HTC officially unveiled its next consumer-focused headset at CES 2023 today. Called Vive XR Elite, the standalone mixed reality device boasts a feature set that positions HTC to go toe-to-toe with Meta’s Quest Pro, but at a notably cheaper price of $1,100.

The moniker ‘Flowcus’, a portmanteau coined by VR analyst and YouTuber Brad Lynch when the headset’s design was initially leaked in November, seems to ring true with Vive XR Elite. The design seems very much like a mashup of Vive Flow, a casual VR content viewer using pancake lenses, and Vive Focus 3, the company’s enterprise-focused standalone.

Vive XR Elite is starting pre-orders today, with shipping slated for sometime in late February. There’s no exact launch date on the books, so in the meantime let’s talk about some of the features HTC announced today, some key specs still in need of clarification, and the headset’s slew of gaming-focused content.

But first, the trailer:

Features

Unlike HTC products in recent memory, Vive XR Elite is specifically targeting gaming, fitness, productivity and on-the-go content consumption, the latter of which is thanks to a convertible battery headstrap that can be unplugged in favor of a glasses-like temple pieces.

It’s an interesting feature that’s a first for any major VR headset, which would hypothetically allow you to lean back in a seat without having a bulky back-mounted battery to contend with.

Of course, you’ll need some other power source to run the Vive XR Elite if you opt to remove the battery, be it a separate powerbank or a USB cable connected to the mains.

What’s more, Vive XR Elite is a mixed reality device, meaning it can switch between standard VR games and those that use color passthrough AR, putting it in the same category as its chief competitor Meta Quest Pro. And like Quest Pro, Vive XR Elite can be connected to a PC via USB-C for PC VR content, as well as wirelessly over WiFi, with support up to WiFi 6E. We’ll talk a little more about content in a bit.

Below, you’ll see the headset has four room-tracking camera sensors, one on each side and one hidden respectively under each faceplate. In the center is a single RGB camera for color passthrough as well as a depth sensor, which in theory would increase accuracy of room-scale tracking and object recognition.

Image courtesy HTC

Vive XR Elite also boasts Android app streaming, letting you interact with Android apps and games on a virtual cinema screen of “300 inches,” the company says. Users can also link Bluetooth gamepads to their phones for a fuller mobile gaming experience. That’s probably the only way you’d catch us playing Fortnite on a VR headset like this, since manipulating controls on the phone’s touch surface probably wouldn’t be effective.

Here’s a top-down look at the headset, which gives you a good view of how the back-mounted battery attaches, a look at the tightening twist knob, a clear look at the battery’s USB-C charging port. It’s also impressively slim, owing to the inclusion of pancake lenses.

Image courtesy HTC

In addition to supporting the same controllers that come with Vive Focus 3, the headset also supports Vive Wrist Tracker, a hand-tracking device that can be attached to the user’s wrist, or to objects like gun controllers, Ping-Pong paddles, or tools.

Here’s a view that shows headset’s diopter settings for its pancake lenses, which ostensibly allows near-sighted users to go without glasses, going up to -6D independently for both eyes. That little slider below the right lens is a mechanical IPD adjuster going from 54-73mm; nope, no eye-tracking here, at least not without the optional eye-tracking module that’s arriving at some point this year.

Image courtesy HTC

Audio is served up via two open-ear speakers integrated into the arms of the headset. We’ve poured over all product images and have yet to see space for a 3.5mm audio jack for external audio. That hole near the bridge of the headset appears to be an attach point for the forthcoming facial-tracking module, which is also slate to arrive sometime this year. We’re currently at CES, so we’re adding that to our list of features in need of clarification.

With a consumer target clearly in its sights, HTC is offering up a slew of gaming-focused content for Vive XR Elite (full list below) that includes what the company says is “100 new pieces of MR and VR content” including Demeo, Hubris, Yuki, Maestro, Les Mills Body Combat, FigminXR, Unplugged, Finger Gun, and more.

Post-launch content will include Everslaught: Invasion, and later in the year full MR games like Eggscape. As you know, a consumer VR headset is nothing without games, so it’s good to see HTC do its due diligence to attract some of the top games to the headset. No Beat Saber, but we wouldn’t expect Meta to prioritize porting the popular block-slashing rhythm game to such a direct competitor.

Image courtesy HTC

The company says Vive XR Elite will also be available for enterprise users at some point, with more information coming later this year.

Vive XR Elite also has connectors for both face and eye-tracking modules, which are set to launch separately sometime in 2023. We’ll be going hands-on at CES 2023, so make sure to check back for our full impressions of HTC’s next big leap into consumer VR. We won’t be able to say just how good a proposition Vive XR Elite truly is until we get our hands on it, and see if it really stacks up to the competition. As it is, it lacks eye-tracking for out of the box social presence and foveated rendering, and we still don’t know how it goes mano a mano with Quest Pro in the passthrough department with its single RGB passthrough camera.

SEE ALSO
Valve Explains Changes to How VR Support Appears on Steam Store Pages

Key Specs

Here’s an abridged spec breakdown. We’re working to get a more detailed list once we go hands-on here at CES 2023. We’ve included question marks (?) where we’ll probe for more detail in-person:

  • Inside-out tracking – wide FOV cameras (4), depth sensor (1)
  • Passthrough – 16 MP RGB camera (1)
  • Resolution – 1,920 × 1,920 per eye, display type(?)
  • Display Refresh – 90 Hz
  • Chipset – Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2
  • Storage & Memory – 128 GB / 12 GB
  • FOV – up to 110-degrees
  • Optics – Pancake lens
  • IPD Adjustment – manual, 54 – 73 mm range
  • Audio – built-in open-ear audio, external audio(?)
  • Weight – 625g (including battery), 273g in ‘glasses’ mode
  • Input – 6DOF motion controllers (2), hand-tracking
  • Internal Battery – mAh(?)
  • External Battery – removable and hot-swappable, 30W fast charge, 26.6Wh, mAh(?), typical playtime(?)

Price

One of the biggest selling points is HTC Vive XR Elite’s price, which although clearly not near the sub-$500 console price that typically gets us excited, it’s coming in a fair bit cheaper than the $1,500 Meta Quest Pro.

Note: many regions include taxes calculated in the final price above (UK, EU, AUS, etc) but a notable exception is the US. Sales tax varies widely through the US based on each state, so the final price in USD could range from exactly $1,099 in a minority of states with little to no sales tax to around $1,240 in states on the higher end of the range. Here’s the regional price breakdown:

  • US $1,099 exc. VAT
  • UK £1,299 inc. VAT
  • DE/FR €1,399 inc. VAT
  • NO 15,499 NOK
  • SWE 16,299 SEK
  • DK 11,099 DKK
  • A$ 2,099 inc. GST
  • NZ$ 2,299 inc. GST

Content

HTC provided a full content lineup, although the company hasn’t made it entirely clear which games are considered launch-day titles and which will come post-launch. HTC is calling the list below “launch window content,” so we’re checking with them now and will update once we know.

In any case, you’ll see a lot of overlap between the latest games on Quest 2 here. Highlights include Demeo, Green Hell VR, Les Mills Bodycombat, Unplugged, Hubris, Ancient Dungeon, The Last Clockwinder, and Ultrawings 2 to name a few.

TITLE DEVELOPER GENRE
Demeo Resolution Games TABLETOP
Unplugged Anotherway MUSIC
Green Hell VR Incuvo ACTION
Les Mills Bodycombat Odders Lab FITNESS
Figmin XR Overlay ART
Hubris Cyborn ACTION
Silhouette Team Panoptes CASUAL
Gesture VR Nick Ladd Art & Animation ART
Everslaught: Invasion MobX ACTION
Ancient Dungeon ErThu RPG
The Last Clockwinder Cyan Ventures PUZZLE
Jupiter & Mars Tigertron ADVENTURE
Ultrawings 2 VIVE ARCADE
Hyper Dash Triangle Factory SHOOTER
Gravity Sketch VR Gravity Sketch CREATIVITY
Yuki ARVORE ARCADE
Maestro: The Masterclass Double Jack MUSIC
Player 22 Rezzil FITNESS
Magic Keys Pianova MUSIC
Finger Gun Miru ARCADE
Warplanes: WW1 Fighters Home Net Games SIM
Runner Truant Pixel ARCADE
2MD : VR Football Unleashed Truant Pixel SPORT
RuinsMagus CharacterBank RPG
Toss Agera CASUAL
Skyworld: Kingdom Brawl Vertigo Games TABLETOP
Curious Alice Preloaded, V&A, VIVE Arts ART
Last Labyrinth Amata ADVENTURE
Down The Rabbit Hole Cortopia Studios ADVENTURE
Nature Treks Greener Games WELLBEING
Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass Emmisive, Louvre, VIVE Arts ART
YouCalligrapher Luciidream CREATIVITY
Tracing Paint: The Pollock Krasner Studio Media Combo ART
Glue Glue COLLAB
Engage Immersive Education COLLAB
Immersed Immersed COLLAB
vSpatial vSpatial COLLAB
RemindVR: Daily Meditation VIVE Studios WELLBEING
(Hi)Story of a Painting: What’s the Point Monkey Frame ART
Space Slurpies Starcade Arcade ARCADE
Enhance VR Virtuleap WELLBEING
Cosmic Flow: A Relaxing VR Experience CosmicVR WELLBEING
Crazy KungFu Field of Vision FITNESS
Flow Meditation Flow WELLBEING
Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs Resolution Games ARCADE
Ironlights E. McNeil ACTION
Ninja Legends Coinflip Studios ACTION
Tokyo Chronos MyDearest ADVENTURE
STYLY:VR PLATFORM FOR ULTRA EXPERIENCE Styly ART
Pieces & Peace VIVE Studios ART
Vivebrant VIVE Studios CREATIVITY
VIVE Dreaming VIVE Studios CREATIVITY
VeeR: Videos and Movies Platform Velocious Technologies MEDIA
Glimpse Mr Kite NARRATIVE
Open Brush Icosa Gallery CREATIVITY
Virtual Desktop Virtual Desktop Inc
PRODUCTIVITY
Eternal Notre-Dame (VIVE ARTS deal) VIVE Arts, Emmissive, Orange ART
TRIPP TRIPP WELLBEING
Puzzling Places Realities.io PUZZLE
Paradiddle Emre Tanirgan CREATIVITY
Gadgeteer Metanaut CASUAL
Shores of Loci Mike TeeVee PUZZLE
Containment Initiative: Reloaded Gywn Games SHOOTER
Zombieland: Headshot Fever XR Games SHOOTER
Swarm – including multi-player Champion’s Update Greensky Games SHOOTER
Sam and Max: This Time It’s Virtual! HappyGiant ADVENTURE
Mare Visiontrick Media ADVENTURE
Loco Dojo Unleashed Make Real ARCADE
Noda Noda COLLAB
Squingle Squingle Studios WELLBEING
Color Connect Sandford Tech WELLBEING
Patchworld PatchXR MUSIC
Crisis Brigade 2 Reloaded (formerly Crisis VRigade 2) Sumalab SHOOTER
Sushi Ben VR (in development, launches 2023) Big Brane Studios / nDreams ADVENTURE
Librarium Librarium Incorporated EDUCATION
PokerStars VR Lucky VR GAMBLING
Amid Evil Indefatigable SHOOTER
Tea For God (Demo For Launch) Void Room SHOOTER
Viveport Video VIVE MEDIA
VIVE Browser VIVE MEDIA
VIVE Sync VIVE COLLAB

We have boots on the ground at CES 2023, so check back soon for our impressions of Vive XR Elite and all things AR/VR for this year’s biggest consumer electronics show.

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. See here for more information.


  • Rudl Za Vedno

    Why would I buy this over 399€ Pico 4?

    • Mixed reality / AR passthrough, depending on how HTC’s/Qualcomm’s implementation is for the feature; it does have an IR depth sensor as a potentially major advantage over Quest Pro for object detection/room mapping.

      Otherwise, as a VR-dedicated device there’s very little reason to buy this VIVE XR Elite.

      This is a Quest Pro competitor, it’s not competing with Quest 2 or Pico 4 of which neither are mixed reality devices.

      • Johnatan Blogins

        As far as I’m aware Pico 4 has passthrough RGB camera…

        • Sven Viking

          That’s correct, though sounds like it’s only really useful for 2D passthrough without any type of 3D reconstruction for mixed reality.

          • Lhorkan

            Just like the XR elite.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            That should be a software issue that can be solved with an update. The Quest Pro is creating the 3D reconstruction with similar hardware from the stereo-bw cameras, overlaying the RGB camera image with corrections based on the depth derived from the stereo image. It does this mostly right, hinting that it is not trivial to implement in a usable form, which may be the reason why Pico didn’t have it working on launch.

            In theory the increased resolution and somewhat lower processing power of the Pico 4 may be the problem, but my guess is that developer time has been the limiting factor. And with the emphasis Meta puts on Mixed Reality, Pico will probably try to offer the same option. With other headsets like the XR Elite releasing with actual depth sensors, (reconstructed) color 3D passthrough will become an expected standard feature anyway.

          • Sven Viking

            Also true but if you were looking to buy a device for MR use there’d be no guarantee of when or if it’d be implemented (or how well-implemented it’d be). Have they indicated they’re working on it?

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            There is no official statement, but they changed the passthrough in several OS updates. Sometimes making it worse, but overall getting better. So far Pico seems to distort the 3D camera image directly for each eye, while Meta overlays the 2D stereo image with the RGB information, distorted according to the calculated 3D information. It seems that Pico is trying to improve their method instead of moving to an overlay like Meta, and someone on the Pico subreddit claimed there are rumors that Meta is considering going the same way, as their current solution is very computationally expensive, hurting battery life.

            There are of course no guarantees that Pico will try/succeed in getting MR to work at least as well as it currently works on the Quest Pro. I don’t own either, so all this is derived from reports by others. But if it is technically feasible, I’d expect Pico to be interested in the bragging rights for having Quest Pro comparable MR features in their consumer HMD for a fraction of the price. Especially if it costs them nothing but some developer time.

          • Sven Viking

            Agreed, I just mean they’re not likely to get a lot of sales from devs or businesses needing MR features until then. It does seem like it would massively undermine HTC’s product if they do get it working well though (and Quest Pro for anyone who doesn’t need eye and face tracking).

      • Octogod

        Quest Pro’s demand is practically negative, so coming out with a competitor is so very HTC.

        On Google Trends you can see that Quest Pro has 1-10% of the search volume of Quest 2 in December. It’s just absolutely dead in the water, even before we even look at how actual users rate apps.

        • Sven Viking

          To be fair it’s so many times the price of Quest 2 they don’t need to sell as many :). Also the enterprise market probably doesn’t generate as much search traffic in general.

          • Lhorkan

            It doesn’t work like that if the hardware also costs many times as much as a quest 2 to make ;)

          • Sven Viking

            If they’re subsidising Quest 2 but not Quest Pro they may make more than infinite times more profit off sales :).

      • Lhorkan

        It has exactly the same passthrough capabilities. Mono color camera, no depth correction. It’s worthless as an MR device and the fact that it is marketed as such is misleading at best.

        • Sven Viking

          If it has a depth sensor, surely they must be at least planning to do depth correction for mixed reality? Is it confirmed that they don’t have it working now?

          • Lhorkan

            There is no word on the depth sensor being used at all for anything so far.

          • Sven Viking

            If they don’t I agree their marketing would be hugely misleading. I guess we’ll find out closer to launch.

          • Frozenbizkit

            Its already misleading by them saying its 4k

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          Mixed Reality on the Quest Pro is somewhat of a fake, as it just anchors virtual objects to a fixed map of the room. This is at least partly due to the room tracking based on 2D cameras being fast enough for edge detection, allowing to detect the 6DoF position, but not fast enough for true object detection. The 3D color passthrough on the Quest Pro is also recreated in a similar way. And while the Pico 4 could gain the same MR capabilities via software updates, it is basically limited in the same way as the Quest Pro as it uses the same camera configuration.

          The Vive XR Elite with a true depth sensor should not only be able to create an accurate 3D color passthrough image while requiring less computational power for deriving 3D data from 2D sensors, but also allow to react to live changes in the room and detect objects the user is interacting with. So while Quest Pro/Pico 4 will remain limited to some kind of mostly static Mixed Reality, which is basically a fancy way for Meta to not admit that they cannot do AR yet, the XR Elite could actually be used for AR development and provide MR that reflects the current, dynamic state of the room.

  • ale bro

    full body tracking using 3 wrist straps could be a system seller for people who don’t like lighthouses

    • Lucidfeuer

      What is this, 2016?

  • Christopher Barnhouse

    XR2 gen 1 or 2 ? Says Wii-Fii 6e – so I’m guessing the yet to be announced XR2 gen 2

    • Naruto Uzumaki

      we will see but the Wii-Fii 6e is possible with XR2 gen 1

    • Lhorkan

      Guess again…

  • Naruto Uzumaki

    so it has a lower ppd than the quest 2 fair price for this would be 200$ considering all the software the quest 2 has

  • Hope at some point Sweet Surrender gets ported to this thing, would be a blast to play it on such a light headset!

  • Octogod

    Yet another HTC device no one will buy.

  • Foreign Devil

    Resolution is very underwhelming.

    • Lhorkan

      This is the first headset that works without a top strap. It’s a lot mightier than QPro.

      • Sven Viking

        Lighter,? Yeah apparently less than half the weight of Quest Pro in glasses mode (not much more than one third the weight in fact), though admittedly with no counterweight.

  • duked

    LCD really turns me off!

  • XRC

    “Vive Streaming cable” (USB tether) seems to plug into top of battery pack, but doesn’t seem to have any retaining clip, how long before the USB socket flogs out with constant user cable movement, and damage the battery pack?

    The cable is another £89 on top of £1299…sheesh!

    • xyzs

      Agree, they could include it…

  • Steve Evans

    I have the Quest Pro. I like the face and eye tracking, but if that’s not essential for you, this looks like a great unit. Adding those will certainly put it in the same price range as the Quest Pro. I do like the modular head strap option, as having the bulky battery does make laying your head back in a chair or laying down problematic. That may be the most important feature that sets it apart from the Quest, actually! I’ll have to see when all the specs are out.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      I’ve been wondering if and how Quest Pro owners use eye tracking. The Vive XR Elite releasing without it is a bummer, but there are very few reports on how useful it turned out to be on the Quest Pro, esp. if there are any perceivable performance or visual quality gains from eye tracked foveated rendering. We got some theoretical numbers from Meta and the announcement that Red Matter 2 would implement it in October 2022, but after that the subject seems to have died down. Which is strange considering that for years a lot of hope was put on improving the performance in VR with ETFV.

      As you mentioned that you like both the face and eye tracking, I assume that this refers mostly to the use in social VR, where face tracking makes actual sense. Are there any apps you tried that use the eye tracking for foveated rendering, if so does it provide an actual performance boost, and is that boost worth the reduced battery life that enabling face and/or eye tracking seems to cause? Or does anything use it to improve the interface and interactions?

      With the feature just having become available on the Pro, only a few apps will support it yet, and it is very hard to judge from some avatar or typing with eye tracking demos if there will be any benefits in apps that don’t need to show an avatar with the proper gaze direction. So far eye tracking has been on my “must have” list of features for any future HMD, as there seem to be lots of potential uses, which is why I am somewhat astonished not to hear more about how it performs. I’d be grateful for any feedback on the actual usefulness of eye tracking beyond social VR.

      • Sven Viking

        The Red Matter 2 eye tracking implementation was released at about the same time as it was announced iirc. Reportedly it makes a pretty clear difference.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          The reports about the significant difference seem to have come from Vertical Robot themselves, though I may just have missed reviews from Quest Pro users. So far much of the information is rather contradictory. Mixed quoted Vertical Robot with increasing the resolution by 30%, though it isn’t clear how much of that was ETFR and how much the faster XR2+ Gen 1, and an added latency per frame of negligible 0.15ms per frame, while Upload reported a whopping 50ms end-to-end latency for ETFR. Which covers the spectrum from “ETFR is great” to “ETFR is useless”, hence my interest in feedback from actual Quest Pro users.

          • Since eye/face-tracking can easily be turned on/off on a system level, it would be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison on Red Matter 2 with/without the foveated rendering. Why has noone done this?

          • Sven Viking

            The report I posted above is apparently from an actual Quest Pro user just switching the option on and off. Google the quote for the source since links get stuck in moderation limbo here.

  • Seriously considering this for use as a productivity device as well as for PCVR. I’m most attracted by the low weight/form factor, especially in the “glasses” mode.

    Using it (273 grams!) for hours and hours to look at virtual computer displays in Immersed (and with good enough passthrough to see keyboard keys through passthrough portals without needing spotty keyboard tracking) will be significantly more comfortable than a Quest Pro (722 grams – THRICE as heavy).

    Battery time for that use case is irrelevant – it would be plugged into an outlet with a long cable. And wired to battery pack in pocket for PCVR.

    I bet they are kicking themselves that they couldn’t price it at $999, though. I don’t understand why they couldn’t package it without the “battery cradle” strap (including just a cheap cable + battery pack like they did with Flow) to get there, and upselling the strap for $200. Even if it’s not at all special-sounding price to me in SEK, it’s just a huge psychic divide from 999 to 1099.

    • Lhorkan

      The PPD is far too low to be useful for productivity.

      • That’s subjective. Me and thousands of people I know are happily using Quest 2 for virtual displays doing regular computer work. To me I could start doing it an hour or so at a time with Quest 1, and Quest 2 for much longer than that. The benefits of more displays and isolated focus environment weigh up the discomfort factors that are arguably still there.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Anything that is not Meta is welcome, but…no eye tracking and too little, too late.

    However, it’s very funny that everyone seems to react to these modular branches as if, anyhow, ergonomics were crucial!

    I’m still convinced they’re deliberately failing their products.

  • mepy

    Such a weird design choice to go from 2448×2448 to 1920×1920.
    If only it had a lot higher resolution than the Quest 2.

  • Sven Viking

    Not important but it should be “pored over all product images”.

  • It’s all nice… but consumer at $1100 is not going to work

  • Rudl Za Vedno

    DE/FR €1,399 inc. VAT? WTH HTC? Good luck selling it against 399€ Pico 4, you’re gonna need it.

  • ViRGiN

    how about valve abandoning index on release date? you cheered for them when they offered replacement parts, and yet most of them are never back in stock lol

    the first thing you do for any headset i bet is to purchase vrcover anyway