The first time I used the Vive Pro, it took me a few minutes to figure out how to adjust its new head strap properly. Once I got that sorted, I noticed instantly that it fit much more securely (and more comfortably) than the original. It's not as front-heavy as the Vive, which would hurt the bridge of my nose when I wore it too long. It's more like the PlayStation VR -- a large headset that's still comfortable to wear thanks to some smart ergonomics.
As you'd expect, the Vive Pro's improved screens made just about everything look better, from text in Viveport to enemies in Superhot. While playing Duck Season, I was able to make out where my distant targets were more easily. And flying around the globe in Google Earth VR felt even more immersive than before. But while the experience is better than the original, it's not exactly a night and day -- it's certainly not enough to justify upgrading to a pricey new VR headset if you already have one.
You'll also have to make sure you have a computer that can run the Vive Pro at its best. HTC says it has the same minimum system requirements as the Vive -- an Intel Core i5-4590 CPU or better, and at least an NVIDIA GTX 1060 card or an AMD Radeon RX480. But at CES, the company also admitted that you'd need faster hardware to take advantage of the better visuals. That's not surprising, but it's something to keep in mind if your system can barely run the Vive already.
On my recently refreshed rig, which is powered by an Intel Core i7-8700K CPU and a GTX 1080, I didn't notice any hiccups or slowdown across a wide variety of VR titles. But, that's the same video card HTC was using at CES, so it's a safe bet for optimal Vive Pro performance.
While I appreciated the slightly better visuals, it still felt a bit archaic to be using my original Vive controllers with a new headset. They're larger and heavier than Oculus's excellent Touch Controllers, which were released in 2016. Valve has its own modernized VR controllers coming for SteamVR, which are significantly smaller and offer individual-finger tracking, but there's no word on availability.
There are a lot of downsides to jumping on the Vive Pro bandwagon early, as you'll likely be tempted to replace your controllers and trackers later this year.
Pricing and the competition
At $799 on its own, the Vive Pro is a great deal more expensive than the standard $499 Vive kit, which includes the original headset, two base stations and two motion controllers. Normally you'd have to spend another $530 to snag all of those, but HTC is now offering a $299 bundle to make life a bit easier for new users. Still, that means a complete Vive Pro setup will cost $1,098. If that sounds crazy well ... it is.
Of course, the Oculus Rift is still a solid competitor, especially because it's now just $399 with all of its sensors and is bundled with superior controllers. At that price, the lower resolution doesn't really seem like a huge deal. Windows mixed reality headsets are another option, especially Samsung's $499 HMD Odyssey, which almost matches the Vive Pro's resolution and has great motion controllers.
Another plus with mixed reality headsets, they don't require setting up any annoying sensors. And they support SteamVR, giving you access to the same games and apps as the Vive.