The HTC Vive Flow headset makes it look like a fly, but makes virtual reality wearable

Marketed at a price of 549 euros, the HTC Vive Flow virtual reality headset is not like the others. Very light (189 grams), it has been designed to be carried anywhere, just like a smartphone. A question then arises: do we want to wear this thing?

The Oculus Quest 2 weighs 503 grams, but is still considered “light”. Suffice it to say that when HTC offered us to test the Vive Flow, its virtual reality headset that weighs only 189 grams, we were immediately intrigued. The promise obviously isn’t the same between the two headsets, but the HTC Vive Flow is perhaps closer to the glasses of the future that all manufacturers promise us. We were therefore curious to see what the Taiwanese manufacturer was capable of from 2022. Keep in mind, however, that we are only at the beginning of the miniaturization of this technology.

Marketed at a price of 549 euros, the HTC Vive Flow is a strange device, not designed for video games, not autonomous and not entirely immersive. What does not look like other VR viewers (as evidenced by its original appearance, which some will call terrible, others futuristic) is aimed at a new market, both made up of curious people and already convinced by virtual reality. Here’s our take after several weeks with Vive Flow on our desk.

Lightness at the sacrifice of comfort

Unsurprisingly, switching from a 503-gram to a 189-gram helmet is enjoyable. Especially in the hand, the Vive Flow impresses with its ultra portability. You can hold it with two fingers, easily put it in a bag, and install it on your head very easily. Unfortunately, it is on the head that we discover its first defects.

Face HTC Vive Flow
The HTC Vive Flow looks like very large sunglasses, has a noticeable mirror effect. // Source: numerama

Where a Quest 2 is quite comfortable to wear (especially with the Elite strap, which retails for $ 50), the HTC Vive Flow isn’t at all. Without the foam protection designed to enhance VR immersion, it hurts your ears and nose. Really. With the foam protection, which is magnetic and which you should only wear when you want full immersion in VR, it’s a little better, but the helmet stays a little too loose since it’s not attached to the skull. Consequently, with each sudden movement, the screens in front of the eyes move. So we get sick a little too easily.

HTC Vive Flow
Vive Flow lenses can be adjusted for each eye. You can also remove the foam visor if you don’t want to be immersed in virtual reality. // Source: numerama

To get the lightest VR headset on the market, HTC had to make a lot of sacrifices. Its Vive Flow headphones may look like real glasses, but it’s not very easy to put on. This is a real shame, since the viewing angle inside is anything but negative. Could it have been a better tie around the ears? And foam in all cases at the level of the nose?

While we’re at it, notice we weren’t completely convinced by the view settings. The wheels allow it to be adapted to each eye, but despite our good vision, we were never able to see perfectly sharp with the HTC Vive Flow. It is probably a matter of proximity to the eyes, but it is still problematic for a gadget that you should wear for a long time. As it is, we don’t want to keep it too long.

Smartphone addiction, good and bad idea

To reach 189 grams, HTC made two more sacrifices:

  • The headphones don’t have the built-in battery (well, a very small, anti-power-cut one), which forces you to plug it into an outlet, an external battery, or your smartphone via USB-C to make it work. Not all smartphones provide enough power, so the power bank is the best option.
  • There are no controllers that come with the smartphone, nor hand tracking. This is an application to be installed on your Android smartphone (not iPhone) that allows you to interact with the HTC interface in virtual reality. We then aim the smartphone as if it were a controller.
HTC Vive Flow is smartphone controlled.
HTC Vive Flow is controlled by smartphone, with a cable. // Source: numerama

Is it binding on a daily basis? Yes and no.

  • Yes, because when using the Vive Flow you have to leave a cable dangling, which doesn’t quite match the promise of ultra portability.
  • No because, in the end, you always have your smartphone with you.

If pointing your Android device doesn’t offer the same level of accuracy as a controller designed for (no triggers or ability to capture virtual objects for example), that’s more than enough to switch between apps. It’s a shame that the vision reset is sometimes faulty, which can force the headset to restart for the smartphone position calibration to work properly. We also appreciate the possibility of showing the screen of your smartphone in the helmet and driving it in virtual reality, so as not to be disconnected from the world of virtual reality.

It’s smart, especially since it allows HTC to carry apps not available in VR, such as Netflix, Prime Video, Disney +, myCANAL or games, into the helmet.

Portable cinema, the real strength of HTC Vive Flow

Why yes, HTC Vive Flow is an amazing display device. Not thanks to the applications available on his Vive Port store, but thanks to the replica of the screen of his Android smartphone. Any apps you can’t find anywhere in VR (not even from Facebook) can appear here, with exclusive features like local download. HTC has clearly designed its headset so that you can use it on the road, on the train or in the car (in the passenger seat !!!!! pay attention to you.), To watch a movie without being disturbed by the light through the windows.

An interesting feature, which could be even a little more pleasant if the helmet was better in mind and its screens were OLED technology and not LCD (the black backgrounds are currently very blue). Either way, it’s a really good idea. A kind of VR cinema for smartphones.

Vive Flow mirroring
This is, in a way, what the HTC Vive Flow mirror mode looks like. We would have taken a screenshot, but HTC locks them in this mode … // Source: HTC

The only flaw, the quality of the speakers in the branches is very poor. It is better to connect the headphones to the smartphone, as the headphones do not have a jack. It is also not easy to fall asleep, which makes him feel unnecessarily warm on a desk.

No mixed reality and it’s a shame

Finally, we wanted to address one (another) of our disappointments with the HTC Vive Flow – there is no mixed reality mode today. Unlike some of its rivals like the Lynx, the Vive Flow immerses you in a completely virtual reality, with fake images in front of your eyes. Given its ultra-portable nature, we regret not having seen a replica of reality thanks to its cameras, which would have allowed us to keep an eye on it while walking around the house. By removing the foam, we also have access to a small piece of reality, but it is too small to be able to walk on without hitting a wall.

We imagine that the second generation will take care of this aspect. Today, the numerous slowdowns and bugs we’ve encountered can attest to that, the HTC Vive Flow isn’t powerful enough.

The verdict

Well, let’s face it, the HTC Vive Flow isn’t a good product. It is not just the concept that has failed, but its execution. If we find the idea of ​​having an ultra-easy-to-carry VR headset tempting, it’s clear that HTC’s product has too many flaws to satisfy anyone today. It’s the first of its kind, presumably it predates devices that will fare much better but, at the moment, it’s just a toy for VR enthusiasts. At 550 euros, it’s clearly best to invest in a Meta Quest 2 and the Elite strap. There you will have really interesting experiences to discover.

Are there still things to save with this product? Yes, two. The idea of ​​making it a VR companion for smartphones is a good one, why should a VR headset necessarily be a computer in its own right? Pleasant then the possibility to see (a little) the real world to the sides. With mixed reality, it would have been much more convincing. We can’t wait to see Gen 2!

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