At CES 2023 HTC revealed its new Vive XR Elite headset which is positioned as a Quest Pro competitor. In terms of features and hardware, the headset is largely a refinement of formfactor over anything else; and while it’s undoubtedly compact and lightweight, it may be hampered by an unclear value proposition and some ergonomic details that went overlooked.

For a detailed look at Vive XR Elite’s specs and features, check out our announcement article

Everyone’s head shape, nose size, and eye positions are different. That said, the first time I put on Vive XR Elite it was clear to me that there wasn’t nearly enough room for my nose… something that I have no issue with on almost every other major headset on the market (even HTC’s other VR headsets).

It’s not that it’s impossible to get the pressure off your nose—the optional top-strap (which HTC smartly included) makes this easy enough—but the problem is that if I raise the headset up to get weight off of my nose, my eyes are no longer in the sweet spot of the lens, making the view through the headset sub-par. More padding around the nose would have a similar issue of moving the lenses out of the sweet spot.

While I didn’t get to use the headset for an extended period of time, I have a strong suspicion that the nose thing is going to be a literal and figurative pain point on this headset. And as someone who doesn’t have a particularly large nose, I can’t imagine I’m going to be the only person with this issue.

Photo by Road to VR

The nose thing isn’t the only ergonomic oversight that was immediately apparent. There’s also the fact that the rear pad, which is designed to cup the back of your head, doesn’t cushion your head enough to prevent contact between your skull and the battery on the back. That means that as you tighten the headset you can feel a big, flat, plastic surface pushing against your head. That’s compared to something like the Quest 2 Elite Strap (which the rear of Vive XR Elite appears to emulate), where I can only feel the pads hugging the back of my head, but never the battery behind them.

Photo by Road to VR

Beyond these worrying ergonomic subtleties, the headset’s fundamentals feel solid across the board, making the Vive XR Elite the company’s most refined standalone to date. But from a feature and performance standpoint, the headset feels more like Quest 2 than Quest Pro, which puts it in an awkward place with its $1,100 pricetag.

Visually, Vive XR Elite’s pancake lenses are pretty good on the clarity front, with good edge-to-edge clarity, though falling short of the excellent lenses on Quest Pro. The use of non-Fresnel lenses means a reduction in glare and god rays compared to Quest 2, though the resolution and visibility of the screen door is about the same between the two headsets (1,920 × 1,920 vs. 1,920 × 1,832). And while the peripheral field of view feels a little tight, the added dioptre control (for changing the focus of each lens) will be welcomed by those with glasses, and even those without will be served well by the continuous IPD adjustment (which includes an on-screen measurement readout and calibration pop-up).

Photo by Road to VR

Inside-out head-tracking feels pretty good and is surely ‘good enough’, though the instantaneous rotational latency doesn’t feel as tight as Meta’s bar-setting inside-out solution. Importantly, the tracking feels better than Vive Flow, which in my experience has too much latency for long-term comfort. Controller-tracking on Vive XR Elite also feels solid, and with cameras on each side pointed almost entirely to your left and right, coverage ought to be good (potentially surpassing Vive Focus 3).

As the name implies, the HTC is pushing the XR Elite as a headset that does passthrough AR in addition to VR. The headset’s color pass-through view isn’t stellar. Similar to Meta’s headsets, the XR Elite attempts to rebuild the depth of the real world virtually to provide geometric correction and depth cues, but even with a depth-sensor on-board (which Quest Pro lacks), my experience with the headset’s passthrough AR showed a lot of warping due to incorrect depth-mapping.

Without being able to do a direct side-by-side comparison, my impression was that XR Elite wasn’t quite as sharp as Quest Pro when it comes to passthrough AR. Granted, the passthrough AR on both headsets headsets is definitely in the same approximate ‘class’ (not sharp enough to read text from your smartphone and quite poor dynamic range at that).

Photo by Road to VR

Just like with Quest Pro, the quality and application of passthrough AR feels entirely undercooked, with the handful of AR apps I tried on the headset not sufficiently answering the question ‘why AR?’. But now that another headset on the market is embracing and enhancing this capability, perhaps the answers to that question will come a bit sooner.

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Photo by Road to VR

Considering its performance and features, Vive XR Elite seems to share the same core problem as Quest Pro—and that’s the value proposition. Even if we ignore any potential ergonomic mishaps… at best Vive XR Elite is akin to a somewhat more compact version of Quest 2. And even if we ignore that Quest 2 has a much more extensive content library… it’s difficult to see how, for most people, Vive XR Elite can justify an $1,100 price tag compared to Quest 2 at $400.

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  • Ad

    It’s impressive how solidly facebook slammed into the pavement with this “pivot to AR,” reminds of me of when they killed off so many news and media organizations with facebook video. HTC will likely be fine, they just need a few niche enterprise use cases.

  • Hackker

    Anything but a Meta (Oculus) device…

    • ViRGiN

      said the dude who buys each and every game on steam for years, and is now incapable of moving onto next generation of vr.

      go support pimax on kickstarter or something.

  • toastytoaster

    “somewhat more compact version of Quest 2”

    Are you sure you would describe it only somewhat more compact?

    • Ben Lang

      Yes

      • toastytoaster

        Okay. Most of us have been interested in this new wave of pancake headsets due to form factor. If it doesn’t quite deliver maybe that’s a topic for an article of its own. Consider making a comfort comparison between Q2 and QPro/Pico4/ViveFlow/ViveXR .

  • wowgivemeabreak

    Thank you very much for your hand-on feedback here.

    So potentially/probably yet another letdown by HTC. Stunned!

    I really hope Valve’s rumoured next headset comes out soon and it can used for wireless PC streaming and maybe also has a stand alone component to it. if so, I’ll switch over in a heartbeat. Farcebook needs real competition. Pico 4 may apparently be some decent competition but that’s useless for us here in North America.

  • mellott124

    This is one of the more negative reviews I’ve seen regarding the Vive XR elite so far. Interesting. I do trust RoadToVR reviews but there were so many positive ones from CES.

    • Arno van Wingerde

      Really? I can image that there were people who found the headset quite comfortable, but the price remains as does the question: “what did I buy this for, exactly?”

  • LegendaryKeith

    I think this headset is for people who like to travel a lot and for people who puts comfort and ease of use above anything else.

    If i have a quest pro and a XR elite (without battery strap) on my work desk and if i don’t care about Mixed-reality, i’d pick up XR elite a lot more than the quest pro.

    I could definitely see a lot of people buying this headset for this price.

  • Andross

    “And while the peripheral field of view feels a little tight…”
    really? less than quest 2?

  • gothicvillas

    This gen is useless regardless what form etc. All we get is Rec Room stylized games there. Next headset maker should try to be different and perhaps add a little external device (think Gamecube size) with one button which will do most legwork to run HMD. Make it wireless and perhaps even with the battery option both. Thats when I will fork out 1000 notes or whatever they ask. Right now, they are beating dead horse imo.

    • ViRGiN

      ‘this thing isn’t for me, therefore it’s not for anybody.’

  • Jeroham Ortiz

    A bit disappointing, but considering that both headsets (MQP and this one) are breaking new ground in AR, it is understandable. I think both serve as good dev kits and tech test beds more than anything.

  • metaphysician67

    this is the first review where they rated the passthrough as being no better than Quest Pro. i’ve watched three reviews that rated it considerably higher. i’m a bit skeptical of this one as a result – but Ben did say it never sat on his nose correctly so i would guess that not being in an ideal position could affect that interpretation. and the battery pressure could easily be mitigated with another pad in the back so i’m not worried about that.

    personally i think if you had an eye out for the QP’s functionality but you were leery of Meta’s data sharing, wanted a depth sensor (which was not talked about here -possibly not available in the demo?) and wanted save 20% on the QPs cost and were okay with what’s available on Viveport or Steam, this could be a strong contender. a consumer headset this is most definitely not, but neither is the QP really, which it is clearly gunning for. they are both heading for the enthusiast/prosumer market and to the extent that QP gets adopted a certain proportion of that market may well purchase it.

    those hoping for a $500-600 HTC consumer priced headset should look elsewhere for sure.

    • Ben Lang

      Nobody there was able to go side-by-side with Quest Pro, so I’d recommend waiting until that’s possible if you want a definitive answer.

      I will say that I’ve frequently called out various display artifacts that others don’t see until they get the headset in their hands long term. I was one of the first to note that the Rift CV1 prototype showed significant god rays once it went to Fresnel lenses. Nobody had really mentioned it until the headsets started shipping and then it was all anyone could talk about: https://www.roadtovr.com/notes-on-crescent-bay-fresnel-lenses-fixed-black-smear-light-ray-artifact-and-more/

      • Al

        I’ve tried the XR Elite side by side with the MQP…and it’s by far more comfortable and the pass through quality is noticeably better.

  • brandon9271

    I’ve had to either modify or customize the facial interface on every VR HMD I’ve ever own. The Quest 2 was the most uncomfortable headset I owned until I got a new interface and halo strap. Ergonomics must be hard to get right because nobody seems to! lol

  • My Thoughts

    Given the choice I would never give my money to Facebook/Meta. This will be perfect for me.