Testing & Benchmarking the HP Reverb G2 vs. the HP G1 and HTC Vive Pro
BTR has been reviewing and benchmarking VR games and hardware since 2016 when we started out with a Rift CV1 and then upgraded to a Vive Pro two years later. Three weeks ago, we received a Reverb G2 on loan from Hewlett Packard (HP). Coincidentally, we received a Reverb G1 from Sean, BTR’s VR sim specialist, that same day. Although the Reverb G2’s specifications are similar to the G1’s – 2160 x 2160 resolution per eye – HP claims that the new G2 is a major upgrade. Since the Reverb G2 and the Vive Pro each represent competing VR platforms, we will evaluate and compare them with a strong emphasis on benchmarking their performance in VR games.
A lot has changed since our original review when we wrote that the main reason we picked the Rift over the Vive is because we are mobility-limited. Six years ago, the Oculus Rift offered great “seated” experiences while Vive featured more precise-tracking for large standing “room-sized” experiences. Since then, most SteamVR games allow for awesome seated experiences, and we said good-bye to the Rift for the much more immersive gaming of the higher resolution Vive Pro and its untethered wireless experience.
The Vive Pro at 1440×1600 per eye resolution, although it is a noticeable upgrade over the Rift CV1’s 1080×1200 per eye resolution, the “screendoor” effect (the unlighted space between pixels) is still visible, and we were intrigued by the claims that the Reverb has eliminated it by using improved lenses and and and an LCD display at 2160×2160 resolution per eye. Also, Sean told us that the Reverb is the perfect headset for flight and racing sims, and we just had to try it. We now have three headsets that we are comparing for this review – the Pro, the G1, and the G2.
The Reverb G2 at $599 and the Vive Pro are still competitors, but the Vive Pro is only available from Vive in Europe. The Pro headset by itself, it costs around $799. Vive has replaced the Pro with the Pro Eye and it is aimed mostly at developers and for professional use, but it still requires two base stations ($199 each) and two controllers ($199 each) making the full kit considerably more expensive than the complete Reverb G2 kit. The Vive Cosmo is Vive’s current consumer platform.
The State of VR Today
Since 2016, BTR has continued to focus on VR, and not only do we review selected VR games, we benchmark and chart their frametimes and unconstrained framerates (the performance headroom) with multiple video cards from AMD and NVIDIA using FCAT-VR.
From the very beginning, we realized that VR is the future, but also that mass adoption is still years off, unlike the ridiculous predictions the tech press were making as they endlessly hyped VR as the next big thing after the 3DTV fad faded. When it didn’t happen immediately, disappointment that it didn’t meet their own overblown unrealistic expectations caused many of them to bitterly state that VR will never be more than niche, while others are even saying it is dead. Well, this is nonsense as the latest VR reports show.
Valve’s exclusively VR game, Half Life: Alyx, has sold over 2 million copies, and recently Facebook’s CEO said VR will become mainstream as his company pours unlimited resources into VR. He did not specify what mainstream means, but the understanding is that if 10 million users are on one platform, it becomes very profitable to develop for. And we have seen a very steady progression of improving VR games and HMD development. VR is still in its infancy and we have not yet seen the true Next Gen of HMD 2.0 which are probably being developed this year.
However, with the advent of NVIDIA’s ray tracing and AI DLSS upscaling for the desktop and the industry-wide adoption of ray tracing, a whole new world of photorealistic video gaming opens up to PC gamers, and we have confirmation from NVIDIA that this same technology is being applied to VR. AMD has also confirmed that they will continue to support what they call ‘VR Premium’.
VR and AR are growing incredibly fast in the professional world as a multi-billion dollar industry – air and space travel, automotive, healthcare, training and education, as well as designers have adopted VR as essential to their growth, besides entertainment. VR will not stop growing even though VR is still somewhat niche in the gaming world. Weak arguments against VR include that it is difficult to set up; that VR is not physically comfortable, it is isolating, and expensive – or even that it makes the player feel too “small” in a big game world. Perhaps some of this was true 5 years ago, but no longer.
Most VR games can be played seated, and safeguards are in place to insure users’ comfort. That VR is more isolating than PC gaming is a ridiculous idea as it also offers the same kind of online interaction for gamers, and several HMDs allow VR enthusiasts to monitor what is going on in the real world while inside VR. It is also much less expensive to get into PC VR now than ever before.
The VR experience is different compared with regular video gaming, and the intense feeling of “being there” in an immersive and realistic world simply cannot be conveyed by words or by video. It actually takes entering and interacting within a well-done VR game to make believers out of skeptics. Until recently, few enthusiasts could afford to recreate an arcade-like VR experience at home which is necessary for truly immersive racing and/or flying sims.
In 2016, after the first time this editor stepped into a VR world and crawled under a desk to examine its underside, met a huge dragon face-to-face, stared down into an abyss, and felt the wind while racing in the Indy 500, we became certain that VR will become a significant part of the future of gaming. Watching a full-size Skyrim dragon blasting out fire, or launching fireballs and spells from your own fingertips, or actually feeling the handheld controller thunk as an arrow partially penetrates the shield you are holding for defense, imparts an impressive and immersive realism that conveys the feeling of being “inside” the game. In contrast, pancake games cannot provide more than a window into a game world no matter how large the screen.
We do not suggest that VR is superior to pancake gaming or will replace it. Rather VR is an alternate way to game that is not inferior in any way. VR is not a replacement for gaming on a flat screen – it is a different way to enjoy it. We would much rather play a high-quality video game on a flat screen display rather than play a poorly-implemented VR game.
Since its beginning, VR enthusiasts have demonstrated it to their friends, posted enthusiastically on social media, and purchased all of the good games on Day 1 to “encourage” VR development. VR gaming has continued to grow at a slow and steady pace as the tech press continued to lambaste it because of their inability to comprehend what was happening after their ridiculous predictions of instant adoption failed.
Then the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. VR has become a social media phenomenon and its growth has continued to spread by word of mouth and even the mainstream press has begun to acknowledge it. Gone are the early days of rushed and poorly thought-out VR games, and high-quality full length AAA games have been released and are continuing to be announced. At least 60 games available for the Oculus Quest platform have made over $1 million each in 2020 according to Facebook. Six of these games have raked in above $10 million, and the top Quest game earned above $29 million. And the latest Steam survey acknowledges that HMDs are now at 2% adoption.
So now let’s take a closer look at the Reverb G2 which launched in November 2020 and its evolution from the G1 which launched in March 2019.
We asked HP, ‘Why the G2 over the G1’
We asked HP about the differences between the G1 and the G2. They replied (and we quote):
G2 is a massive upgrade over G1, given how big of an improvement it is at the same price we no longer sell the G1 so ideally they focus on G2. I can guarantee they wont want to use the G1 after trying G2.
Improvements over G1:
- New Valve designed lenses
- Mechanical IPD
- Updated WMR optical calibration methods for new lenses
- New LCD panels (brighter, lower persistence, reduced mura, better contrast and colors)
- New controllers with better ergonomics and industry standard button layout
- Longer and thinner cable, now 6 meters long
- New HMD ergonomic design with magnetically removable facemask
- 4 camera WMR tracking, provides vastly superior controller tracking volume for natural inputs
- Off ear BMR driver headphones from the Valve Index
After spending weeks with the G2 and the G1, we absolutely have to agree. There is no comparison, especially with G2’s superior tracking and its greatly improved clarity over the G1. The Reverb G2 is a much better headset for gaming than the G1.
So let’s get started by unboxing the Reverb G2 on the following page and we will compare it with the G1.