VIVE XR Elite review: Fantastic VR hardware, but lackluster beyond that

VIVE XR Elite review: Fantastic VR hardware, but lackluster beyond that
With the Meta Quest 3 just around the corner, us VR fans really need to have a good look at its potential competition – especially other standalone virtual reality headsets that also support PCVR, from other large, trusted brands. And while it's significantly more expensive, the Vive XR Elite is seemingly quite the serious competitor worth checking out.

Should you buy the XR Elite instead of the much cheaper Meta Quest 3; is it worth the price? Or – a fairer comparison – should you choose the XR Elite over the similarly-priced Quest Pro?

It's quite apparent that HTC tried to recreate the magic Meta did with its Quest headsets here, but was it successful? Let's take a close look at the Vive XR Elite and find the answers…

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Design and Build Quality

The Vive XR Elite immediately impresses with how small it is. If you're coming from a Quest 2, the size and weight difference is borderline shocking – it's essentially a thick pair of glasses.

And you can choose to wear it as such, because it's somewhat modular – its external battery is built into an optional (included) head strap, which you can go without, if you're fine with using the headset plugged into an outlet.

The build quality of the headset is fantastic – we have smooth plastic all around, with a mesh face cover, which should be way more resistant to skin oils than any alternatives we've seen so far. However, it also snaps out of the headset quite easily, and that was a problem that remained throughout my entire time with the XR Elite, unfortunately.

Each of the XR Elite's two lenses can be adjusted for different diopter sizes, serving as its own diopter dial, which is quite convenient and welcome for people like me, with different diopters on each eye.

There's a USB-C plug sticking out of the right frame of the headset, meaning you charge the XR Elite just like you would any modern phone (including the iPhone 15!).

It's also welcome to see that HTC has included charging cables, plus a simple, but welcome pouch for carrying the XR Elite around, which should protect it from light scratches.


Contrary to how the XR Elite headset itself surprised me with how compact it is, its controllers kind of surprised me with how large they are.

Their design is reminiscent of the Quest 2's controllers, right down to the big plastic ring that the Quest 3 will not be having on its controllers. Despite the design similarity, the Vive XR Elite controllers are noticeably longer than I'm used to.

On the plus side, they do have built-in batteries inside, which can be recharged via a USB Type-C port on the bottom of each controller. And these controllers are surprisingly light too, borderline hollow-feeling, especially considering their large size. So – swings and roundabouts…

I'd rather the Vive XR Elite's controllers matched the headset's impressive, highly portable design, but I definitely can't call these controllers portable. They're pretty long, and feel cheaper and less comfortable than the Quest 2's controllers, but at least the button layout is the same, so here's hoping we'll be able to play the same PCVR games without compatibility issues. Keep reading to find out how that went…

Screen quality, IPD adjustment, speakers

As mentioned earlier, each lens is its own diopter dial. In addition, the Vive XR Elite supports an IPD range between 54 mm and 73 mm.

You can fine tune the exact IPD that feels comfortable to you, by moving the lenses closer or further apart, akin to how IPD adjustment works on the Quest. Except, over there – you can only snap between three presets, not to mention the IPD range is smaller, so – big win for the XR Elite.

Speaking of wins – the screen is pretty good. We have an LCD one, delivering 1920 x 1920 pixels per eye, and refreshing at 90 Hz. Colors are nice and vibrant, there's almost no screen door effect (visible pixels), and the sharpness appears to be about on par with what we've seen on other contemporary VR headsets, such as the Quest 2. Nothing mind blowing, just pretty good.

Same is the story with the sound quality on the Vive XR Elite. We have dual stereo speakers, one in each earpiece, and they sound loud, clear, and spacious. Even music sounds lovely, albeit not as punchy and bassy as on the much cheaper Quest 2.

Initial set up

While both use Android as their built-in operating system, unlike the Meta Quest, you're encouraged to set up your HTC Vive XR Elite via your phone. You'll have to download an app called VIVE Manager, available for both Android and iPhone.

During the app set up, you'll be taught about the included battery cradle accessory and how to plug it into your XR Elite. Let's expand on that external battery situation – it's basically the reason why the XR Elite is so small and light – it doesn't have a battery. Its optional "battery cradle" needs to be connected to it, only if you wish to use it fully wirelessly.

However, I definitely prefer using the headset plugged into the mains, with the benefit of it being much lighter and more convenient. Huge props to HTC for this modular design, I dare say it appears more elegant than Apple's Vision Pro external battery solution.

In any case, once your headset is set up and paired with the smartphone app, you'll have to make an account with Vive. The process is pretty painless – you just have to confirm your email, after which we're finally down to pairing the headset with your phone. You'll be prompted to press "the headset button" when the headset's LED starts flashing, and, quick tip – it's the circular button on top of the headset, not the one in the frame.

After you give the app your WiFi password, you're prompted to turn on the XR Elite's controllers, and… nothing happens. They vibrated, the right controller's LED started blinking, but the app didn't let me hit Next. Thankfully there was an option to pair the controllers manually, and following the instructions there did the trick.

I would expect the controllers to come already paired with their headset, and the app to take my WiFi password automatically, instead of making me choose a WiFi network and input a password manually, so this set up process could've been a bit more streamlined and clear. It's no rocket science either, but I'm here to tell you how it goes and what to expect, and that was that.

After waiting for a system update to download and install on the Vive XR Elite, and going through a few more tutorial screens, I was told to "put on the headset to continue", but the headset was telling me to continue in the app…

The app was now acting as if the set up was done, yet I also had to go through the set up a second time via the headset, for some reason. Something clearly didn't work right.

Extra confusion aside, I was finally able to see what the Vive XR Elite VR headset can do…

Standalone VR experience and games library

If you've used a Meta Quest before, the standalone Vive XR Elite experience will feel right at home. Like the Quest, this is also an Android-based VR headset, using a very, very similar interface, meaning you get a virtual "home" area, a dock to access your apps or settings from, and a main window.

Speaking of settings, although they can seem pretty barebones if you're used to all the features the Quest offers, we do get optional hand tracking, which unfortunately feels a bit unreliable and even stopped working while I was using it, so here's hoping this feature gets some love in the future.

Quite early into familiarizing myself with the headset, I realized its VR games library is limited, perhaps more so than I expected. Not even the most beloved VR game of all time – Beat Saber – is available on the so-called VIVEPORT app store this headset uses, which is unfortunate.

You can actually head over to the Viveport website without even owning the headset, to check if the games library is appealing to you, before buying it, which I recommend. But it's worth noting that we do have fitness apps, Beat Saber clones, as well as apps that can be (generously) classified "for work", such as a web browser.

Similarly to the Quest's web browser, you can use the Vive XR Elite one to browse the web and even request desktop versions of sites, watch YouTube, and so on. You can also resize the web browser window, although the resizing process isn't nearly as straightforward and refined as on Meta's headset.

In addition, you can choose to enable passthrough as your virtual home environment, meaning you get to see the real world through the center camera of the headset, and in color… but not in 3D.

Yep, passthrough here uses just a single camera, apparently, so you don't get depth perception, unlike on the Meta Quest 2, so even though passthrough on the XR Elite is in color, it feels like HTC did one step forward, and two steps back on that one.

At this point I have to mention that the Vive XR Elite's frames have a fixed angle, unlike what I've seen on any other VR headset, so if you're unlucky to have the "wrong" head or nose shape – you're stuck using the XR Elite on an angle that always feels a bit off.

But hey, I'm more of a PCVR user, so perhaps pairing this headset to my PC will prove to be its saving grace…

PC-connected SteamVR experience and game compatibility

HTC claims you can play SteamVR games if you connect your PC to your Vive XR Elite, meaning it should be compatible with pretty much any PCVR games.

To stream SteamVR games from your gaming PC to your Vive XR Elite, you can either use a long enough USB Type-C cable (not included), or download HTC's version of AirLink, called Vive Streaming. It's a Windows app.

That app was very quick and easy to get going and paired with the XR Elite headset, and it's immediately clear that SteamVR recognizes the headset's controllers and layout too.

I tested several games I've previously played on the Quest 2, Valve Index, and other popular headsets, and – there are occasional issues.

Skyrim VR doesn't seem to recognize the XR Elite's controllers. SteamVR does, but the game itself acts as if there are no controllers being used, so – can't play it.

Other games and apps I tried did recognize the controllers and their layout, but there was usually a caveat, such as their pointing angle being weird, forcing you to aim in unnatural directions.

There may be workarounds to those controller issues, such as using the paid Virtual Desktop app to stream your games, as opposed to Vive's streaming app, but it's clear Vive has some work to do. Users shouldn't have to go on a troubleshooting deep dive, in order to get a SteamVR game going, that would've run perfectly on any other big-brand headset.

Until Vive addresses those issues, whether your chosen SteamVR games will actually work properly or not is kind of a crapshoot.


It's very apparent that HTC was following in Meta's footsteps when designing the Vive XR Elite, for better or for worse, and with limited success.

The same "play area" guardian feature, with the same set up process, albeit more prone to "forgetting" your area, making you set it up over and over.

A nearly identical interface also based on Android, albeit more barebones and less refined, with an app store that's lacking some, if not most of the popular VR games and apps you may want.

A passthrough feature, and in color. But not in stereo, and very underutilized.

Nearly identical controllers, and with rechargeable built-in batteries too. But longer, and cheaper-feeling. Plus, with the Quest 3 on the way, with its even more compact controllers, those large plastic rings on the XR Elite's controllers are starting to look archaic.

An AirLink competitor for wireless PCVR. But, some popular SteamVR games may have compatibility issues, rendering them unplayable.

With all that in mind, it's hard to justify paying a hefty $1000+ price for what feels like a lesser experience than a $299 Meta Quest 2 can deliver.

Here's hoping HTC will keep improving and refining the XR Elite as time goes on, and growing its VR games library, but for now, my advice is – just save your money and wait for the Quest 3; it's almost here.

Perhaps Meta has set a high standard for how much a headset should cost, what it should be able to do, and how well it should do it. Or HTC is just unable to deliver on what a modern VR user is inclined to expect from a standalone VR headset just yet.

Regardless, it's difficult to justify the Vive XR Elite's high price.


  • Light and compact (without the optional external battery)
  • Adjustable diopters
  • IPD fine-tuning


  • Its dedicated app store is missing popular VR titles
  • Compatibility issues with some SteamVR games and apps
  • Face cover falls out easily
  • Can't adjust the frames' angle
  • Large and hollow-feeling controllers
  • Expensive

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