HTC turns from Vive XR Elite VR headset to XR Glasses

The Vive XR Elite has one seriously cool party trick.

Debuted at CES 2023, HTC’s latest headset is its first attempt at combining a high-end VR headset with AR technology. But more than that, within seconds, it can transform from a strapped-on headset to its very own lightweight glasses. Simply remove the battery cradle that mounts to the back of your head, and you’re left with a pair of lightweight XR Glasses that weigh just 0.53 pounds.

HTC Vive XR Elite without battery cradle attached.

But beyond that cool feature, it’s not hard to size up the Vive XR Elite for Meta Quest Pro — even if HTC won’t welcome the comparison. Like the Quest Pro, the Vive XR Elite can do fully immersive VR, as well as mixed-reality experiences using full-color passthrough. Several specs line up, as does its $1,000+ price tag (though the Vive XR Elite is notably $500 cheaper).

This might make the average viewer roll their eyes. There has never been much interest in the metaverse, but Meta, the concept’s chief evangelist, has turned many people away from the idea as a whole.

But unlike the Meta, HTC seems to know its audience a little better. HTC says that the Vive XR Elite has been designed first and foremost for experiencing content, whether it’s games or other forms of media. Yes, you can work on a virtual screen or replace a video call with an immersive meeting room – but that’s not necessarily the focus here.

HTC Vive XR Elite
resolution 2448 x 2448 pixels per eye
refresh rate 90 Hz
field of view 110 degree
processor Snapdragon XR2
controllers 6DoF controller
weight 1.38 pounds (with battery cradle)

0.53 pounds (without battery cradle)

battery 2 hour battery life
worth $1,099 for the 5-app bundle

Instead, the heart of the Vive XR Elite seems to be the ultimate do-it-all headset. The VR capabilities are top notch, for starters. It borrows a lot of technology from the Vive Focus 3, which was launched in 2021. It includes two 90Hz 2K screens, both of which use special pancake lenses and custom-tuned LCD panels. It has a 110-degree field of view, which roughly matches the Vive Focus 3’s 120 degrees.

Tracking capabilities have also been ported over from the Vive Focus 3, including four wide field of view cameras, six DOF (degrees of freedom) controllers, and hand-tracking in both the VR and XR. It also uses the same Vive Focus 3 controllers.

HTC Vive XR Elite's lenses.

Like the Vive Focus 3, the Vive XR Elite can do PC-powered VR either wired or wireless, as well as stand-alone, thanks to the Snapdragon XR2 chip inside. According to HTC, the hope is to give you access to the largest possible libraries of content, whether through its own Vivre or platforms like SteamVR.

With all that DNA shared with the Vive Focus 3, though, you may be wondering what makes the Vive XR Elite so special. Well, first of all, it weighs only 1.38 pounds (625 grams), which is less than the Vive Focus 3’s 1.73 pounds. This makes it significantly lighter than the Quest Pro. And, of course, once the battery cradle is removed, you haul it down to just 0.53 pounds, which is very close to the Vive Flow’s 0.42 pounds.

HTC doesn’t recommend you play active action games in this mode, especially when you’ll need to be connected to a power source. But for the sitting experience, this VR experience is more comfortable than you would think.

HTC Vive XR Elite headset with battery strap attached.

Another feature carried over from the Vive Flow is the diopter dial, which lets you go glasses-free. You can adjust the interpupillary distance to shift the tight range and adjust it to a comfortable range.

All that aside, as the name suggests, the Vive XR Elite’s headline feature is its ability to power mixed-reality experiences. It features full RGB passthrough cameras and a laser depth sensor that lets you see the real world with virtual elements placed on top. HTC has a lot to prove on this front, not only from a technical point of view, but also in terms of materials.

One of the biggest missing features is eye and face tracking. HTC says it doesn’t think it’s currently necessary, but it was a big part of Meta’s marketing for the Quest Pro. HTC has announced a bundle for just $1,099 that comes with five apps for free, including both VR and MR experiences in games, fitness, music and more. This initial bundle will be available in late February, with more bundles and configurations to be announced later.

Additional Details

  • The top head strap has been completely removed.
  • HTC designed a new portable travel case for the Vive XR Elite.
  • Battery life is around two hours.
  • HTC says that the Snapdragon XR2+ was not used because it would have only caused thermal problems.
  • Without the battery cradle, the headset has about ten minutes of battery to switch modes.
  • HTC says you shouldn’t get compression marks around your face after 40 minutes of use.
  • The Vive also works with wrist trackers.
  • The Vive XR Elite has larger speakers than the Flow and sits closer to your ear, which HTC says is important for bass.
  • The cloth gasket can be removed magnetically.

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