Vive XR Elite Review

User Rating: 8
Vive Elite XR Review - headset sits on a tree stump

Impressed by Apple’s Vision Pro but don’t want to wait year and splash out several thousand dollars to bring VR back into the real world? The latest headset from HTC might be of interest. The Vive XR Elite expands the established Vive VR brand in an interesting direction, dropping the need for insular immersion and cutting the cord for a dynamic new augmented option in the VR space.

Looking like an obvious evolution of HTC’s Flow glasses, the XR iteration of Vive’s tech launched with some high expectations in March 2023. We already had gone toe to toe with this offering, and the potential for a truly unique experience was obvious. So, when this hight tech halo dropped on our doorstep, we expected something of a step up from the likes of the Meta Quest 2 or Pico 4 and the spec sheet, certainly confirmed that much:

  • Resolution: 1920*1920 pixels per eye (3840*1920 pixels combined)
  • Refresh Rate: 90 Hz
  • Field of view: Up to 110 degrees
  • Audio: Dual microphones for echo cancellation / Embedded speakers


  • Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ XR2
  • Storage & Memory: 128 GB / 12 GB
  • Wired Connections: 1x USB 3.2 Gen-1 Type-C peripheral port / 1x USB 3.2 Gen-1 Type-C power port
  • Wireless Connections: Bluetooth 5.2 + BLE / Wi-Fi 6 + 6E 1


  • Sensors: 4x Tracking cameras / 16 MP RGB camera / Depth sensor / G-sensor / Gyroscope / Proximity sensor
  • Headset Tracking: 6 DoF Inside-out Tracking


  • IPD Range: 54 to 73mm
  • Battery: 24.32Wh Battery Cradle – removeable & hot-swappable
Out The Box

Cracking open the carboard box that houses this HTC headset reveals a slimline operation. No more than a few major components come firmly packed into an entirely average sized cardboard box. There is no overwhelming cacophony of plastic and cables to untangle and navigate. Instead, a headset, battery cradle, lanyards, and a small handful of extras snap together and are accompanied by two familiar looking Vive controllers. The result is recognizable VR headset configuration with the processing power and display nestled at the fore and a battery assembly at the rear. If you’ve invested in a Meta Quest 2 or a Pico 4 then the form won’t surprise you too much, though there are some very obvious functional differences.


vive elite xr controller


The face place at the very front of the Vive XR Elite obviously echoes the design of the more media focused Flow glasses, with a set of blacked out shades at the fore. While these house some of the embedded camera equipment, the effect is to make them look like an oversized pair of aviators. Whether that seems a bit ridiculous, it is certainly far more appealing than the plastic beast that is the VIVE Pro or even Cosmos options. A plastic housing makes up the rest of the main body, slopping back towards the face. A wealth of cameras come peppered around the main housing to facilitate tracking and pass through, while a full color pass through camera seems to be set squarely between your eyeballs.

Power buttons, and a stepless inter-pupillary distance slider are situated at the top and bottom of the main housing, while the adjustable dioptre lenses are exactly where you’d expect. The main legs of the new XR system flip out, although they are relatively short on their own, while a firm fabric interface snaps into place to keep the pressure off your facial bits. Worn like the Flow, these would be decidedly front heavy. Thankfully, the battery unit provides some counterbalance. This unit connects at the end of both legs and just shy of the mid-section of the head, plugging into place and curving around the back of your noggin. Adjustments are available thanks to a single twisting dial, that extends and tightens a sizable plastic cushion against the back of your head. The battery hooks up using an independent USB cable. If you choose to go glasses only mode, then you’ll need to plug in a pair of extensions to the legs, to save the XR Elite from perching on your nose, and the same USB-C power cable will need at least 30W from somewhere else. Put together, this setup feels utterly refined. While the latest from Vive does still lean away from the mildly more premium construction of the Flow, by adding in a bunch more matt plastics, the clean lines and simplicity of this headset make it look effortless compared to the competition.

The Vive XR Elite doesn’t just look refined. Pop it on, tighten it up and take a few seconds to make some basic adjustments and it’s ready to go. At just 620 grams with the battery cradle connected, it comes in at around around the same weight as budget VR models that don’t even include an active cooling solution. Remember fans and radiators are heavy. That weight is distributed in both extremities. With all the compute power and cooling at the front, and the power at the back. The use of a counterbalance makes the total weight feel surprisingly light. Fully connected and battery fuelled, the VIVE XR Elite is clearly in its element. Weighing in at around 620 grams, this is a very comfortable piece of kit. The lightweight plastic construction takes an equally firm but featherlight grip on either side of your head. The included facial interface provides just enough light blockage, but still saved my nose from having to bear any serious amount of weight. The inclusion of a stepless IPD control, and a pair of adjustable lenses in such a small package very welcome, and the frame leaves plenty of space on the left and right so it doesn’t cut into your cranium.

That fidelity is what makes the alternative battery free glasses configuration such a wild departure from our expectations. Unplug the adjustable battery and strap, reconfigure the headset to follow this setup and it’s certainly not as enticing to try out.


vive in glasses mode

The optional off axis strap that HTC include already feels distinctly budget, so it seems odd that this is designed to be moved from the top of the head to hold the glasses format by the back of the head. Tying a bit of elastic around a pair of plastic legs that simultaneously perform a pincer movement the sides of your head doesn’t feel like the best way to get gaming or even kick back and watch a movie. The intention seems to be to pull the front-loaded format up and away from the nose. The result is a fit that seems to pull and slip in multiple directions while twisting around. This lets light intrude around the facial interface.  I ended up ditching this since this mode really isn’t recommended unless you’re absolutely unable to get the sizable power pack plugged in or you’ll be sedentary and consuming media. The majority of the time, the battery cradle makes the Vive XR Elite feel perfectly balanced and generally comfortable to use.

Power On

Assuming you’ve managed to make use of the simple plug in and twist to tighten setup, then picking up to play unlocks access to a wealth of new and old titles. The Viveport storefront already has a ton of content available, from YUKI, Demeo, Paradiddle, and more. Steam VR is fully supported, and Remote Desktop apps are already available to allow for a ton of configurable options. The options in the official store unlock a mix of existing VR experiences for owners of this headset, while others change the way that games are played.

The headliner standout for these new encounters are titles like Yuki and the Maestro, games that take what you’d expect from a VR headset and throw in a curveball or two. We’ve tried Yuki before, in a brief hands on, and it continues to smash the wall between the virtual world and the real, thrusting players into the realm of a completely 3D sci-fi shump that explodes in every direction while placing in game elements in the front room. This mix of inner outer space is a welcome change to the claustrophobic experience that is so many other VR encounters, but that doesn’t mean that HTC’s delivery of traditional games is less than stellar.

Presentation is as good as you’d expect, quite frankly. The XR Elite sports the same brains as the Focus 3, a much heftier piece of hardware, the same 90Hz refresh rate, and even more internal memory to play with. Let’s be clear, HTC aren’t cutting any corners with this one. Unlike my cheap and chirpy Pico 4, there’s no sense that my body is moving while the VR world catches up. The gunfights in Crisis Brigade 2 are rendered flawlessly. Even Demeo’s dice rolls feel responsive, clicking out across the play space without a stutter or a blink. The ability to feel like you’re grabbing a dice and roll for luck is an example of just how good the XR Elite can be. While it might not have any hardware helper base stations to track movement, there’s an astonishing level of nuance to in game interactions. Aside from keeping track of the big stuff with an army of sensors, hand tracking is reassuring competent. The DOF inside out capability of the Elite XR never seems to struggle track either of its lightweight controllers or my flailing fingers, and throughout my time conducting choirs in Maestro, the movement of my in game hands was so subtle that double taps, dice spins, and sudden swipes all executed flawlessly.

I’m a long absent drummer, and while a bit of choir orchestration certainly impresses, I spent way too much time bashing the virtual drums. Instead bashing a couple of big bongos in a game like Ragnarock, and hoping the Viking boat will make it to the end of a song, I was able to pick up Paradiddle and roll through nuanced rhythm play, and even caught a breakbeat without inadvertently clipping through the floor tom. Vive’s mixed reality isn’t going to give you the satisfying thump of following through on a punch bag or the bounce of a snare drum, but it does a great job or making you feel like you’re in control of what’s happening.

This precision extends into the rest of the titles on offer too. Whether it’s taking cover or pop in another clip Crisis Brigade 2 or simply casting spells in Demeo there’s rarely a sense that trying to move around or manipulate the world is difficult. The Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 never seems to struggle and the audio is just about loud enough to drown out any distractions. The screens simply seem to glide through proceedings and the display makes it absolutely stand head and shoulders above the budget end of the market. Even the active cooling solution seems to be designed to funnel hot air away form the user and ensure there aren’t any unwelcome interruptions. The amount of work that HTC has gone to take our already high expectations and essentially cram a Focus 3 into this svelte package is astonishing.

Potentially Great

The Vive XR Elite does initially shine for the first 90 minutes. Let the battery recharge and jump in again, and the whole system feels like it misses the mark on a bunch of smaller points. Despite being a technical marvel, the magnetic face piece and cushion doesn’t always hold firm. Gamespace isn’t the only outlet that found it came off, shifted, or didn’t sit quite right to stop light from coming in. This is especially true when the battery cradle is disconnected at the back of the headset. Disconnecting this counterweight shifts the centre of balance, making the entire assembly front heavy., and twisting the glasses off axis. Even with a pair of extensions the legs and a modified strap placement, all feels somewhat haphazard.

In the end, I kept the battery attached all the time, and simply had to tightening the screw to a mildly uncomfortable tension or accept that light leakage can’t be avoided with the magnetic face plate. Out the box oddities aren’t the only unusual thing about the XR Elite either. Probably due to its age, the number of truly mixed reality options available still feels relatively limited. The high spec, lightweight power, wire free format, and lack of ominous data slurping from HTC is commendable. None of that utilizes the headset’s standout selling point. The potential for merging the real and virtual. Still seems to be wanting a on the Vive storefront. You’ll be as likely to find a co working spaces and extended spreadsheet viewing as much as truly innovative mixed reality games. The potential to whip out a light sabre and go toe to toe with somebody else as they morph into a monstrous beast into in my front room isn’t quite there yet. There’s the groundwork, but ‘m not quite playing Bricktales between the sofas yet.

htc vive elite xr glasses with strap

All of this makes the Vive XR Elite a great headset that shirks the calamity of cables and configuration needed for top tier gaming. As a VR headset, it excels at wireless gameplay. Thanks to the WiFi 6E compatibility there’s little latency in desktop powered. Despite that, it doesn’t quite make it a game changer yet. As a VR headset, it adds amazing levels of freedom, great tracking for almost no effort, solid performance, and fantastic access to an established VR library. It’s everything I would want the Focus 3 to be. It does, however, make a few compromises that I’m not entirely ok with. I have glasses and there really isn’t any potential to fit these in, the lightweight facial interface lets in just little too much light, and glasses does squeeze the head a little. The proposition of mixed reality is also still an open question. The Exite XR has so much potential, and it’s undoubtedly very competent, but I can pickup a Pico 4 for casual wire free gaming or grab a PSVR 2 for comparable levels of adrenaline fuelled action. This is certainly my favourite wireless VR headset on the market right now, but not the one that’s going to get my money quite yet. I don’t know when I’d user it’s battery free mode, comfort aside either. For now, I’m willing to stay plugged into my current option and see if this truly is the future before I pick one up. If you’re ready for the newest way to play or simply want to ditch the cables, the HTC Vive XR Elite is available now for $1,099.00 / £1,299.00 or local equivalent via the Vive website.

  • Compact and powerful
  • Tracking is superb
  • Flexible configurations
  • Glasses mode is still unconvincing
  • Facial Interface does let in light
  • Some odd choices in among innovative hardware
Written by
For those of you who I’ve not met yet, my name is Ed. After an early indoctrination into PC gaming, years adrift on the unwashed internet, running a successful guild, and testing video games, I turned my hand to writing about them. Now, you will find me squawking across a multitude of sites and even getting to play games now and then

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