Valve Index: Quick Review
VR has undergone a technological metamorphosis since it went mainstream years ago. Right now, VR is broken into 2 categories: headsets connected to consoles and computers like the PlayStation VR and Rift S, and self-contained and portable headsets like the Oculus Quest.
Valve recently unveiled the next big thing VR enthusiasts been waiting for – Valve Index. The PC-tethered VR headset is created and manufactured by Valve Corporation and runs on the popular SteamVR platform. There is no denying that the Index is great and arguably the best in the market.
This high-end product from Valve has everything you’d expect on a premium VR headset – solid visuals, believable VR presence, excellent hardware design, plush cushioning and the coolest controllers in VR history. But is it worth $999? Let’s find out.
What we like
- Amazing resolution
- Wider FOV
- Awesome audio
- Incredibly comfortable
- Finger-tracking controllers
- Removable cushion
- Space for glasses
- Backward compatibility with the HTC Vive and Vive Pro controllers
What we don’t like
- High price tag
- Inconvenient wired connection
- Frustrating setup
The Valve Index features 2 RGB LCD running at 1440×1600 pixels. It is capable of an impressive 120 HZ refresh date.
The headset is as comfortable as it gets if you ask me, and it has extra cushion at the back, which means more comfort. It also comes with an adjustable strap that goes over the head to the rear. There’s also a knob at the back to adjust the lenses.
The material on the interior of the cushions is a soft fabric, and is removable for cleaning. It gets better, drumroll, please. The kit includes a rear bumper that comes in handy for people with smaller heads and kids too.
Who is this product for?
Valve Index is clearly not meant for everyone. The manufacturers of the Index aimed at getting an upgrade from other VR headsets for PC gamers and geeks giving them realism in their virtual experience. First time gamers who wish to have an immersive first experience should try cheaper headsets like the Pansonite 3D VR Glasses.
The Valve Index VR kit is inclusive of Headset, 2 Valve Index controllers, 2 lanyards, 5m headset tether cable, “trident” cable, headset power supply, two base-station power supplies/power adapter plugs/mounting hardware, a cleaning cloth and a quick setup guide. You connect the index to your PC using the USB 3.0 and display port connectors.12V of power is required to be supplied to the headset using an adapter that comes with the kit.
Overview of Features
The Index headset itself does not look much different than the Vive or Rift, but you’ll notice some notable upgrades if you look closely. This headset emphasizes comfort and user experience. Valve wanted a headset that users could wear for hours without feeling fatigued, and they did a great job with the Index! You will notice a generous amount of plush cushioning and a dial to help you adjust the distance of the lenses to your eyes.
Let’s talk display. Instead of the lower-resolution OLED panels on 1st Gen headsets, Valve Index uses two ultra-low persistence 1440 by 1600 per eye LCD panels. The Valve LCD set provides 50 percent more subpixels, providing more sharpness than an OLED panel at the same resolution. There is a reduced illumination period of 0.333ms to 0.530ms, which is dependent on the frame rate.
Most headsets have a 90Hz refresh rate. The headset runs at 120Hz with an additional experimental 144Hz mode. Assuming your PC can actually reach the higher frame rates required, the headset will increase smoothness and realism of the virtual experience and eliminate motion sickness. Compared to its predecessors, Index has slightly muted colors.
The Index offers superior image persistence compared to first-gen headsets. It comes with a broader field of view of 130 degrees, which is 20 degrees more than Vive. Being able to see more of the world makes a significant difference. The FOV can be altered by turning the knob on the side. If you are wearing glasses, you might be forced to give up some field of view to accommodate the glasses and avoid scratching the lenses.
The Index gives you an unbeatable audio experience, which is essential in VR. The near-field speakers deliver a booming and clear sound that feels like it’s coming from all over, which is exceptional. The Index has an inbuilt microphone and he speakers hover on the sides without really making contact with your ears. With no pressure on your ears, you won’t be easily tired from staying in VR for an extended period.
The index controllers, also known as the knuckles, are another hallmark feature of this headset. They have conduction sensors that are pressure sensitive and detect which fingers you are holding down. You can make any hand gestures you would do in real life like grabbing objects or pointing. The 87 sensors on the controllers open the door for new types of VR interactions.
The issue of grip is also looked into as these controllers have a distinctive adjustable strap that wraps around your knuckles.
Despite the mind-blowing features, the Index is still a wired PC VR headset relying on external sensors. Setup can be daunting, especially for first time VR users. You still need to set up the external sensors somehow. Getting the whole thing calibrated perfectly can take hours.
The Index uses an external lighthouse tracking system, which is different from the ones in Vive and Oculus. It comes with an ample tracking volume, which can be paired with up to 4 base stations and an extended diagonal range of up to 10m*10m play space.
- Top VR gaming library: Blast, slash and soar your way through the top library in VR gaming. Oculus Rift S lets you play hundreds of games and exclusives already available in the Oculus store, with so much more to come.
- Improved optics: Stare down the competition with next-generation lenses and a sharper display. Improved optics deliver bright, vivid colors and reduced “screen-door” effect.
- Ergonomic design: keep your head in the game thanks to a Halo headband redesigned with speed in mind. Rift S stays securely and comfortably in place with a quick twist of the Fit wheel, so it can take-or double take-your fastest reactions.
- Oculus touch controllers: arm yourself with our updated Oculus touch controllers. Your slashes, throws and grab appear in VR with intuitive, realistic Precision, transporting your hands and gestures right into the game.
- Oculus insight tracking: take a step forward with Oculus insight. It translates your movements into VR No matter which way you're facing and provides room-scale tracking without external Sensors.
Some users have complained about the pricing of the product. The Oculus Rift S is a worthy alternative if you don’t have $999 to spare. Yes, it has a lower resolution and refresh rate than the Valve Index, but also offers a pleasant visual experience. There are plenty of VR games and exclusives in the Oculus store. Setting up is easy as insight tracking removes the need for external sensors. This means that you can get the mind-blowing experience at a pocket-friendly rate.
Here is a link that gives a bit more in-depth information regarding the unboxing, setup, and use of the whole VR kit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p1e_JSol8s
Valve Index is a good reminder that there’s still a place for high-end VR. If you already have a Vive or Vive Pro and just want to upgrade to the Index headset, you can just buy the hardware.
We all want to get value for our money, so why not give it a try to get a piece of what the Valve Index offers. From the comfort of the headset to the clear sound, to the fantastic tracking system and wait for it, amazingly mind-blowing controllers there’s everything to like.