A few weeks ago, HTC finally introduced the release date and cost of the HTC Vive Cosmos: October 3 for $ 699. In anticipation of this event, we decided to provide our readers with a complete overview of the device.
Honestly, Vive Cosmos is in a difficult position. What was supposed to be the start for HTC’s new flagship VR device, given that it was officially announced back at CES in January, quickly evaporated. Even before it is officially launched, Cosmos is already facing a tough battle in the VR arena.
At a price of $ 699, which is between Oculus Quest with Oculus Rift S for $ 399, and Index Valve for $ 749, or for $ 999, depending on whether you have base stations or not, Vive Cosmos has a pretty good perspective on virtual reality market arena. It’s just not entirely clear how many people will want to buy a device, which is the golden mean in the price range.
Comfort, design and audio
Vive Cosmos is the most comfortable headset HTC has ever released. People who wear glasses for vision correction never liked how the original Vive, Vive Pro, or Vive Pro Eye fit on their faces. The user feels cramped and uncomfortable to a large extent throughout the time of immersion in virtual reality. Fortunately, the new belt design completely eliminates this drawback of older models.
Functionally, it works the same as the Rift S or PSVR: you loosen the handle on the back of the head, pull it around the top of your head, tighten it and adjust the front part that hangs on your face to fit the position of the device to suit your eyes. The main difference is that Vive Cosmos can also be flipped, making it easy to check your phone, computer, talk with someone, or just easily access reality. This is a cool feature, but the trade-off seems to be that the visor itself doesn’t come close to your face.
Rift S and PSVR have a button on the underside that you press to move the visor closer to your eyes, to increase FOV and eliminate most of the clearance near the nose. Vive Cosmos does not have this button. Therefore, you can notice some distracting amount of light coming from below. The device never completely snuggles up to the face, as many users want, unless you press the device itself with your hand to your face. The very design of the gasket and belt for the hair is very high quality.
Many users are also quite skeptical about the vent style faceplate. It resembles a vent. It looks a little silly. IPD mechanical adjustment works the same as on previous Vive headsets, so if you are outside the range offered by the Rift S, it will be convenient enough for you.
The included headphones hang down and hang over your ears just like the original Rift and Vive Pro. The sound quality seems to be about the same as the Vive Pro without any noticeable differences.
Specifications and Lenses
Technically speaking, Vive Cosmos is one of the best VR headsets on the market, but the specifications don’t tell the whole story. The panels feature a dense resolution of 1440 x
1700 by eye and full RGB LCD. The field of view is basically the same, about 110 degrees, which remains unchanged from the original Vive. Due to the design of the halo strap, it can make the helmet sit more tightly on the face, which will lead to a higher perception of FOV.
The main problem with Vive Cosmos is lens design. Presumably, they are improved over previous models. But they have two main problems. Firstly, the so-called “divine rays” are very noticeable during high-contrast scenes (this causes a kind of light smearing effect, which causes bright colors to emit rays on the dark background), especially black backgrounds and bright colors such as screens downloads or night time on locations in games.
Secondly, it is often noticeable how the visual effects look a bit blurry. And even if the device is positioned correctly in accordance with the pupils directed right in the center, when the user moves his gaze beyond this central spot, everything becomes blurred. This is very noticeable after you spent time in other recently released headsets, such as the Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest and especially the Valve Index, which do not seem to be affected by this problem. In Index, you can move your eyes around without losing clarity, which is a huge advantage for diving. And when you constantly move your gaze from object to object, even a tiny blurry spot can ruin the whole experience of immersion in virtual reality.
However, Vive Cosmos certainly looks like the most complete and well-made headset HTC has ever released.
New Vive Cosmos Controllers
Many users have fallen in love and hated the new Vive Cosmos controllers. On the one hand, they have a very attractive design. They are comfortable and designed in such a way that they feel good enough by the user. The controllers resemble real console gamepads, and not the relatively cheap device that can be observed when picking up the Oculus Rift S and Quest controllers. They have the same strong build quality as the original Vive sticks, but in a new form factor.
The analog joystick feels great, the buttons respond well and click, and the R1 / L1 and R2 / L2 are very convenient to use. The capture button is another good improvement. Obviously, HTC was very inspired by the Oculus Touch controllers.
Now about the negative. They use two AA batteries each and last about two or three hours on fresh batteries. This is not enough even to lose one game session. And even worse, they are too heavy. As soon as you add two batteries to the weight of the device, each controller starts to weigh about twice as much as the Oculus Touch controllers. This extra weight makes fatigue build up faster with prolonged use of virtual reality.
Vive Cosmos completely eliminates the need for lighthouse base stations. Instead, it has a built-in tracking system similar to the one we saw on Windows VR and Oculus Quest headsets with Rift S. The main difference here is that Cosmos has 6 cameras built into the case, which gives it everything for accurate and reliable tracking. In particular, it has a camera pointing down to the lower edge of the front bezel, which means that it should not lose sight of your controllers.
Tracking capabilities look wider than other headsets, but the quality does not quite match the Oculus Insight system on Rift S and Quest. In particular, it seems like it takes a little longer for the cameras to move your controllers into virtual reality. This is not a global problem, but in games like Beat Saber, when you often stretch your arms very low or very wide, or if you reach behind your back and over your shoulder to grab something, this can cause some incidents from time to time.
Users who do not like to bother with settings for a long time will appreciate the simpler process and flexibility of the embedded system, which is much better than HTC’s previous external tracking system.
The built-in tracking system has some quirks. For example, she needs a certain amount of lighting in order to function properly. In the daytime, with open curtains, this did not cause any problems, but in the evenings in a dark room it can become a problem.
Considering that users used their Rift S in almost complete darkness and Oculus Quest after sunset outside, this nuance is bewildering. Needing light is one thing. But not even working if the room is not completely filled with bright light is a completely different thing.
The passthrough functionality works very well. When you first put on your headset, you see a slightly blurred (but colored) view of the real world and draw your border on the ground. This is similar to the guardian setup process for Rift S and Quest. Then, at any time, you can double-click the right button of the Vive logo to see the real world again, or if you put your head through your border, it will also disappear into view.
Original Vive Platform
Along with Vive Cosmos, HTC also launches the original Vive Origin home virtual space platform under its brand. It is very similar to SteamVR Home and Oculus Home, except that it is directly connected to the Viveport store.
How it works? You find yourself on a small round island with a tree in the middle. In this there are several buttons with which you can interact in this virtual space. One of them calls up a remote controlled car, the other allows you to view a collection of sculptures and statues with information bubbles, like in a museum, and the third shoots into the sky with a ball that flashes like a firework and slowly converts the 360 image surrounding you as a background . This is a great effect, but it’s disappointing that the images are completely static and not animated at all. Agree, looking at the Golden Gate Bridge, surrounded by static water with waves frozen in time, was a little strange.
On the one hand, the island has a waterfall and a pond with fish and water lilies in it, and on the other end there is a cozy apartment. This is a pleasant space that looks very homely. There you will even find a Vive Cosmos virtual reality helmet, which you can put on your face while still right in VR, for a quick view of passthrough, which is a pleasant nuance.
And it’s all. Here you will not find detailed settings, there is no multiplayer at all (however, the developers said that it will probably be added later) and there is no way to launch applications directly from Vive Origin itself. The only way to do this is to press one of the buttons on the Vive menu to call up the “Vive lens,” which is just a circular menu that appears in the air. There you can configure the environment and run games from Viveport or SteamVR.
If this platform was launched with Vive in 2016, it would be perceived in a completely different way. But now, users expect a bit more from the “home” virtual space in 1-2 years of HTC VR’s efforts. At the moment, Origin is available only for Cosmos, but most likely it will soon come to other Vive headsets.
Viveport and SteamVR
In the past, many users have been quite critical of Viveport. When he went out into the eyes, a huge number of bugs were immediately evident that spoiled absolutely everything. But until now, the platform library is far from being as reliable as Steam or Oculus Home, but you can find a wide range of games and applications on it, and the Viveport Infinity subscription provides insanely valuable functionality. If you pre-ordered Cosmos you will receive a full year of using the platform absolutely free. If you buy Cosmos after launch, then it still includes six months of free use, and then you can renew access for only $ 12.99 per month.
Some of the best games offered by Infinity remain completely free to download and play while you are a subscriber, including Arizona Sunshine, Sairento, I Expect You To Die, Apex Construct, A Fisherman’s Tale, Witching Tower, BoxVR , Final Assault, Form, The Brookhaven Experiment, and more. All this suggests that you do not need Cosmos or even a HTC headset to use Infinity. It works great with Index Valve, Windows and Oculus headsets, and sometimes includes special promotions for them.
But if you do not want to use Viveport, then you do not need it. SteamVR works just fine, and you can easily access SteamVR Home if you want. Well, or just launch SteamVR games directly from the Vive Lens menu without even opening SteamVR overlay. Everything is done very smoothly and intuitively.
HTC introduced modding as the main distinguishing feature of Vive Cosmos. The front bezel can be removed and replaced with alternative versions that allow you to use various functions. The snap / flip design also works very well.
According to HTC, in early 2020 they will launch a front panel that allows you to connect an external SteamVR Tracking base station. Therefore, if you already have these base stations from the previous Vive, this application should allow you to use it in this environment initially. This means that HTC promises future support for Vive sticks, Index Knuckles controllers, Vive trackers, and more in the near future.
The ability to work your Vive Cosmos using a phone instead of a PC is a feature that was mysteriously absent from CES in January, when Cosmos was finally introduced to the public. When HTC was asked about this feature, they simply said that it was in the company’s plans, but not a priority.
This is a big disappointment. The prospect of a headset that can reliably switch between VR from a computer and a phone when needed is extremely interesting and has been one of the key marketing pillars for Cosmos that has excited many people. Now Oculus Quest gets the opposite of this function with Oculus Link, turning it into Rift S in just a month. And yes, it will work with SteamVR. The absence of this function causes a significant blow to the universality of the cosmos as a whole.
HTC only recently demonstrated that the Vive wireless adapter they released earlier will be compatible with the device later this month, but you will have to buy an extra kit for $ 50 with a larger battery for it to work, in addition to $ 300 for the wireless adapter itself. All you have to give $ 1,050 to get at your disposal wireless Vive Cosmos.
HTC Vive Cosmos review: final verdict
If Vive Cosmos were released a year ago or even six months ago, this would be a completely different review. Technically speaking, Cosmos is far from a bad device. The resolution is very close to the top of the market, it has a convenient design, includes 6 cameras for integrated tracking, finally introduces controllers with touch analog sticks and comes out with its own Vive Origin platform with Viveport Infinity subscription bonuses. But now it’s too late.
When HTC announced Cosmos in January at CES, they hinted at a portable mode that would work on a smartphone, making it a standalone device. Since then, Oculus has released its own standalone device Oculus Quest, which will be able to connect to a PC and thereby borrow the basic features of the Rift S a month later. Both Quest and Rift S are almost half the price of what HTC wants to get from users for Cosmos. And neither the external tracking module, nor the possible work from the smartphone have a release date at all.
The conclusions suggest the following. For $ 699, without any of the additional features listed above, we don’t think we can recommend you to buy Cosmos when you can instead buy a Rift S or Quest for almost half the price of HTC’s virtual reality helmet. Well, or just save a little more for buying Index Valve.