After the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive launched in 2016, bringing virtual reality into homes for the first time, the two companies have gone in very different directions. While Oculus leaned more toward mainstream consumers, especially with last year’s Quest 2, the Vive targeted businesses and the tech savvy. That strategy hasn't always worked out in Vive's favor — the long-awaited Cosmos headset was a disappointment — but it probably makes more sense than competing with Facebook's practically limitless resources head-on.
Gallery: HTC Vive Focus 3 | 11 Photos
Gallery: HTC Vive Focus 3 | 11 Photos
Enter the Vive Focus 3, a $1,300 standalone headset that's really only meant for businesses. Because it costs $1,000 more than the Oculus Quest 2, the Focus 3 unsurprisingly offers better hardware, ergonomics and build quality than Oculus's headset. It's the difference between building a device that's meant to be used throughout the day in professional settings, and something you may use once in a while for gaming. The Vive Focus 3 is meant to get shit done.
At first glance, the Focus 3 certainly looks more like a premium VR workhorse than the Quest 2. While the Oculus headset has flimsy cloth straps and a minimalist goggle design, the Focus 3 looks like an expensive pair of ski goggles fashioned into a VR device. Its magnesium alloy frame is still technically plastic, but it feels sturdier than the Quest's flimsy case (HTC Vive claims it’s 20 percent lighter and five times stronger than traditional plastic). As much as I liked the Quest 2, you can instantly feel how much Oculus skimped on its materials to reach that low $299 price.
While Oculus leaned into the sleek and curvy Apple gadget aesthetic, HTC Vive went for sharper lines and a more elaborate design. The Focus 3's headstrap, for example, looks far more involved with a plastic frame, tons of cushioning and a rear dial to tighten everything up. It's also angled around the sides so it never touches your ears, which goes a long way toward making the VR experience feel more comfortable. The rear part of the strap may look chunky, but that's because it also houses the Focus 3's battery pack. Putting a bit more junk in the trunk helps to balance its weight, so it's not leaning down on your nose uncomfortably like some earlier VR headsets. (The Quest 2's Elite Strap and rear battery pack offers a similarly balanced feel, so the Focus 3's design isn't completely innovative.)
The Focus 3's battery pack is removable, which allows businesses to keep a single headset running continuously throughout the day. One downside to this unique battery design is that the Focus 3 charges via a proprietary AC adapter, despite having a USB-C port. As a concession, the company includes a dual USB-C cable that connects to the headset and can charge both controllers simultaneously. Your desk may end up looking like a sea of cables, but at least you can make sure all your VR gear is charged.
While its design shows just how much HTC Vive has learned over the years, it's what's under the hood that makes the Focus 3 special. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR 2 chip, similar to the Quest 2, but it's also running at a higher clock speed. (To get faster and more consistent performance, HTC Vive also squeezed in a heat pipe and cooling fan at the front of the headset.) The Focus 3's displays offer 5K resolution (4,896 by 2,448 pixels), a smooth 90Hz refresh rate and a wide 120-degree field of view. In comparison, the Quest 2's screen is close to 4K and has an estimated 90- to 100-degree field of view (depending on where you position the lenses). Both headsets offer LCDs with RGB sub-pixels, which offers a boost in sharpness and clarity compared to PenTile OLED screens from earlier models.