HTC is offering an upgrade over the original HTC Vive, the one that introduced the concept of room-scale virtual reality. All that came with some price, like tripping over the cables while playing Star Trek Holodeck, for example.
The Vive Cosmos is considered an excellent alternative to the Oculus Rift S, still not a perfect alternative due to its high price and not so ideal daylight tracking. Bear in mind that some updates were implemented to improve this headset since its launch.
Another issue adding to the imperfections is the controller’s ergonomics, but still, an improvement from the original Vive as it offers a comfortable fit and does not require the base stations.
Overview of the Vive Cosmos headset
Taking into consideration all the pros and cons, HTC Vive Cosmos is still a solid headset. The design comes with interesting changes, you will also get enhancements on the usability and tracking, and the overall design is stunning. The only question is if all that is good enough for the price that it comes for?
Here are some of the Vive Cosmos upgrades:
- Flip-up visor similar to WMR headsets
- Dual 3.4-inch LCD diagonal screen
- 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye
- 2880 x 1700 pixels overall
- 110-degree field of view
- 90Hz refresh rate
- Built-in stereo headphones
- 3D spatial sound
- Integrated mics
- Manually adjustable IPD wheel
- Flashy design
- Inside-out tracking cameras means easier setup
- Awesome-looking controllers
- Comfortable fit
- Excellent flip-up visor
- Lacks Mini DisplayPort adapter in the box
- Some of the design feels weak
- White room setup can still be an issue
Things to consider before buying
The PC or laptop requirements to be able to use this HTC Vive Cosmos headset properly are:
- Laptop/PC running Windows 10 or greater
- Your Graphics Card should be: Nvidia GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon
- RX 480 or greater
- CPU: Intel i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 or greater
- RAM Memory: 8GB
- Video Output: DisplayPort 1.2
- USB Port: 1x USB 3.0 Port
If you are still not certain that your PC or laptop can handle the HTC Vive Cosmos, you can do a test run to ensure you are not buying it in vain. Another important thing to know is that the HTC Vive Cosmos has improved tracking, meaning it comes with 6 camera sensors for inside-out tracking: The G-sensor, the IPD sensor, the gyrosensor, the Touch sensors, and the Hall sensor. There is the Vive External Tracking Mod available as well.
There is a solution on its way for those that do not fancy the Cosmos controllers. You will be able to change this headset’s capabilities thanks to the engineers who made this device able to accept future upgrades with a modular faceplate system. One of the primarily planned accessories is the SteamVR Tracking faceplate, which is compatible with Valve’s tracking system and gives compatibility with the Vive Tracker accessory lineup. This is the upgrade that will allow you to use the original wands or the Valve’s Index controllers with your Cosmos.
Features & Benefits
In almost every single way, you will be able to see the technical upgrades that the Cosmos offers compared to the Vive’s first-gen, primarily with the new inside-out tracking which does not require a base station, the motion controllers are slicker, and there the potential for any future upgrading we mentioned above. Anyways, the improvements mainly go with the hardware, which makes you question if this device is worth buying.
The HTC Vive Cosmos offers a distinctive look with its blue, big design covered in cameras, and the headband has built-in headphones and less hanging cables than the original Vive, making it look more put together.
The four-camera faceplate can be popped off and swapped for a different one, thanks to the modular design. This refers to the two-camera Cosmos Play or to the outside-in tracking Cosmos Elite that relies on the base stations instead of cameras to scheme your movements. The dual 3.4 comes with all versions, like the 1440×1700 LCD display and a refresh rate of 90Hz, this means you can buy a cheaper version and upgrade it later to achieve better resolution. These characteristics give the Vive Cosmos the highest resolution out of all headsets that fall in the same category. Making the pixel grid “screen door” effect all but unnoticeable. Still, the Valve Index comes with a better refresh rate.
On the not so great side, it will be tricky to find the narrow visual sweet spot. And when you do find it, looking outside of this small window reveals details that are out of focus and blurry. Here, the Oculus Rift S does a much better job. The Valve Index gives you the option to bring the lenses forward or backward so that you can fill the field of view, but the Cosmos’ lenses are fixed, and you won’t be able to do that. This will leave black edges in the peripherical vision, thus sapping the immersion.
On the other hand, the cushioning of the headset is very comfortable. There is only one cable trail from the headset to the Link box, which has power, full-size DisplayPort, and USB 3 connections that go to your PC. You can simply disconnect the headset if you do not use it and leave it hooked up as long as you want.
Unlike the original Vive that came with Velcro straps, the new Cosmos headband is a plastic halo and a flip-up visor that resembles the one Sony PS VR has. Even though this design allows you to remove the headset much easier, it does put pressure on your head that you feel throughout the day. This model gives you an outside view with built-in cameras without having to lift the visor, but the resolution is very low, making it very hard to check your PC. The Vive Deluxe Audio and Vive Pro very considered to have one of the most comfortable strap accessories. Unfortunately, Cosmos cannot say the say because you will feel a lot of pressure on your forehead wearing it due to its front-heavy design.
There is no shortage of faux leather padding on the headset, and there is a dial on the back, which you can use for adjusting the fit on the fly. Something that the Oculus Rift S doesn’t have and the Cosmos does have is hooked on the headband headphones. Yet, the hinges are too flexible, making them pop out of place very easily. This makes it hard for the cups to sit on top of your ears. Thankfully the cups are detachable, so you use ones you like into the 3.5mm built-in port.
The Vive Cosmos offers an entire transformation compared to the older Vive’s wands, bringing a new kind of motion tracking with the all-new controllers. The Cosmos’ controllers are less angular, smaller, and have a ring of lights that are patterned to track movements. There are no touchpads. Instead, you will get gamepad-style buttons and analog sticks. Bellow the triggers are the bumpers and the grip buttons, which give you many ways to interact with apps and games. It will take a while to memorize the patterns, but you will get there.
Long sessions wearing this headset will be uncomfortable due to the chunky plastic parts they are made from and the awkward center of gravity that holds them together. The AA batteries required for each of the controllers add to the weight, and you will need a supply of batteries if you plan to spend a lot of time using the headset. Unlike the Vive Cosmos, Oculus and Valve Index have significantly lighter controllers, especially the Valve’s controllers that come with per-finger tracking and straps that are no trouble holding them.
The Cosmos offers competent motion tracking thanks to the illuminated controllers and the six cameras. Still, not as good tracking as the outside-in system that uses base station tracking. If you move the controllers behind your head, the headset will lose their position, and the algorithms will try guessing their position until you put the controllers back into view. This will be a problem if you fancy playing sports games, but not so much with games where you are required to put your hands in front of you. Another problem is the frantic flailing, a problem when you play the harder levels on Beat Sabre. The head tracking accuracy is good enough for dodging bullets while playing Superhot VR, but if you want to perform larger movements, you will need a well-lighted room with patterned or colored walls. If there is not enough light in the room, you will get an error message in the center of your view. On the other hand, it might result in the controllers vanishing from your sight if there is too much light. Your best option will probably be artificial light that will be consistent, and you will need to close your curtains before you start using the headset.
Remember that this is a tethered headset, but the cable that comes with it is not bulky, and it is 15ft long, which is enough for most of the room-scale setups. Still, unless you plan to set up the cable to hang from the ceiling, you will have trouble tripping on it. HTC offers a wireless adaptor, which will cost you £300, and it will be a real pain to fit the PCIe adaptor in your laptop or PC.
Software and setup
Compared to the original Vive, the Cosmos is much easier to set up and running thanks to the setup wizard that gets you through the basics, plus there is no base station you need to worry about. All it’s going to take for you is to walk around and scan the play area quickly. HTC tends to force its Viveport platform onto its customers, and it feels confusing the way they do it. Vive Cosmos relies on StreamVR to run, meaning you will be stuck with two different control panels on your desktop, and depending on what you choose to play, you will need to jump between interfaces. You will come across tiny icons on the pop-up Viveport settings screen, and the layout is not intuitive, and it lacks social features that have been promised before the launch.
The Viveport should not be ignored because it offers a wide-ranging list of VR games you can download or buy. You will receive a 6-months subscription to the Infinity store, meaning that for a monthly fee, you will have access to most of the things in the store. This is a good thing, especially for the VR beginners who still are not sure what kind of games they are drawn to.
Our Analysis and Test Results
Vive Cosmos comes with an integrated audio system, something that every VR headset ought to have. If you want to use your headphones, there is a simple way to remove the ones that come with the headset. The older Vive models required not a very user-friendly way to remove the headphones by using a screwdriver. The Cosmos has an easy way to remove the headphones with a clamping system. Even though it is easy to remove the headphones, do not fear that they will accidentally come apart. There is a metal clip on top of each of the headphones that keeps them in place. To release the clamp, all you need to do is to lift the tab and lift the headphones off their strap. There is a 3.5mm jack on the right side of the headset that the headphones use to connect. Under the forehead cushion is the cable that attaches the headphones.
The Vive Cosmos includes an assortment of cushion pieces. The cushion for the face is soft and sweat absorbing. It is made out of velour-like foam. There is room for the hinge because the cushion splits into 2 halves. Unlike with the Vive and Vive Pro, Cosmos’ cushions are attached with Velcro, and the trips are attached to the body of the device. The previous models’ strips tended to get worn off and let go over time.
If you remove the face cushion, you will see the data cable port, a hidden USB Type-C port, and headphone jack. The head cushions are made of moisture-proof faux leather and are more rugged. These cushions are not so easily removable as they are attached with lots of clips. Both of the clamps of the headphones are covered with small pieces of felt.
Cosmos headset display is producing one of the clearest images you will come across in the VR world. The headset features two 3.4 inches LCD panels with a 90Hz refresh rate, and there is a 2880 x 1700 combined resolution. The Vive Cosmos also offers an RGB subpixel array, this helps for a clearer image, and the screen door effect is reduced to a minimum. The Cosmos’s resolution is as good as the Valve Index’s, plus there is an increment of the vertical field of view or FOV. Still, the HP Reverb that has 4K resolution RGB panels offers a higher overall resolution compared to the Cosmos. The LCD panel screen does not offer as deep blacks as the AMOLED panels do, which you can find with Vive Pro.
With the Cosmos model, you can mechanically adjust the IPD that is the interpupillary distance of the space between your pupils. The same feature is also available with the Vive and the Vive Pro. The headset’s IPD of the lenses can be adjusted from 61mm to 73mm. We saw with the Oculus Rift CV1 a fabric between the lenses that keeps the unwanted dust. The same feature is also available with the Cosmos. Headsets like Pimax 8K and Pimax 5K Plus also have this same feature.
The eye relief adjustment that was featured with the previous Vive models is not included with the Cosmos, which means you won’t be able to move the lenses further or closer to your eyes to make room for the eyewear. And, because you can’t bring the lenses closer to your eyes, a feature that was available with the previous models, the maximum FOV will be narrower. The Cosmos’ field of view is narrower compared to the Vive and the Vive Pro, even though the other two also have the same 110-degree FOV as the Cosmos does. The Oculus Rift has a 100-degree FOV, and the Cosmos’s FOV feels much like that one.
Vive’s first PC-based VR system is the Cosmos headset, and as such, it advances from the Tracking solution introduced by Valve. This means that the headset does not need external base stations because it features camera-based inside-out tracking, which is different from the other Vive headsets. HTC Vive Focus is the first model from Vive with the inside-out tracking system, but the Cosmos comes with a superior camera array compared to the Vive Focus. The Cosmos model uses six cameras for a more comprehensive tracking range, while the Vive Focus model has only two front-facing cameras used for depth and controller tracking. Besides the two front-facing cameras, the Cosmos model also has additional cameras on the right and the left sides and also on the top and the bottom, which can monitor the space from the ceiling to the floor. The combination of cameras can deliver a strong tracking performance, both hand tracking and also head tracking.
A VR headset that works as a standalone, meaning it does not require a smartphone or PC, is the Oculus Quest is using a similar tracking system as the Cosmos. Still, this one relies on only four cameras, and the Oculus Rift S relies on five cameras. The two Oculus models work very well, but the Cosmos offers a bit wider range of hand tracking that helps the user reach further behind the head before losing the hands-on screen. The Cosmos is also better at tracking the controllers through fast movements, compared to the Oculus headsets. Still, Cosmos’ cameras are sensitive to your room’s lighting and don’t expect good performance if the room has low light. Testing this headset in a room full of desktop PCs and monitors that are lining the walls while all of them are turned off, the headset will warn you that the room is too dark even though it has good lighting. Fortunately, there will be an update that will fix this issue.
If you look at the HTC Vive Cosmos model’s technical aspect, this headset is an impressive piece of VR equipment, but still not good enough for the 700$ price. The 2880 x 1700 resolution is fairly high, the motion controllers are improved, and the headset does not need external sensors. The Oculus Rift S will give you a very similar experience for $400, and for $600 the HP Reverb will offer you higher resolution.
Another issue is the cable. You know, the very same one that comes with the Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive, and the HP Reverb, and dealing with it does not get any easier. The cable feels like a big step backward when we know that the Oculus Quest offers an untethered VR experience, where you don’t have to worry about tripping over wires. The high price plus the cable make this model fall behind the Oculus Rift S and the wire-free Oculus Quest. Again, looking from the HTC Vive Cosmos’ technical aspect, this headset is a big improvement from the original Vive headset, but it is extremely expensive, and the cable is still there to bother you.
Lastly, if you want to experience the VR world, you will need to open your wallet for the Valve Index headset. Cosmos offers good features and has promising potential as it is constantly updating, but it is tough to recommend this headset for now.