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HTC Vive Stream Evaluation: Nice Thought, Flawed Execution

At a glanceExpert’s Ranking
ProsSunglasses-like kind factorLightweight, transportable designCan view your telephone apps on a 100in displayConsNeeds an exterior battery sourceOnly appropriate with choose Android smartphonesVR experiences are nearer to that of first-gen VR headsetsExpensiveOur Verdict

The Vive Stream is an fascinating idea for a light-weight headset, however compatibility points, fundamental VR experiences and a number of different questionable design selections imply it’s not fairly prepared for prime time simply but.

Greatest Costs As we speak: HTC Vive Stream

The Vive model has had an fascinating few years; regardless of big curiosity from customers within the early days of VR, the model has shifted extra in the direction of the B2B market over the previous few years with the likes of the Vive Professional and Vive Stream 3.  

That’s set to alter with the Vive Stream, a VR headset that isn’t actually a VR headset. As an alternative, HTC describes its newest headset as a pair of “immersive glasses”, sporting a sunglasses-like design and a powerful light-weight construct. Intrigued? Confused? All the above? Nice, then let me clarify.

Design & construct

Sun shades-style design is uniqueNot front-heavy like customary VR headsetsInnovative lens focusing system ideally suited for glasses-wearersNeeds an exterior energy supply to perform

The Vive Stream isn’t your bog-standard VR headset, and that’s most evident from its design. It’s nearer in look to a pair of good glasses than a full VR headset, sporting giant brightly colored reflective lenses that look virtually trendy – if not a bit superhero-esque.

It’s not only for the model both; there are many advantages that come from a decidedly extra streamlined design.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The obvious profit is that it’s way more light-weight than options, weighing in at simply 189g – the burden of a median smartphone – however there’s extra to it than that. The design means the headset doesn’t wrap across the prime or again of the pinnacle like different headsets, making it really feel extra snug when worn.

That’s complemented by a soft-touch face gasket that snaps into place through magnets, or if you’d like a extra open expertise, there’s additionally a nostril insert within the field.

That each one equates to a headset that’s a lot much less front-heavy than options, and that expands potential use – in principle, anyway.

The draw back, for me a minimum of, is the inflexible arms that maintain the headset into place. They’re styled like sun shades arms however they’re longer, thicker and tighter on the rear, with a noticeable build-up of strain on the again of the pinnacle after round 30 minutes of use.

Accentuating the uncomfortable arms is a USB-C cable that runs from the proper arm. What’s the cable for, you ask? It’s wanted to energy the headset. Yep, the headset doesn’t include a built-in battery – or one which’ll final various seconds with out energy, anyway. How else may HTC make a headset that weighs simply 189g?

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The excellent news is that it solely wants a 7.5W energy supply to perform, which suggests you should utilize your smartphone, a battery pack or virtually any USB-C port, although it’s not as handy as a built-in battery.

The show housed inside is pretty spectacular, boasting a 3.2K decision roughly cut up at 1.6K per eye, with a mixture of a 100-degree area of view (FOV) and a 75Hz refresh price.

It is available in at barely decrease than Meta’s standalone headset, however with a narrower area of view, there isn’t a discernible distinction in general high quality. It’s vivid, shiny and lots detailed for the VR experiences on provide.

The place the Stream beats the Quest and virtually each different headset is within the lens division, with an intuitive focus system that’s ideally suited for glasses-wearers.

Fairly than forcing glasses-wearers to put on the Vive Focus over their current glasses, the Stream gives a large handbook focus vary (from 0 – +6) that negates the necessity for glasses fully. As somebody that wears glasses every day, it’s an enormous deal, and one thing I’d like to see on different VR headsets in future.

Setup & compatibility

Solely appropriate with a small number of Android smartphonesStraightforward setup processiPhone help coming someday sooner or later, however no phrase when

If there’s one sticking level for the Vive Stream, it’ll little doubt be its compatibility.

HTC claims that the Vive Stream doesn’t want a top-end smartphone to energy the headset, offering a £409/$425 Samsung Galaxy A52s together with the headset for overview, and that declare is basically true – I did use the A52s for many VR experiences, and it ran simply advantageous.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The issue is that the Vive Stream isn’t appropriate with all Android smartphones, and there’s no hard-and-fast rule about which handsets do and which don’t. HTC supplies an inventory of confirmed fashions on its web site, however in comparison with the broader telephone business, it’s a small fraction.

It’s not even assured on top-end smartphones, as I attempted utilizing the Vive Stream with the likes of the Oppo Discover X5 Professional and Asus ROG Cellphone 5 to search out out that they don’t help all options and performance of the headset.

The suggestion the Vive Stream supplies when it tells you this throughout setup? To make use of one other smartphone. Contemplating most customers gained’t have a number of telephones laying round to make use of, it’s essential that you simply verify whether or not your telephone is appropriate before you purchase.

Oh, and in case you’ve acquired an iPhone, you’re fully out of luck – for now, anyway. HTC has teased that iPhone help is on the way in which, however there’s no phrase when that is perhaps.

When you’ve confirmed you’ve acquired a appropriate smartphone, the setup is a breeze. Merely obtain the Vive app from Google Play and observe the on-screen directions.

It’ll take you thru the preliminary login course of, show you how to alter focus, check whether or not your telephone is totally appropriate with its telephone mirroring mode, and it’ll present you how you can use the controls too.

The entire course of shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes or so, and then you definitely’re free to discover the Vive Stream’s digital world.

The Vive Stream expertise

Makes use of smartphone as a controller with on-screen controlsVR expertise is nearer to first-gen VR headsets than 2022 competitionPhone mirroring is nice for watching films, however not enjoying video games

On the coronary heart of the Vive Stream is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR1 chipset, which got here out method again in 2018 and is fairly underpowered in comparison with the upgraded XR2 chipset discovered within the likes of the standalone Meta Quest 2 and HTC’s personal Vive Focus 3.

For that cause, the VR expertise isn’t fairly as high-end as Meta’s choice, working a customized model of Android with help for 2 major features; immersive VR experiences and the flexibility to reflect your telephone’s show nearly.

It’s the latter that’s most fascinating for customers, however there’s quite a bit to unpack first.

Monitoring

Firstly, two embedded cameras mounted within the lenses of the sunglasses-style VR headset allow positional monitoring in an area of as much as 4m x 4m.

It’s an identical system to the Quest 2 and HP Reverb G2, however with far fewer cameras than options, the Vive Stream’s positional monitoring can generally really feel floaty and extra akin to a fundamental 3DoF smartphone VR viewer than a ‘correct’ VR headset.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

It has even misplaced monitoring fully occasionally, inflicting an error to pop up on display screen till monitoring is resumed.

It’s debatable that the linked nature of the headset means it’s higher suited to sit-down experiences, and this doesn’t affect the general expertise an excessive amount of, however the hit-and-miss monitoring means you gained’t really feel snug getting up and transferring round in VR even in case you wished to.

Controller

You would possibly’ve seen that I’ve but to say the controller used with the Vive Stream, and that’s as a result of there isn’t one. As an alternative, you work together with the digital world utilizing your linked smartphone as a controller.

The concept appears strong, particularly when you think about that almost all use instances for the Vive Stream are if you’re travelling, because it means you don’t want to hold round a further controller in addition to the headset, your telephone and doubtlessly a battery pack too.

Nevertheless, the implementation is much from ideally suited.

As soon as arrange in your smartphone, the digital controller UI ought to seem on-screen if you put the Vive Stream on. Activate it by holding two fingers on-screen and disable it by swiping down from the highest of your show.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The smartphone controller basically supplies a laser pointer and 4 buttons – System Menu, Choose, Set off (which is interchangeable with Choose relying on the app, confusingly) and App Menu. The issue is that you simply’re carrying a VR headset and you may’t really feel the totally different buttons on a flat touchscreen, so mispresses are annoyingly commonplace.

The larger difficulty is that, with no devoted controller, the system is proscribed to utilizing the gyroscope of your telephone to trace its place, and which means it doesn’t present true 1:1 monitoring.

Your telephone is perhaps in a single place in VR and one other in the actual world, making for a disjointed, floaty expertise, additional pissed off by awkward UI placements that generally make it arduous to navigate throughout digital menus with out having to awkwardly angle your controller.

Primarily, it’s extra in keeping with the 3DoF controller of the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream, headsets that had been launched method again in 2016, and may actually detract from the VR expertise – particularly in devoted VR apps.

HTC claims that hand monitoring is coming, however as with iPhone help, there’s no phrase as to when to count on it.

VR apps

You possibly can entry HTC’s Viveport VR storefront from inside the headset, permitting you to put in a variety of VR apps. However, in case you’re picturing titles like Beat Saber and Resident Evil 4, you’ll probably be disillusioned.

As an alternative, the providing is extra akin to that of early VR viewers like Google Cardboard and Gear VR, with fundamental look-and-shoot video games, on-wheels VR experiences and different simplistic VR apps.

There are just a few exceptions to the rule, with (the aptly named) Stream providing a novel solution to meditate whereas retaining your eyes open, and the artwork model of Curious Alice supplies a genuinely distinctive expertise (even when gameplay is fairly fundamental) but it surely’s definitely restricted in comparison with Meta’s providing.

A screenshot of Curious Alice, one of many extra distinctive VR video games on the Stream

Vive / Vive Arts

The opposite drawback is that the ageing Snapdragon XR1 chipset within the headset can generally battle to energy the experiences accessible on Viveport, with some struggling to take care of an honest 75fps (the extensively regarded minimal for VR with out inducing movement illness and discomfort).

The caveat to all that is that it has the potential to enhance over time, but it surely wants extra content material particular to the Vive Stream and its distinctive capabilities. Extra meditation apps like Stream, and fewer first-gen VR video games, please!

Cellphone mirroring

Whereas the library of standalone VR apps leaves a lot to be desired, the primary draw of the Vive Stream for a lot of would be the potential to reflect your telephone’s show inside the headset on a big, curved 100in show.

HTC opted to make use of Miracast mirroring expertise rather than utilizing the USB-C cable to reflect any linked show, primarily as a result of Miracast permits you to work together along with your smartphone show whereas in VR. It’s additionally by the way one of many massive obstacles with smartphone compatibility talked about earlier, however hey, if it really works it really works!

Utilizing the smartphone controller, you may scroll by means of Instagram, TikTok and every other app you may have put in in your smartphone. It’s totally appropriate with apps that use DRM like Disney+ and Netflix, permitting you to get pleasure from a cinema-esque massive display screen expertise wherever you’re.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

It additionally brings added perks in comparison with native VR counterparts for the likes of Netflix, with the flexibility to browse for what you need to watch outdoors of the headset and save content material regionally for offline playback – if it’s in your telephone, it’s on the headset, prepared to make use of.

The backless design of the glasses additionally means it’s simpler to put again and luxuriate in an episode of Stranger Issues on Netflix than most different headsets.

However, in a working theme for the Vive Stream, there’s a caveat to the telephone mirroring capabilities.

Whereas Miracast undoubtedly has VR-focused advantages over utilizing easy USB-C show mirroring that isn’t interactive, it additionally means there’s a slight show lag. It’s lower than a second, however that delay means you may’t reliably play video games – native or cloud-based – on the Vive Stream.

That’s an actual disgrace too, contemplating simply how giant that digital show is.

It additionally means that you may’t mirror, say, a USB-C-connected laptop computer, increasing the Vive Stream’s capabilities from leisure to work.

It’s value declaring that the Nreal Air AR glasses do use USB-C connectivity for show mirroring, and when you can’t work together with it in the identical method because the Vive Stream, the low latency, nice show high quality and the flexibility to play cloud video games like Crimson Useless Redemption 2 on a digital show is an actual deal with.

If that’s extra your factor, maybe Nreal’s choice is best suited to you – and it’s a little bit cheaper too.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Worth

The Vive Stream is available in at a not-insignificant £499/$499, making it a tough promote when in comparison with the bulkier, but additionally far more succesful £299/$299 Meta Quest 2. Even the Nreal Air glasses, with lagless mirroring and AR capabilities, prices much less within the UK at £399.

In case you are tempted, you should purchase the Vive Stream from the Vive web site in addition to retailers like Amazon (albeit at a premium) with a free protecting case and a free Viveport Infinity trial to sweeten the deal.

To see how the Vive Stream compares to the competitors, check out our number of the very best VR headsets.

Verdict

The concept behind the Vive Stream is strong; provide an entertainment-focused digital expertise that doesn’t want the graphical grunt of the Meta Quest 2, saving on general weight and bulk for a extra snug encounter.

The flexibility to reflect your telephone’s show is a good contact, permitting you to stream from the likes of Netflix and Disney+ onto a curved 100in show in a digital house with no cable – although you’ll nonetheless have to plug the headset’s USB-C cable into one thing to offer it energy, missing an inside battery.

The issue is that the core VR expertise is extra akin to that of a first-gen VR headset than one thing accessible in 2022, whereas the telephone controller is a good suggestion with a considerably flawed execution.

Couple that with spotty Android telephone help, a excessive price ticket and mirroring lag that makes enjoying video games inconceivable and it’s a fairly arduous promote, with Nreal Air providing a greater mirroring expertise and the Quest 2 providing a greater VR expertise, each at a less expensive worth level than Vive’s choice.

About the author: SubSellKaro

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