HTC: Vive Pro ‘Will Require A Better Machine’ To See Improved Visuals

by David Jagneaux • January 16th, 2018

This month at CES 2018 in Las Vegas we got the chance to see the near-future of VR hardware when HTC unveiled the Vive Pro at their press conference. The 3K resolution is improved over its current model predecessor and it also features an improved fit, embedded audio solution, and the promise of improved base station tracking sensors to arrive later this year.

We were given the chance to go hands-on with the Vive Pro at CES, as well as see it sitting side-by-side with the original Vive that released in 2016, and came away mostly impressed with the crisp visual display.

During the show HTC revealed that the Vive Pro will actually have the same minimum PC specifications as the current original Vive. This opens the door for current generation consumers to purchase just the Vive Pro when it releases for a marginal upgrade without having to break the bank on a whole new computer. At least, that’s the idea.

But just like any piece of cutting-edge technology though, you’re going to want to have a powerful computer to get the most out of it and the Vive Pro is no different.

“We have a minimum spec and a recommended spec, we haven’t revealed recommended yet but those are two different things,” explained J.B. McRee, Senior Manager, Product Marketing for VR at HTC during an in-person interview at CES. “The minimum is the bare minimum for it to work, functionally, but just like with any VR headset or game that lets you modify graphics settings and things like that, with a higher end GPU you’re gonna get higher performance. So the recommended spec will likely shift but the minimum spec will stay the same.”

So the ultimate question is: If you’re running a minimum or near-minimum spec PC right now with an original Vive and you buy a Vive Pro, will you notice improved visuals at all?

“It’s hard to say since each piece of content has different requirements,” answered McRee. “Let’s say you have a game with three graphical settings, if you were minimum spec using the Pro then you might need to run the game on a lower overall setting because it’s higher resolution and you’re requesting more horsepower from the computer. A large bulk of the devs here at CES have gone through and optimized things to run well on the Pro….It’s a higher performance headset so it will require a better machine. The people that we are currently marketing this product to, the most demanding consumers and enterprise customers, are not the type of people that have a minimum spec PC and they’re not the type of people that would feel uncomfortable upgrading to a higher end GPU if that’s what’s needed to get the type of experience that they want.”

This shouldn’t come as much of a revelation to anyone, but it’s important to understand that the Pro may not be a tangible upgrade for an everyday consumer. If you want to really see the resolution difference then you may need to push your machine a bit further than it’s being pushed currently. Until we know the recommended PC specs though, it’s hard to say what that will be exactly other than it’s going to be higher than the original Vive’s.

McRee indicated that all of the PCs running the Pro at CES were using a single GTX 1080 or an equivalent GPU, which does serve as at least a starting indication of where to aim to get the most out of the improved visuals.

Let us know your thoughts on the Vive Pro from what you’ve seen and heard down in the comments below!

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  • Cl

    Hopefully just the headset itself will be like $300 or less. 2 controllers and 2 basestations are like $530 which makes the og vive only $70 from my point of view. Any more than $300 is pushing it.

    • Crunchy005

      $270 if you bought it at the launch price.

    • johngrimoldy

      Though I completely agree in hoping for a *VERY* reasonable price, we both know the damned thing will cost around $500 at launch — ugh.

      • Michigan Jay Sunde

        HA!!! The OG Vive will become cheaper, but the new set will cost $800+, because the market will bear it – at least for a year. #Prophecy

        • johngrimoldy

          Maybe less, in light of the steep discount on the Odyssey. We’ll see.

  • Duane Aakre

    Were they doing supersampling with the GTX 1080 and the Vive Pro? Can a 1080 even do supersampling at the Vive Pro resolutions?

    I’ve only recently discovered supersampling with my Vive and GTX 1070. It makes a noticeable improvement in the image quality.

    • Max Lavache

      It will depend on games but if you can reach 2.5x or 3.0x or higher supersampling now I think the Vive Pro resolution will not be an issue for you. With my R9 290X 4GB I can play up to 1.5x with most VR games at 90 fps and minimum 45 fps for the most demanding. But for sure a GPU upgrade is already in my plans anyway (I want play in 4K too) so the Vive Pro upgrade is just fine for me. The so-called “screen door effect” is more noticeable when you crank up supersampling. In low-res VR games you don’t notice it so much. So that’s why they stated that you should need a better computer for the Vive Pro to see the best quality improvements. I think your GTX 1080 will be fine with the Vive Pro and it will not require much more. If you were on a GTX 980 you would consider an upgrade.

  • Milky

    Would be awesome if I could trade in my old headset towards the purchase of an upgrade.
    But the fov of only 110 degrees has me pretty sure I’ll wait this one out and see how the pimax pans out.

  • wrapter

    Its to bad they didn’t add lens adapters for those that use glasses. That would have been cheap and easy and yet sort of innovative.

    • Keith Brings

      I just went out and got relex smile eye surgery.

  • Juan Ritz

    This is pretty obvious, isn’t it? The idea that your current rig won’t magically push more pixels with no added performance cost?

    • Utgardaloki76

      Vive Pro’s panels don’t push more pixels than those of original Vive computation wise. All Vive panels show a much lower resolution image than the original rendered frame buffer that gets down sampled using supersampling. The higher the supersampling level the bigger the requirements. That has nothing to do with the native resolution of the panels.

      The point the rep is making is that in order to get the most out of the benefits of supersampling you need to run at higher levels of supersampling. On my current Vive I run at 11.4 million pixels per frame but it’s a battle against deminishing returns given the low resolution of the original Vive panels. Raising the frame buffer resolution even further will give ever more diminishing returns. By raising the native resolution of the panels you will once again get a “strong effect” from even higher levels of supersampling making it kind of worth it to raise the supersampling resolution further. If you have the hardware to support it that is. But you don’t have to. The original Vive runs a default frame buffer of over 5 million pixels which is already more pixels than the Vive Pro’s panels can show without down scaling the rendered frame buffer through supersampling.

      • Michigan Jay Sunde

        If the Vive Pro has around 80% more pixels, then isn’t it equivalent to a 1.8 super-sample? Making a 1.2 super-sample on the Vive Pro equivalent to 2.0 on the current Vive? I am bad at math, but I know 2.0 even on a bad-ass system can be unplayable sometimes.

  • nathan smith

    Wow this article is pointless. States the obvious and has no information in it at all, except it has the same minimum requirements which nobody buying it will care about.

    • Crunchy005

      “minimum requirements which nobody buying it will care about.” – Actually if it comes out at a reasonable price I do care about that. I have a 970, I would like to upgrade, but with mining I have no idea when I can get a new GPU under $1000…

      • nathan smith

        I expect GPUs go back down before the Vive pro comes out. I think that a 970 isn’t powerful enough for VR anyway.

        • Crunchy005

          Well seeing as my 970 runs everything just fine it is plenty for the Current vive, at stock speeds I think it’s enough for VR

          • nathan smith

            I had a 970 overclocked to the limit when I got my Vive and it looked like garbage so I bought a 1080. And if you already own a Vive it’s really stupid to buy a Vive pro with a 970.

          • Crunchy005

            I’m running 1.5x supersample, it looks fine and even if I increase it there are severe diminishing returns thanks to the lower res screens. Even at default settings the Vive Pro will be a better picture thanks to reduced or gone SDE.

          • Torben Bojer Christensen

            Well, there is a difference in able to run and running with higher visual quality.

            Upgrading from GTX970 to GTX 1080 OC to 1080Ti Extreme 11g (as i did) yields substantial visual quality upgrades each time. Some titles responds automatically (e.g. the Lab) while you have to tweak others to higher settings and supersampling.

          • polysix

            I’m waiting for Volta or W/E they end up calling it before upgrading from my older card. No point buying a 10 series now esp as they are ALL over priced and underpowered (even for current ‘ideal’ VR let alone next gen).

            The sooner we ALL stop buying 1070s and 1080tis the sooner Nvidia will stop milking the market and release Volta/ampere/theKraken

            No point keep rewarding Nvidia for over pricing and under powering…. (and yes AMD are far far worse – wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole)

          • Crunchy005

            Ya which is fine, my 970 runs a 1.5x supersample right now so its not like I’m running bare minimum on games. Now that doesn’t always hold perfectly for all games, but that’s normal behavior. All in all there are people who care that the pro still has the same minimum spec…whether your running at a higher resolution or not the SDE will be greatly reduced or gone on the Vive and that alone will help with the quality.

  • Zerofool

    I think the reason they haven’t actually specified the recommended hardware yet is that they are waiting on Nvidia to announce their next generation of GPUs, which will most likely happen no later than GDC or GTC (both events are in March). So it’s not a very smart to upgrade your GPU now (or in the past 2-3 months for that matter), but even if you wanted to, the current prices are insane. Although most people would blame the crypto-mining rush, some sources indicate that 10-series cards are no longer produced (manufacturing plants have switched to piling stocks of the next 11×0 or 20×0 series, whatever they’ve decided naming it) and the actual stocks are nearly depleted. If true, we have at least 2-3 tough months ahead of us in terms of finding a powerful gaming GPU at reasonable price.

    In short, HTC have a reason to be silent on the “recommended specs”, and I think that they’re actually delaying the release of the Vive Pro upgrade kit itself for the same reason – next gen Nvidia GPUs. It’s one thing to say that the recommended GPU is the $700+ (MSRP) GTX1080Ti, it’s another to say it’s a $550 (MSRP) GTX2080, for example. I’m actually interested in seeing the actual street prices though…

    • Duane Aakre

      I was under the impression HTC has some kind of tie-in deal with the Ready Player One movie which is releasing on March 30. I’m guessing the Vive Pro will release between March 15-30 for marketing reasons.

      If Nvidia announces new graphic cards at GDC (March 19-23), then they perhaps could coordinate a new ‘recommended’ graphics card into their marketing push. If the new cards aren’t announced until GTC (March 26-29), I think HTC may start their marketing of the Vive Pro without a recommended graphics card and just stick to the line that it will work with all the same graphics cards as the original Vive.

      • Zerofool

        You have a point.
        I have the feeling that Nvidia will reveal their new Geforce lineup in February at a special event, but let’s just wait and see, my crystal ball may need some calibration :p

  • duked

    Couldn’t the Pro have had the option of (hardware) upscaling?

  • senfone

    Could my 1070 do the job?

    • Crunchy005

      It has the same minimum specs of a 970…yes your 1070 will be fine.

  • Mike Quigley

    What are the minimums and recommended? I’m sure max will be next gen cards running in sli one card per eye. However right now most vr user are not top tiered graphics card owners. I myself have a 1080 and a 7700k upgrades are not in my immediate future.

  • Mos Eisley

    Right now, the Vive v1 needs supersampling applied just to read text. The new Vive is dramatically clearer, without any ss applied. An ss setting of 1.5 on the original Vive’s 1K screens is the same draw on the GPU as no ss applied to the new 1.5K screens. I think you’ll be fine with anything that was able to run the Vive v1 on that had supersampling applied.

  • kontis

    Just run it at a little bit lower “supersampling” factor and the performance will be identical, but with less SDE.

    Funnily enough, Oculus Go with 2 years old mobile GPU has 20% more physical subpixels than the Vive Pro.

  • Andrew Hally

    The ‘improved visuals’ I’m looking for is primarily a reduction in the SDE which I’m assuming you will get regardless of the resolution the actually game is running at. Also I would assume most devs will develop for the default resolution of the original Vive primarily and I am unsure how many will add a ‘Vive Pro’ setting so chances are the reduction in screen door is the only visual improvement we are likely to see for most games.
    On another note if the headset only upgrade option does not include a trade in of the old headset what is the point as this will leave you with an unsaleable headset, as who will want to buy it without base stations or controllers. Surely it would make more sense to sell of the entire old unit and buy a complete new one.

  • Wade Gruber

    If we are currently supersampling and rendering games at a resolution equal to the Vive Pro’s, then we buy a Vive pro and run it without supersampling, would it perform the same?

  • polysix

    vive pro is jank anyway. Barely any difference from old vive in the key areas (lens flares, bad sweet spot, poor FOV, terrible ergonomics, crappy front end/software, awful controllers/touchpads… the list goes on)

    Meanwhile having sold my vive and psvr I’m 10x more happy on the rift for £400 than I was on vive for £700 (Had it in spring 2016 was one of the first), the rift is just a much nicer unit, more clarity, amazing controls, better front end, less SDE, nicer shaped FOV (not a funnel/periscope look) and best of all ergonomics, it fits on effortlessly with ONE hand (like a hat) and can stay on for hours with no discomfort (esp vs Vive but even against PSVR which hurts your head after an hour).

    So, all in all, vive pro looks like ANOTHER desperate cash grab for the flailing HTC before true GEN 2 comes out from others… AVOID

  • wrapter

    I love my current HTC vive but if you ask me they should have increased the FOV. For that reason alone the Pimax will take the lead. To bad too, I like the quality of HTC vive products. I guess we will just have to see how it plays out. At this point, without trying either…its Pimax for me 🙁

  • David Cole

    Sure hope the GTX 1070 with Intel Core i7 – 4770K and 24 Gig of Memory will be enough to take advantage of improved spec’s

  • moranmike127

    What’s the price for the single unit , What’s up , all these competitors continue to play poker against one another , Your turning the public off ….This is how the public community figures a way to built their own unit …..People get tired of games…