Worth the cost to be wire-free.
The HTC Vive is still the most powerful virtual reality headset you can buy, thanks to its go-almost-anywhere room scale tracking. But when you’re shackled to a bulky cable, that room scale experience can feel a bit restricting. Enter the HTC Vive Wireless Adapter (See it on Amazon); a small device that attaches to your headset for truly untethered gaming. It’s available for both the regular Vive and the Vive Pro, though the Pro version costs an extra $60.
HTC Vive Wireless Adapter Set-Up
First, you’ll need to install a small PCIe 1x card in your PC, and a cable that connects to a webcam-like sensor you mount to your monitor. This an immediate deal breaker if you’re using a VR-ready laptop or small form factor Mini-ITX PC, since they wouldn’t have any extra PCIe slots to use. And even if you have a normal desktop, the process is a bit clunky.
On my motherboard the PCIe card didn’t work in some PCIe slots at all. Windows couldn’t recognize it in my secondary 16x slot, so I had to move it to one of the actual 1x slots closer to my graphics card. To be fair, the instructions did say to use a 1x slot if you have a free one, but it puzzles me why a 16x slot flat-out wouldn’t work. It’s not a show-stopper—just something that makes setup a bit annoying.
After connecting the sensor’s coaxial cable to the PCIe card, you’re supposed to clip the sensor to your monitor, and point at your VR space. Except it wouldn’t clip to my monitor at all—due to the tension in the clip, and the shape of my very-average Dell monitor, it kept sliding off. Putting it on backwards seemed to work (see below), but my mind boggles at why the clip was designed this way. (Side note: since my VR space is in the room next to my PC, I actually had to clip the sensor onto a chair pointing into the other room, with the cable strewn across my office. This is not something most people will have to deal with, but keep it in mind if your VR space is not in front of your PC.)
After that, you’ll need to unplug the three-in-one cable from your headset—which is a bit tough, but doable—and plug in the Wireless Adapter, and clip it onto the headset’s strap. This unfortunately prevents you from using over-ear headphones on the Vive, which is a bummer, but earbuds work just fine (as does HTC’s deluxe audio strap). You’ll also need to clip the adapter’s battery pack to your pants and plug it in via a slightly-too-long USB cable in order to provide power to the headset.
Finally, you’ll install the Vive software, start it up, and pair your headset to the battery pack with a simple button press. Once the software successfully connects, you can start SteamVR and play as normal.
I did, however, run into some issues on my Ryzen-based PC, which would crash to a Blue Screen of Death fairly often while playing—an issue that seems to be rather widespread. For some people it happens instantly, every time, while others seem to experience it more intermittently.
I was able to fix it by disabling XMP and going with default RAM clocks, while others have found different solutions—but there’s still users that are unable to solve the problem entirely. When asked for comment, HTC’s PR team sent me the following statement: “We have seen and are actively looking into multiple reports of Ryzen incompatibility with Vive Wireless Adapter. Our current data shows this is occurring with a subset of Ryzen-based PCs. We will update the community as we learn more.” If you have a Ryzen CPU, you may be able to get it working, or it may be straight up unplayable until HTC fixes whatever problem is plaguing the adapter.
HTC Vive Wireless Adapter – Testing
Those setup grumbles left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, but as soon as I put on the headset and started actually using it, all my annoyances were quickly forgotten. I knew the Vive’s cable was irritating, but I had no idea wireless VR could be this freeing.
Being able to lean, crouch, and dodge around your living room without being tied to a cable is something you need to experience to truly appreciate. While the cable wasn’t exactly a hinderance before, I was always aware of its presence. With the Wireless Adapter, there’s one less thing in the back of my mind taking me out of the game.
The Wireless Adapter is even better when you play with friends. One of the biggest joys of VR, in my opinion, is watching other people experience it for the first time. But while I trust myself to stay in one place and not get tangled up in the cables, my friends aren’t always so nimble, and having the Wireless Adapter makes everything a bit easier.
It’s remarkably lightweight, too—I barely noticed it was there when I was playing. I also didn’t feel any latency in the Intel WiGig connection, or quality degradation in the graphics. Battery life wasn’t out of this world, but it lasted for about two hours of playtime—easily more than I’d usually be able to go in one sitting. So while setup was a bit of a pain, especially if your arrangement is less than optimal, it’s a great (albeit pricey) addition to the Vive.
The HTC Vive Wireless Adapter has an MSRP of $299.99, and is usually the same price on Amazon: