Even amongst the most ardent VR fans, there's still a general frustration with the resolution level of the current generation of headsets. With the new Vive Pro from HTC, announced this week at CES, users don't get the dreamed-of bump all the way up to 4K per eye (currently only available from speciality manufacturer Pimax), but they do get an increase in resolution of 78% over the previous generation, with first users reporting that the spec bump is appreciable.
The Vive Pro uses OLED display panels (replacing the original LCDs), which is of course appreciated by filmmakers for the accurate color reproduction and excellent contrast with deep blacks they offer. The new resolution is 2800 x 1600, as opposed to the original resolution of 2160 x 1200. The field of view stays roughly the same, with no significant opening in the peripheral vision, so the extra pixels are primarily going to improve image quality.
Driving a display of that resolution at the refresh rates required by VR and 360° video is an impressive feat that will require a powerful graphics card, which is probably the main reason HTC didn't go all the way to 4K; the required graphics power would be prohibitively expensive for most users.
Wireless tethering with the Vive Wireless Adapter will be an optional additional feature for the Vive Pro that will also be backward-compatible with the earlier Vive. With immersive storytelling, it's very distracting to trip over your cables, or to have another observer babysitting you to keep you from getting wound up in your harness. It's especially appreciated that the wireless feature will work with the original Vive, bringing previous owners into the future without abandoning the company's core demographic. Wireless will, of course, require some battery power, but in this case it's a small unit that should easily fit in a pocket.
The same backward compatibility will allow the new Pro to work with other accessories from the original Vive, including the base station, tracker, and controllers. The headset is also redesigned, focusing on better balance and moving more weight to the back so it won't feel so front heavy, and integrated headphones for ambisonic sound. As immersive sound is one of the key items lacking from the original Vive, and as one of the key elements that helps create a truly surround experience, this is a welcome addition to the headset.