Cables are a necessary evil of VR gaming on a high-end headset like the HTC Vive or Vive Pro. These devices need to be tethered to a powerful gaming PC to run smoothly but room-scale VR gaming can be frustrating when you can feel cables constantly tugging at the back of your head or knotting up around your legs. There's no better way to ruin your gaming immersion than falling flat on your face because you've been too busy playing to notice you're all tied up.
HTC has been teasing us with the promise of a wireless adapter for a while now, but that's still "coming soon". The good news is there are other solutions out there if you're looking to ditch those cables. TPCAST offers one such system.
How does wireless VR work?
TPCAST offers a wireless adapter that replaces the cables in the Vive's system with transmitters and receivers. This requires you to make some small changes the setup of your HTC Vive, but nothing too taxing.
The link box for the HTC Vive is plugged into a transmitter instead of directly into the headset. This little box then broadcasts the audio and visuals through the air to the receiver that's installed on the Vive itself.
With this upgrade in place, you're then free to enjoy virtual reality wirelessly - meaning all the fun of dodging, ducking and diving can be done in the real world without all the nasty cable hazards.
TPCAST promises a less than 2ms latency and a seamlessness to the upgrade which maintains video and audio quality, with all the joyful freedom of wireless. But how do you get this upgrade?
Where to buy the adapter
The first step to ditching your VR cables and upgrading your headset is to make the purchase. The TPCAST wireless adapter is available from various different places including:
Once purchased, you just need to wait for it to arrive, then get stuck in with the installation.
In the box there are several different bits of kit which look fairly intimidating at first, but actually are pretty simple to install. The full kit includes:
- HMD wireless receiver
- PC transmitter
- Power box
- 20,100mAh battery pack
- Long three-in-one cable
- Short HDMI cable
- Nylon mesh battery bag and belt strap
- Wi-Fi router
- Network cable
Each of these has its own role to play in the final result and they all need to be carefully installed to get the system working.
How to set up the wireless adapter
The first step in the setup process is to disconnect the original cables from the headset, these are the cables you'd normally plug into the link box and connect to your gaming machine.
Scroll through the galleries below to see the various setup steps.
Removing the cables
Find a flat surface and lay the HTC Vive on it. Push your thumbs gently against the top of the headset where the HTC logo sits and the wires enter the device. Pushing down and forward will remove this cover and give you access to the cables and the inputs.
Underneath you'll see the HDMI, USB, power and audio cables plugged into the corresponding holes. Unplug these cables and gently pull them out. You'll need to work them through the hole in the cover in order to get them out properly. They also need removing fully from the head strap.
Once that's done you can then remove the cover from the head strap too. You'll need both the cables and the cover later, so keep them nearby.
Installing the wireless receiver
The TPCAST wireless receiver then needs to be installed in place of these wires. There's a cable included which has three connections on one end and two on the other, as well as a small HDMI cable. These all need to be used to connect the receiver.
Push the three cables through the loops underneath the receiver, starting at the end marked TPCAST. Once that's done, push the head strap through the same gap underneath. This should result in the two ports (USB and HDMI) on the receiver facing forward towards the headset.
You can then refit the HTC Vive cover to the strap too and push the cables through the hole in that cover. The cables then logically plug into the headset and the receiver itself. You'll see they're clearly labelled to help you get them all in the right place.
Make sure all the wireless at plugged in fully, then replace the cover. You'll need to push it quite far forward, line it up and push it back onto the headset.
The other end of the cables can then be run through the rear support on the head strap and are ready to plug into the battery pack.
The power pack adds the power in place of the juice you'd otherwise get straight from the cables. This is obviously essential to powering the HTC Vive and allowing you to play wirelessly.
Included in the box is an Anker 20,100mAh battery. This is capable of delivering around five hours of playtime, but it does require around 10 hours to fully charge using MicroUSB and a standard phone adapter. We'd recommend ensuring the battery is fully charged before you get started.
Interestingly, these batteries are hot-swappable. This means if you don't want your gaming interrupted because the battery has run out of power, you could buy a spare to ensure one is always charged or charging while you play.
Plug the power and USB cable from the headset into the power box and then plug that into the Anker battery pack. You'll see the blue lights on the battery pack light up to show it's connected and how much power it has left.
You can then put both of these in the protective bag for safe keeping. There's also a belt included that you can run through that bag to sling over your should or wear on your waist while you play. The battery is fairly heavy so it's worth doing that rather than trying to find a pocket to put it in.
Setting up the transmitter
Now you need to install the transmitter. This box does the legwork to broadcast the signals from your gaming PC to the headset. You also need the original cables you removed from the headset in order to connect it as it plugs into the HTC Vive's link box and then into your PC.
Take the 3-in-1 cable from the Vive and plug the HDMI and power cable with the light grey markings into the transmitter. The transmitter needs to be installed up high - TPCAST recommends placing it near a base station with a similar view of the room. It comes with a handy hole for screwing in a tripod, but we found we could also just pop it on a bookshelf or cupboard top as long as it was positioned to broadcast across the room.
You'll notice the USB cable has nowhere to plug in, but that doesn't matter as it will still work. The other end of the cable plugs into the link box as normal.
Installing the router
The next step is to connect the TPCAST router. This helps support the wireless broadcasting. It needs power to work and an ethernet connection to your PC. If you use ethernet for your broadband connection, you can plug your cable into this router and then connect the ethernet from the router into your machine.
Pairing the transmitter and receiver
With everything plugged in and powered on, you then need to pair the transmitter and receiver. This is a simple process that requires putting the transmitter near the headset and pressing the buttons on each until the lights go out. Once that happens, after a few seconds the lights come back on and the devices are paired.
You only need to do this for the first initial setup, so after that, it should be a breeze to game.
Software and final setup
With everything plugged in and paired, you can run the TPCAST softwareto finalise setup. This software ensures everything is setup and working properly. It also talks you through the final steps like ensuring the battery pack is connected to the Wi-Fi on the router properly.
Once that's all done you're told to launch Steam VR and start the headset.
We found this set up worked surprisingly seamlessly and then we were away gaming with glorious wireless VR. Any niggles are covered in the FAQs if you have problems with setup, but it's usually something simple like cables not being plugged in fully or your machine needing a reboot.
The official set up video is useful viewing too:
Does the TPCAST work with the Deluxe Audio Strap?
If you've already upgraded your HTC Vive with the official Deluxe Audio Strap and are wondering if the TPCAST wireless adapter works with that too, you'll be pleased to hear it does.
The installation process is exactly the same too.
Does the TPCAST adapter work with HTC Vive Pro?
TPCAST has told us that the current wireless does not work with the HTC Vive Pro but there may be another adapter in the future which will work with this VR headset so you can enjoy wireless VR with that too.