Buckle up, this one’s a doozy. HTC today introduced three new variants of its Vive Cosmos VR headset. Joining the original Cosmos is Cosmos Elite, Cosmos Play, and Cosmos XR. The four variants of the headset aim to cover a diverse set of customer interests.

After a bumpy launch for Vive Cosmos back in October 2019, and a new CEO taking the reins at HTC, the company is effectively relaunching Cosmos by introducing a series of Cosmos headsets which seek to appeal to a wide range of VR users from the novice to the high-end enthusiast and everywhere in-between.

Image courtesy HTC

Each Cosmos headset uses the same foundation as the original—which means the same flip-up head-mount design, fresnel lenses, and 1,440 × 1,700 LCD displays with hardware IPD adjustment—but the variants take advantage of the headset’s interchangeable faceplate to offer different capabilities. To help make sense of all of this, here’s a quick outline first, with more details further down.

  • Vive Cosmos Play – $500
    • Entry-level
    • Inside-out tracking (4 cameras)
    • Cosmos controllers
  • Vive Cosmos – $700
    • Mid-tier
    • Inside-out tracking (6 cameras)
    • Cosmos controllers
  • Vive Cosmos Elite – $900
    • High-end
    • SteamVR Tracking (includes two base stations)
      • Inside-out tracking capable, requires Cosmos controllers sold separately
    • Vive wand controllers
  • Vive Cosmos XR – Price unannounced
    • Developer kit made for pass-through AR
    • Inside-out tracking (4 cameras + 2 HQ pass-through cameras)
    • Cosmos controllers

Vive Cosmos Play

Image courtesy HTC

Cosmos Play is HTC’s entry-level VR offering which has four cameras for inside-out tracking, and the same controllers as the original Cosmos. From photos it appears the Play will not include integrated audio, but instead provide a 3.5mm headphone jack for users to plug in their own headphones.

With less tracking coverage than the original Cosmos (which has six cameras), HTC is positioning the Cosmos Play as ideal for casual VR experiences. The company also calls the headset an entry-point into VR because users can choose to upgrade it in the future with faceplates from the other Cosmos variants.

HTC plans to offer the Cosmos Play for $500, though a release date hasn’t been announced.

Vive Cosmos

Image courtesy HTC

This is the original Cosmos as it launched back in October; its faceplate adds two additional cameras over the Play (for a total of six) which increase inside-out tracking coverage (specifically, more vertical coverage), and it will continue to use the same controllers that it launched with.

HTC will continue to offer Cosmos at the same $700 price point that it established at launch.

The Cosmos faceplate (with the two extra cameras) will become available as a separate accessory in Q2 for $200; it’ll be able to attach to any of the other Cosmos variants.

Vive Cosmos Elite

Image courtesy HTC

Vive Cosmos Elite is targeted directly at the enthusiast crowd and comes equipped with a SteamVR Tracking faceplate and includes two Vive wand controllers and two tracking base stations.

SteamVR Tracking is the same tracking technology used in the original Vive. Though it requires external base stations to function, SteamVR Tracking is considered a gold-standard of VR tracking for its precision and accuracy, which makes it an appealing choice for VR enthusiasts who don’t mind mounting tracking hardware around their room.

What many enthusiasts will mind, however, is the necessary inclusion of the Vive wand controllers with the Cosmos Elite. Though they track well thanks to SteamVR Tracking, the Vive wands are widely considered last-gen VR controllers due to their use of a trackpad and grab button. More recent VR controllers have coalesced around thumbsticks (rather than trackpads) and grab triggers or pressure-sensitive grab handles (rather than grab buttons); even HTC’s own Cosmos controllers have thumbsticks and grab triggers.

Cosmos Elite will be available in Q1 and priced at $900—which puts it in direct competition with the company’s own Vive Pro ($900) and Valve’s Index ($1,000). Pre-orders for Cosmos Elite will start next week on February 24th. Update: HTC has announced Cosmos Elite will launch on March 18th.

Image courtesy HTC

HTC plans to offer the Cosmos SteamVR Tracking faceplate (which the company calls the ‘External Tracking Faceplate’) as a standalone accessory which can attach to any of the other Cosmos headsets. That creates a path for any other Cosmos headset to be upgraded into the SteamVR Tracking ecosystem… but you’ll still need to shell out for separate base stations and controllers.

Ostensibly one could buy Cosmos Play at $500 and the External Tracking Faceplate for $200, making a Cosmos Elite for $700 (sans base stations and controllers). HTC also says Cosmos Elite will support inside-out tracking just like the other Cosmos headsets, but you’d need to pick up a pair of the Cosmos controllers for input. A bit convoluted, perhaps—but hey—that’s Cosmos’ modularity in action, right?

Vive Cosmos XR

Image courtesy HTC

Vive Cosmos XR will launch as a developer-focused headset aimed at pass-through augmented reality. Pass-through augmented reality uses cameras to show the outside world inside of the headset and then projects virtual imagery into the feed of the real world; the headset will be able to do pure VR too.

Though all Cosmos headsets support a pass-through video view, the Cosmos XR comes equipped with its own special faceplate that adds two more front-facing cameras to the headset which bring a higher quality and wider field of view pass-through feed than the cameras built into the core Cosmos headset, HTC says.

Image courtesy HTC

However, the HQ pass-through cameras on the Cosmos XR faceplate appear to be positioned below the user’s eye-line which may make for an odd perspective unless HTC is doing some computer-vision trickery to adjust the view.

HTC says Cosmos XR will launch in Q2 as a developer kit; pricing has not been announced, but the company promises to share more at GDC next month.

– – — – –

So there you have it. The complete Vive Cosmos lineup, and HTC’s vision for an ecosystem of modular VR headsets. How does it all stack up to other headset options on the market? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • mellott124

    Why? I got the impression that the original Cosmos wasn’t doing so well. Now we have variants of that same system with no improvements in the optics.

    Their VIM optic prototype is the most interesting but UploadVR is saying it’s just a concept. Looks like a wave of pancake optic HMDs is coming. Those will be technically interesting but I don’t see why the bulk of the VR consumer market will care. Media viewers won’t sustain them.

  • mfx

    Our products are bad quality, so let’s flood the market with even more versions so people think we are doing well.
    So ridiculous. This brand is a definite no-go today, they prove it even more.

    Even the Elite version which is technically the only one that is usable, feature the old wand controllers that are really not the standard today, they should have make a valve tracked version of their Cosmos controllers.

    • imborad

      They are copying the pimax strategy

  • kuhpunkt

    And the Elite STILL has the old Vive wands…

  • Ad

    Please find out if they are still using RGB camera for tracking! The main problem with the cosmos was the tracking, which made it a terrible choice top to bottom. That would make the first two worthless.

    And the Elite is a joke, it can’t compete with the index and they didn’t even make steamVR cosmos controllers.

    • Kisato

      They would still be using RGB for tracking for all the versions outside of the SteamVR face plate, though it would still be available if desired in that situation. They aren’t redesigning their tracking standard, they’ll be sticking with RGB cameras for the Cosmos for better or worse.

      • Ad

        Clearly for worse, the tracking is the biggest reason why this headset failed.

      • Ad

        For worse.

  • Charles

    “four variants of the headset aim to cover a diverse set of customer interests.”
    …[All of them are LCD]
    F YOU, HTC. I’m sick of this crap. LCD contrast and black levels RUIN IMMERSION.

    • Data Soul

      This is such an exaggeration. I have the Rift S and it looks great. I’m no HTC Fan Boy, but this is a silly claim. Yes, the black levels are better on OLED, but the fill rate and SDE is better on Pentile LCD

      • Mike

        It’s not an exaggeration. Have you compared the two types of displays side-by-side? I have. The difference is night-and-day, especially in dim environments. LCD feels like looking at a cheap computer monitor rather than being in a place.

        Pixel fill and SDE aren’t directly tied to whether it’s OLED or LCD. The 1600p Pentile OLED Odyssey+ has no perceptible SDE in most situations, due to its SDE filter (its SDE looks the same as the 2160p RGB Reverb).

        • Data Soul

          I’m not saying that OLED isn’t better. But it’s an exaggeration that OP said LCD contrast “RUIN IMMERSION” all caps. yes, it may not be that immersive in that perspective, but to act like its disqualifies the ‘Elite” model from being high end is a stretch. By that same reasoning, then the Valve Index isn’t high end. And you’re right, the screens in the Odyssey+ are great, but what you’re ignoring is that Samsung can afford to use those because they manufacture them. Who’s to say how much of a cost it would be to include that in the Elite Model. It’s $900 and people are already Complaining. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought HTC’s pricing model was stupid, but it is what it is.

          • Mike

            I’ll give you that for bright environments, “ruins” is too strong of a word – it just diminishes immersion. But for dim and dark environments, it really does ruin it. You’re not in a dark cave – you’re looking at an unevenly-shaded milky-gray screen on your face.

            I accept that LCD could be excusable for low-end, entry-level headsets, or for headsets with super-high resolution at a reasonable price. I can excuse LCD on the ~$600 2160p HP Reverb (though it’s not my preference). I can’t excuse it on a $900 headset that’s only 1700p. Especially from HTC, who released the OLED Vive in 2016 for $600 including the expensive lighthouses, and who currently sells the 1600p OLED Vive Pro for $900 (including the expensive lighthouses). HTC’s own 2018 product is the same price yet much better, unless you really need that tiny extra bit of resolution (100 lines).

          • mirak

            vive pro isn’t 900$

          • Mike

            You’re right. It’s not. It’s $899. Go on Amazon, type “Vive Pro”, look at the first result.

          • Mike

            Also, I just noticed that if you click the Vive Pro Headset Only” option, you can buy the headset new for $500.

          • Bob Smith

            By that same reasoning, then the Valve Index isn’t high end.

            It isn’t high end! The Index uses a TFT LCD which if you know anything about displays you would know is bottom of the barrel in terms of image quality. No high end gaming monitor would use a TFT LCD screen. There’s a reason the cheapest laptops all use TFT screens and it isn’t because they offer “high end” imagery.

        • Immersive Computing

          I used a Odyssey Plus about 2 weeks ago and was surprised at the SDE effect compared to my Index, in project cars it was very noticeable and off-putting.

          • Mike

            Really? That seems very strange to me. I’ve tried almost every headset that exists now, and the Odyssey+ and Reverb are tied for least SDE. I’ve never tried the Index, but I’ve read that the SDE is still very noticeable, and that it’s 1600p with no SDE filter. Maybe you had weird software settings or something.

          • Immersive Computing

            SDE is massively reduced on my Index. I could find it if looking up at sky or flat object in game like Virtual Virtual Reality which uses low poly style graphics. Otherwise it’s non existent really impressive “In Death” where my Lenovo Explorer had a horrible SDE across the sky. I should mention I run 2080Ti so have lots of GPU power for maximum settings at home.

            Was surprised about the Samsung but that pentile patterning was very noticeable across the sky in project cars. This was Samsung experience store using FANATEC custom built motion simulator rig, I can’t speak for their settings but it ran smoothly.

          • Mike

            Hmm. Well I have heard that the Index has smaller pixel spacing than most headsets. Well I don’t know what’s going on with Project Cars, and I’ve never tried that game. I just know that I’ve owned both a 2160p RGB Reverb and a 1600p Pentile SDE-filtered Odyssey+, and the SDE looks the same to me on both, and I only see it when looking at even-colored surfaces like the sky.

          • Immersive Computing

            Be aware Index has a diffuser (screen door effect) similar to Samsung. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts when you get to try an Index; Valve still haven’t released their “Deep dive” on Index ‘Clarity and optics’ I suspect there is more going on with their optical/display than the specifications suggest?

          • Mike

            Interesting, from what I had read I didn’t think it had a diffuser. That’s good. Makes me respect the Index a little more. But still, I can’t do LCD. And from the multiple reports I’ve read, the contrast ratio is just as bad as every other LCD headset. I would be interested in trying it, but I wouldn’t make it my main headset.

          • Immersive Computing

            Its well worth trying, I’d suggest something like Pistol Whip which was developed by Cloudhead with access to dev kits. It really shows the difference when colour/grading for LCD, rather than older games developed for OLED panel on Vive and Rift CV1.

            The contrast ratio, screen brightness, blacks are all inferior to OLED, no doubt. I can’t use “Conscious Existence” anymore it looks terrible in places on Index, also found Westworld unplayable the 3rd time I went back to the mansion, a wall of grey soup not resolved by adjusting brightness.

      • Bob Smith

        Not an exaggeration at all.

        LCD screens can not convincingly display dark environments, period. Given that the world is made up of light and dark environments, day and night, etc, it’s absurd to have an HMD that can not believably depict one half of that equation–just as absurd as an HMD that could not depict bright environments would be. You need both.

        Yes, LCD offers higher refresh rates, but I don’t care how high the refresh rate is if blacks levels look like a murky gray fog. The effect is extremely artificial, flattens the image and immediately reminds me that I am looking at a screen: the absolute opposite of immersive.

        Yes the big corporations are all pushing LCD and lots of consumers will just fall in line, but I won’t buy a headset that can’t depict night time. Fortunately there are still some companies willing to produce high end OLED headsets for enthusiasts and that’s where my money will always go unless and until LCD tech catches up.

        • Charles

          “until LCD tech catches up”
          LCD tech will never catch up. It’s physically impossible. There are better LCD monitors than what’s in current VR, but only by a few times – nowhere near OLED contrast. I’m hoping MicroLED matures soon – it’s like OLED but even brighter and without burn-in potential.

      • mirak

        pentile lcd ???

      • Ace of Spades

        You mean “but the fill rate and SDE is better on RGB LCD”
        Pentile is the crap technology used in cheap mobile AMOLED displays and has horrible SDE and huge gaps between pixels

        • Data Soul

          You’re right. I misspoke. Point remains though

    • TJ Studio

      Care to explain why you hate LCD so much you boomer?

      • Charles

        1.) I’m 34 you child.
        2.) Sure. LCD headsets have a contrast ratio ~600:1, like a cheap PC monitor. It ruins immersion in dim and dark environments – black looks like an uneven gray. You’re not in a dark cave – you’re looking at a cheap PC monitor strapped to your face. And bright environments look dull and uninspiring. I’ve compared LCD and OLED headsets side-by-side. The difference is night-and-day. Once you do the comparison you can never go back.

        • Alessandro Dionigi

          yep, i have some regret about my index now, i had a htc vive pro, oled, fantastic contrast and colours… :/ a bit more of sde but a lot more image quality

      • Bob Smith

        You boomer?

        Wow! That’s a really clever line.

        Did you come up with it yourself?

  • MasterElwood

    Wand controller in 2020? Are they fuxxing kidding me?

    • Nathan Benkhe

      My thoughts exactly. Effing ridiculous. I bet they could have gotten an agreement with Valve to throw in their index controllers which would work with it natively. Anybody paying that much will want controllers better than the vive wands which were subpar even in 2017.

  • Wick

    Little heads up: in the last paragraph on the Cosmos Elite, you say that

    Cosmos Elite will support outside-in tracking just like the other Cosmos headsets

    , when you should have said that it supports inside-out tracking.

    • benz145

      Good catch! Thanks, will fix.

  • Jeremy Kins

    So they hired a new CEO and they managed to make the offerings even worse and more confusing than before. Awesome. Money well spent. Unless they have VASTLY improved the tracking, the Play variant is going to be useless. And why on earth would you spend 900 to use Vive Wands when the Index is only a hundred more?

  • Kimberle McDonald

    HTC deserves ridicule for these price points and the lack of true innovation. Hey! 100 more pixels per eye, and 10 more Hz for only $700!” Yeah, No.

  • Evol Love

    HMD with Steam Tracking faceplate, no controllers… for cheap or STFU!

  • Adderstone VR


  • mepy

    Fantastic, but when will there be new Vive Pros with higher resolution and increased FOV? And will there be several options in different price segments? With and without eye-tracking, 110°, 140°, 180° FOV variants?

  • Dragonborn399

    HTC releases 4 headsets no one asked for. it’s no wonder they are floundering in the VR space now, just random acts of money wasting.

  • The Cosmos XR is what excites me the most!