HTC’s latest all-in-one VR headset features a number of big improvements for an equally big price tag.
HTC’s Vive Focus 3 is officially available through the HTC website starting today, and with its brand new lightweight design, improved specs, AI-powered inside-out tracking, magnetic gasket, and a swappable battery, this headset offers big improvements from its predecessor, for a price.
The Vive Focus 3 offers dual 2.88” LCD panels with a resolution of 2448 x 2448 pixels per eye and a refresh rate of 90Hz powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 platform built specifically for XR. The dual-element lens offers an ultra-wide 120-degree FOV, allowing you to work comfortably in VR for longer periods of time.
The headset also boasts a unique directional speaker design to prevent sound leakage but while maintaining environmental awareness. This means you’re able to have conversations with your colleagues without having to worry about people around you hearing any sensitive information. At the same time, you’re able to hear in-headset audio without being distracted by sounds from the real world.
Those are some of the hard facts about the all-in-one headset. Now let’s dive into our hands-on review.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
Inside the box, you’ll find the Vive Focus 3 headset, two controllers, a battery, battery charger, a controller charging cable, and a standard cleaning cloth. The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the headset is how light it feels in your hands. That’s due to the new magnesium alloy chassis; the Focus 3 is 20% lighter than HTC’s previous Focus headset. It’s also 500% stronger than traditional plastic, just in case you happen to drop it.
In addition to weight, the Focus 3 feels extremely well-balanced. HTC put the replaceable battery in the back of the headset, greatly improving the overall weight distribution. The unique 45-degree arm design also helps create a comfortable balance point.
If you wear glasses like me, you’ll appreciate how the Focus 3 allows for 150mm-wide glasses. However, I did experience some small discomfort. When you put the headset on and turn the knob in the back to tighten, the Focus 3 slightly pushes your glasses down on the bridge of your nose. The discomfort is minimal, but noticeable nonetheless. Other than that, the gasket at the front of the headset and the padding at the back result in an overall comfortable fit.
The Focus 3 offers the largest IPD adjustment range available on any VR headset at 57mm – 72mm, making the headset comfortable for anyone regardless of head size. To adjust, just give the dial located beneath your nose a turn until it fits your eyes perfectly.
The Vive Focus 3’s audio is spectacular thanks to the directional speaker design. While in VR, I was able to listen to conversations between two bickering employees in the Bodyswaps app and not miss a word. I even had music on in my office at a pretty high volume and was still able to hear the content. On the flip side, I watched music videos at full volume on YouTube through the Firefox Reality app in VR, and it didn’t bother my wife who was sitting next to me watching a movie. There was a little bit of bleed in both situations, but not enough to warrant any type of negative feedback.
THE FANS, CONTROLLERS, AND BATTERY
The Vive Focus 3 is a work tool designed for long sessions in VR. To help combat discomfort, HTC created a venting system that pulls air from the bottom of the headset and blows it out through the top. You can definitely feel the air blow through the headset, but there’s a catch. When active, you can hear the fans running. It’s not loud, more like a gentle hum similar to what you’d hear from a regular fan.
The Vive Focus 3 controllers feel good in your hands. They are slightly longer than the Oculus Quest Touch controllers and feature decent haptics. They have also been redesigned in order to better translate your hand gestures. The longer grip allows you to move your hands in a way that feels natural in VR. HTC claims that a fully charged controller can last up to 15 hours on a single charge. After using the Vive Focus 3 several hours each day for the past week, I still haven’t had to charge my controllers. As a matter of fact, my controllers are both sitting pretty with almost 40% battery life left.
The headset itself is a similar story. HTC said a fully charged battery will let you use the headset for 2 hours with heavy use. I managed to get more than that on a full charge, but I’m not sure if my way of using the Focus 3 would be considered “heavy use” by HTC’s standards. This might yield different results if I was working on a large project that required a lot of collaboration, but based on how I used the headset, the battery life went beyond expectations.
Speaking of battery life, the removable battery design is awesome. If your job requires you to spend a lot of time in VR, this headset makes it easy to keep working. If you happen to drain the life out of your battery, you can easily swap it out by pulling the cushion out from the back and putting in a fresh one. Getting your battery to full charge will take a little over an hour (if that).
I really loved this design and hope to see it incorporated in future other VR headsets.
THE VISUALS & TRACKING
The Vive Focus 3 features dual LCD panels and the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2, resulting in an impressive visual experience. Engage’s new Space Hub, the medical VR trainer Virti, and Vive Sync look absolutely stunning on the headset. Games such as Hyper Dash look great as well (yes, you can play games on the Focus 3!). However, like the Vive Pro 2, if you don’t wear the headset in a particular way, the visuals can become a bit blurry. So just make sure you spend the proper time tweaking your headset so it fits properly.
The four onboard cameras offer impressive AI-powered inside-out tracking. I didn’t experience any type of delays or issues with controller tracking while in VR. That being said, it would be interesting to see how a more demanding experience, such as Half-Life: Alyx, would function on the Vive Focus 3.
Keeping the Vive Focus 3 clean is super easy thanks to the magnetic front gasket and removable back padding. Simply pull them off to clean and then pop them back in when finished. These magnets offer a considerable amount of holding power, so you don’t have to worry about parts shifting around while in-headset, even during more active sessions.
All in all, the Vive Focus 3 packs a big VR punch. But is it worth the $1300 price tag? Let’s just say this headset is not meant to replace your Oculus Quest 2. If you’re looking to strictly socialize and play games, this isn’t the headset for you. The Vive Focus 3 is a workhorse designed specifically for business use. It’s comfortable, fast, and has the potential to be an excellent tool for the workforce.
But that doesn’t mean HTC’s all-new standalone VR headset couldn’t be your day-to-day work/gaming system either. During an interview with VRScout, Dan O’Brien, HTC’s Global Head of Enterprise, talked about the companies new line of Vive VR headsets, saying it was about “Driving forward the technology so it can benefit humanity through imagination, VR/AR, 5G, AI, and blockchain.”
The lightweight design, swappable battery, and 5K resolution with 120-degree FOV makes the Vive Focus 3 an excellent VR solution for enterprise customers, and if you need a little extra power, you can always tether the headset to a VR-ready PC using HTC’s Vive Streaming Cable.
The Vive Focus 3 is available now for $1300, which also includes 24 months of VIVE Business Warranty and Services.
Feature Image Credit: Bobby Carlton