Anyone looking to invest in the flagship VR headset for SteamVR has a big question in need of answering before cash is put on the counter. Do you go with the HTC Vive that has been available for over a year now, or do you wait for the more capable and expensive HTC Vive Pro? HTC plans to sell both instead of retiring the original, because these headsets actually appeal to two different audiences.

So, which should you buy?

Hardware compared

Before we dive too deep, lets get a look at those specs.

Category HTC Vive Pro HTC Vive
Display Dual AMOLED
3.5 inches
3.5 inches
Resolution 1440 x 1600
(2880 x 1600)
1080 x 1200
(2160 x 1200)
PPI 615 PPI 448 PPI
FOV 110 degrees 110 degrees
Refresh rate 90Hz 90Hz
Connection USB-C 3.0
DisplayPort 1.2
USB-A 3.0
HDMI 2.0

Out of the box, there's a lot to compare between these two headsets. On paper, the Vive Pro adds some noticeable bulk manages to somehow look even more awkward than just about every other VR headset available today. That design, odd as it is, actually allows the headset to be lighter and distribute its weight across your head much better. It also allowed for even nicer headphones than the ones included in the accessory you have to buy separately for the current-gen Vive.

There are some things about the Vive Pro we don't know yet.

The Vive Pro also offers a much higher resolution display, but there's a limit to how much that matters. The current HTC Vive is frequently criticized for delivering a "screen-door effect" because the display isn't quite dense enough to feel fully immersed. The display on the Vive Pro does a lot to fix this, but doing so means your PC needs to work harder to deliver the app you're playing to the headset. The minimum system requirements for the Vive Pro will be noticeably higher than the Vive, which is an important detail to keep in mind when pricing out which setup is best for your needs.

There's a lot to like about the current Vive, in fact it's my favorite of the VR headsets you can buy today. The HTC Vive Pro looks like an amazing upgrade, but only if you really feel the need to improve what you already have. If you already own a Vive, already have your favorite headphones attached, and you aren't sure your PC can deal with the added strain the Pro will put on it, there's probably no need to upgrade. If you don't check all of those boxes, or you're starting out fresh and want your first VR headset to be something that will last you a long time, the Vive Pro is going to be the one to buy.

More options later

There are some things about the Vive Pro we don't know yet. HTC plans to make the headset itself available as a paid upgrade for existing Vive owners, but there's more to this kit. HTC is planning to release updated motion controllers that are not the often-hyped Steam Knuckles controllers, and the tracking lighthouses are going to be updated later this year as well.

HTC has been tight-lipped about the updated controllers, but the other part of the SteamVR Tracking 2.0 system has been spotted in the wild already. The new Lighthouses are designed to be mounted similarly to the existing tracking boxes, but now have curves faces to better distribute infrared light over a wider area. One of the big features of these updated sensors is the ability to set up larger tracking areas for play. This means not only can you wander around in an even larger area for games, it will be easier for multiple people to use Vive systems in a single trackable area.

That's an exciting idea, but how well does that translate to the home? Not very well, according to Steam's documentation on the average size of the Vive users home tracking spaces. That documentation suggests many HTC Vive owners aren't coming anywhere near pushing the boundaries of the existing space limitations, so this move is likely more for commercial uses. It's still a very cool option to have, but until we know more about what makes these controllers special it's not clear this updated tracking system will have a huge impact on home gameplay.

Which should you buy?

Right now, the HTC Vive is an excellent VR system with heaps of games and hands-down the best tracking system for really feeling like you are in the game. If you absolutely must have a great VR experience right now, the Vive will serve you well.

See at Amazon

But if you're planning on being a VR explorer for the long haul, wait until April 5, 2018 for the expected release of the Vive Pro. It's going to cost more at $799 compared to the new $499 price of the original Vive, but what you're going to get out of that experience is going to matter a lot more long term. Additionally, anyone who purchases a Vive Pro between now and June 2018 will get a free six-month Viveport subscription.

See at Microsoft Store

As an unlikely and no doubt most expensive third option, you could also get a standard Vive right now and be ready for when HTC allows existing owners to make the upgrade to the Pro.

What about Windows Mixed Reality? Here's the Samsung HMD Odyssey compared to the Vive Pro!

Updated March 19, 2018: We've refreshed this article to include pricing and release information for the Vive Pro.

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.