If you make a purchase after following a link on our site, we may earn a small commission. Learn more.

Vive XR Elite VR Headset Review – Expensive Innovation

Vive XR Elite review

Vive’s latest VR headset is hands-down the most versatile VR headset to grace the consumer market to date. The Vive XR Elite is a bold feat of engineering that’s very impressive in many ways. Of course, such innovation comes with a hefty price tag, and so, we can only really recommend the XR Elite to the most ardent of VR fans. The rest of us will have to look on in envy from behind our bulkier headsets.

Most VR headsets come in one of two forms. There’s the likes of the PSVR 2, which needs to be plugged into your PS5 console to work. It makes for a super light headset, but you’re tethered with a wire. Then there’s the Meta Quest 2, which is completely wireless but means it’s a little bulkier with a battery, and you’re limited by battery life. The Vive XR Elite stands out by giving you the best of both worlds. You can plug this headset into your PC, relying on your PC’s power to keep you running. Or you can add a detachable battery pack, allowing you to be completely wireless. It’s a fantastic idea, giving you the choice and freedom that no other headset will provide.

It also helps that, sans battery pack, the Vive XR Elite is the lightest and smallest headset we’ve ever had the pleasure of strapping to our face. Its design resembles a pair of goggles: it’s lighter and narrower than any other headset out there – but it does make it more awkward to use if you’re a glasses wearer. Both GameSpew editors wear glasses with pretty strong prescriptions: one of us was just able to focus the headset’s lenses to see clearly enough without needing our glasses, but the other one couldn’t. And so, if you fall outside of the focus range you’ll need to use a spacer (sold separately) to use the XR Elite with glasses, but it’ll make the headset less comfortable – it’s been designed to sit as close to your face as possible, after all.

What is cool, though, is that the inner face rest of the headset is connected via magnets. That means any time you need to adjust the focus of the lenses, it’s a quick and painless process, with the face rest quickly snapping back into place.

Vive XR Elite review

Despite its incredible lightness and small form factor, however, the Vive XR Elite is not as comfortable to wear as we’d hoped. Its closeness to your face makes it quite tight, and there’s less airflow than you’d get with something like the PSVR 2 – in other words, expect a bit of a sweaty head. Is it a dealbreaker? Absolutely not: your own mileage will vary, but we found that no matter how much we fiddled with the straps we couldn’t get it to feel totally comfortable.

If you do manage to get it right, though, you’re going to have a great time using the Vive XR Elite. Each eye has a screen resolution of 1920×1920 (a joint resolution of 3840×1920) which leads to a sharp, clear view which helps to get you immersed in your experience. By way of comparison, however, this is slightly less than the PSVR 2’s resolution, which boasts 2000×2040 per eye. In practice, though, there’s little discernible difference – the XR Elite sports two very good screens indeed.

The Vive’s controllers will likely feel familiar if you’ve used a recent VR headset: they’re very similar to those of the Meta Quest 2, sporting a ‘halo’ type design above where the buttons sit. Your hand wraps around a handle, and each controller has two front-facing input buttons, an analogue stick and two rear buttons. It’s safe and very comfortable to use – after all, why mess with a system that works? Most importantly, your movement is tracked very well when using the controllers, making playing anything on the XR Elite a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Vive XR Elite review

The XR Elite sports hand tracking, too, with some of its software designed to pick up the movement of your hands free of the controllers. We found it to be hit and miss, though it was completely unusable outside of brightly lit conditions. The living room “big light” after dark was absolutely no good. Since most games you’re likely to play will require the use of the controllers, though, it’s not the biggest issue.

Connect the Vive XR Elite to your PC and you can use it to play any games on Steam VR, meaning you’ve got a huge library at your fingertips. You can also stream from your PC, but of course you’ll be drawing power from the built-in battery. Playing this way gives you up to two hours of playtime, but more demanding games will see your battery drain in 90 minutes or less.

Vive also has its own VIVEPORT library of games which can be purchased directly in the headset itself. Some of the biggest VR releases make it on here, with The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, After The Fall and Myst all available, but it’s not as extensive as, say, Steam VR or even the Meta Quest store. Beat Saber is sorely missing, for example, as are other staple VR titles such as Tetris Effect, Pistol Whip and Moss: Book II (although the first game is available).

We may sound overly negative about the Vive XR Elite, but there’s is a lot to like here. Its small form factor really should be celebrated – looking at it, it does look like the genuine next generation of VR headsets. The same is true of its convertible design, allowing for wireless or wired play as you deem fit. But the glaring problem with the XR Elite is its price tag: an eye-watering £1,300 puts this out of most casual users’ budgets. With PSVR 2 managing to just beat it on visual quality and the Meta Quest having a far superior library (at a fraction of the price), the Vive XR Elite is only going to appeal to die-hard VR enthusiasts who must have the best, hottest technology. We love the innovation on show here, but for most users, other headsets are going to offer much better value.

Thanks to HTC Vive for providing us with a loaned headset for the purposes of this review.

Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.