The HTC Vive XR Elite Made Me Like VR Hardware

The HTC Vive XR Elite Made Me Like VR Hardware

VR goes repairable, and it's awesome.

When VR headsets started hitting the shelves in the wayback days of 2016, I’ll admit I really didn’t get it. They were awkward and clunky, and moving around was next to impossible. And yeah, I do get motion sick, so maybe I’m not the target market. That said, tearing down the XR Elite felt like what VR hardware always should have been.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Vive XR Elite Video Teardown

Check out the video teardown, or scroll on down for some more in-depth chatter.

Vive’s global head of product already hosted a teardown detailing many of the decisions that went into making this headset possible. What really struck me was that they used screws “not only to make this headset more robust and reliable, but also it’s so easy to repair [compared] to using something like glue.” It still blows my mind that companies are vocal about repair. While the video features heavy disclaimers and a dubious warranty warning, I love to see thoughtful designers in the wild. But do their intentions really hold up?

Vive XR Elite Repairability

Turns out, yeah, they do. On the micro scale, almost every repair can be achieved with a single Torx driver and a prying tool. The only other driver you’ll need is an ultra-common Phillips 00, and that’s only for the deepest dive. The clips are well-thought out, using forgiving flexible plastics. And there’s virtually no glue.

On a macro level, the removable battery pack alone is enough to make a fixer weep tears of joy. The rear headrest battery can even be hot-swapped, meaning they really expect you to switch batteries on the regular—granted they don’t sell the packs just yet. And in general, disassembly gives access to the important components first, leaving the fiddly bits—namely the specially-calibrated cameras—for last.

Vive XR Elite Battery Pack

Speaking of the battery pack, it hits the sweet spot of well-balanced and high-capacity, while maintaining a classic square form factor without glue. We love a curved battery, but they’re fiddly, less time-tested, and often used for structural stability—aka glued down tight. Glued down batteries may help eke out a bit more battery life and keep things slim, but the cost is high. Batteries wear out, they need to be replaced, and Vive knows it.

But enough about my repair-focused geekery, let’s take a look at these lenses shall we?

Vive XR Elite Lenses

From left to right: labeled cover dial, knurled sheath, pancake lens and adjustment rail cylinder, diopter, octagonal LCD, full assembly.

The lens mechanisms combine a pancake lens with a diopter that allows precision focus for myopia compensation. More simply, these lenses can replace (most) glasses in the virtual world, making for a much more comfortable experience. The adjustment is achieved thanks to a movable diopter which, when rotated, slides upward(away from the pancake lens and screen) or downward(towards them), to get the perfect level of focus. The display is a 2K octagonal LCD, and, aside from the pancake lens itself, the whole assembly is secured by repair-friendly screws.

Vive XR Elite Main Board Chips

Want to dive a little deeper? We’ve got some silicon for you, too. 128 GB of onboard Samsung storage, 12 GB of Samsung RAM over the XR2 processor, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth by Qualcomm. Check out our community chip ID for more. Oh, and one more thing. There’s an extra USB-C in here to connect—as yet unreleased—peripherals to this headset. We love a modular upgrade, too bad the base price is already pretty steep.

Is the XR Elite the Future of VR?

Clearly a lot of thought and consideration went into designing this device. It’s no overwrought, glue-filled Meta, and certainly no first gen chaotically cabled mess. Vive seems to know its market—and its tech—and it’s working for a repairable future. Could they learn a thing or two about DIY repair? Sure. But couldn’t we all? If VR hardware takes after this headset from now on, I’ll be a happy fixer.