HTC's new Vive Flow headset is VR, but not as we know it
HTC has unveiled its latest VR headset, the Vive Flow. Only, it’s not a headset at all: the Vive Flow is a pair of futuristic goggles with no bulky head-mounted display and no complex headband. This might come as a disappointment to anyone expecting a rival to the mighty Oculus Quest 2, but this is far from your normal all-in-one virtual reality headset.
The Vive Flow contains a display with a 3.2K resolution (possibly 3,200 x 1,800), 100-degree field of view and a 75Hz refresh rate. You’ll be looking at this display through a pair of adjustable lenses that can have their optical power adjusted individually to suit people with short-sightedness. The entire unit weighs just 189g and rests on your face like a regular pair of glasses, with two collapsible arms nestling a little awkwardly above each ear.
Given the size of the thing, you might not be surprised to hear that the Vive Flow lacks a built-in battery, onboard storage or system-on-a-chip for processing duties. Instead, the Flow must be connected via USB-C to a battery pack at all times – either HTC’s official model or one you have at home – and relies upon your smartphone’s Bluetooth connection to operate. Your smartphone acts as the controller, too, which is a little different from something like the Oculus Go’s pint-sized remote control.
There are a few fun tricks up the Flow’s sleeve. The faceplate is detachable, snapping onto the head-mounted display via magnets and giving you the option of keeping the outside world in view while you watch a movie. It’s got a pair of speakers built into the collapsable arms, and it also uses a nifty cooling system that draws air in from your face and pumps it out the top of the goggles, keeping you and your device cool.
In terms of practical uses, HTC is positioning the Vive Flow as a wellbeing device. That means it doesn’t support the kinds of heavy-duty VR games you’d expect from the Oculus Quest 2, instead offering a bevy of meditational applications and work-related tools alongside some short VR experiences. It can also play video on an immersive VR cinema screen from any smartphone-compatible streaming service, which appeals rather more than a virtual coffee shop.
The Vive Flow is available to preorder now for £500, which positions it comfortably above the likes of the Oculus Quest 2, Oculus Rift S, Oculus Go and practically any other standalone VR headset. You can nab it with a carry case, replacement faceplate set and power adapter for extra cash, although these things are seemingly not yet available.
We hope to have a review for you in due course, so check back again soon.