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HTC Vive Focus 3 review - is it an Oculus Quest killer?

Get under the hood of the new stand-alone, VR headset from HTC and learn about build quality, performance, enterprise options, and more.

We recently got our hands on a Vive Focus 3 – the new stand-alone, VR headset from HTC (thanks to Lars Toft, Country Manager, Nordics at HTC). After giving it a proper stress test, here’s our take on: 

  • Build quality  
  • Performance 
  • Setup 
  • Vive business store app 
  • Enterprise options 
  • Price 

Build quality 

HTC clearly built the Vive Focus 3 (VF3) with durability in mind. The frame of the device is made from a magnesium alloy, which allegedly is 20% lighter and 500% stronger than traditional plastics. This is important in an enterprise setting, where you would expect the device to take a beating through heavy use.  

Hygiene has also been an important design driver and both the facemask and the rear cushion can be removed very easily and made with easily wipeable materials. Especially in the Covid-19 era, this is an important feature and avoids the need for installing aftermarket facemasks. 

We did experience some light bleeding from the sides of the facemask, which led to reflections on the screen. This was slightly immersion-breaking and could be avoided with a narrower facemask or thicker face cushion. The facemask was marked with the letter “W”, which could indicate a “Wide” facemask. This could indicate future availability of a narrower facemask which would better accommodate narrow faces. 

Performance 

It’s hard not to compare the VF3 to the popular Oculus Quest 2 (OC2) which in the “Oculus for Business” (OFB) version on paper is quite comparable to the VF3. They use the same Qualcomm XR2 chip, but the VF3 boasts a much higher screen resolution – 2448×2448 pixels per eye vs. the 1832×1920 pixels per eye on the OC2 – a 70% increase in pixel count.  

Most of these additional pixels are spent to cover a larger field-of-view (FOV) of 120 degrees vs. 100 degrees on the OC2, providing a more immersive experience due to more of the peripheral vision in covered. This results in a slightly higher pixel density of 20.4 pixels per degree FOV vs. 19.2 pixels per degree FOV on the OC2.   

The reason why VF3 can push 70% more pixels using the same chip as the OC2 is that they have the Qualcomm XR2 chip running at its highest performance and not throttled like on the OC2. The CPU performance of the VF3 is 2.5x higher than the one of the OC2, and the GPU performance is 1.15x higher (analyzed by Reddit user MaybeVRoomer).  

This means that the chip draws more power and gets warmer. To counter this, HTC has installed an active cooling solution – a small fan that draws hot air out of the device. Unfortunately, this fan produces a clearly audible fan noise. 

The battery is almost double the size of the OC2 (26.6Wh vs. 14Wh), but the increased power results in faster battery drainage (approx. 2-hour battery life). It has a fast-charge mode, though, providing 50% battery recharge in only 30 minutes. And even better – the battery is swappable, enabling you to have a spare battery charged and ready to be swapped for extended VR sessions.  

Both the screen resolution and quality as well as the quality of the lenses results in a very good viewing experience – arguably a slightly better viewing experience than the OC2. The VF3 suffers a bit from a rather small “sweet spot” where the display is at its clearest. This means that users must adjust the headset precisely when putting it on, to ensure the best possible image quality.

Device setup 

Upon receiving the VF3, the headset needs to be set up. This is done in the Vive Manager mobile application, which is available for both iOS and Android phones. The setup guide is user-friendly and will get your device set up fast and easily. It seems like HTC has borrowed a few pages from Oculus’ playbook here, which is good to see since a well-guided initial setup process is of great importance for a good VR experience. 

Users will need to set up a Vive account, but this is not linked to any other accounts (Google, Facebook, or similar) and only exists in the HTC Vive ecosystem. Enterprise users can share a single account or create multiple depending on user preference.  

Vive Business App Store 

Previously, HTC only offered the “Viveport Store” for consumer applications. The newly launched “Vive Business App Store” contains curated application with a more enterprise focus covering diverse areas like training, communication, visualization and more. Watch this spot for news on SynergyXR availability… 

It’s currently not possible to buy applications directly from the headset – this is done through the Vive Manager or on a web storefront. Purchased applications will then be made available to headsets for easy download and installation. There are still only a few applications, but it’s refreshing to see a business/enterprise-focused app store making B2B app distribution more hassle-free. 

Enterprise offerings 

HTC also offers quite a few enterprise-focused features, including:  

  • kiosk mode  
  • mobile device management system with user and application management  
  • bulk configuration of headsets through SD card  
  • possibility of specifying a VPN directly in the settings menu 

Each headset also comes with 24 months of Vive Business Warranty and Service – like the OFB offering. 

Managing devices and applications in HTCs MDM software is a bit different from OFB’s MDM solution. It’s not possible to bulk configure devices wirelessly (this can only be done via an SD card inserted into each headset). Instead, admins decide which applications from the Business App Store should be available, and each user can then choose to install these on the headsets. It’s still too early to give clear recommendations one way or another, but it’s important to be aware of this current distinction. 

Price 

The VF3 costs around €1400. This should be compared to the OC2 OFB version which costs €800 + €50 for the elite strap to have a comparable fit and finish. On top of this comes the yearly license for OFB at a cost of €180 (first year is included in the price). This means that only after 4 years, the cost of the two headsets is the same – realistically most users would be moving to new generation headsets before then. So, there is a definite price premium to take into consideration. 

Key takeaways 

The VF3 is an interesting incremental innovation in the stand-alone VR headset space. While it’s not an Oculus Quest killer, it is a serious competitor. And there’s no denying that most companies will have to choose between the VF3 and the OC2.

So, who is the Vive Focus 3 best suited for? 

  • Companies or professionals looking for the highest possible resolution and field-of-view on a stand-alone VR headset 
  • Companies where hygiene and device durability are of the highest concern 
  • Companies who can’t accept that OFB runs on top of Facebook Workplace 
  • Companies that wish to run VR from e.g. China, where an easy VPN configuration could be of paramount importance 
  • Companies looking for a business app store where they can browse offerings themselves 

We’re looking forward to diving deeper into the offerings from HTC – both development for the VF3, but also device fleet management, and similar enterprise offerings.