Now available in China, and quite possibly on its way to a wider release, HTC is prominently showing its new standalone Vive Focus headset at MWC 2018 this week. The company says the Focus is positioned as the premium option among the incoming wave of standalone headsets; of course, premium features are never far from premium price.


Photo by Road to VR

The Vive Focus is a standalone headset which means it has everything needed for a VR experience built directly into the device—including the battery, processor, graphics, and display—rather than relying on a docked smartphone. Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip, the Vive Focus is in the same class as the Lenovo Mirago Solo, but has a few defining features which HTC says makes it the “premium” option.

For one, the Focus uses the exact same pair of lenses and best-in-class displays as the upcoming Vive Pro, the company confirmed to Road to VR at MWC this week. That means it has largely an identical visual experience as the Vive Pro in terms of resolving power, field of view, and display performance (though the Focus is running at 75Hz to the Vive Pro’s 90Hz).

With a 1,600 × 1,440 OLED display for each lens, the Focus also has a resolution advantage over the Mirage Solo’s LCD display (1,280 × 1,440 per lens), and, because it’s using a pair of displays instead of a single display, it also offers an IPD adjustment, which means the lens-display pair can be dialed into the sweet spot more precisely for a wider range of users.

Bottom of the Vive Focus showing IPD adjuster, volume buttons, 3.5mm headphone jack, and one of the hidden speakers | Photo by Road to VR

Beyond the displays, the Focus also includes a fan for active cooling (ostensibly allowing it to run at higher performance without overheating), and built-in speakers which are hidden in the headstrap.

But these extra features put the headset into a questionable price bracket for casual users. Going on the device’s Chinese starting price, the Focus comes to about $525 USD, even after removing typical Chinese tax (which I have admittedly neglected to consider in prior writings about the headset’s converted price).

Solid Tracking for Your Head, Iffy Tracking for Your Hands

Photo by Road to VR

Spending time with the headset today at HTC’s booth at MWC 2018, I found that the headset’s inside-out positional tracking (made possible by the pair of cameras on the front) was very responsive, and the rotational tracking felt just about perfect. Using the headset for about 10 minutes on the show floor, I didn’t see the image jump even once, which is a very good sign. Granted, it was a very well lit environment (which is helpful to the cameras), but also had people milling about on the show floor (which is harder for the tracking to handle). There’s always edge cases when it comes to computer vision, so we’ll need more time with the headset to see how it handles in a wider range of environments, but so far the tracking seems viable.

The controller, which only has a 3DOF-capable rotational sensor, was an entirely different story. Although they use the headsets position as the origin point of the controller in order to achieve a sort of ‘3DOF+’ feeling, the controller is simply being asked to do more than it’s capable of. Its rotational data is used to try to estimate some positional movement, but it rarely mirrors your actual movements and ends up feeling really wonky. This is compounded by the fact that the controller moves through space in large steps (relative to your head) rather than smoothly, which just looks odd.

Your first instinct is to use the controller like a 6DOF controller (since the headset tracks in 6DOF), but you quickly realize it can’t stand up to that demand—in five minutes of playing a cover shooter with the headset, I had to hold a button on the controller to recalibrate its forward position at least every minute.

For more casual use-cases, like selecting items on menus and playing less active games, the controller is likely to be more reliable (as we’ve seen with Gear VR and Daydream‘s 3DOF controllers). But developers building for Focus will need to be careful about the limitations of the controller since it will be tempting to design with the the headset’s own 6DOF tracking capabilities.

Vive Pro Lenses and Displays in a Standalone

Photo by Road to VR

Given that the headset is using the same lenses and displays as the Vive Pro, it’s no wonder that the visual performance is almost identical. The resolution is a bit of a step up from other mobile VR headsets (most of which use a single 2,560 × 1,440 panel split into 1,280 × 1,440 per lens), and a larger step up from first-gen VR headsets like the Vive (which has a 1,080 × 1,200 per lens resolution). The field of view, which matches the Vive, feels plenty wide for getting lost in the virtual world.

Understanding the Difference Between 'Screen Door Effect', 'Mura', & 'Aliasing'

The screen door effect is still visible, but reduced compared to other headsets, and the pixels are compact enough that I can’t quite see the subpixels. There’s some visible mura that’s easier to spot at some times than others (typical of OLED displays), but not too bad, a bit of ghosting to be seen if you’re looking for it during fast motion, and the usual ‘god rays’ (which shouldn’t be a surprise given that the headset uses the same Fresnel lenses as the Vive and Vive Pro).

Continued on Page 2: Mobile-class Graphics »


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  • So this is a standalone headset, what is the battery duration?
    Can the cameras at the front do assisted positional tracking for the rotation only controllers?
    Can we predict a closer Vive Pro price from this?
    I assume it has a microphone?
    Is the OS vanilla Android or some bespoke locked down version?
    Can we game stream from PC’s to it like how Steam-Link works?
    Can a XBox or other controller pair to it?

    • Darshan

      I see this headset D.O.A (Dead on Arrival) in US if they sell in along side Oculus Go. If by any chance Oculus Go could offer atlest 5 best of Gear VR game along side headset for Free… I don’t see reason to buy this form Casual User Point of view.

      From Gamer Point of View .. SD835 is just not enough…

      • Marcus

        Oculus Go does not offer any IPD adjustment, thus no sweet spot for big guys like myself (learned that lesson on PSVR) and only a tiny sweet spot for many other people. I’m very interested in such a high quality standalone headset, if it only had 90 Hz and proper 6 DoF controllers …

        • Darshan

          In case of no IPD adjustment, manufacturers are always considering individual lense keep sweet spot larger. There is also software IPD but how efficent it is a matter of question.

          • Marcus

            Sorry, but I do not understand your “individual lense” statement. As for software IPD adjustment, I just see no effect (always blurry). Seems like a placebo to me.

          • Darshan

            I ment if you see through oculus CV1 lense it has more area off centre of lense from where image still looks clear, i think its called eye relif, but correct me if i am wrong. Sorry to learn software IPD adjusment is not much useful.

      • Rowdy123

        Also – Oculus Go is only 3DoF – so not even room scale. HTC is 6DoF. That alone justifies even a huge price difference. Makes HTC entirely better as an “experience”.

        • Darshan

          Hmm half baked 6DoF, only headset 6DoF with 3DoF controller and PC scale asking price……

      • dk

        the go is a gear vr with snapdragon 821 and the 64gb version will be 250-280
        and with this u can do actual vr ….actually moving in vr space
        and the lenovo is way cheaper than the focus at 400
        and as soon as the 835 is as cheap as the 821 even the cheapest/crappiest headsets like the go will invest in 2 cheap cameras to get 6dof…..unfortunately we’ll have to wait a bit

        • Darshan

          Here hope lenovo may go cheap as $350/360 when they announce it for sale,if lenovo neil price right then it would be first choice due to positional tracking(though its limited,still better to none),

          I also hope OC FB will not lock headset at 32 n 64 gb version with no memory card support, if they do so it will be historical error.

          I doubt SD 835 be too difficult to be obtained for FB considering volume they are going to invest, also fact that SD845 is just at door step in Galaxy S9.

          I am more eager to know if OCULUS can come up with 2 camera and 6DoF for headset and 3 DoF controller at advertised price from very first day (not seem to be plusible still …you can wish sun n moon no limit to optimism, Mircales do happen)

          • dk

            350 maybe when it’s on sale after it has been on the market for a while….but it will start at 399
            as far as making a cheap similar platform …..when the sd835 is 2 years old or a bit older ….it will be pretty doable

    • Battery reported at 3 hours full use (Engadget)

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      • Nick Dauchot

        I’m sure it depends on the software being run. But 3 hours isn’t half bad for a display like this. That matches the Switch’s battery life.

    • benz145

      Good questions:

      So this is a standalone headset, what is the battery duration?

      HTC claims “up to three hours.”

      Can the cameras at the front do assisted positional tracking for the rotation only controllers?

      HTC says they looking at / considering 6DOF controllers for their mobile headset, but for now the cameras aren’t directly being used to aid the controller’s tracking. I take it they would need to release an entirely new controller with some active makers in order to go from 3DOF to 6DOF for the controller.

      Can we predict a closer Vive Pro price from this?

      I think it does give us some insight knowing that it’s the same lenses and display—my guess at this point is $400/$500 for the Vive Pro ‘headset only’ option that’s coming first, and $800 for the full kit (which includes the headset, controllers, and new base stations).

      I assume it has a microphone?

      I haven’t heard any mention of it myself but I’ll try to get an answer next time I’m speaking with HTC.

      Is the OS vanilla Android or some bespoke locked down version?

      Totally bespoke, there’s zero tracers of Android shown to the end user. Jailbreaking of VR headsets may become a thing : P.

      Can we game stream from PC’s to it like how Steam-Link works?

      No official plans for that to happen, though it’s conceivable that some third-party app could make it happen, though it might require a jailbreak to be developed for the headset.

      Can a XBox or other controller pair to it?

      Good question, unfortunately I don’t know. It would be nice if they’d allow any standard BT controller to connect so that, for games which don’t require motion input, people could use their controller of choice. I don’t think it’s a very big use case right now so I’d guess ‘no’ out of the gate, but maybe they’d consider if it there’s demand for those kinds of games.

  • Ryan


    What kind of platform will it support ? android cardboard? daydream? Steam ?…


    • silvaring


    • benz145

      @disqus_W5gCUbnVXA:disqus Good question which I should have at least touched on in this article — HTC was planning to launch the headset under Google’s Daydream platform but pulled out from their ecosystem before the headset was fully announced. Instead they decided to build their own mobile VR platform called Vive Wave, which runs a mobile version of the Viveport store.

      • Justos

        This thing is DOA if it only runs viveport.

        • MasterElwood

          its DOA because it can´t do anything right. It has the wrong pricepoint for a 3 DOF controller – and for its pricepoint the wrong controller.

          If is had a pricepoint near the Go you could forgive the controller. If it had 2 6 DOF controller you could forgive the pricepoint.

          But HIGH pricepoint and LOW features… NAH.

          GO and SANTA will rule the standalone market.
          This: DOA.

  • “1,600 × 1,440 OLED display” for each eye? Are you sure about that?

    • benz145

      Yes, same as the Vive Pro (unless you are asking if it’s really 1,440 x 1,600 rather than 1,600 x 1,440, in which case, I’m not sure of the actual orientation).

      • Marcus

        Two displays? Then why does HTC says it’s only one?

        Display: 3K AMOLED, resolution 2880 x 1600


        • Engadget is reporting single-piece:

          To quote “and now we’re also told that there’s a 2,880 x 1,600 single-piece AMOLED display, which is actually sharper than the Vive’s 2,160 x 1,200 made up of two AMOLED panels.”


          • benz145

            Interesting. HTC told us clearly that it’s the same displays and lenses as the Vive Pro, and that the IPD adjustment was made possible because there are two displays. I’ll triple check with them on that.

            [Mentioning @m73:disqus because this response applies to his question as well.]

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    It does not matter since it wont be sold in democratic countries, only communist dictatorship.

    • gothicvillas

      Only dictatorship? Good news!! Must be coming to EU then.

    • Mei Ling

      Contrary to what you may think, China is one of the countries in the world that is “least” communist depending on how you see it.

      • Meow Smith

        Mmm hes talking about the leadership of the country not how it looks after its people so he’s still kind of still right.

        Ditto China isn’t a communist country, its quite the opposite if you don’t have the right connections.

        • Darshan

          The deifiniton is too broad, words are deceiving.. Many nations are under dectatorship without any citizen knowing it.

          Some times strings are so well guarded from vision they vanish under the veil of propegenda and purchased news. One accepts truth on what one sees hears and listen. world is more complicated then it.

  • Tomek

    The glasses work independently according to the All-in-One product line. Available on sale only through the official HTC VIVE distribution channel in China. VIVE FOCUS glasses are a standalone VR unit without the need of permanent connection with a computer equipped with cameras allowing tracking in space thanks to the developed depth algorithm. In practice, the spectacle cameras replace the tracking cameras, characteristic for sets cooperating with the computer and calculate the size of the space in which we can move without the risk of collision with the wall, the approach to the obstacle is signaled by a virtual grid.

    The main purpose of the tracking cameras used, however, is the ability to navigate in the virtual world of VR content, which were built on the basis of free movement in a three-dimensional space known as 6dof. For uninitiated users it means more or less that we can, for example, walk around a three-dimensional object like a car displayed in front of our eyes, look inside or on its roof, everything takes place just like in reality, if the VR application allows.

    The designers of the glasses placed loudspeakers in the slots of the side head holder, which are directed in such a way that they are audible to the user but not necessarily outside. The effect is amazing, we hear surround sound coming from everywhere, but without headphones. The use of glasses is extremely convenient and you can clearly see the impact of HTC Vive resources, capabilities and experience in everything. The design is very well thought out and the whole multimedia ecosystem and what we see before our eyes makes a huge impression.

    3K resolution introduces a completely new quality, pixels are barely visible and the picture seems to be almost smooth, it is much better than the version of goggles to work with the computer. Due to the beginnings of the Vive Focus product in the VR VIVEPORT content library, we currently find about 40 items for this headset. Available applications include games, film and educational presentations, a huge application with full-length 3D movies that we can see in IMAX theaters and multiplexes. The movies are streamed online and there are several hundred of them, which allows to think that everything so far has been released in 3D in the world is in the library of these goggles and it’s free. The quality of the films is very good and watching them is pure pleasure. The manufacturer announces a steady increase of the offer available in the Viveport library.

    The glasses have a micro SD memory card slot up to 2TB which allows you to store huge amounts of VR content, allowing you to view them freely on the go or anywhere in our stay.

    In the standard set we will find one 9-axis 3dof controller thanks to which we will be able to perform all activities in a virtual space. HTC Vive predicts in the near future to supplement the software with the ability to use the already known pair of HTC Vive controllers. VR content comes from the VIVEPORT platform, thanks to which we have access to VIVE proprietary VR programs and many more.

    HTC Vive Focus is a big step forward in the world of VR devices, which overcomes the existing barriers and sets new trends based on existing solutions. An unquestionable advantage is the release of goggles from a permanent connection with a computer that attached us to one place. Despite the fact that on the market of VR devices we can find a large number of different solutions for independently functioning glasses, however, none of them even in 1/3 approached the HTC Vive headset. The possibility of free and unhindered movement in the space VR is the essence and the most important feature of VR glasses, which was successfully transferred to a self-functioning device for the first time. Currently, it is certainly the best VR glasses in the All-in-One segment and for a long time there will be no competition for the current year, nothing that could change it.

  • Rowdy123

    I never understand statements like this – which journalists and reviewer make all the time. I am not being mean just confused:

    “The resolution is a bit of a step up from other mobile VR headsets (most of which use a single 2,560 × 1,440 panel split into 1,280 × 1,440 per lens), and a larger step up from first-gen VR headsets like the Vive (which has a 1,080 × 1,200 per lens resolution).”

    This is saying that mobile VR is better than original Vive and Oculus Rift. Reviewer always comare these number and say that – but the fact is mobile VR is a joke compared to original Vive or Oculus. Samsung Gear VR with a new S8 is still a blurry mess. More of a “fun to play for a minute” – than Vive or Rift – which have far better resolution.

    The answer is that the power of a PC and a Nvidia graphic cards make the resolution o Vive and Oculuc Rift far superior — but writers always jot down just the numbers and end up saying “yeah mobile VR is better”

    Happy to be corrected.

    • Marcus

      For me everything without IPD adjustment is a blurry mess. Maybe it’s the same for you.

    • MasterElwood

      GO is probably better than the PC-HMDs for things like 360 photos or virtual cinemas thanx to the LED displays (less SDE, better resolution, more subpixel) and the next generation fresnel lenses.

      But of course at every thing else the standalone / mobiles are WAYYYY behind.

      • daveinpublic

        The ‘graphics’ will be worse, but really the designers just have to use a different design philosophy. Just like the new Zelda game is literally one of the most beautiful games on the market, even though the hardware is nowhere close to and Xbox/PS. You have to work more with a stylistic vector style. So, ya the graphics are more powerful on a PC headset, but you can still achieve beautiful graphics with the power of a mobile chip.

    • Laurence Nairne

      Because these numbers are not the whole picture (pun intended).

      Resolution potential means nothing without the rendering power to back it up – which Ben states quite clearly later in this article.

      • Rowdy123

        Thanks for the correction! :)

    • Doctor Bambi

      To each their own, but I used GearVR for about 6 months before having enough money to get a Rift and while I love Rift, there was a small but noticeable drop in visual clarity, especially when combined with the god rays.

      Mobile and PC VR have their own strengths and both are great in the right context.

    • benz145

      As @laurencenairne:disqus mentioned, the resolution is just the number of pixels in the display. If you were to compare something like photo or maybe video viewing, the Focus would almost certainly appear to have greater clarity than first-gen tethered headsets like the Rift and Vive.

      In the section of the article with the header ‘Mobile-class Graphics’ I noted:

      Of course, to make use of display and lens capabilities, you need the rendering power to back it up. For well optimized experiences, like the headset’s ‘home’ menu, you could see the difference the added resolution makes. With the headset fundamentally reliant on mobile hardware for rendering, the graphics simply can’t stand up to what’s possible on a tethered headset connected to a high-end gaming PC. The one game I had a chance to play (a cover shooter) didn’t feel like it was rendered and textured well enough to really make use of all the pixels available. That, of course, will come down to developer competency in the end, but one would hope that there’s premium content to match what HTC says is the premium choice among standalone headsets.

    • Darshan

      Mobile VR needs right kind of lenses with large sweet spot, or IPD Adjustment & better if it has both. As your blurry mess comment has to do with worng IPD. Also mobile hardware does have limits when its doing other things like staying in network, handling apps in background and OS doing lot of other unkown stuff. when mobile chip Offloaded from this extra burden, it can manage 30/35% performance boost in VR app, then this all in one need creative developer who knows all quirks and excells of hardware to develope something which can shine on such hardware.

      IMO good standalone VR headset can beat teathered one. When done right…

  • Lucidfeuer

    I think the specs and design are okay. The price is nowhere near so.

    What I don’t understand is: since this is a “tethered” mobile hardware and not PC (so, no point in Viveport or Steam), will it run on Daydream since HTC platforms are on Android?

    • Laurence Nairne

      The survival of this headset will depend entirely on whether Oculus intends to deal with Xiaomi for Santa Cruz in China like they are with GO.

      I just don’t see a global market for 6DoF/3DoF combination where the hands are things sending only rotational data. It really has to be one or the other for me.

      They’d be absolutely barmy to attempt to pull their “Wave” shit in the rest of the world, but then HTC have not been making great decisions of late, so it’s anyone’s guess.

      • MasterElwood

        “I just don’t see a global market for 6DoF/3DoF combination where the hands are things sending only rotational data. It really has to be one or the other for me.”

        THIS! Be “all 3DoF” and cheep – or “6DoF” and expensive. A combination is just useless BS and DOA.

        Oculus gets it. HTC not.

        • Darshan

          Agree for right price may be 6DoF purist may go to LENOVO Mirage Solo, Those who are casual will go with OC GO.

      • Lucidfeuer

        I think they will, Xiaomi strategy so far is to direct deal and licence with established manufacturers or platforms to distribute and promote them through their brand on the chinese market.

        I personally think standalone headset is stupid, at the exception of the GO but only for the price, so the controllers are in the same problem vicinities as mobile head-tracking in the first place.

        But yeah, HTC doesn’t make sense.

        • Laurence Nairne

          I think the strategy of standalone is sound, it’s just grossly underpowered in practice.

          If we can outsource the rendering processing and stream experiences then they wouldn’t be quite so redundant. It’s really just a case of standalone vs. wireless PC-tethered which will likely merge at some point in the future when everything is coming from a server somewhere in native American territory.

          • Lucidfeuer

            “If we can outsource the rendering processing and stream experiences” to me that’s not a “standalone” then but close to being a first true virtual headset.

            We agree that Virtual/AVR Headsets should have been “untethered” and wireless from the beginning as in being able to switch wirelessly between an internal mobile platform, and wireless tethering to a host PC, or Mac, or Console etc…

          • Laurence Nairne

            I guess we’re arguing nomenclature, but I don’t disagree with you on the rest.

            I think the only reason we are in this place of prototypes/devkits being sold as commercial products is because Oculus would have R&D’d themselves into bankruptcy!

          • Darshan

            Thats reason one must release product at some point, no matter how better it could be, as to further develop resarchers need funds which without obligation or pressure can come from sales profit only……

            Oculus acted wise to not to RnD to bankruptcy and released product at good stage. Only thing went wrong was their internal team need to see god rays before consumer sees and need to find ways to mitigate them before release of headset.

            One may argue what consumer see is better version of it already and internal prototype may have even worst god rays, they might have settled at bigger eye relef, less screen door and acceptable god rays vintage point…. Only insider must be knowing, We dont have one to answer so best guess.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Focus was supposed to support the Daydream ecosystem, but the deal apparently fell through. It’s now using Vive Wave, a mobile equivalent of Viveport.

      • Lucidfeuer

        That’s beyond stupid, exactly what catalogue of app do they intend on proposing since Vive apps run on Windows.

        • Doctor Bambi

          They’re doing what they can to woo developers onto the platform, even offering a 100% cut of sales for a limited time, and it’s supposed to be very easy to port from Daydream. The frustrating thing is that, from a customer point of view, they have absolutely no information on their website about the current library.

          • Lucidfeuer

            We’ll see…

    • dk

      well ….lenovo

  • Ian Walker

    meh, I did better with my prototype for google cardboard years ago; the big boys, they ALL keep making the same mistakes. Just shows what a sad and sorry state of affairs there really is in consumer electronics – no-one has the guts to do it right, just rehash the consensus with incremental ‘improvements’ to a failed recipe. I’ll say it again – stolen fruit may taste sweet, but you just will never get the sekrit sawce…

    • Lucidfeuer

      I don’t think it’s so much a matter of guts, rather than a matter of mediocre governance strictly oriented by maximum cost saving at minimum development and iteration. Which is already the case of smartphones, the difference being Steve Jobs paved the way for a finite practical device from the get-go and since long established market…which isn’t the case for VR.

      • Ian Walker

        Lol, there is a back story to the whole Jobs and apple thing (well the ones prefixed with an ‘i’ anyways) that would blow your mind. And that the overarching design philosophy behind ‘retina’ display devices was to make them dual-useful for the nascent inception of VR and AR devices…

  • daveinpublic

    HTC is trying to change their business strategy, and be the software people. It’s a huge change, even though they aren’t marketing that, and I think it puts the customers at a disadvantage. They’re essentially trying to convince developers to help build yet another store for VR, and they’re hoping other hardware manufacturers build ‘Wave’ products as well. Essentially, they’re using the Android operating system to compete with Google’s DayDream and the Vive brand name to compete with Steam. I think it’s a bad move. Imagine what would happen if a few DayDream headsets come out, start to do well, and Google basically decides to smoke Wave by ‘opening up’ more features to their own headset and handicapping Wave by creating new branches of their operating system that don’t allow basic upgrades to new faster network protocols or whatever.

  • G-man

    how will bigscreen work on a standalone? you have no desktop to stream.

  • impurekind

    So: Headset good. Controller sh*t.

  • I still think it is aimed more at enterprise and prosumers more than at consumers. It’s too expensive

  • oompah

    say 1/2 – 1/3 of ur monthly salary for a headset

  • brandon9271

    I really wish they’d have added the option to tether to a PC. i know being stand alone is the whole point but being able to run PC games on it as well would add a lot of value. A product like this plus a TPCast type device would be GREAT

  • fuyou2