distinctive, and why it prices somewhat extra too. Relatively than having to purchase a wholly new headset when HTC reveals new tech, Cosmos house owners can merely purchase a brand new faceplate and fasten it to their present headset, providing big financial savings down the road. It simply relies on whether or not you’re desirous about having the newest VR tech, or in the event you’re pleased with a normal VR expertise. 

The Cosmos itself, with six-camera monitoring, affords a good VR expertise for low- to mid-intensity VR video games, however the digicam monitoring is not excellent and the lack of monitoring in fast-paced VR titles like Half-Life: Alyx will be irritating at instances.

However that’s the place the Cosmos Elite is available in: for £200/$200 extra, you’ll be able to seize a Cosmos with true 1:1 monitoring, however at the price of lengthy setup instances and having to make use of the first-gen Vive wands. Once more, it relies on the sort of expertise you’ll be wanting in VR, however in order for you the most effective efficiency attainable, the Elite is unquestionably the best way to go.

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