HTC’s Vive Flow Is Light in Weight but Not Features

As long as you don’t mind sitting still

Key Takeaways

  • The new HTC Vive Flow virtual reality headset looks like it will be a lot more comfortable to wear than competitors. 
  • I own Facebook's Oculus 2, and its biggest failing is that it's big, hot, and bulky.
  • The Flow is intended for passive entertainment like watching movies and meditation.
Someone doing yoga while wearing an HTC Vive Flow VR headset.

HTC

The new HTC Vive Flow virtual reality (VR) headset might make me look like a bug, but I'm looking forward to trying it out because at least I'll be comfortable.

The Flow is a lot lighter than most other non-pro VR rigs on the market. It ditches a few things to keep its weight down, including controllers, so you have to use your smartphone instead. Experts say that portability is vital when it comes to VR. 

"It is something that some people could also consider wearing outside the home, like, for instance, on a plane," VR expert Antony Vitillo told Lifewire in an email interview. "It is also very comfortable, thanks to many fitting options, and since it has diopter adjustment, it can also be worn by people with eye impairments without the need for them to wear glasses." 

Let it Flow

The Flow is meant to counter the discomfort associated with many current VR headsets. According to HTC, users might turn to the gadget for meditation, relaxation, productivity, or light entertainment. 

I own Facebook's Oculus 2, and its biggest failing is that it's big, hot, and bulky. As a result, it tends to hurt my face during long sessions, and I need a fan blowing to keep from overheating. 

Vitillo agrees. "The most popular VR headset of the moment, that is Oculus Quest 2, looks like a shoebox that people have to wear on their faces," he said. "It's very uncomfortable to wear, and after at most one hour, every user has to take a break because your face hurts."

The Flow's dual-hinge design and soft face gasket allow it to fold down into a compact footprint for portability. It's got a hinge that is designed to fit many different head shapes and sizes. The Flow only weighs 189 grams, about the same as a chocolate bar. It's also got an active cooling system that pulls warm air away from your face. Sweaty VR sessions could be a thing of the past. 

High-End Specs

The Flow's internals let it compete with other standalone VR headsets on the market like the Oculus Quest 2. It's got an expansive 100-degree field of view that allows for cinematic screens to immerse you in content, a sharp 3.2K resolution, and a decently smooth 75 Hz refresh rate. There's also full 3D spatial audio, and unlike the Quest 2, the Flow can also connect to external Bluetooth earphones.

VR is currently facing a major barrier to entry because many people think they need a gamer PC, an expensive VR headset, and tech-savviness to get into virtual spaces, Kelly Martin, of the Tokyo-based virtual reality startup Vket told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"This device offers a way for more casual users to access VR without having to spend thousands of dollars or get a high-spec gaming machine," Martin said.

Someone wearing an HTC Vive Flow AR Headset.

HTC

There's one big caveat with the Flow compared to the Oculus, however. The Oculus can run for hours on its internal battery, but the Flow runs out of juice in mere minutes. To make up for the lack of power, the Flow comes with an external battery pack that allows users to keep it running for hours at a time, but it's another thing you will have to lug around. 

On the other hand, the Flow isn't meant to be used when you are moving, so the battery pack may not be too much of an inconvenience. It's intended for passive entertainment like watching movies and meditation. 

I spend most of my time in VR doing things like watching Netflix and browsing the news, so the Flow could be the perfect rig for me. At $499, the Flow is a lot more expensive than the $299 Oculus Quest 2, but comfort is king. I can't wait to try it out. 

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