The Vive Cosmos is HTC’s VR headset, presenting a great upgrade from the original Vive and the more expensive Vive Pro. It does away with any need for external sensors, and its redesigned motion controllers are upgraded. Its $700 price tag makes it a tough decision when the Oculus Rift S can be had for $400. As a PC-tethered headset, you still have to deal with an awkward cable while you play virtual reality, and after using the completely standalone Oculus Quest, it’s hard to go back to tethered despite the additional power streaming across the tether.
The Vive Cosmos is a bit more colorful than it’s predecessor, it comes in dark blue outer body covered in a geometric pattern and two forward-facing cameras right where your eyes would normally be plus 4 additional cameras to capture your surroundings. A pupillary distance knob sits below the right-facing camera, and a power LED and button sit below the left-facing camera.
The visor is mounted on a single hinge connecting to the main plastic arch on the front of the three-point harness. The headband extends around the back with a smaller plastic arch with adjustment knobs to fit it snug. Both arches are padded with foam and covered in near-leather. Elastic straps loops finish securing the headset to your skull around the back.
The Vive Cosmos displays a 1,700-by-1,440-pixel resolution picture per eye, beating the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Pro’s 1,600-by-1,440 resolutions. It comes second to the HP Reverb’s 2,160 by 2,160 pixels per eye, but it’s still very good. A 90Hz refresh rate matches these other headsets, and keeps movement realistic.
Better Motion Controllers
HTC made a lot of progress in ergonomics for controls, with a completely new set of motion controllers. They are like the Oculus Touch with rounded grips curved triggers that fit your fingers, and analog sticks instead of touchpads. They fit comfortably in your hands.
A thick plastic ring around each controller’s buttons and analog stick, also like the Oculus Touch. The rings light up when the controllers are turned on.
Connections and Requirements
The Vive Cosmos connects to your PC through a Link Box identical to the one that comes with the HTC Vive Pro. It’s nothing special, about the size of a cell phone, it has all of the usual ports, USB, mini DP power and a tether port for the 15 foot tether.
The Link Box needs to be connected to a USB 3.0 cable and a mini-DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort cable, both included, and plugged into a power outlet with the included adapter. You’ll need a miniDP to DP cable to hook into your computer.
The headset needs at least an Intel Core i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 CPU, 8MB of RAM, a DisplayPort 1.2 output, a USB 3.0 port, and an Nvidia GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 480 graphics card according to HTC’s specs, but those are minimums so go with better specs whenever possible.
The six cameras on the headset are the biggest upgrade to the Vive Cosmos over the Vive and Vive Pro. These cameras track the headset’s position by monitoring its surroundings, removing the need for any external base stations or sensors. This makes setup simpler and faster, eliminating the base station placements around the room. It’s new for Vive, but Oculus has had this technology for at least 6 months; both the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S already use outward-facing camera systems and neither require base stations or external cameras. This leaves the Valve Index and PlayStation VR as the only major VR headsets that still require external sensors to work.
The camera array worked well after a learning curve. Be sure you are in a well lighted room for best tracking just as you would with all VR headsets.
Viveport and SteamVR
SteamVR is one the most popular choice for serious gamers on the PC, with HTC’s Viveport software layered on top of it for content specific to the Vive. Viveport uses its own user friendly menu called Vive Lens while still maintaining the SteamVR menu. It’s a well designed interface that displays a floating menu inside most virtual experiences.
Viveport features its own VR software store separate from SteamVR, but the two platforms play well together so you can easily use SteamVR games on the Vive Cosmos. It also enables the use of Viveport Infinity, HTC’s VR subscription service. For $12.99 per month (or $7.99 per month if you buy a full year), you get unlimited access to a large pool of over 600 games available on Viveport, including many popular titles such as Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs, Fruit Ninja VR, and I Expect You to Die. They keep some of their premium games outside of the buffet package but yo can still buy those outright.
All of the Vive platforms suffer the same tether problem, being tied down to a computer by a cable that you can’t see. How many times have you pulled the tether cable out of your PC or base station? It’s 15 feet long which is probably more than enough to tangle both feet in, or wrap yourself 3-5 times at least if you’re doing virtual ballet.
If you’re moving from a wireless platform such as the Oculus, this will feel like a step backwards when dealing with the tether cable.
Bang for your Buck
The HTC Vive Cosmos is a technically impressive VR headset, but it doesn’t fully stand up to it’s competitors in the $700 range. It has a fairly high resolution, improved motion controllers, and it doesn’t require any external sensors. The Oculus Rift S offers a very similar experience for $400, and the HP Reverb boasts a much higher resolution for $600.
HTC Vive Cosmos Specs
|1,700 by 1,440 (per eye)