If you are one of the many people with a pre-ordered launch edition of the HTC Vive, you'll be a little surprised to see how different the Vive is now for someone walking into a store to pick one up off the shelf. The latest refresh happened in January, and all of the little changes come together to form a decent little refresh.
Here's what's changed since the original launch Vive!
WAY smaller packaging
Meet EcoBox, the smaller version of the HTC Vive packaging.
We found that codename buried in the source code on HTC's website, but the actual packaging is officially known as 77H02568-00M Rev.D. That revision indicator is frequently confused for the headset revision, but VRHeads has confirmed this is, in fact, the packaging revision. Either way, EcoBox is a cooler name, and I assume the name comes from the total lack of foam inserts in this new packaging. It's all cardboard and paper, and probably saves HTC quite a bit of money on shipping.
Oh, and it's also way smaller than the launch box. This new box is thinner, lighter, has an actual handle at the top, and will actually fit on retail store shelves. The difference in these two packages in person is staggering, and kudos to HTC for being at least a little more environmentally friendly.
New 3-in-1 cable
HTC announced back at CES that it was switching to the new 3-in-1 cable, and here it is! It's thinner, lighter, and far less prone to bunching when you're moving around a lot in the middle of a particularly intense game. The cable is also much easier to coil up and store, which is nice if you don't constantly have your Vive out and ready to play.
Fortunately, you don't need a new Vive for this. For $40, you can have the new cable delivered right away.
If you remove the cables, the launch version of the HTC Vive clocks in at 570g, or 1lb 4oz. The January revision of the HTC Vive clocks in at 490g, which is just over 1lb.
HTC says this drop in weight was the unintentional result of using a different parts supplier for some of the hardware inside the headset. It's possible a new display was used or maybe some different plastics to hold everything together, but either way that 80g difference means a more comfortable fit overall.
The launch Vive, on the left, has a cloth spacer here for holding the cables running from the top of the headset to the sync box. The Vive on the right is using a plastic fastener, which is a great deal more durable and won't wear quite as obviously as the original design.
This is a fairly small change, but the newer version looks and feels much nicer. It also makes removing the top panel much easier, as the fastener provides a bit of extra leverage when sliding that top section out.
Better, bluer wrist straps
The new Vive Controller wrist straps are much more visually appealing in that Vive blue, but there are more changes here. The lanyards are thicker, with a more comfortable stitching and a sturdier connection to the actual controller. The wrist slide now includes a separator and is a little thicker as well.
It's not hard to see why these are better. It's a shame HTC doesn't sell these lanyards separately!
More efficient Lighthouses
You wouldn't know it by looking at them, but the Vive Lighthouses have been getting small revisions as well. The new 3x3 grid of infrared LEDs in the Lighthouse aren't going to give you any obvious advantages in gameplay; it's just a nice example of the constant improvements happening to this hardware.
The original layout was a curved array with 15 LEDs in an unusual pattern, which was likely more expensive and less efficient than what is now being used.
Getting better all the time
As you can see, these small changes add up quickly. HTC has been constantly improving the Vive headset, and while none of these changes are enough to justify an announced refresh to the product, it's easy to find yourself with a little envy towards those buying a Vive now.
What changes would you like to see HTC make as a small refresh?
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