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HTC Vive Flow is a foldable VR headset – advantages and disadvantages

HTC Vive Flow foldable VR headset
HTC Vive Flow foldable VR headset

The HTC Vive Flow is a new foldable VR headset.  Not counting Google Cardboard viewers, this is the first foldable VR headset I’m aware of.  Should you buy it?

We are arguably living in one of the most stressful times of the recent past, with a raging pandemic isolating us from our family and friends.  HTC Vive Flow is a VR headset that is designed not for gaming but for mental health.  How well does it work?

HTC Vive Flow uses your Android phone as a controller
HTC Vive Flow uses your Android phone as a controller

Advantages

Vive Flow has several well thought-out features.  It’s foldable and perhaps looks a bit more familiar to non-gamers than typical VR headsets.  It is a standalone headset, which means it does not need to be tethered to a PC, making it easier to simply pick up and use.  Like the current generation of VR headsets, it has six degrees of freedom.  This means it will be able to track your movement not only as you rotate, but as you move up, down, left, right, forward or backward, making it feel more immersive.

It has ergonomic adjustments such as separate diopters for each eye, a removable face plate, a fan to keep your face cool and avoid fogging, invisible speakers, and arms that adjust to various head sizes.

To make Vive Flow as light as possible, it uses an external battery pack.

Here’s a more detailed product video:

Disadvantages

Although the Vive Flow has intriguing elements, they’ve made what seem to be questionable design decisions.  First, it is compatible with Android only, and only with high-end Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S21.  If they’re targeting this to the yoga crowd and they could only make it compatible with one phone system, I would have thought they would make it for iPhone (my apologies if you find this stereotyping offensive).

Second, it has no dedicated controllers.  Instead, it uses your phone as a controller.  This means that users will have to pair their phone with the Vive Flow in order to use it, besides worrying about draining their phone’s battery.  IMHO, it would have been better for them to just add a touchpad to the headset itself, similar to the Samsung Gear VR.

Third, at $499, it is quite expensive given its limited functions.  It has a much smaller number of apps compared to the Oculus Quest, and without dedicated 6DOF controllers, it will not be very usable for gaming.  Sure, it’s not designed for that, but if it has such limited functions, why is it priced much more than the $299 Oculus Quest, which can do everything that the Flow can do, has a much larger number of apps, and has more features such as two dedicated 6DOF controllers?   Even if you only want to use VR for relaxation and not gaming, Quest would be a more practical choice unless you absolutely needed to have a VR headset that was foldable.

Vive Flow is available for pre-order direct from HTC.