Valve has a huge reputation in the gaming industry and with the same reputation, in 2019 it launched its first VR headset. Valve Index VR Kit is one of the finest VR kits in the market.
The company announced the launch of this headset on April 30, 2019, and released it on June 28, 2019.
Currently, it is the only VR headset that Valve develops and manufacture. Moreover, the pricing of this headset is all ready to surprise you. But when you go through its features, you might not consider its cost price anymore.
Hence, in further readings, you will discover the hardware specifications, software support, pricing, usage and, availability of this headset.
Valve Index VR Kit | Upgrade your VR Experience
The index is the second-generation VR headset which works on Windows and Linux Operating Systems. Valve is known for developing high-end games and Index is considered to be the launch console for Valve’s upcoming games.
Index is also developed by the same team which collaborated with HTC to release Vive headset in 2016. The development of this amazing headset was started in 2015.
You might be surprised by the fact that in the 4th quarter of 2019, Valve sold an estimate of 103,000 headsets out of a total of 149,000 headsets to date ( March 15, 2020).
The reason behind this sudden demand was the announcement of the release of Half-life: Alyx which is Valve’s exclusive VR game. Valve announced that buyers who bought Index VR Kit in 2019 will receive this amazing game for free.
If you had not bought this headset in 2019, then sorry you won’t receive this game for free. However, if you buy this headset now, then you will be fortunate enough to try Half-life: Alyx before Oculus and Vive users.
Due to the above announcement, almost all the units of Valve Index were sold out in all 31 countries except Japan. Moreover, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Valve suffered a shortage of production and supply of VR kits in the market.
To know more about this headset, let’s go through its specifications first.
Valve Index VR Kit Specifications
- Display Used: RGB LCD Display
- 2880 x 1600 (for both eyes)
- 1440 x 1600 (per eyes)
- Refresh Rate: 80Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz
- Field of View: 130º
- Operating System: Windows OS and Linux OS
- Stereo 960 x 960 pixel
- global shutter
- RGB (Bayer)
- Optics Used:
- Double element
- canted lens design
- Adjustable Ergonomics:
- Head size
- speaker positions
- Rear cradle adapter included
- Adjustable IPD: 58mm – 70mm of range
- System Connectivity:
- USB 3.0
- 2x 3.5 mm Audio Jack
- Display Port 1.2
- Cameras Used:
- Front Facing stereo cameras with 960 x 960 resolution
- Controllers Used: Valve Controllers a.k.a. Knuckles controllers
- Audio Input/Output:
- built-in dual microphone array
- built-in headphones
- 3.5mm stereo audio jack
- Tracking Technology:
- Uses SteamVR 2.0 sensors
- But compatible with SteamVR 1.0 and 2.0 base stations
As you go through these specifications, you can easily witness some major differences in the specs of Valve Index and other VR headsets in the market.
The biggest advantage of this headset is that it comes with backward compatibility which supports Vive and Vive Pro controllers. Moreover, this compatibility provides you the back support for Vive and Vive Pro base stations.
Hence, if you have old OG Vive or Vive Pro with base stations and controllers, then you do not need to buy the full VR kit of Valve Index. You just need the headset and game on.
Display of Valve Index
Most people might argue that this headset comes with an LCD display while other high-end headsets in the market come with Pentile OLED or even AMOLED display. What they need is, they need to read the specifications clearly.
The headsets come with an RGB LCD display which is far better than most of the OLED displays in the market. The display used in this headset provides 50% more pixels as compared to an OLED display.
Talking about refresh rates, then this display can operate at max 144Hz which is highest provided by any VR developer in the market. However, due to technical reasons, I would suggest you operate the headset at 120Hz.
The reason is clear, at higher frame rates, the frames start flickering and our eyes are not capable enough to track this flickering due to smooth pursuit.
Hence, 90Hz to 120Hz is considered the most appropriate refresh settings for consumer-level VR headsets. Moreover, the higher the refresh rates, the higher will be the power consumption. Hence, choose your settings accordingly.
Now, the most important aspect that I always consider before buying a headset is its field of view. Unfortunately, other headsets in the market are not able to provide FOV more than 110º. But, Valve has managed to provide us the FOV up to 130º.
As the FOV increases, the level of immersion of the user also increases. Hence, in the near future, we might witness a Valve coming up with headset providing FOV close to 180º.
Audio Immersion by Valve Index
Unlike HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Valve Index comes with a pair of “ultra near-field full range, off-aural headphones”. The headphones employes BMR drivers which are used to create accurate and highly immersive low-frequency sounds.
The headphones are designed to provide an off-ear immersive experience. This technique allows the sound to freely flow and interact with the geometry and design of your head and ears. Hence, the users feel that sound is coming from an external virtual element.
You can even adjust the position of the speakers in the headset according to your comfort. With all these features, you can enjoy your immersive experience without even sacrificing sound quality.
Tracking Capabilities of Valve Index
As discussed above, Index VR headset supports SteamVR 2.0 sensors and is also compatible with SteamVR 1.0 and 2.0 base stations. Hence, you can use your old Vive and Vive Pro base stations (if you have).
The new SteamVR 2.0 sensors come with 160º x 115º Field of View. Each and every sensor comes with a tracking range of 7m. However, with up to 4 sensors, you can create a playspace of 10m x 10m.
These upgraded sensors are now equipped with a single-rotor design hence it provides us with wider FOV and increased range. Moreover, the laser sweeping has been increased to 100 times a second which helps in easier tracking of photonic sensors present on headset and controllers.
Hence, your body motion can now be tracked across all postures and actions eliminating the problem of occlusion.
Valve Index Controllers
The headset comes with advanced Index controllers which were also known as Knuckles Controllers during their development. As we discussed above, Index VR kit supports backward compatibility. Hence, you can even use your OG Vive and Vive Pro controllers too (if you have).
The controllers come with 7+ hrs battery life. Moreover, the controllers are accompanied with 900mA fast charging and 1100mAh capacity Li-Ion polymer battery.
The controllers support the HD LRA haptic feedback. So, you will not with feedback delays.
The controller features the following input buttons:
- A Button
- B Button
- System Button
- Track Button with Force Sensor
- Grip Force Sensor
- Finger Tracking
To accompany the tracking system, the controllers are employed with the same tracking technology as that of the headset. The controllers also support the backward compatibility with Base stations 1.0 and Base stations 2.0.
VR Content offered by Valve Index
As you know, Steam is the ultimate platform where you can play, discuss and even create your own games. Indirectly it is the largest platform that hosts VR and non-VR PC gaming titles.
Moreover, Steam is owned by Valve hence you can play each and every game available on Steam. It doesn’t matter whether the game you own is Oculus Rift exclusive or Vive exclusive. With Index VR headset you can enjoy them all.
Hence, Valve has the highest variety of VR content to be experienced. All credit goes to Steam.
MUST-READ: How to setup HTC Vive?
Pricing of Valve Index
Valve Index is one of the best VR headsets in the market. Its unmatched performance and best-in-class tracking performance can easily win any tech enthusiast’s support and high grading by tech critic.
Hence, owning this headset is going to put a burden on your pocket. You need to spend at least $999 to own this headset. Moreover, if you own the full VR kit, then you spend more amount of money depending upon the VR extensions you are opting to buy with.
Availability of Valve Index
Valve index is available on the Steam platform with all the possible extensions with which you want to buy the headset. You can buy the full VR kit, or you can buy only Base Stations, only controllers, etc. You can customize your order according to your choice.
If you are ready to buy this headset after reviewing its specifications and pricing, there is one more issue you need to cope-up with. Till now, Valve Index is only available in 31 major countries.
Hence, you might not be able to buy this headset directly from the Steam platform.
Instead of buying it from Steam, you can order this headset from Amazon. But buying this headset from Amazon is going to cost you a lot more than the pricing of this headset. The reason is the import and export duty on the headset which you need to pay to the Amazon.
So, you can wait till the headset is available in your country or you can go with Amazon if you are not able to buy this headset from Steam.
Should you buy Valve Index?
After reading the full review and all the specifications of this headset, you might be clear about your choice. Valve Index is the best VR headset that you can buy to date.
Moreover, if you see the pricing of HTC Vive Cosmos and HTC Vive Pro Eye Kit, the pricing of Index VR kit should not affect you much. The headsets by HTC and Oculus do not even stand close to Valve Index.
So, in my opinion, if you can afford this headset, then you must buy it. However, if pricing is still an issue, then you should start saving your money and go for this headset until a better technology comes into the market.
But, if you are facing the availability issue, I have discussed 2 options with you already.
If you have any doubts regarding Valve Index or you have any queries regarding anything in the VR industry, you are always welcomed to our VR/AR Discussions forum. Moreover, you can reach us through our social media handles.