Valve Index VR Kit Review


 Valve Index VR Kit Review

At $999 for the full headset, controllers, and base stations package, the Valve Index is an expensive PC-tethered VR system. The headset itself, while capable, doesn’t do much to rise above the competition besides delivering a smoother, 120Hz refresh rate. The controllers, however, wowed us with their individual finger tracking and much more natural, immersive feel than other VR controllers we’ve tested. They’re the stars of the show, and the reason the Valve Index earns our Editors’ Choice award for tethered VR headsets (though if you already have a Vive headset with base stations, you can add the controllers for $279 and save a ton of money).

The standalone Oculus Quest 2, another Editors' Choice pick, is a much more affordable headset that's simpler to use, lacks cables, and doesn't require a PC or console to work. However, the Index lets you enjoy smoother action, much more advanced graphics, and controllers that are a huge leap ahead of what Oculus uses. The Quest is a good entry-level, all-around VR headset. The Valve Index is for VR enthusiasts and dedicated PC gamers.

Solid, Standard Headset
The Index itself is a fairly cookie-cutter PC-tethered VR headset, with a large, face-mounted display connected to a sturdy adjustable head harness. The entire assembly is black, and looks like a larger and more elaborate version of the Oculus Rift S. The front section is mostly matte black plastic with a glossy black front panel that comes off to reveal a recess with a USB port Valve calls the “frunk.” The frunk currently doesn’t have any official use, nor does Valve have any public plans for the compartment. In theory, it could eventually hold additional sensor modules, but right now it’s effectively useless.

What isn’t useless are the two cameras located below the front plate that provide a unique room view while you’re using SteamVR. The cameras highlight nearby objects with 2D or 3D outlines, letting you know when you’re near anything you can trip even if you’re in the SteamVR Chaperone boundaries. The view also shows your hands, so you can accurately reach out for physical objects while wearing the headset. It’s a much more useful feature than the camera passthrough on the Oculus Rift headsets, because it displays a natural field of view with its 3D tracking rather than the very awkward, limited view you get with a direct camera feed.

SIMILAR PRODUCTS
Oculus Quest 2 Image
editors choice horizontal
4.5
Excellent
Oculus Quest 2
$299.00
See It
at Oculus
Read Our Oculus Quest 2 Review
HTC Vive Cosmos
3.0
Good
HTC Vive Cosmos
$699.99
See It
at Amazon
Read Our HTC Vive Cosmos Review
Playstation VR Headset
editors choice horizontal
4.0
Excellent
Sony PlayStation VR
$463.00
See It
at Amazon
Read Our Sony PlayStation VR Review
Valve Index goggles
(Photo: Molly Flores)
The headset's underside features a utility button that launches the SteamVR overlay; a sliding switch for adjusting the lenses' pupillary distance (PD); and two pinhole microphones. A knob on the headset's right side, where the strut for the harness connects, lets you adjust the lenses' distance from your face. A pair of speakers designed to function just slightly above the ears sit on rotating arms, slightly further back on the struts.



The headset’s harness consists of two, large, curved plastic bands for the back of the head. They're padded with soft memory foam covered in anti-microbial fabric (the same materials as the facemask part of the display) and a fabric strap that goes over the top of the head. The harness' sides connect to the headset through thin, stiff plastic bands that offer a few springy inches of give when you don the headset. The plastic arcs on the back of the harness have a ratcheting dial for tightening the headset securely over your head, and Velcro fasteners let you adjust the top fabric strap’s length for better fit.

If the Index feels loose on your head after making all the possible adjustments, you can use the included foam insert to add an additional layer of thick padding for a more secure fit. After I made some minor adjustments, the headset fit securely and comfortably on my large head, aided largely by the soft fabric and memory foam against my face and the back of my head.

A 16-foot cable runs from the headset, around the left side of the harness, and out the back to connect to a three-foot breakaway cable. The second cable branches off into three connectors: DisplayPort, USB, and Power. The DisplayPort and USB plugs connect to your computer, while the Power port connects to the included power adapter. Yes, the headset requires its own separate power, and its adapter is a wall brick, so make sure you have an open outlet.

Valve Index base stations
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Speaking of plugging things into the wall, the two base stations require their own outlets, and are necessary to track the headset’s position in a room. Each base station is a 3-by-2.5-by-2.5-inch black box with a curved front for holding all of its sensors. Each one has a dedicated wall adapter with an approximately 10-foot cable that ends in an awkward brick. The base stations' screw mounts connect to the included, adjustable stands, and they can be set on a flat surface or mounted on a wall (mounting hardware is included).

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