HTC Vive Cosmos
Virtual Reality (VR) Headset
Jaded folks may have been fooled into believing that Virtual Reality would go the way of 3D gaming monitors. Remember those? Neither do I. Or, it was simply one of those futuristic things from the '80s and '90s that never panned out, like Hoverboards. Hey, remember that movie about a gardener that put on a VR helmet owned by James Bond and then turned into a genius? Lawnmower Man
- look it up
But here we are in the middle of 2020, and VR is still very much alive and well, thanks in no small part to, at long last, the release of a killer app in the form of Half-Life: Alyx
. Whether you agree with Joaby’s Alyx review
is very much secondary to the point that VR has long been without a definitive answer to a reason to own a very expensive and, therefore, very discretionary piece of kit.
And that’s coming from someone who has both individually and accumulatively spent big bucks on peripherals that I now consider essential to gaming, if only to compensate for my ever-declining reactions when it comes to battling against younger players with speedier reflexes (and, hopefully, less competitive gear).
Still, whenever I prep my hair for another round with the drunk stylist otherwise known as a VR headset, I think back to taking the original Oculus
prototype for a spin as John Carmack explained the ins and outs of this screen that was quite literally taped to repurposed ski goggles. It wasn’t an overly pleasant experience in terms of my balance, but the potential for the tech was clearer than the lacklustre resolution. The man drove a Ferrari, so he must have been doing something right.
Reporting to You Live... From Inside the Computer
- Screen: Dual 3.4" diagonal
- Resolution: 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye (2880 x 1700 pixels combined)
- Refresh Rate: 90 Hz
- Field of view: Maximum 110 degrees
- Audio: Stereo Headphone
- Input: Integrated microphones, Headset button
- Connections: USB-C 3.0, DP 1.2, Proprietary connection to Faceplates
- Ergonomics: Flip-up visor, Adjustable Eye Comfort Setting (IPD), Adjustable headstrap
- Controllers: L/R (Gyro and G-sensors, Hall sensor, Touch sensors, Buttons
When I unboxed the HTC Vive Cosmos
to take it for a spin, I was particularly impressed with how easy it was to set up. Despite a mess of cables, an easy-to-follow setup installer had me up and running in no time, holding my hand through all the relevant steps in a process that was less painful than going through the rigmarole of connecting a PlayStation VR
headset. Mercifully, the headset connects to a small hub with a single lengthy cable, meaning the actual headset component can be easily detached and stored, with everything else essential for play tucked away behind a screen ready to use at a later date.
VR these days seems to be mostly held back by barriers of entry: not only the initial cost of a rig powerful enough to play, but setup considerations that include play-space and a tendency to need to place sensors for true virtual movement.
“Despite a mess of cables, an easy-to-follow setup installer had me up and running in no time, holding my hand through all the relevant steps.”
The Vive Cosmos does away with those latter barriers by way of inside-out tracking, which works with impressive accuracy, even when you’re sitting or standing in a confined space. Confined space, at least in VR terms, is exactly how I’d describe my desktop area, which is like the chode of setups: more generous in terms of longitude than latitude.
Still, when I do want to stand, the Cosmos lets me use a Vive Cosmos Controller to virtually mark out my playable space, which means I’m ready to play as soon as I’ve pushed my chair under my desk (or flung it off to the side). Alternatively, I just let the Cosmos know that I want to play while sitting and it happily tracks from there. This is actually how I spent most of my time with the Vive Cosmos – sitting instead of standing – which meant it was easier to play for longer.
In fact, despite the usual common knowledge that VR is a sub-one-hour affair, the Cosmos is easily the most comfortable and practical VR headset I’ve worn, to date, so long as you iron out some of the kinks. These kinks involve the standard fare of ensuring you find that sweet focal point for the lenses and tightness on your noggin, but also in ensuring you properly lock the snap-down individual earpieces into place.
Initially, I thought the earpieces were faulty because they sat off my ears and didn’t seem to go any lower, but after some tinkering, they were snug and the world was fully blocked out for VR. One of the neat things about the Cosmos is the ability to lift the visor up to see what’s going on around you or to take a breather, all without having to take the headset off.
It’s not overly cumbersome as VR headsets go which, coupled with the best-in-class 2800x1700 resolution (1440x1700 per eye), means it’s easy to get lost in longer sessions. The catch there, of course, is that the average popular VR game feels built to be played in piecemeal parts, but multi-hour sessions of Alyx were very doable, more so while seated for the lazy gamers out there like me.
Inside Gaming… Virtually
Whether you have a Cosmos or another PC headset, it’s worth taking full advantage of the 14-day Viveport Infinity
trial to see which games are worth forking out for. There’s a lot of VR shovelware that pads out the library of content, but you can also get a taste of Blade and Sorcery
, I Expect You to Die
and, a personal favourite that you could easily knock over in a single session, A Fisherman’s Tale
I didn’t have any issues with the Cosmos tracking problems that were reported at launch, which may have been addressed in subsequent firmware updates, but the necessary illumination to avoid any potential tracking issues is a light flick away. My main gripe, outside of the steep cost, is the backwards step with the controllers. Sure, they’re a more streamlined design than the original Vive’s controllers, but those OG models had a rechargeable battery, and these newer Cosmos controllers take AA batteries.
“It’s worth taking full advantage of the 14-day Viveport Infinity trial to see which games are worth forking out for.”
Going wireless is a lot less straightforward than it should be, and requires forking out an additional $599RRP to ditch the cables. The main cable isn’t overly short, but the USB cable connecting the hub to your PC is. In terms of other connectivity gripes, the power adaptor is one of those sideways affairs, which is infinitely less straightforward than a vertically positioned adaptor that means you don’t have to shuffle anything on the power board around.
Despite a list of VR games that, in 2020, are infinitely more appealing than first-generation VR titles, VR still feels like one PC expense too many. That said, if you are going to invest – and, honestly, I very likely will for Squadrons
because I’m a massive Star Wars nerd – the resolution, user-friendly features, and overall comfort of the HTC Vive Cosmos is a good fit for a high-end rig.