Wires. Wires everywhere. That’s what I thought when I started unpacking the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite. Eschewing inside-out tracking in favour of base-stations, the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite requires three power outlets, at minimum. Laid out in front of you as you prepare to set it up, it looks like a lot.
Thankfully, the seemingly daunting task of setting everything up is made much simpler by the install wizard, downloaded from the HTC website. With that downloaded, setting up the base stations proved to be a bit of a challenge.
Not because setting them up is difficult, rather, finding enough space for them to view an unencumbered play area. After much shuffling of furniture, swearing and one stubbed toe, I had everything in (or out) of place and was ready to get started.
HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite
VR has been around for a really long time but only recently has the technology caught up with the ideas. Early iterations of VR were clunky at best and even the more recent 720p headsets were still a tad underwhelming. With the Cosmos Elite, you’re getting dual 4.3-inch 1440 x 1700 displays running at 90 Hz. It really makes a world of difference if, like me, you’re used to PSVR.
What’s more, the Elite comes bundled with Half-Life: Alyx which is an outstandingly good example what’s VR gaming is capable of.
Before you can dive into City 17 though, you’ll need to connect the headset to your PC. A long cable connects the headset to the Link Box which in turn connects to power and your PC. My issue with the Link Box is that bundled with the Cosmos Elite is a mini Display Port to Display Port cable. The Link Box as a mini Display Port adapter so if you don’t have a Display Port adapter, you’re out of luck.
My PC has one, but a more powerful laptop I use only has mini Display Port. After a quick trip to Jaycar I thought I had the issue sorted, but sadly no. I wasn’t able to get the headset working with the laptop and had to settle for my PC. It’s a minor issue, but one that frustrated me.
Another minor issue is that updating the headsets firmware means it has to be connected to your PC via USB. The HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite is so cable and connection heavy that it would have been nice to be able to connect via Bluetooth for firmware updates. The controllers already do that, so why not the headset itself?
One last comment regarding the HTC VIVE’s cables. The main cable connecting the headset to the PC is quite thick and sturdy, which is something you’ll want when moving about in VR. However, its thickness, sturdiness and length make it rather heavy and I found myself frequently adjusting the cable, which removed me from the immersion. Wireless options are available for the Cosmos Elite though for an additional $600 AUD it’s an expensive proposition.
Otherwise, the headset itself is really comfortable. It sits nicely on your head and is easily adjustable by turning the tightening knob at the rear. Best of all, you can flip the whole display up so you can see what you’re doing without having to remove the entire headset. I really appreciated this feature having a dog and small child wandering around.
Like every VR experience I’ve had, using the Cosmos Elite is sweaty business. My face would fog the lenses up and sweat would drip uncomfortably down my face. Eventually, I would seem to enter some kind of thermal equilibrium but it’s still not the most pleasant experience at the end of the day. The Cosmos Elite attempts to mitigate some of the overheating issues by including attached speakers.
These small, but surprisingly clear and powerful speakers sit close to your ears without touching them. Creating a small buffer of freedom from your usual headset meaning you wont be sweating from your face and your head. I was concerned that ambient noise would be an issue while using these speakers but was pleasantly surprised by how immersive they really are. I did also use a headset and that solution is far better but with the attached speakers unable to be moved fully out of the way and the additional overheating, it’s a decent tradeoff.
The HTC VIVE controller is, at first, a strange looking contraption. Used to playing games with a gamepad, the left and right wands give me flashbacks to the Wii. And not in a good way. Thankfully, VR is less about waggle and more about tracking your hands in 3D space. The controllers worked flawlessly and although the large trackpad took a while to get used to, using the controllers is comfortable and intuitive.
Overall, the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite is a pretty expensive proposition, coming in at $1,699 AUD. For that you’ll get;
- Cosmos Elite headset,
- VIVE base Station 1.0 (x2),
- VIVE Controller 1.0 (x2),
- Headset cable,
- Converter for VIVE Cosmos,
- Converter power adapter,
- Mini DP to DP adapter,
- VIVE Base Station power adapter (x2),
- Mounting kit,
- VIVE Controller power adapter (x2),
- Micro-USB cable (x2)
You’ll also get a copy of Half-Life: Alyx and six months membership to VIVEPORT Infinity. Inifinity is a great way to exlore a huge range of VR titles without having to make a purchase and with six months free, you’ll be able to sample most of what the service has to offer.
It’s like Netflix for VR games.
The Cosmos Elite isn’t perfect but I’ve not used a VR solution that is and for what you get, the visual and audio clarity and the ease and simplicity of set-up, if you’re in the market for a headset, this might be the one for you.
The HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite was loaned to PowerUp! for this review.