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Valve Index VR Headset Review

Overall
Price
Valve Index VR headset front view
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Pros
Excellent built-in mic
Phenomenal sound
Easily adjustable
Quick setup
Cons
No wireless option
Requires a compatible, quality PC
Does not work with all games
Specific base station requirement

The Valve Index VR headset is one of the most comfortable headsets you can buy; compared to the HTC VIVE and Oculus Quest 2, there is no comparison at all. Valve tends to release things when they are optimal and have been worked on long enough to get most of the kinks out, and this very expensive headset is no different.

Specs and Features

Headset Type
Wired Headset
Display
Dual 1440 x 1600 LCDs
Frame Rate
80/90/120/144Hz
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How the Valve Index VR Headset Stacks Up

The Valve Index VR headset sits between a very expensive and very inexpensive headset. The Quest 2 is the low-cost competition. Comparatively, the Quest 2 doesn’t have nearly the same visual quality that the Index offers, which makes sense for the lower price.

It also beats the Quest 2 in comfortability. Ask anyone that has used the less expensive of the two, and they’ll tell you that long hours are not something you can get out of the Quest. However, the Index is comfortable enough that you can hunt ghosts or golf for hours on end.

Now, the Index has its pricier neighbor, the HTC VIVE Pro 2. The VIVE does outperform the Index in terms of resolution per eye. It’s a significantly higher quality, but comes at a price of about $400 more and requires a stronger computer.

The Index is good for people that want quality without the higher cost and have mid-range PCs. Honestly, it’s the best option for those that want to stay cheaper but not lose out massively on quality, and it’s easy to use with all Steam games and even games from GOG or EPIC.

What We Love

The Valve Index has a ton to offer, but here are some of the most important details to know:

Microphone Quality

The microphone quality is phenomenal. With gaming today, you really need to have a good mic to communicate effectively. After hundreds of hours of gameplay, there are no complaints about how the microphone sounds.

The microphone is also noise canceling, so if you have background sounds, you don’t need to worry about picking up every little sound in your home. Even with a loud window AC on full blast, no one can hear it.

The built-in microphone has honestly sounded better than any other headset or standalone mic I’ve used for gaming.

Built-in Sound

There are two ear speakers that you can move around. If you are someone that prefers to have one ear open for the real world, you can simply move it up, and you will hear very little sound coming from them. With both ears down, you can become totally immersed in your game because background noise doesn’t penetrate very easily.

Even with games and Discord turned all the way up, if you take off the headset, you don’t really hear a lot of sounds coming from it—only faint audio. This is especially good if you like to play things loud and don’t want to disturb anyone else in your home.

A really cool feature of the Index is that it has a 3.5mm jack in case you prefer to use your own headphones. However, you will need a straight plug or else it won’t fit because of the angles and how deep it’s set inside.

Easy to Adjust

You can adjust the VR headset easily, even if you use glasses! It slips right over your glasses, and then you can use the knob on the back to tighten it to your head. There is also a strap over the top that is velcro and can be adjusted as well.

There is a little slider on the front right bottom; this slider controls the pupillary distance. If you’ve been fitted for glasses, you may already know what pupillary distance works best for you. If you don’t, it’s really easy to adjust it until you feel comfortable with your view.  

This headset will fit any head and any glasses you may need to wear to enjoy the full experience. I was honestly surprised by how easy everything is to use.

Fast and Simple Setup

The setup could not be any easier. You plug the headset into your computer and into the wall. When you launch Steam VR, it will have you install software updates for the headset, base stations, and controllers. This process does take quite a while, anywhere from 30-60 minutes.

Once that’s done, you do a room setup. It takes you step by step on how to do this, and it’s very simple. If you don’t have a huge play area, you may have to redo one of the steps a few times. It requires certain dimensions, but if you extend the play area just a bit, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Once that is done, and you are on the Steam VR home screen, you can choose to change things like your resolution and refresh rate. These should be automatically set from it detecting what you have. But be warned: using a custom resolution can cause games to crash or fail to launch.

What Could Be Better

No product is perfect, and the Index is no different. Here are some things that could be improved on in the future:

Price

The Index kit from Valve costs a little over a grand after taxes and shipping from the Steam store. If it’s unavailable in your country and you need to purchase it from Amazon, you will be paying about $100 more.

This price is steep compared to the popular Quest 2, which sits at $399. It’s not as expensive as the HTV Vive Pro 2, but it’s very close.

You do absolutely get your money’s worth, but that initial starting cost can be very intimidating to people on the fence about VR. With the price it sits at, a wireless option would have made this point non-existent.

Wireless Option

There is nothing like playing a horror game and nearly tripping over your cable. There are overhead cable management systems designed to keep the cord out of your foot space. However, this isn’t viable for many people because they don’t want to set up something complex, have high ceilings, or have ceiling fans/lights in the way.

You also have to be concerned with games that have you using your hands above your head. There is the risk of accidentally reaching up at the moment and hitting the cable.

A wireless option would have been much more preferable just for ease of use. Once you play around with it enough, though, you usually don’t have to worry about tripping over the cable.

PC Requirements

So, the minimum settings aren’t so bad. However, some games may stutter if you don’t have a good computer with a decent video card. With a 3060 Ti and 32GB of ram, there is occasional stuttering on some games. It’s not very often, but enough to be an annoyance.

With the minimal requirements, you may have to adjust your refresh rate and resolution to align with what your system can handle. It will reduce the quality a little bit, but it shouldn’t be so bad that you are unable to be immersed in your game.

Minimum and recommended requirements are as follows:

 MinimumRecommended
ProcessorDual Core with HyperthreadingQuad Core +
Memory8GB of RAM8GB of RAM
GraphicsNvidia GTX 970 / AMD RX480NVIDIA GTX 1070 or better

Game Compatibility

Some games were made only for the Oculus and may or may not be compatible with the Index. If the game compatibility on the Steam store says only Oculus, that’s what it was designed to work with. However, a Google search will be able to tell you if other VR users were able to play it with the Index or not.

There have also been some games that won’t work with the Index despite the store page saying it is compatible. This may be an Index issue or a computer hardware/software issue; it’s hard to tell what may be the cause. I’ve only come across this issue once so far, but it is a pain.

If your PC meets the requirements of the Index and the game in question and still doesn’t work, you will have to look through the Steam forums for other users having the same issue and see if there is a way to troubleshoot the problem.

Base Station Connectivity

Sometimes, the headset seems to lose track if you don’t have the base station set up in a specific way. Honestly, I’d recommend buying a third one on top of the two that come in the kit. This issue can quickly become frustrating if you are limited in wall space.

For instance, if you can only put them in front of you, and not one behind or in opposite corners, you will likely run into tracking issues. If you only have them in the front/front corners, you may find yourself losing tracking if you turn all the way around.

The best setup is opposite corners if you only have the two base stations because you should be in the FOV of the sensors regardless of how you move. This may require some trial and error. You do also have to screw them into the walls, which can make moving them around a bit of a pain.

There are tripod-like things you can buy if you don’t want to damage your walls, and those will make moving them easier, but it is another expense on top of something that is already pretty expensive.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Index has a lot of positives that make it one of the best VR headsets on the market. You gain much more than the lower-cost competitors, and the quality is on par with the more expensive ones. And despite the headset’s cons, these obstacles can be overlooked because they are easy enough to work around.

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