HTC’s second Vive headset has been announced as the Vive Standalone
We’d already heard rumours, but HTC has now made a surprise unveiling at the ChinaJoy entertainment expo where it unwrapped its new standalone HTC Vive VR headset.
Unlike the existing HTC Vive, which requires a high-end gaming PC to plug-into in order to operate (with the PC handling the graphical and processing grunt), this new HTC Vive will be entirely independent from any other device; you just plonk it on your head, and away you go.
And the name? Simple, actually, HTC is calling it the Vive Standalone, according to a report from The Verge.
Details are sparse for now, but we know the device will be powered by HTC’s VivePort app ecosystem, at least that’s according to its promotional materials from the expo; that means it won’t be dependent on Google Play for VR apps, although at this point we don’t know whether it will also work with Google Play and/or Google’s Daydream ecosystem.
We also know HTC considers this to be a “premium” headset and it uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 flagship CPU. HTC is yet to reveal any further specs, pricing, or availability, other than the sad news it will launch as a Chinese exclusive at first; there are hints, however, that this will be temporary and it will see a wider distribution later.
Make no mistake, however, this will be a trade-off. At present tech levels VR headsets have two options; either link up to a powerful PC or gaming console, or operate standalone with a mobile processor (either inside the headset, as with the Vive Standalone, or via a smartphone as with Google’s Daydream View).
While opting for standalone makes the device much more accessible to a wider market of users – those who don’t necessarily want to invest time, effort, and money in an expensive and highly technical gaming PC – it does reduce its capabilities somewhat. Mobile processors such as the Snapdragon 835 are great, don’t get us wrong, but they’re not in the same league as full-blown PC CPU and GPUs fitted with full liquid cooling systems, for example.
This is the trade-off Google elected to take with the Daydream View, hoping that a mass audience of consumers who are happy with an experience that may not be the very best in terms of graphics will be more lucrative.
The other end of the spectrum is the original HTC Vive, or the Oculus Rift, which link up to a gaming PC. These are insanely powerful, but you have to have some level of PC knowledge, and you have to be prepared to spend big bucks. Plus there’s a mess of wires to deal with and they are hardly portable.
The thing is, the PC model was a great way of starting things; PC gamers are really keen on innovative new tech, they don’t have as many hang-ups about spending big bucks on something that’s not quite finished yet but that shows potential. Plus, the PC software scene is such that it’s a fertile hotbed for new and experimental games and apps to be developed in.
But I think that HTC probably always intended to follow Google into the non-PC sphere with a mass-market device, and the Vive Standalone appears to be that second-stage step. The original HTC Vive was a testbed, the PC market was an ideal place for this, but now it’s time to move on to the wider market. There will be a loss in power and graphical capability, but as the mobile gaming market shows, there are millions of casual users out there who prioritise a fun experience over graphical clout.
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