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Valve Index review: high-powered VR at a high-end price

Gaming company Valve pioneered VR as we know it today, creating a sophisticated tracking system and prototyping several headsets. It runs the popular SteamVR platform, and it’s partnered with HTC on the Vive system. But it hasn’t actually produced a VR headset. That’s changing with the Valve Index: a high-end, PC-tethered headset that starts shipping today.

The Valve Index is specialized and expensive even by VR’s standards. It costs $999, which is more than twice as much as the $399 Oculus Rift or $499 HTC Vive. Like those systems, you’ll need a gaming PC to use it. If you need convenience and portability, it’s not the right choice. You can find headsets with higher resolutions or wider fields of view. But for people who spend a lot of time in VR, it offers solid visuals, thoughtful hardware design, and the coolest VR controllers on the market.

Good Stuff

  • Good resolution and field of view
  • Comfortable, user-friendly headset
  • Awesome controllers

Bad Stuff

  • Very expensive
  • Lighthouse setup is inconvenient
  • Still tethered to a PC

Buy for $999.00 from Steam

The Index uses the same “Lighthouse” tracking system as the Vive, so it ships with two laser-emitting base stations that you’ll need to mount in opposite corners of your play space. These are second-generation base stations, and Valve promises a few benefits over the Vive’s 1.0 beacons — primarily, an expanded diagonal range of up to 10 by 10 meters if you use four of them. If you already have a Vive, you can save $250 by using its 1.0 base stations, but I haven’t personally tried that mix.

I’ve had fewer syncing problems with the 2.0 base stations than the 1.0 models, but they’re still frustrating to set up, especially as Microsoft and Oculus have moved to more convenient front-mounted cameras, completely eliminating that setup. Valve has spent a long time fine-tuning its base station design, and the Index is aimed at people who have used these awkward systems for years, so it makes sense to stick with Lighthouse for them. But for anyone just getting into Valve’s system, it’s a frustrating hurdle.

Further, in standard home use, the new Lighthouses haven’t offered a substantially better experience than Oculus inside-out tracking. I can reach completely behind my back without fear of losing tracking, but that’s a fairly rare situation. And the tracking hasn’t been flawless — the controllers have occasionally drifted for no obvious reason, although they usually recover quickly.

A few Index features seem intended for developers. There are two front-facing cameras that can show you the outside world, but that’s really not enough to justify the added weight. So when Valve says they can also be used for computer vision experiments, that makes a lot more sense. The front includes a little compartment (officially dubbed the “frunk”) with a Type-A USB port, so tinkerers can plug in other devices.

But the Index also adopts some great overall design elements from other headsets. It features a comfortably padded, helmet-like headband that tightens with a dial on the back, similar to HTC’s alternative Vive head strap. You can adjust the distance between lenses to find the best focus, which is an excellent feature that Oculus controversially removed from the Rift. A dial lets you change the distance between your eyes and the lenses, giving you even more control over the image.

Some people won’t need these features — I’m usually fine with less versatile headsets — but they help fulfill the Vive’s promise of offering the best experience to the biggest number of users. The padded strap design simply feels great. The headset isn’t the lightest I’ve tried, but I felt all right after an hour or more in VR.

Like several other companies, Valve is also experimenting with speaker-based audio systems. The Index features two speakers that look a lot like headphones, but they sit about an inch away from your ears, projecting sound without actually pressing against your head. That’s very comfortable in long VR sessions, and it sounds richer and more realistically ambient than the Oculus Rift or Quest’s strap-based speakers.

These headsets all share one basic problem, though: everybody can hear exactly what you’re doing from several feet away. I’m willing to accept that sacrifice on a cheaper product, and you can always plug your own headphones into the Index. But since the Index is a top-of-the-line system aimed at people who want loud, intense gaming experiences or who work in professional settings, I wish Valve had looked for a slightly more discreet solution.

The Index doesn’t make any pretenses toward coziness, stylishness, or minimalism. It’s a big, attention-grabbing black helmet covered in dials and sliders. The front features a slightly RoboCop-like strip of shiny plastic, which you can pull off to reveal the frunk. It’s not my favorite aesthetic, and with its two cameras, it shares the “sad robot with giant forehead” look of the Rift S. But Valve more than justifies its bulkiness. And while the design might be clunky, it certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap — although that should really be taken for granted on a nearly $1,000 headset.

I’ve written previously about Valve’s unique yet eminently practical new controllers. The Index controllers (previously called “Knuckles”) are strapped around your hands instead of held, and they look more like a sci-fi weapon than a remote or gamepad. A central stock detects individual finger motion and squeeze pressure, and its sensors can even tell when your hands are close to — but not quite touching — the controller. A more traditional top section includes an analog stick, two face buttons, and a little trackpad groove.

When the Index controllers are used well, they can feel incredibly natural since you can open and close your hand naturally instead of relying on abstractions like a grip or trigger. The Index controllers enable some great interactions. There’s an official Valve demo where you play rock-paper-scissors or test your handshake grip strength with a robot.

As I mentioned before, most game developers probably won’t add lots of Index-specific interactions. It’s more likely that you’ll get the same control schemes in a slightly different package. Fortunately, Vive and Rift games can be translated pretty well to the Index based on titles I’ve tried with official support. You can play games seemingly without optimization, although sometimes they translate the controls in weird ways. Doom VFR puts its weapon wheel on the Index’s basically two-directional trackpad, for instance.

The controllers’ only major hardware issue is the lack of tactile feedback. When you’re using it as a basic grip button, you don’t get solid confirmation that you’ve squeezed hard enough. So if you fail to pick something up in a game, it’s not immediately clear why.

The Index’s screen easily outstrips the Rift or Vive; at 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye, it’s got the same resolution as the high-definition Vive Pro. You can find headsets with a bigger pixel count, including the HP Reverb. But as Road to VR has pointed out, the Reverb isn’t a consumer-focused headset, and it uses clunky Windows Mixed Reality controllers. Images on the Index look smooth and bright, especially with refresh rates that can reach up to 120Hz. (There’s an experimental 144Hz mode, which didn’t feel like a noticeable improvement to me.) I’ve seen some complaints about grayish-blacks due to the LCD display, but it’s still a very impressive screen.

I was using the Index with a recent, high-end Lenovo Legion gaming laptop, so I can’t speak to its performance with a lower-powered gaming PC. In theory, you can use it with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD RX480 graphics card at the low end, but a GTX 1070 or higher is recommended.

Valve also promises a “typical” field of view up to 20 degrees wider than the standard 100 to 110 degrees. Basically, the field of view depends on how far the Index’s screen gets from your eyes. When you dial it all the way out, the Index has the same goggle-like effect you’ll find in other headsets. As it gets closer, though, your peripheral vision starts filling out. Dialed all the way in, the Index’s only compromise is a black half-circle at the very edge of the screen.

I couldn’t keep the lenses quite this close. The plastic rims dug into my forehead too much, despite buffering from the headset’s padded mask. But even at a comfortable distance, my field of vision felt more natural and less limited.

Overall, though, the Index is still offering first-generation VR. It’s not qualitatively different from the Rift or Vive. You won’t find features like eye tracking or exotic displays-within-displays to improve the resolution. After the wireless Oculus Quest, the cable feels more limiting than ever. And unlike a gaming PC or other hardware with a predictable development cycle, the Index isn’t future-proof. We’re nearing the end of Oculus’ first-generation headset lineup, for instance. So in a few years, people might want very different things out of a VR system.

The Index isn’t necessarily the “best” VR headset — at least, not for everybody. Unless the price drops in the future, it’s a product for people who play VR games very heavily, use headsets for professional work, or have a very large disposable income. But within those limitations, it delivers high-quality virtual reality with very few compromises.

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Sours: https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/28/19102584/valve-index-steamvr-headset-review-shipping-today

There's no denying that the Valve Index is a great VR headset. At present, it's the best VR headset on the market, with best-in-class display resolution and refresh rate. But it's also one of the most expensive—and at times more frustrating—than other headsets (namely the Oculus Rift S) that offer a similar experience.

Valve Index specs

Resolution: 1440x1600 (per eye)
Display refresh rate: 120 Hz (with experimental 144 Hz mode)
FOV: ~130 degrees
Audio: 37.5mm off-ear speakers, built-in microphone
Tracking: SteamVR 2.0 sensors (compatible with SteamVR 1.0 base stations)

Let's start with what the Index does well. The Index display boasts a 1440x1600 per-eye resolution and refresh rate of 120 Hz, which together offer the best visual experience I've had in VR to date. (For comparison the Rift S offers 1280x1440 resolution per eye at 80 Hz.) The 'screen-door' effect that plagued first-generation VR headsets is practically nonexistent. There's also a dial and slider for lens adjustment, helping you get the placement just right for maximum comfort and FOV. 

Speaking of comfort, the Valve Index also feels great to wear. It's a bit heavier than the Rift S—enough that the weight is noticeable in a side-by-side comparison—but the shape of the head strap better distributes that weight around your head. The strap materials feel quality too—more like a padded extra-soft t-shirt than standard foam padding—never bothering me during extended play sessions. But most importantly, the Index is comfortable because of how it delivers audio.

The Index has built-in near-field speakers that hover just next to your ears, not actually on them, powered by speaker drivers instead of the ones usually found in headphones. What this means is the Index's speakers offer outstanding three-dimensional surround sound, somehow also delivering a level of aural isolation without shutting yourself off completely to external noises. And with zero pressure on your ears, there's less fatigue from staying in VR for an extended period of time. 

And just as importantly they sound fantastic. Despite being speakers rather than headphones they don't bleed game audio out into the room either. There's some serious binaural voodoo going on here.

The other hallmark feature of the Index is its new controllers, which double as both typical motion controllers and hand/finger trackers. The Index controllers strap to your hands—meaning you can release your grip entirely without worrying about dropping them. Where previous touch controllers could only articulate grip, the Index controllers let me give a thumbs-up, point with finger guns, or even offer a Vulcan salute. 

Though obviously the first thing anyone does when faced with individual digit tracking is offer another kind of salute. One with only a single finger.

Finger tracking is one of the distinguishing features of Valve's Index, but there aren't many impressive implementations yet. The best use so far is the Aperture Hand Labs tech demo, which has you waving to, high-fiving, and playing rock-paper-scissors with a collection of quirky Portal-style robots. The brief experience has all the charm of other Portal games, but the finger tracking felt more like a proof of concept than a groundbreaking gameplay innovation. 

Outside of Aperture's Labs, I found the finger tracking all but unnecessary. Games like Vacation Simulator and Arizona Sunshine have released updates to implement finger tracking, but the experience after playing both with and without the update was nearly identical. The action you use most often in current VR games with touch controls is grip—that is, picking up and dropping objects—and that's already simulated just fine with regular triggers. 

I might feel differently about the finger tracking if more games used it right now, but if all you're doing is gripping and aiming, having individual finger articulation really doesn't make much of a difference. It's the sort of tech that will rely on cool implementations to make it worth pursuing—not just slightly enhanced gripping mechanics, but situations that truly take advantage (without feeling like a gimmick) of individual finger tracking. Of course, that's a tough sell for developers when doing so means limiting your audience to a fraction of the VR market.

The Index is also frustrating in a lot of ways that have become ever more glaring after using the inside-out tracking of the Oculus Rift S. The Index is a roomscale VR experience, which means it requires two base station sensors positioned around your play area. This is nothing new, of course—the HTC Vive and Vive Pro, as well as the last-gen Oculus Touch controllers, all use base stations to track your headset and controllers in 3D space. What's changed is the competition. The new Rift S, as well as the just-announced Vive Cosmos, use inside-out tracking—that is, sensors on the headset instead of placed around your room. After growing accustomed to that more streamlined experience, setting up sensors around the room for the Index was frustrating. 

That is, however, the price you have to pay for a more responsive experience than any of the inside-out options. There's a reason the more recent Vive Cosmos Elite goes back to prioritizing the base stations again.

Even after you have your base stations in place, the roomscale setup is also a pain. With the Rift S, the headset's cameras give you digital view of your surroundings wherein you simply draw your play area on the ground. It only takes a few seconds, which is nice if you've moved furniture around or accumulated some floor clutter since the last time you stepped into VR. The Index's setup, on the other hand, has to be done via Steam on your computer, before you put the headset on. After calculating floor height, you click the trigger at four corners of your available space, which Steam then measures in order to determine your best play area. After using the Rift S, it just feels old-fashioned—like having to start your car with a crank before sitting down and driving.

The Index is a fantastic pile of tech and the most luxe VR experience available. But at $999, the full kit (headset, controllers, base stations) costs more than double the $399 Rift S. Even if you already have base stations, it's still nearly double Oculus's offering, and after testing both headsets, the experience really isn't that different. Yes, the Index looks and feels better than the Rift S, but it's the gaming experience that really matter. Even playing Half-Life: Alyx on an original Oculus Rift feels fantastic. And for twice the price, I want something that delivers an experience leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. The Valve Index is undoubtedly still the best hardware VR has to offer, but it's still a world away from Vitual Reality 2.0.

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Valve Index

Valve's Index is best VR headset available, but it's still a world away from being VR 2.0

As for former head of PC Gamer's hardware coverage, Bo was in charge of helping you better buy, understand, and use your PC hardware. You can usually find him playing Overwatch, Apex Legends, or more likely, with his cats.

Sours: https://www.pcgamer.com/valve-index-review/
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Valve Index VR Kit

All orders will be processed in the order they are received.

We will reach out to confirm payment and shipping information when your order is ready to ship. Upon completion of your order, you will also receive Half-Life: Alyx.

You can track the current status of your order here.

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Due to the increasing impact of COVID-19 on global logistics, we are seeing unexpected delays in getting units to customers. We are working hard to produce and ship Index to our customers quickly, however we have decreasing confidence in the original estimated delivery windows and your order may be delayed. We are actively working on the situation to minimize delays as much as possible.

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We apologize for this disruption. Rest assured your order priority will be retained as soon as deliveries are able to resume.

Sours: https://store.steampowered.com/valveindex

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar for quality

Valve has a long and storied history with virtual reality, but the company didn’t actually release a VR system of its own until 2019. That’s when the Valve Index was born.

Until this point, the company had instead helped companies like Oculus (before it was acquired) and HTC to build their systems. But clearly that was no longer enough. It needed to be in the game.

Read this: The best VR headsets

Before we get into the weeds of it, we’ll tell you this: the Valve Index is the most premium virtual reality system you can buy right now. It also costs $1,000 and, as of writing this, you’ll have to join a waiting list to get one.

That may have something to do with the fact Valve finally announced a new Half-Life game (not quite Half-Life 3, but we’ll take it) that will be compatible with the Index system.

We’ve been playing with Index, comparing it to modern systems like the Oculus Rift S, and trying to work out Here’s the verdict.

$999 - Buy on Steam


Valve Index: Design and setup

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar

In our Oculus Rift S review, we began by lamenting what a hassle it was to get the Valve index set up and how much easier the Rift S was by comparison.

Where Facebook and Oculus have made great strides in making their systems more accessible to the casual user, the Valve Index still feels very oriented towards the VR hobbyist.

Open the box and you’ll see why: there’s a lot to unpack here – literally. The Rift S comes with a headset, two controllers and some batteries.

The Valve Index comes with a headset, two controllers, two base stations for room tracking, wires for said base stations, mounts, another wire to run power to the headset, and charging cables for the controllers.

If you’re looking for something that’s easy to plug and play, the Valve Index is not for you; this is premium VR with all the bells and whistles.

The headset itself looks, well, like a VR headset. It weighs a little over 800g, which is a lot by today's headset standards, but the weight is balanced enough to keep it comfortable for longer play sessions, and the padded headstrap helps.

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar

The Index has a resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye and a refresh rate of 120 Hz. That’s sharper than the Rift S, but we have to say the difference isn’t hugely noticeable.

It does mean there’s little screen-door problem here, while the refresh rate is high enough to keep the VR nausea at bay.

Spending $1000 for the Index instead of £399 for the Rift S also bags you a manual IPD adjustor on the headset – something that has been moved to the software level on the Rift S, irritatingly.

You have integrated audio on the Valve Index too, but where the Rift S hides this away in the headset, the Index’s earphones are prominently displayed with something Valve calls "nearfield off-ear speakers," and they sound better. But if you want to pair your own headphones, you have that option.

In terms of system requirements, you can run the Index off an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD RX480 at minimum, however Valve recommends an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or better.

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar

Setting up the Valve index is a bit of a hassle. If you’re already using a Vive system in your home, the good news is that the Index works with the “Lighthouse” base stations you have (they were, after all, designed by Valve), so all you’ll need to do is plug in the new headset and get it acquainted with SteamVR.

The only major plus of the new beacons is that they increase the play space, but we wouldn’t say they're an essential upgrade if you're running the older versions.

If this is your first time with VR, or you haven’t used base stations before, then we’re sorry to say you’ve a bit more work to do.

The base stations are what allow the headset and controllers to know their location in the room; it’s what gives the VR system presence and lets you walk around in the virtual world.

But this means finding space for your beacons, which must be placed in opposite corners of your play area and require power to work – which means running more cables through your play space.

There are two beacons in the box, but you can buy more separately, stretching the play area out to 10 x 10 meters if you have four base stations.

The base stations come with screwable mounts which can help angle them when they’re up high, but you don’t have to use them.

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar

Oculus, on the other hand, now places sensors on the headset that track outwards, thus eliminating the need for external sensors to be placed around the room. It’s far more convenient.

External base stations do have the benefit of more reliably keeping track of everything, but honestly the Rift S’s inside-out tracking is so good, the difference has been hardly noticeable in our experience.

Sadly though, setup frustrations don’t end at the base stations. We spend almost an hour trying to get all the parts talking to each other, a process that involved: updating Steam; updating the base stations; a good 20 minutes of head scratching and then we got SteamVR to register the controllers (hint: right click the controller icons during room-scale setup to pair them - a detail that isn’t made obvious).

But then those controllers come alive. Oh boy, those controllers…

Valve Index: The controllers

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar

The Index controllers really are something special, and are where the Valve Index trumps all other VR systems. Bearing in mind we’d gone straight from using the Rift Touch controllers, which allow for movement of the index finger and thumb, to the Index's 'knuckle controllers,' which give you full movement of all your digits in VR.

The first time you do it, it’s quite something. It’s not quite as freeing as full hand tracking, as you’re essentially still gripping into two joysticks, but the effect is hugely impressive. The first time you try them out it’s… well it's really cool.

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar
Oculus Rift S Touch controller (left) next to the Valve Index controller (right)

The controllers do look quite bizarre, like something you’d find on Batman’s utility belt. Each has a joystick, two buttons, a rear trigger, and a trackpad (good for scrolling through items and weapons).

Once you’re set up with SteamVR you’ll be prompted to try Valve’s free Aperture Hand Lab demo, and I suggest you do if only for the moment you get to play rock-paper-scissors with a robot.

Valve Index: SteamVR, games, and in use

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar for quality

The Index runs off Steam's VR software platform – SteamVR – which Vive owners have been using for years. It's fickle and prone to glitching out, or telling you some part of your setup is suddenly disconnected. We really, really wish it were better.

Oculus' software is much more polished and reliable, but if you're already using a Vive system then SteamVR is home, like it or not. Generally speaking, a lot of PC gamers use Steam anyway and SteamVR isn't all that different – just less predictable in our experience.

Plus, games bought on SteamVR can also be used with Oculus headsets, but anything bought on the Oculus store is locked to Oculus systems only, so there's an element of future-proofing here.

The SteamVR library is pretty strong right now, and there are only a few genuinely worthwhile Oculus exclusives that you're missing out on. Again, Aperture Hand Lab comes highly recommend for giving a sense of the potential in finger tracking in virtual reality, while the rhythm-pounding Beat Saber is extremely fun and well worth your time.

Valve Index review: Virtual reality has a new high bar for quality

Where there are differences is with the controller support, as many games aren't compatible with the full range of finger motion that the knuckle controllers support. The good news is that games that don't translate fine to Valve's more advanced controllers, but when Half Life: Alyx rolls around in March it will be interesting to see how much better it works with Valve's system.

That said, Valve hasn't pushed the boat out entirely on the technology in the Index, despite the prohibitive cost of entry. There's no eye tracking here, for example, something that's starting to seep into other systems. The Index instead feels like the best of this generation, with perhaps a few hint of what next-gen VR has in store.


The Valve Index sets a new high bar for VR quality, but this is purely for the hobbyists and most intrepid virtual explorers. While Facebook is moving the needle with affordability and accessibility, Valve is pushing VR forward by upping the fidelity. However, we still think it costs far too much.


  • The best VR controllers around
  • High-fidelity visuals
  • Room-scale tracking is superb
  • Setup is a hassle
  • Extremely expensive
  • Needs base stations

VR


Sours: https://www.wareable.com/vr/valve-index-review-7868

Vr valve index

The Valve Index is one of the most expensive headsets on the market, and some would say its technological feats make it one of the best VR headsets you can buy. But can you still call Game of Thrones an amazing TV show with the last season in mind? The right answer is no.

For a wildly expensive $999, you get the smoothest display, the most comfortable design, and an excellent pair of controllers paired with solid audio quality. However, those benefits mean little if Valve can’t get the basics right. The Index is stuck with base station tracking which is worse than the built-in tracking on the Oculus Rift S. There’s no customizable safety barrier equivalent to the Oculus or Vive, and as far as games go, it offers nothing beyond the hardware itself.

Yes, the Valve Index is arguably the most impressive VR headsets out there, but Valve needs to put more work into it to make it worth the egregious price, especially when it’s competing against VR headsets that are cheaper than a next-gen console.

Valve Index price and availability

The Valve Index comes in several bundles, but keep in mind that you need the headset, controllers and base stations to actually get this machine to work. Unless you already have some of these components, you'll need to shelve out $999 to get the Valve Index VR Kit bundle, which comes with all three.

If you buy the Valve Index plus the controllers, you'll spend $749, and the headset alone is $499. You can buy the controllers separately for $279, and they work with the Vive and Vive Pro headsets as well. The base stations alone cost $149, and also work with the Vive Pro.

According to Steam’s website, these orders take two to eight weeks to ship, depending on the bundle. The price for the headset kit is ridiculous, especially when it's up against the Vive Cosmos ($699) and Oculus Rift S ($399). At the very least, the Valve Index does come with a free copy of Half-Life: Alyx.

Valve Index design

For a VR headset this expensive, I was expecting the Valve Index to be a bulky monster, but it’s actually rather sleek.

The face of the Valve Index features a glossy black plate cornered in by two cameras that creep in from the bottom left and right. Just under the panel reads "Valve Index." This plastic plate is magnetic and removable, leading to a small compartment with a USB Type-A port. Apparently, Valve calls this the “frunk,” and there doesn’t seem to be an intended use for it on Valve’s end right now, but the company put it there for people to tinker with the system.

Just above the faceplate is where the head strap feeds into a cylinder, and on the underside of the face is a system button and an interpupillary distance (IPD) slider, which adjusts the position of the lenses horizontally. On the right side of the headset, you’ll find the eye relief knob, which adjusts the depth of the lenses. Internally, there’s the magnetic cushion surrounding the lenses, the two big ol’ lenses themselves, and two rubber pieces that act as a support for the nose.

On the sides of the headset are two small speakers that feature vertical and pivot movements. Unfortunately, there’s no depth adjustment like the speakers on the Vive Cosmos, and they are a little smaller on the Index, for better or worse. Sliding past one of the speakers is a 16.4-foot long cable that leads to the DisplayPort, USB Type-A port and power adapter. The headphone jack is located next to where those cables feed out from (under the magnetic cushion).

The opposite end of the headset features a split-layered cushion for extra comfort, and behind it is a nob that tightens or loosens the straps on the sides.

At 1.8 pounds, the Valve Index is quite a thick boy, but it still manages to look sleeker than the HTC Vive Cosmos (1.5 pounds). Although, the Oculus Rift S (1.2 pounds) is still the king when it comes to size.

Valve Index setup

It took me roughly an hour to set up the Valve Index between connecting all of the wires, finding an adapter around my house that wasn’t included, updating all of the software for the devices, and figuring out if there was a reliable collision warning system. Spoiler: There’s none.

First things first, I had to install SteamVR on my laptop, which took up roughly over 6GB of space on my drive. Then, I had to take the base stations out of the box, plug them into outlets on opposite ends of the room and point them at my play area. 

Next, I had to plug the actual headset in. It comes with cables for DisplayPort, USB Type-A and power. The power cable connects to a separate cable that’s attached to a power adapter which gets plugged into an outlet, while the other two connect to the computer. Since I was using a laptop, I needed a DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort adapter. Guess what? This $1,000 does not come with one, but I had one lying around that came with the much cheaper Oculus Rift S (I hope you can taste the salt in this text).

Then I had to turn on the controllers, but one of them was dead, so I charged it via its USB Type-C port (that took awhile). During that time, I updated all of the accessories, which took like 30 minutes or so. After that, I could finally jump into the setup. Valve recommends a 6.5 feet x 5-foot play area. While you can customize your space, it’s a seriously rudimentary setup that’s nowhere near on a par with Oculus or Vive.

I was forced to set up the headset via my laptop, which was annoying. It measured height by making me put the headset on a flat surface and forcing me to measure the distance from the floor to it. For context, Vive and Oculus do this by simply making you touch the floor with a controller. I was caught off guard when it didn’t ask me to lay out the boundaries of my room.

After some digging, I found the setting in SteamVR called Chaperone. Instead of letting me customize my play area, as the Vive and Oculus headsets do, I had to lay out measurements for a strict 1:1 square. Even with these measurements, however, I didn’t receive any collision warnings during gameplay. You can set the box to permanently stay put, but that’s annoying.

So, what are you paying $1,000 for? Well, Valve clearly has the tech to develop an even better system than Vive or Oculus thanks to its cameras. When I hopped over to the Camera settings and turned it on, it created a 2D map of the room around me. I was completely blown away. Not only that, but you can enable a 3D map, which is much more accurate, but experimental, according to the setting. With this kind of tech, Valve could create an awesome collision warning system, but there’s no setting that lets me do that. This setting is either on or off, there’s no automatic trigger.

And unlike the Vive or Oculus, there isn’t a guide or tutorial that SteamVR puts you through. However, it does feature a list of tutorials, but this is very much a learn-as-you-go experience.

Valve Index SteamVR Home

SteamVR is as configurable as Oculus Home, and it’s surely better than Vive’s Origin, as it lets you customize your space with neat tools. You can also unlock environments from video games as well as people’s own creations. The biggest difference is that SteamVR’s environments feel like their own games.

When you first get to SteamVR, you get access to four tools: the Colorizer (paints objects), the Air Brush tool (draw in the air), the Multi-Tool (can freeze, clone, unthaw and delete objects) and the Cache Finder tool (used to find secrets in environments). When you go to other environments and pick up caches, you’ll unlock more tools. I received the Drone Controller tool after picking up my first cache. This let me control a cool little drone that fires lasers.

When you pick up objects from different environments, they automatically get added to your Things. This includes a library of objects such as furniture, props, wearables, etc. You can use these to customize your environment once you choose a template to base your home on. The only annoying part about environments is that the first one you get seems to be the only one that gives you the ability to quickly check out environments via a giant panel that you don’t have access to in your Things.

Another frustrating aspect about SteamVR is that there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to move objects around apart from grabbing them with your hands. I spent 15 minutes trying to get a cache by walking forward, turning around in real life, walking forward again and repeating that until I snagged it all because it was just out of reach. There should be a tool for that.

SteamVR’s menu is pretty clean. It consists of four main panels: Environments (choose which map you want to go to), Things (what objects you want to mess with), Avatars (customizing your avatar) and Quests (tells you where the caches are for the week). From here, you can save the current environment as your home (where you’ll go when you boot SteamVR), go home or change your background (the background between loading screens). There’s also a Tutorials tab at the top to guide you through SteamVR as well as the Settings tab. The only settings you get access to in this app relates to multiplayer. Finally, there’s a Social tab that lets you host rooms and figure out what your friends are up to.

Valve Index interface

There’s a big difference between SteamVR’s menu and the Valve Index’s menu, which you can access by clicking the system button on either of the controllers.

The Valve Index’s system interface features 9 buttons on its bar that are displayed in front of you. From left to right, there’s Menu (exit VR, exit SteamVR Home, turn off controllers or open Steam), Desktops (displays your desktop), Library (shows off your games library), SteamVR Home (takes you back to SteamVR), Store (shows games available to purchase), Reset Standing Position, Toggle Room View, Volume and Settings.

The Setting area is dense (keep in mind I’m viewing the settings with Advanced Settings enabled, which is found in the bottom-left corner). There’s a General tab that lets you configure the refresh rate (80Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz or 144Hz), display brightness, motion smoothing (ironically I found that turning this off leads to less jankiness), render resolution, dashboard position, notifications, SteamVR always on top, pause VR when the computer is locked and SteamVR Home.

The Play Area tab includes settings for the ultimately useless Chaperone, which is supposed to act as your collision barrier. You can configure the color, height, activation distance and the type of grid that it uses. The Dashboard tab features several settings that enable and disable certain elements. The Controllers tab lets you edit your controller bindings and thumbstick settings. 

The Video tab goes more in-depth with settings like Advanced Supersample Filtering, Overlay Render Quality, HDCP 1.4 Legacy Compatibility, Index Display Column Correction and Pause VR when the headset is idle. The Audio tab gives you settings to manage output, input and audio mirroring. The Camera settings give you a 2D or 3D map of the room. There’s also a Startup/Shutdown tab that’ll let you configure some power options. Finally, there’s the Developer tab, which includes settings that probably aren’t useful to you.

Valve Index performance

The Valve Index’s dual 1440 x 1600-pixel LCD lenses feature a super smooth 144Hz refresh rate, which is a higher refresh rate compared to the Oculus Rift S’ 80Hz or the Vive Cosmos’ 90Hz. Gaming felt incredibly immersive and smooth. However, I did experience a few issues with tracking, as games would occasionally stutter. Unfortunately, unlike Oculus' headsets, the tracking is heavily reliant upon the base stations instead of the headsets. Hopefully, with the next iteration, Valve does away with the base stations and invests in better built-in camera tracking.

The best VR game on the Valve Index is obviously Half-Life: Alyx. Nothing beats the feeling of outmaneuvering a barnacle by dragging a barrel over and then running into a space to blast headcrab zombies. The Valve Index made me forget that I was playing a game that didn’t really work in my favor as I had to jump into a creepy subway station filled with baddies. The whole experience was immersive thanks to the Valve Index’s controllers and high-refresh-rate display. However, as mentioned earlier, there were occasional stutters in the game, and I also noticed that the tracking on the controllers would hiccup.

A tour in No Man’s Sky was very interesting. The first thing I did was make a fist and punch some poor animal that looked at me funny. Surprisingly, it died. What I took away from that is No Man’s Sky doesn’t feature full finger detection, but it does detect when my fist is open or closed. I hopped in my ship and was introduced to flying. The coolest thing about No Man’s Sky in VR with a Valve Index is that, in order to grab things like the ship’s control sticks, you have to squeeze the controller a bit to actually grab them. This was really neat for the first few minutes but I found my hand getting tired from clenching. However, getting the haptic feedback from the ship’s movements was an awesome experience.

I played The Forest, which was super janky since the VR mode was in beta, but this game also detects individual finger movement. At first, it was difficult to determine the positions my fingers were supposed to be in, as it seemed different in this game than Half-Life: Alyx, so I had to readjust the controller strap. Overall, the Valve Index’s performance seemed smooth, even though the game felt like a nightmare to play in VR for various reasons.

Valve Index games and apps library

When we’re talking about games, Valve Index has both the worst and the best selection out there. Let me explain.

With the Valve Index, you get access to one of the best games of the year, Half-Life: Alyx, but that’s pretty much the end of Steam’s exclusivity with VR games (to be clear, it’s exclusive to Steam, not to the Valve Index). That’s the one and only game and it doesn’t exactly justify spending over $1,000 to play.

Valve Index does get access to one of the best PC platforms out there: Steam. The issue is that this platform isn’t exclusive to the Valve Index, so it doesn’t have any advantage over other headsets. In fact, not every VR game on Steam is compatible with the Valve Index. Then again, the app does give you access to thousands of VR games, more than Vive or Oculus have on their own proprietary apps.

Like the other headsets, you can access a ton of games as well as different apps such as Google Earth VR, which is an explorable 3D mockup of the planet. There are a few “documentaries” too, but nothing that lives up to BBC productions found in the Oculus app.

Valve Index is a headset that lacks access to unique software. It should have an edge over other headsets, especially in its own software. Even its best game, Half-Life: Alyx, can be played with a Vive or Oculus. So keep in mind that if you’re shelling out $1,000 on the Valve Index, it’s for the hardware alone.

Valve Index comfort

Every VR headset is different in how it approaches comfort and what is needed to get a comfortable fit. Due to my glasses, I had a bumpy experience trying to get comfortable, but after I settled in, I found that the Valve Index is arguably the most comfortable headset on the market. Don’t get me wrong, this thing is heavy, but it felt extremely secure on my head even after hours of playtime.

When trying to get comfortable, there are four things you need to tinker with: the headset adjustment knob to tighten the headset until it's snug; the velcro strap to ensure the weight of the headset is evenly distributed on your head; the eye relief knob to adjust the depth of the lenses (this is super important if you wear glasses); and the IPD slider to ensure that the display looks focused and is attuned to your eyes. 

The visor can even flip up and down, similar to the Vive Cosmos. It doesn’t go a full 90 degrees like the Cosmos, but it’s enough to fit my big glasses in first before flipping the rest of the headset down on my head. Unfortunately, since there’s no front headband, and the only thing holding the headset up is my eyes, I can’t comfortably wear the headset while flipping the visor.

However, the depth adjustment knob and flippable visor gives the Index the best of both worlds in terms of comforts. And if you happen to have a smaller head, or if you want to give this to a teenager, there’s a little cushion included with the VR Kit that will make up for that extra space.

When it comes to discerning the comfortability of games in the store, it seems that both Valve and Vive need to take pointers from Oculus. The Oculus Store has a cool feature that uses color and shape ratings to tell you how comfortable a game will be in VR. The only comfort rating on Steam is a game's play area options: if it's played seated, standing, room-scale or all three.

Valve Index controllers

What if you took VR controllers and actually made them comfortable and work well? Well, that’s what Valve did with the Valve Index controllers. The controllers fit like a glove, as you have to slide your hand through a cushiony strap. Each Valve Index controller has a thumbstick, two face buttons, a system button, a trackpad (where your thumb goes) and a trigger (for your index finger). The rest of your fingers wrap around the handle of the controller, and thanks to the sensors that surround the handle, the controllers detect the motion of each of your fingers.

It takes a few tries to get the right fit for the controllers, as you have to adjust the position of the strap and how snug it sits. The goal is to touch all of the face buttons without straining your thumb. Thanks to the ability to customize the fit, the Valve Index controllers serve way more people than VR controllers from other competitors. I never found myself in a position where I was accidentally clicking face buttons. And thanks to the strap, I can open-hand slap objects out of the way in Half-Life Alyx, or wave at other players in SteamVR. 

While the grip is definitely more comfortable than competing controllers, I found myself struggling to adjust my fingers to where they’re supposed to be according to the sensors. It would’ve been nice to have some external indicators, like symbols on the controllers or maybe textured grips in the shape of fingertips.

The controller also features haptic feedback, so when I touch or grab something in-game, I can feel myself actually touching it. It’s not the game-changing-level of vibration that the PS5 DualSense has, but it’s just enough to immerse me. The controllers alone are $279, so clearly a lot of money went into them. It’s going to take a lot for Oculus or Vive to compete.

Yet again, unlike its competitors, the Valve Index controllers have internal batteries that charge via USB Type-C, so you won’t have to worry about a battery panel coming loose (ahem, Oculus). However, at 7.0 ounces, it is heavier than the Oculus Touch controller (3.7 ounces), but is lighter than the Vive Cosmos controller (7.4 ounces).

Valve Index audio

The Valve Index’s headphones aren’t seamlessly integrated in the same way as the Oculus Rift S’ speakers nor are they as configurable as the headphones on the Vive Cosmos, but they are similar in design. The headphones are small, but unlike the Cosmos’ headphones, they are designed to hover near your ear instead of on top of them. It’s frustrating that the headphones can’t get closer to my ears, because that’s a lot of potential sound lost. However, the headphones are still relatively loud.

As I attempted to navigate through a hoard of barnacles in Half-Life: Alyx, I took one wrong step and my screen faded to red. I heard the thick gnawing and crunching on my body, and as I began to freak out, I fumbled for my gun, then unloaded all of my rounds at the ceiling, each gunshot resonating a hearty blast.

In No Man’s Sky, I used my laser gun to suck the precious resources from planet New Tinasusa dry in order to sell them in a different solar system like the capitalist I am. The laser had an almost harmonic tune as it buzzed the carbon free from a flora lifeform. When I hopped in my ship, the thunderous wave from my booster melting the planet’s surface as I took off sounded oh, so satisfying. However, as I was technically in a “meeting” I had my laptop on in the corner of the room and the audio from my call occasionally overshadowed what I was listening to.

If you’re looking for more immersive audio, you can disconnect the speakers and detach them from the headset, so you can find your own audio solution thanks to the 3.5mm audio jack.

Valve Index social

With Valve headsets, players and their friends are connected to each other via Steam, so Valve doesn’t need to put in the extra work by creating a new social system. However, it could use some improvement.

Firstly, the Social section in SteamVR Home is useless. It’s only there to invite and join friends in SteamVR Home. When pulling up the system menu, there’s no discrete section for Social. The only way to get to your friends list outside of SteamVR Home is by pulling up the VR version of Steam via the menu button. It takes one too many clicks to access and the VR version of Steam isn’t as clean as the rest of the menus.

However, since there’s voice chat functionality built into Steam, it’s super easy to get a game set up and start chatting with your friends. When I invited CNN Underscored senior writer, Michael Andronico, to a chat, he commented that my voice sounded clear, loud and full-bodied thanks to the built-in microphone in the Valve Index. If Steam isn’t your thing, you can easily access your desktop through VR to hop into a Discord chat as well.

Valve Index store

Similar to its social advantage, Valve has a huge advantage with its store. It’s familiar, and for better or worse, people have already established opinions about it, so at the very least, gamers will be comfortable using it.

You can access the store via VR or desktop, but I’ve found the desktop to be the superior experience. I attempted to download Star Wars Squadrons via the VR version of the store, but it said I didn’t own the game and that I have to purchase it first, which was annoying because I did own it. So, I went through the desktop version to download it for the Index.

There are technically two versions of the VR store. One is clean and built into the system menu. It gives you a brief overview of the top single-player, top multiplayer and top free VR games on Steam. Meanwhile, the real VR version of Steam showcases every game available and even features category breakdowns and an easy-to-use autofill search engine. You can even look through all games or all apps sections, but you’ll have to add the VR Support tag because it does include all games on Steam.

When you’re on a page for a game, it looks similar to the Steam version except it’s more tightly packed to fit a wider screen. The only issue I have with it is that the VR support section, where it displays compatible headsets and types of VR play, is tucked away. It should be front and center, laid out with symbols and text, similar to the desktop version.

Bottom line

I am thoroughly impressed with the Valve Index, and I mean that in both a good and bad way. Technologically, it’s amazing, given how the controllers function and how smooth the display is. However, seeing my fingers move one by one isn’t really worth the risk of bashing my head into a wall. Valve clearly has the tech, as the Index impressively mapped out my room quite well. It just needs to add software to make an automatic collision warning system. Playing with the Valve Index is almost like working out, you need someone to spot you when you’re in the zone.

Unless you have a huge space to play, I recommend going with the Oculus Rift S or Oculus Quest 2. Not only are they much cheaper, but they both have amazing collision warning systems and offer a great selection of exclusive games.

However, if you can get over some of the hurdles the Valve Index puts in front of you, literally and figuratively, and if you can actually afford it, the Valve Index is an amazing VR headset.

As soon as Rami Tabari sprung out of the College of Staten Island, he hit the ground running as a Staff Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline in Tom’s Guide, taking on the latest Souls-like challenge.
Sours: https://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/valve-index
Review over a year: The Valve Index

Burying her face in the pillow, Christina with fear and anticipation expected what would happen to her now. The stories of pain and pleasure were foggy. Something small buried itself in her sphincter and a cool, thick liquid spilled profusely inside. Grease. So anal.

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He shook his head, and showing off his proboscis with a smile asked: - Well, Nastya, how are we going to wash, together or each by himself. - You are kidding, this is the first time I see a naked man like that, I am ashamed to look, not that to wash together. I hope you are not angry with me. She spoke with a tremor in her voice. - Well, my dear, I also hope that you are not angry with me, and let it be our little secret, Im all leaving, otherwise, God.



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