Vive Cosmos Review

A solid mid-range VR entry, but is it too little, too late?

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Vive Cosmos Review

Vive Cosmos

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

What We Like
  • Super crisp 2880 x 1700p display

  • Future peripherals for Wireless VR and base stations

  • Front cameras to see surroundings

  • Flip-up headset design

What We Don't Like
  • Halo strap is uncomfortable

  • Expensive for its features

  • Display is hard to adjust

For $699, the HTC Vive Cosmos is overpriced. While it has one of the highest-resolution screens in the market, its small sweet spot and uncomfortable halo strap make it too flawed to justify its high price.

3

Vive Cosmos Review

Vive Cosmos

Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

We purchased the Vive Cosmos so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.

Three years after HTC released the game-changing Vive, it has finally released a follow up: the Vive Cosmos. But is the Cosmos too little, too late to save HTC from irrelevance in the quickly changing VR market? The Cosmos is a good headset, with a higher resolution screen than both the Vive Pro and the Index, and it (finally) has ergonomic controllers, but ditching the Vive’s base stations in favor of inside-out tracking brought a host of tracking issues with the Cosmos. However, what may ultimately prove to be the Cosmos’s doom is its $700 price tag, putting it awkwardly between the extremely successful Oculus Rift S and the Valve Index for market share.

Check out our guide to the best virtual reality headsets you can buy today. 

Design: The combination of VR trends 

The Vive Cosmos feels like the sum of a lot of different trends in VR. It has a halo strap, ring controllers, inside-out tracking, and real-life camera vision. Let’s see if it adds up to something spectacular.

The Cosmos headset is heavy, weighing over a pound, with most of that weight distributed on the front. To keep the headset on your head, the Cosmos has a halo-style band that tightens with a knob at the back. The top has a velcro strap to distribute weight across your head. 

Overall, the headset feels heavy and clunky, and the weight is centered on your forehead. If you move your head too quickly or brusquely, it does slide around a bit, and it’s really hard to keep the headset properly aligned with your eyes. 

On the headset, there are six cameras: one on each edge, two on the front plate. All of them are for inside-out motion tracking, but the two frontal cameras also record your surroundings for a live video feed.

This is all housed in sturdy blue plastic, and the front of the headset has a ton of triangle-shaped holes for heat dispersion. The inside of the headset is padded with a stiff faux leather-covered foam along the halo strap and plain foam along the headset rim. The halo strap is a stiff, matte plastic that does not move. The back knob is large and easy to turn, but it would be nice if it had a taller profile to grip onto. 

Vive Cosmos
Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

One really cool feature about the halo strap is the front: it has a hinge so you can flip up your headset. For most VR headsets, if you want to walk around and see your surroundings, you would need to take off your headset. Not so with the halo strap, which lets you flip the Cosmos up and over 90 degrees.

On either side of the halo strap, there are two detachable headphone cups. The design is very retro, calling back to the audiophile headphones from the ’70s, and more recently referencing the Sennheiser Momentum lineup. The cups slide along a metal slot and tilt forward and back. The cups are also lined with faux leather-covered foam, with vent holes to keep them from overheating. 

The controllers are clearly inspired by the Rift Touch and Windows Mixed Reality controllers, with a swooping halo ring around the top of the controllers. They’re symmetric, except for the menu and Origin button beneath the left and right joystick, respectively. The controllers are made of a slightly grippy plastic, and they’re very small and lightweight. On the back, there’s a trigger and bumper, like on traditional gaming console controllers. The joystick also clicks. 

The headset looks amazing when adjusted properly, but its sweet spot is small and it’s just not comfortable to use.

They feel a little too light and insecure when held, however—there are no grooves for fingers to slide onto, and the hands naturally rest on buttons, which can be an issue for accidental input during gaming. They come with a wrist strap, which will keep them from falling, but ergonomically, it’s a little too easy to accidentally let go of the controllers.

Setup Process: Harder than you can imagine 

Setting up the Vive Cosmos is a bit of a nightmare. If you already owned another Vive, you still have to reinstall the “Vive Setup” software from Vive’s website, go through Viveport (Vive’s answer to Steam), and make sure your graphics driver is up to date. It took me about a half-hour of running and installing software before I was finally able to move on to the Steam Room setup in Steam VR. Thankfully, the Cosmos does not have base stations, so at least it’s only the headset you have to worry about.

By comparison, to set up the Valve Index, I just had to plug it into my PC and run the Steam VR room setup tool. It took two minutes instead of thirty. The Oculus Rift has a more involved setup than the Index, but it’s also not as bad as the Cosmos. Regardless, make sure your VR space is free of tripping hazards or fragile items.

Vive Cosmos
Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Comfort: Lacking ideal weight distribution 

For people with glasses, the extra padding gives plenty of room. There’s also a very generous physical IPD adjustment range so you can focus properly. However, that’s where the positives end: the Vive Cosmos is not comfortable. The halo-style strap is front heavy, and the padding is too stiff. The headset pulled on my hair, even when adjusted properly, and the top strap doesn’t do much to hold weight. 

It’s much less comfortable than the Index or the Rift S, but what’s really disappointing is that it’s from the same company that designed the Vive Pro, which is insanely comfortable. Meanwhile, the Cosmos continually slides down my face and I’m constantly losing my sweet spot. I didn’t have any major issues with VR sickness, however, that may be because I grew my VR legs a while ago.

For people with glasses, the extra padding gives plenty of room. There’s also a very generous physical IPD adjustment range so you can focus properly.

Display (Lens) Quality: Sharp and wide 

This is perhaps the Cosmos’s greatest strength: it has 1440x1700 Resolution LCD displays for each eye that look crisp and vivid— yes, the Cosmos’s screen looks better than the Index’s and the Vive Pro’s. The FOV is sufficiently wide to feel immersed, and there’s not much white light bleeding or blurriness if you’ve adjusted your headset correctly. It is a 90Hz screen, however, so motion sickness is more likely to strike than with the Index’s 120Hz screen, but it will be less prominent than with the Rift S’s 80Hz screen.

Performance: Improved tracking and high frame rate 

Since the Cosmos came out a month ago, the tracking has definitely improved. It’s finally good. Is it base-station-good? No. The Index and Vive Pro are still the kings of tracking. However, the Cosmos’s tracking is about as good as the tracking from the Rift S. The controllers will drop out if you hold them a foot in front of the headset or behind your back, but they maintain tracking in most other ranges. 

The headset itself works fantastically. The framerate stays consistent, games look great, and it maintains its position. We tested the Cosmos using a custom-built PC with an Intel Core i7-8700k processor and an NVIDIA GTX 1080. When I played No Man’s Sky, however, I did have some trouble reading text—the sweet spot for the display is unfortunately small, leaving the text on the fringes as a blurry mess. To be fair, the blurry field is much smaller than it was on the Vive or the Rift, but it’s much larger than on the Index.

The controllers are responsive, but I feel like I have to consciously grip them properly to not accidentally press any buttons during gameplay. The middle grip button feels awkward, and it’s difficult to keep it pressed while using the joystick (I have small hands). Meanwhile, there is no way to hold onto this controller without my hands resting on at least one button, which is a big problem for buttonless games like Beat Saber, which rely on treating the controllers like buttonless wands.

Vive Cosmos
Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Audio: Solid sound

The headphones that come with the Cosmos sound great. They’re rich, detailed, dynamic and give a good sense of presence to the VR experience. The treble is more forthcoming than I would like, but it’s not overbearing, and it helps to hear audio cues. The bass on the Cosmos is okay—it’s weak, but it’s there. Overall, the profile is about as detailed as the Index’s, but the Index has a more balanced sound. The Cosmos is much better than the Rift S with regards to audio.  

Of all the VR headsets I’ve tested, the Cosmos is by far the loudest. For comparison, I set the volume to about 50 percent when I use my Index, Rift, and Vive Pro, but I needed to set the Cosmos’s volume to 25 percent. 

Software: A convoluted mess 

We get it, HTC. You need to make a profit in order to keep making VR products. But that’s not an excuse to push the Viveport store at you and make getting to Steam VR a convoluted experience. Right now, Viveport is the most under-cataloged VR marketplace, with the same titles as Steam VR and Oculus. Steam VR is a robust software suite that lets you browse all your steam titles (including the not-VR ones), peep at the most popular VR titles, and buy any titles that caught your eye on the Steam store. Better yet: SteamVR lets you access ReVive, so you can play Oculus titles right from Steam. Viveport cannot do that.

The Vive home is cute, but nothing noteworthy. It’s a small platform that you can wander on above a landscape. The Vive origin menu is a bit difficult to navigate, as it relies on sublayers of menus and isn’t very readable at a glance. 

Perhaps the Cosmos’s coolest feature is its real-life filter. On the front of the headset, there are two stereoscopic cameras that can feed you video of your surroundings. It’s really low-resolution, making everything around you look grainy and fake, but it’s enough information to walk around with your VR headset. 

Vive Cosmos
Lifewire / Emily Ramirez

Price: Middling price, but now low enough 

The Vive Cosmos kit will cost you $699, which will net you an excellent display and comfortable controllers. Once HTC patches the Cosmos’s tracking issues, the Cosmos will be a good headset. However, if you want to go wireless, get base stations, or get any other first-party accessories that HTC promised, then you will need to pay hundreds of dollars more. HTC envisioned the Cosmos as a piecemeal experience, but if they wanted consumers to invest past the initial HMD kit, why didn’t they price the Cosmos at $399 or $499 to more directly compete with the Rift S? As it is, we think the Cosmos is overpriced compared to the Rift S, which offers better tracking and only a slight downgrade in display quality.

Competition: Two strong alternatives 

Oculus Rift S (view on Amazon): Like the Cosmos, the Rift S uses inside-out tracking, but that is where the similarities end. The Rift S’s screen is 2560x1440 pixels and has an 80Hz refresh rate, in comparison to the Cosmos’s 1440x1700 screen. In theory, the Rift S and the Cosmos should have similar tracking, but HTC hasn’t yet mastered tracking software. The Cosmos may have a technically better screen, but unless you have an unusually large IPD, we don’t think it’s worth the extra $300 to upgrade from the Rift S to the Cosmos.

Valve Index (view on Valve Index): When the Valve Index released, VR fans went nuts. The Index has a 1440x1600 pixel LCD display with a field of view much wider than the Rift S, Cosmos, or original Vive. The Index controllers let you control all your fingers, thanks to its finger tracking pads, and the controllers are just comfortable. What really sets the Index apart is its 120Hz refresh rate, which is currently the best in the industry and lets a lot of users experience VR without the motion sickness that may come with lower refresh rates. Is it worth the extra $300 over the Cosmos? If you can afford it, then yes: $300 buys you a better headset and much better tracking.

Final Verdict

A hard price point to recommend. 

It’s difficult to recommend the Vive Cosmos for $699 when you can get the Rift S for $300 less or the Valve Index for $300 more. The headset looks amazing when adjusted properly, but its sweet spot is small and it’s just not comfortable to use. If you don’t need the extra IPD range the Cosmos offers, then we recommend sticking with the Rift S. If you can afford the Index, its extra framerate, clear screen, and powerful controllers make it worth the extra money.

Specs

  • Product Name Vive Cosmos
  • Product Brand HTC
  • SKU ASIN B07TWNTGCH
  • Price $699
  • Release Date October 2019
  • Weight 2.2 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 17.5 x 10.3 x 8 in.
  • Compatibility Windows 10
  • Platform Steam VR, Viveport
  • Display Resolution 1440 x 1700 pixels per eye (2880 x 1700 pixels combined)
  • Display Type Full RGB LCD
  • IPD Range 61mm to 72mm
  • Refresh Rate 90 Hz
  • Field of View 110 degrees
  • Audio Output Detachable stereo headphones
  • Audio Input Integrated Microphone
  • Connections USB-C 3.0, DP 1.2, Proprietary Connection to Mods
  • Sensors G-sensor, Gyroscope, IPD sensor
  • Battery type 2 AA batteries per controller (batteries included with kit)
  • Tracked Area Requirements (Room-scale) 2m x 1.5m
  • CPU Intel Core i5-4590 equivalent or better
  • GPU Nvidia GTX 970 equivalent or better
  • Memory 4GB RAM or more
  • Ports 1 x DisplayPort 1.2 or newer, 1 x USB 3.0 or newer