It seems like every month a new wireless solution is announced for the HTC Vive, such as Intel’s recently revealed WiGig, but at present there’s only two that look set to arrive with consumers in the near future: the TPCast and DisplayLink. VRFocus has been hands-on with both of these devices, weighed-up the pros and cons of each, and deduced the value of each proposition.
The time spent with both devices has been offered to VRFocus by way of pre-release editions of the devices, and therefore some changes may come into effect before the official western launch (TPCast is now available in China). However, both devices were very near their final version, and as such the commentary below has significant merit.
The first wireless adapter announced for the HTC Vive head-mounted display (HMD), the TPCast wasbirthed through HTC’s own Vive X Accelerator programme. The initial announcement of the device caused a significant stir amongst the virtual reality (VR) community, however it’s since been several months and a western release has been slow to follow.
For a device with which the ultimate goal is a wireless solution, the TPCast actually adds a considerable amount of new cabling. It is essentially a transmitter of course – a very low latency one at that – that removes the requirement of the HTC Vive being directly tethered to a PC. The device clips onto the HMD’s headstrap adding some considerable weight, but sits well directly on top of the user’s head.
The video delivery of the TPCast is near-flawless. Using several VR titles – including a pixel-perfect sniper videogame – there was no noticeable drops in framerate or colour compression. However, the transmitter for the device does have a limited scope and could well cause some issues in both these regards if not positioned with a direct-and-clear line-of-sight, similar to the HTC Vive’s own lighthouse units.
And this brings us to the next aspect of the device: audio. The quality of the audio is not in debate – it’s arguably as good with the TPCast as with a wired connection – however because the TPCast is mounted atop the head using overhead headphones causes some difficulty, potentially limiting your options to earbuds.
The DisplayLink wireless adapter, developed by UK USB specialists DisplayLink, offers a more compact design than the TPCast. Despite having received far less attention than the TPCast, the DisplayLink device is actually a very competitive design; achieving a similar quality of visual and audio fidelity with a far less complicated set-up.
The DisplayLink does however seem to have a different approach to battery operation. Two editions of the device have been shown, one with a pocket-mounted battery (similar to the TPCast) and another in which the battery was inserted into the device itself. This latter option does add considerable weight of course, but does make the DisplayLink a much more versatile option when sharing a single HMD with multiple users.
Furthermore, the DisplayLink mounts on the rear of the HTC Vive’s headstrap, meaning that the TPCast’s potential headphone issue is a non-entity. However, the device does require a repositioning of the HMD on your head for comfort, which may take some getting used to.
Obviously, both devices have their flaws. The TPCast is a complicated set-up but balances well on the head against the HTC Vive’s weight. The Display Link is slightly less comfortable, but a better form factor gives it leverage. Ultimately, a lot of HTC Vive owners will make the decision based upon release date and price,