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Is the HTC Vive Good for Sim Racing?

There are a seemingly-unlimited number of VR headsets on the market nowadays, but few have reached the level of sales and praise of the HTC Vive. Entering it’s fifth year of use by virtual reality consumers, the original HTC Vive is no longer in production and has been replaced by a string of improved tech.

HTC has released updated models of their HMD such as the Vive Cosmos and the Vive Pro – but the original Vive is still readily available on the secondhand market for reasonable prices which begs the question: is the HTC Vive good for sim racing?

What to Consider Before Buying a VR Headset for Sim Racing

If you love sim racing and want to increase your level of immersion in games, virtual reality is a great way to get yourself more deeply invested in each race. That said, adding VR to your racing rig may not be a simple plug-and-play experience – consider the following before taking the plunge:

Games

The most important consideration when deciding whether to buy a VR headset for sim racing is whether the games you want to play support the tech. While there are many more VR racing games on the horizon, current popular titles include Assetto Corsa, iRacing and Project Cars.

FoV

Mainstream VR headsets will have a field of view ranging from 100° to 130° degrees. This will be more than enough for a great sim racing experience, but those who are accustomed to three-monitor setups with FoV of 170° or more may find the transition to be a bit jarring.

Headphones

Arguably the best way to listen to any audio, headphones become all but essential when moving over to VR. Crystal clear audio pulls you deeper into your game in a way no other single thing can.

Compatibility

If you’ve already got an overkill gaming PC, this won’t be much of a concern for you. If you’re already flirting with minimum specs, you may want to to consider upgrading as virtual reality will dramatically increase the requirements of your games.

The HTC Vive

The HTC Vive is one of the first mainstream consumer VR headsets and the collaboration with legendary game developer Valve (creators of Half-Life, Portal and Counter-Strike amongst others) ensured that this would be the first of such devices to directly address the needs of hardcore gamers. Originally release in 2016 at an MSRP of $799, the HMD came with controllers and external sensors to allow for full-room motion and position tracking.

Full-room tracking is overkill for sim racing, to put it bluntly, but will not diminish your experience if you have room to mount the included lighthouse sensors in your racing room. The Vive Pro has an upgraded version of this setup, and the Vive Cosmos eschews external sensors entirely in favor or inside-out tracking. Both of those headsets are dramatically more expensive than the original Vive though, and hard to justify if HTC Vive sim racing is going to be your primary use for VR.

The other big player in virtual reality right now is Oculus Rift; updated models of the rift include the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest 2, both of which can be purchased for around the same price as a used HTC Vive and feature inside-out tracking to boot. We’ll look into these a bit later in the article.

The best use-case for a HTC Vive in present day, as it pertains to sim racing, is to buy a standalone headset without the tracking or controllers. The controllers will be a total waste of money and space to anyone who prefers to have a racing wheel in their hands, and head tracking is much less cumbersome on newer headsets.

Features & Benefits

Let’s have a look at some of the things the HTC Vive gets right or wrong and how they can improve or diminish your immersion and performance in sim racing:

Refresh Rate

With a refresh rate of 90Hz, the Vive is able to display more frames per second than pretty much any non-gaming monitor or TV that you’re probably gaming on at the moment. Unless you’re using high-tech screens, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your games’ smoothness and feel an increased sense of control over your vehicles’ responsiveness. That said, if you are gaming on a 120Hz+ gaming monitor the Vive will feel like a considerable downgrade in this respect.

Resolution

With a resolution of 2160 x 1200, you may assume that you’re going to get a better-than-1080p image from the Vive – this is not correct, unfortunately. While the PC will be push that resolution to the headset, VR is constantly alternating between adjacent pixel to give an illusion of depth – this means the effective resolution is halved. As with the aforementioned frame rate considerations, this will feel like a downgrade for some – but most are able to quickly adjust and many end up preferring the enhanced depth over higher resolutions.

OLED

Another big benefit of the Vive over most gaming monitors is that the screen used OLED instead of traditional LED or LCD tech. This translates to a more vivid range of colors being displayed than what you’re probably used to, which helps a lot with immersion and gives gaming graphics quite a bit of extra oomph. Blacks are reproduced especially well also, meaning that movies look exceptional on the Vive.

Alternatives

The biggest competitors to the original Vive are going to be products that can be purchased at a similar price point. As stated before, we think the best way to justify a Vive purchase today is to buy a standalone headset as the full kit’s price will put it in competition with the following:

Oculus Rift S

For about the same price as a full Vive kit in good condition, you can buy a brand new Oculus Rift S. Featuring specs that compete or outclass the original Vive in just about every regard, the only reason for pause is that Facebook will soon require users to login in order to use the headset – a privacy concern for some and a digital rights management nightmare in the making for others.

Oculus Quest 2

At a similar price point is the other line of HMDs from Facebook – the Quest series. While these HMD don’t feature the same level of high end specs as the Oculus Rift S, they do have the distinct advantage of a Snapdragon SoC that allows for tether-less gaming on the go. The increased versatility of this device represents a huge value add for anyone who isn’t especially concerned with the aforementioned impending login debacle.

Conclusion

The HTC Vive isn’t the newest or greatest HMD out there, but it still has a place in many gamers’ setups. It can be an especially great value for sim racers who want to add an affordable VR headset to their rig but don’t need all the bells and whistles.

If you want a no-frills VR experience for use with games such as iRacing, the HTC Vive is a solid pick due to it’s low price, great refresh rate and vivid OLED screen.

Last Updated on January 31, 2021