VR experiences are nearer to that of first-gen VR headsets
The Vive Flow is an fascinating idea for a light-weight headset, however compatibility points, primary VR experiences and a number of different questionable design choices imply it’s not fairly prepared for prime time simply but.
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Best Prices Today: HTC Vive Flow
The Vive model has had an fascinating few years; regardless of large curiosity from shoppers 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 Pro and Vive Flow 3.
That’s set to vary with the Vive Flow, a VR headset that isn’t actually a VR headset. Instead, 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 of the above? Great, then let me clarify.
Design & construct
Sunglasses-style design is exclusive
Not front-heavy like normal VR headsets
Innovative lens focusing system supreme for glasses-wearers
Needs an exterior energy supply to perform
The Vive Flow 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 massive brightly colored reflective lenses that look nearly trendy – if not a bit superhero-esque.
It’s not only for the fashion both; there are many advantages that come from a decidedly extra streamlined design.
The most blatant profit is that it’s far more light-weight than alternate options, weighing in at simply 189g – the burden of a mean smartphone – however there’s extra to it than that. The design means the headset doesn’t wrap across the high 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 by way of magnets, or if you’d like a extra open expertise, there’s additionally a nostril insert within the field.
That all equates to a headset that’s a lot much less front-heavy than alternate options, and that expands potential use – in idea, anyway.
The draw back, for me not less than, 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 half-hour of use.
Accentuating the uncomfortable arms is a USB-C cable that runs from the appropriate 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 quite a lot of seconds with out energy, anyway. How else might 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 mix of a 100-degree discipline of view (FOV) and a 75Hz refresh fee.
It is available in at barely decrease than Meta’s standalone headset, however with a narrower discipline of view, there isn’t a discernible distinction in total high quality. It’s vivid, vivid and lots detailed for the VR experiences on supply.
Where the Flow beats the Quest and virtually each different headset is within the lens division, with an intuitive focus system that’s supreme for glasses-wearers.
Rather than forcing glasses-wearers to put on the Vive Focus over their current glasses, the Flow gives a large guide focus vary (from 0 – +6) that negates the necessity for glasses totally. 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
Only suitable with a small collection of Android smartphones
Straightforward setup course of
iPhone help coming someday sooner or later, however no phrase when
If there’s one sticking level for the Vive Flow, it’ll little doubt be its compatibility.
HTC claims that the Vive Flow doesn’t want a top-end smartphone to energy the headset, offering a £409/$425 Samsung Galaxy A52s together with the headset for assessment, and that declare is basically true – I did use the A52s for many VR experiences, and it ran simply positive.
Lewis Painter / Foundry
The drawback is that the Vive Flow isn’t suitable with all Android smartphones, and there’s no hard-and-fast rule about which handsets do and which don’t. HTC offers an inventory of confirmed fashions on its website, however in comparison with the broader cellphone trade, it’s a small fraction.
It’s not even assured on top-end smartphones, as I attempted utilizing the Vive Flow with the likes of the Oppo Find X5 Pro and Asus ROG Phone 5 to seek out out that they don’t help all options and performance of the headset.
The suggestion the Vive Flow offers when it tells you this throughout setup? To use one other smartphone. Considering most customers received’t have a number of telephones laying round to make use of, it’s essential that you just affirm whether or not your cellphone is suitable before you purchase.
Oh, and in case you’ve obtained an iPhone, you’re fully out of luck – for now, anyway. HTC has teased that iPhone help is on the best way, however there’s no phrase when that may be.
Once you’ve confirmed you’ve obtained a suitable smartphone, the setup is a breeze. Simply obtain the Vive app from Google Play and comply with the on-screen directions.
It’ll take you thru the preliminary login course of, enable you to alter focus, check whether or not your cellphone is totally suitable with its cellphone mirroring mode, and it’ll present you how you can use the controls too.
The complete course of shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes or so, and you then’re free to discover the Vive Flow’s digital world.
The Vive Flow expertise
Uses smartphone as a controller with on-screen controls
VR expertise is nearer to first-gen VR headsets than 2022 competitors
Phone mirroring is nice for watching motion pictures, however not taking part in video games
At the center of the Vive Flow is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR1 chipset, which got here out means 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 purpose, the VR expertise isn’t fairly as high-end as Meta’s possibility, working a customized model of Android with help for 2 most important capabilities; immersive VR experiences and the power to reflect your cellphone’s show just about.
It’s the latter that’s most fascinating for customers, however there’s so much to unpack first.
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 the same system to the Quest 2 and HP Reverb G2, however with far fewer cameras than alternate options, the Vive Flow’s positional monitoring can generally really feel floaty and extra akin to a primary 3DoF smartphone VR viewer than a ‘proper’ VR headset.
Lewis Painter / Foundry
It has even misplaced monitoring fully every now and then, inflicting an error to pop up on display till monitoring is resumed.
It’s controversial that the related nature of the headset means it’s higher suited to sit-down experiences, and this doesn’t affect the general expertise too a lot, however the hit-and-miss monitoring means you received’t really feel snug getting up and shifting round in VR even in case you wished to.
You may’ve observed that I’ve but to say the controller used with the Vive Flow, and that’s as a result of there isn’t one. Instead, you work together with the digital world utilizing your related smartphone as a controller.
The thought appears stable, particularly when you think about that the majority use instances for the Vive Flow are once you’re travelling, because it means you don’t want to hold round a further controller in addition to the headset, your cellphone and probably a battery pack too.
However, the implementation is much from supreme.
Once arrange in your smartphone, the digital controller UI ought to seem on-screen once you put the Vive Flow 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 primarily offers a laser pointer and 4 buttons – System Menu, Select, Trigger (which is interchangeable with Select relying on the app, confusingly) and App Menu. The drawback is that you just’re carrying a VR headset and you’ll’t really feel the totally different buttons on a flat touchscreen, so mispresses are annoyingly commonplace.
The greater difficulty is that, with out a devoted controller, the system is proscribed to utilizing the gyroscope of your cellphone to trace its place, and meaning it doesn’t present true 1:1 monitoring.
Your cellphone may be in a single place in VR and one other in the true world, making for a disjointed, floaty expertise, additional annoyed by awkward UI placements that generally make it exhausting to navigate throughout digital menus with out having to awkwardly angle your controller.
Essentially, it’s extra in step with the 3DoF controller of the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream, headsets that had been launched means again in 2016, and might 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.
You can entry HTC’s Viveport VR storefront from inside the headset, permitting you to put in a spread of VR apps. But, in case you’re picturing titles like Beat Saber and Resident Evil 4, you’ll doubtless be dissatisfied.
Instead, the providing is extra akin to that of early VR viewers like Google Cardboard and Gear VR, with primary look-and-shoot video games, on-wheels VR experiences and different simplistic VR apps.
There are a number of exceptions to the rule, with (the aptly named) Flow providing a novel solution to meditate whereas preserving your eyes open, and the artwork fashion of Curious Alice offers a genuinely distinctive expertise (even when gameplay is moderately primary) however it’s definitely restricted in comparison with Meta’s providing.
Vive / Vive Arts
The different 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 a good 75fps (the broadly 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, however it wants extra content material particular to the Vive Flow and its distinctive capabilities. More meditation apps like Flow, and fewer first-gen VR video games, please!
While the library of standalone VR apps leaves a lot to be desired, the primary draw of the Vive Flow for a lot of would be the means to reflect your cellphone’s show inside the headset on a big, curved 100in show.
HTC opted to make use of Miracast mirroring know-how rather than utilizing the USB-C cable to reflect any related show, primarily as a result of Miracast permits you to work together together with your smartphone show whereas in VR. It’s additionally by the way one of many large obstacles with smartphone compatibility talked about earlier, however hey, if it really works it really works!
Using the smartphone controller, you’ll be able to scroll by means of Instagram, TikTook and every other app you could have put in in your smartphone. It’s totally suitable with apps that use DRM like Disney+ and Netflix, permitting you to take pleasure in a cinema-esque large display expertise wherever you might be.
Lewis Painter / Foundry
It additionally brings added perks in comparison with native VR counterparts for the likes of Netflix, with the power to browse for what you wish to watch exterior of the headset and save content material regionally for offline playback – if it’s in your cellphone, 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 Things on Netflix than most different headsets.
But, in a working theme for the Vive Flow, there’s a caveat to the cellphone mirroring capabilities.
While 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’ll be able to’t reliably play video games – native or cloud-based – on the Vive Flow.
That’s an actual disgrace too, contemplating simply how massive that digital show is.
It additionally means that you would be able to’t mirror, say, a USB-C-connected laptop computer, increasing the Vive Flow’s capabilities from leisure to work.
It’s price mentioning 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 means because the Vive Flow, the low latency, nice show high quality and the power to play cloud video games like Red Dead Redemption 2 on a digital show is an actual deal with.
If that’s extra your factor, maybe Nreal’s possibility is healthier suited to you – and it’s just a little cheaper too.
Lewis Painter / Foundry
The Vive Flow is available in at a not-insignificant £499/$499, making it a tough promote when in comparison with the bulkier, but in addition 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.
If you might be tempted, you should buy the Vive Flow 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 Flow compares to the competitors, check out our collection of the perfect VR headsets.
The thought behind the Vive Flow is stable; supply an entertainment-focused digital expertise that doesn’t want the graphical grunt of the Meta Quest 2, saving on total weight and bulk for a extra snug encounter.
The means to reflect your cellphone’s show is a superb contact, permitting you to stream from the likes of Netflix and Disney+ onto a curved 100in show in a digital house with out a cable – although you’ll nonetheless must plug the headset’s USB-C cable into one thing to offer it energy, missing an inside battery.
The drawback 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 cellphone controller is a good suggestion with a considerably flawed execution.
Couple that with spotty Android cellphone help, a excessive price ticket and mirroring lag that makes taking part in video games inconceivable and it’s a reasonably exhausting promote, with Nreal Air providing a greater mirroring expertise and the Quest 2 providing a greater VR expertise, each at a less expensive value level than Vive’s possibility.