Best Standalone VR Headset Vive Focus 3 Review: HTC’s latest virtual reality headset, the Vive Focus 3, is part of the Vive range, which was first released in 2016. HTC’s latest standalone VR headset Vive Focus 3 was released on June 27th, 2021. And they did an excellent job at it. This thing surprised us; it’s a slick-looking, impressive working unit. It’s got some extra features that the Quest lacks, like an expandable memory slot, and a swappable battery.
And we’re happy to say that the inside-out tracking works great on this one. We think this is a big deal, especially after the Vive Cosmos tracking disappointment. We’re happy to see HTC still innovating. But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, it’s got a hefty price tag at 1300 US dollars, and HTC says it’s only targeted at businesses.
You were supposed to be competing However, while HTC says that, strangely, you can still find the best VR games in the VIVE “Business” App Store, and they made it possible to stream practically all PC VR games, just like with Oculus Air Link. It’s a little bit confusing, HTC. But yes, if you have the budget and you want to be freed from the shackles of Facebook.
Is the VIVE Focus 3 something you should think about whether you’re a VR gamer or work in VR? We’ll respond to this topic today; we’ll go over all of the specifications in greater detail, as well as what we like and don’t like. Even if you already own a Quest, it may be worth seeing because it may reveal what will be included in the upcoming VR headset.
VIVE Focus 3 Review & Unboxing
Let’s start with what’s in the box, as usual. It includes The VIVE Focus 3 headset, Best VR Controllers (which are new designs), Battery, Battery charger, An interesting dual charging cable for the controllers, And most surprisingly a lens cleaning cloth.
VIVE Focus 3 Design & Comfort
Let’s talk about its design & comfort. The VIVE Focus 3 is beautiful. We think they look like high-quality ski goggles – from the future. The glossy front makes it look slick. Unlike the Valve Index, this isn’t removable. While it looks premium, most of the material is plastic. But it feels sturdy, strong.
It’s got a magnetic face cover, so it snaps on without trouble allowing for easy switching. The stock foam is made of leather, which is our favorite material for a cover as it’s easy to clean and comfy—a good nose gap is in the headset for your nose, almost no light bleed.
The strap is tightened with the knob at the back and a top Velcro strap. Not an uncommon strap nowadays, but this strap does have something extra. It has a button at the back that you can press to fit the strap, it makes it so easy to put the headset on or off.
Interestingly, the strap doesn’t have much freedom moving it down. Other straps usually cup the lower back of your head for balance but it’s not needed here, because another extra is the rear-mounted battery! It’s also a swappable one, but more about this later.
So, because there’s less weight in the front and more at the back, the balance is near perfect. It is clear that HTC spent a ton of time researching how to make the headset as comfortable as possible to allow for long workdays, or long play sessions, and the research shows.
It is a very well-designed and comfortable headset. And if you wear glasses. It should be fine too. Once you find that comfy fit, you’ll be placed in Vive’s Reality System 2.0, which is also an Android-based OS, like on the Quest. So you can expect some of the same settings.
VIVE Focus 3 Setup, Software & Content
After a simple tutorial, you’ll be put inside the menu, where you can set a boundary system precisely like what you may have seen before. You align the floor, then choose to draw your boundary or use stationary mode. A boundary is here, so you know where your walls are.
There’s also a black & white pass-through; you can enable auto-activate if you walk out of the boundary or use a shortcut to activate it. Compared to Quest, you can tell the Quest system has gone through more research & development for consumers.
HTC focuses on enterprise, so the Vive Reality System doesn’t have many consumer features, but you can tell it’s a way more open platform that you can develop in. For example, enabling developer mode is just a push of a button, and HTC offers special enterprise features like a Kiosk mode for easy demoing and other device management tools. HTC is also open about what data they keep and don’t keep. There’s even a setting to add a VPN profile!
Okay, let’s talk about the most interesting features for us consumers first. There are two ways to dive into content. One is native, so you can install standalone games and apps directly on the device and then access them wirelessly without a PC.
To find these apps, you have access to the Business AppStore, where you can find several apps for business, education, and fitness games. There are some standalone games you may recognize, like Hyper Dash, Axegend, and Warplanes. And they play just like on the Quest, smooth & fun.
We’ve tried several games, and this works great, it has similar latency. However, we weren’t able to get the same visual quality as we can with VD and Link. There aren’t many settings to play around with either, so while this works, this needs improvement for it to compete.
The headset does have WiFi-6 capability, so if you have a supported router, you could get better quality. But before we dive into more features, let’s talk about another thing that the headset doesn’t lack at all.
VIVE Focus 3 Internals & Specifications
It uses the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chip, and it offers us 8GB of RAM, dual 2.88” LCD panels with a resolution of 2448 x 2448 pixels per eye, and a refresh rate of 90hz. Pretty interesting upgrades for the same chip as the Quest 2. There is a manual IPD adjustment ranging from 57-72mm Field of view rendered by software. And here’s the field of view we perceived using the stock face cover.
This isn’t bad when comparing to other headsets. Vertically it’s less, but you can get used to it. We can hear you thinking, great but how the heck does it look? Well, the colors are what you expect from LCD; it has vibrant colors but grey blacks. Visuals are sharp in the “sweet spot” – so the dead center.
Unfortunately, it houses the same kind of lenses as the Vive Pro 2. There’s a small sweet spot, so blurriness to the sides, and a lot of glare. And another thing we notice here is a lot of chromatic aberration, which strangely wasn’t the case on the Vive Pro 2.
While this sounds bad, you may not notice this as much if you are playing a game or immersed in an experience. We tend to forget about it and still enjoy our time. Still, we expected a lot more here at this price point.
VIVE Focus 3 Tracking Technology
For the tracking, it uses four cameras at the front and an AI-powered inside-out tracking engine. And we think HTC has outdone themselves here!
As you may know, the VIVE Cosmos inside-out tracking wasn’t so good (at the start), but happy to say they’ve improved a lot. With all the superhero games we’ve tried, we didn’t notice any tracking loss. A tiny bit of drift when the controllers are right in front of the cameras but other than that, no problems at all.
It’s impressive, we’re even able to achieve excellent tracking while the controllers are entirely out of the camera’s range.
VIVE Focus 3 Controllers
The best VR controllers are new too, and we think they’re the best ones so far from HTC. They’re lightweight as no batteries are needed. They’re charged by USB-C cable, and it’s an efficient cable. One end goes in the headset; the other end is split into two USB-C cables that you can plug in the controllers so you can charge everything at the same time.
We appreciate not having to use three power plugs for everything. They also just feel great in our hands. It has a longer handle which is nice for grip and bigger hand sizes. The material feels less premium than the headset; when squeezing it, it cracks a bit, and compared to the Quest 2 controllers, it just feels like these controllers could break more easily.
VIVE Focus 3 Battery
Now, here’s one part we’re pretty excited about too! The removable battery at the back, just by pulling the flap, the cushion will come off quickly because it’s attached magnetically. It will reveal the battery that you can swap out by pushing two buttons at the sides.
You can buy these batteries separately from the headset for around 125 US dollars. The battery life is only maxed 2 hours, sometimes even less. However, the HTC’s power adapter charges the battery, and it gives a nice bonus: fast charging, which can charge to 50% in about 30 minutes.
There’s a power button on the battery. Hold it for 3 seconds to turn the headset on and off, or press it once to see the battery indicator. With the four dots, you can see how much battery there’s still left. Unfortunately, since the power adapter cable is very short, it’s hard to use it to charge and play. You can’t use the USB port on the headset to charge the battery.
However, according to Vive’s president Alvin Wang, you can plug in an external power bank or a Power Delivery capable PC via USB-C to the USB-C port of the headset, and it should not drain the battery at all.
VIVE Focus 3 Speakers
The speakers are integrated into the strap and got two dual drivers with a patented directional speaker design. It sounds pretty good, loud, and the directional sound gives it that extra *oomph*. So we think it suffices for casual use but will lack for audiophiles. You can plug in your headphones in the 3.5mm audio jack here if you want better sound.
The headset also supports Bluetooth 5.2 with BLE, and we tried this with AirPods, which works. There are also dual microphones with echo cancellation. You can definitely -hear- that the headset has a good cooling system.
VIVE Focus 3 Headset’s Extras
This is a good bridge to today’s last topic; let’s talk about the headset’s extras! Things you don’t see in many other headsets yet. Like the expandable storage, the headset comes with 128GB onboard storage, but it is expandable to 2TB via a microSD card. If you remove the face cover, you can find the slot for it.
You might wonder why you want this extra space for – well, for things like if you’re going to store 360 movies, this makes it a whole lot easier. Every headset should have this. Then there are two USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 slots.
There’s one on the right side and one on the bottom hidden in a small compartment. This one also supports USB OTG, which allows for accessories to be connected. Think about things like USB drives, keyboard, and mouse, or more VR-related: face and eye trackers? As you can tell by this review, HTC did a lot right with the VIVE Focus 3.
The only area that needs improvement is the lenses. For consumers, this headset is hard to recommend because the Oculus Quest is so much cheaper, and this headset is not that much of an upgrade to justify paying four times more.
Plus, the consumer world doesn’t need more hardware, rather more content. This headset is the most suitable for people who want to work or learn in VR and don’t want to be bound to Facebook. It’s made to be comfortable for many, many hours, so it’s great for work.
We do love seeing HTC’s take on a standalone VR headset, but we still wish they would do more with content or invest in making it easy for devs to port Quest games on this one. But we guess it just doesn’t make sense for them to compete with Facebook’s virtually limitless resources.
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Loves and Credit goes to Cas and Chary VR