After the launch of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in 2016, which brought virtual reality to 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, Vive targeted businesses and tech experts. This strategy hasn’t always worked in Vive’s favor (the long-awaited Cosmos headset was a disappointment), but it probably makes more sense than competing head-on with Facebook’s virtually unlimited resources.
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Enter the Vive Focus 3, a $ 1,300 standalone headset that’s really just for business. Costing $ 1,000 more than the Oculus Quest 2, the Focus 3 offers, unsurprisingly, better hardware, ergonomics, and build quality than Oculus headphones. It’s the difference between creating a device that should be used throughout the day in professional settings and something that can be used from time to time to play. The Vive Focus 3 is meant to do shit.
At first glance, the Focus 3 certainly looks more like a premium VR workhorse than the Quest 2. While Oculus headphones have fragile fabric strips and a minimalist design of glasses, the Focus 3 looks an expensive pair of ski goggles made on a VR device. . Its magnesium alloy frame is still technically plastic, but it feels stronger than the fragile Quest case (HTC Vive claims to be 20 percent lighter and five times stronger than traditional plastic). As much as I liked Quest 2, you can instantly hear how much Oculus spared its materials to reach such a low price of $ 299.
While Oculus leaned on the sleek, curved aesthetics of Apple gadgets, HTC Vive opted for sharper lines and a more elaborate design. The Focus 3’s strap, for example, looks much more involved with a plastic frame, plenty of cushioning, and a rear dial to adjust everything. It is also tilted to the sides so that it never touches your ears, which helps a lot to make the virtual reality experience feel more comfortable. The back of the strap may look thick, but it’s because it also houses the Focus 3’s battery. Putting a little more rubbish in the trunk helps balance its weight, so it doesn’t tilt uncomfortably on your nose, like some previous virtual reality headsets. (The Quest 2’s Elite Strap battery and rear battery offer a similarly balanced feel, so the Focus 3’s design isn’t entirely innovative.)
The battery in the Focus 3 is removable, allowing companies to keep a single headset running continuously throughout the day. A disadvantage of this unique battery design is that the Focus 3 is charged using a proprietary AC adapter, despite having a USB-C port. As a concession, the company includes a dual USB-C cable that plugs into the headphones and can charge both drivers simultaneously. Your desktop may look like a sea of wires, but at the very least, you can make sure all your virtual reality equipment is charged.
While its design shows how much HTC Vive has learned over the years, it’s what makes the Focus 3 special under the hood. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR 2 chip, similar to the Quest 2, but also runs at a higher clock speed. (For faster, more consistent performance, HTC Vive also tapped a heat pipe and cooling fan on the front of the headphones.) The Focus 3’s displays offer a resolution of 5K (4,896 by 2,448 pixels) , a refresh rate of 90 Hz and a wide field of view of 120 degrees. In comparison, the Quest 2’s screen is close to 4K and has an estimated field of view of 90 to 100 degrees (depending on where you place the lenses). Both headphones offer LCD screens with RGB subpixels, which offer increased sharpness and clarity compared to the PenTile OLED screens of previous models.
When it comes to VR technology, the Focus 3 has just about everything you want in a modern headset. But there are simple, less technical upgrades that I also appreciated, such as its 150mm wide eyeglass holder. It usually takes me a bit of effort to press a headset over my frames and they inevitably come out every time I step out of virtual reality. But I never had to deal with that in the Focus 3, thanks to its spacious interior. There’s also an IPD adjustment dial that will help you fine-tune exactly how your lenses impact your eyes; Quest 2 only gives you a few options for adjusting IPD. The elaborate padding around the front and back also helps to make you forget you’re even wearing virtual reality headphones.
Even the Focus 3 drivers are better than anything we’ve seen before from HTC Vive. They look similar to the Oculus, with a round tracking ring, facial buttons, as well as standard grip and trigger buttons. Clearly, these are light years beyond the huge drivers with which the original HTC Vive appeared. However, Oculus has advantages in terms of overall ergonomics. Quest 2 gamepads are configured to fit your hands better, especially during hectic games. Meanwhile, keeping the Focus 3 drivers feels more uncomfortable during long VR sessions.
Fortunately, though, the headphones are comfortable to wear for hours and offer the most immersive virtual reality independent experiences I’ve seen so far. I walked around the Louvre Mona Lisa Beyond glass, which allowed me to move away from several classic da Vinci paintings. If I tried to do it in real life, I’m sure some security guards would throw me out quickly. But in virtual reality, I could admire the detail of all the works of art. I was also amazed at how fantastic everything looked in Focus 3. There were more details than in any Quest 2 experience I’ve seen and the large field of view really made me feel like I was walking through the ornate rooms of the Louvre. just look through a pair of virtual reality binoculars.
Likewise, I had a genuine feeling of walking through tropical meadows and beaches in the Nature Treks VR experience. The sharp screen of the Focus 3 shone again when I looked closely at the statues and wildlife, but its mobile hardware limited the details. 360-degree YouTube videos also looked great when I turned them on in Firefox VR, but the experience can be lost depending on the quality of the source. And, even though the headphones don’t have rugged near-field speakers like the valve index and the HP Reverb G2.
I was surprised that Focus 3 didn’t include any kind of built-in multimedia app for watching VR videos, but that really underscores one of its biggest issues: Focus 3 has a much more limited software library than Quest. While Oculus has driven high-profile exclusives and popular games, such as He seems immortal i Beat Saber, the HTC VivePort store feels virtually anemic. There are a handful of titles shared on both platforms, such as Last maze i Tokyo Chronos, but it’s clearly not a big focus for HTC Vive.
Right now, even installing new experiences is more of an issue in Focus 3, as you have to remove the headphones to buy apps and games from the web browser. Meanwhile, Quest and Quest 2 allow you to buy things from headphones and a mobile app. But I guess it’s not a huge issue for HTC Vive, as the Focus 3 isn’t meant for consumers. Instead, IT departments are likely to preload the software their employees really need. (Finally, there will also be a Vive Business App Store, though it’s unclear if it will offer a better shopping experience).
This is one of the reasons we do not rate this review. The $ 1,300 headphones are not intended for the consumer. And honestly, I couldn’t even try some of the most popular business apps, like Vive Sync’s virtual collaboration tool and Engage’s event app. HTC Vive’s Focus headphones also earned a reputation for being easy ways to train employees with apps like Virti. And while this app looks great on Focus 3, I don’t know exactly whether or not it offers effective training.
There are also features that I have not been able to test effectively. Focus 3 offers Vive Business Streaming, which allows you to connect headphones to a VR PC using a USB 3.2 or Wi-Fi cable. But apparently it’s very demanding, as none of the USB cables I used were even recognized by the software (and some would just throw an error saying they weren’t capable of USB 3.0, though I knew were). You can also stream PC VR via Wi-Fi, but this only works if the computer is connected directly to the router via Ethernet and if you have a strong wireless connection with headphones. This was not possible in my basement office. I expect HTC Vive to meet its connection requirements, especially since Oculus Link on the Quest is much less demanding when it comes to cables.
No matter how you cut it, the Quest 2 remains the standalone VR headset that consumers should buy. But the Focus 3 is perfect for companies looking for something a little more rugged and powerful. For them, a $ 1,300 device makes more sense than investing tens of thousands in more elaborate training tools.