Valve Index review: $999 buys you the best VR experience yet — when it works

Valve Index review: $999 buys you the best VR experience yet — when it works

The Valve Index, Valve’s latest virtual reality offering, is an uneasy mixture of all the good and bad aspects of modern VR.

It can be a pain to set up; getting the whole thing calibrated perfectly can take hours. And then you might have to start over when someone else wants to use the headset. Not everything works perfectly all the time, although that aspect of the system is getting better. You still need to set up the external sensors somehow, and mounting them on your wall is likely the easiest solution, although you’ll also need to plug each one into an outlet. Those wires snaking down opposite walls in your VR space aren’t the most attractive decorations. Nothing about Index is easy.

The flip side to those complaints is that, when everything is humming, Index delivers one of the best virtual reality experiences I’ve ever seen. The question is, how many hoops are customers willing to jump through to get to that experience, and how much are they willing to pay? A full Valve Index setup costs $999, although you can also buy the pieces a la carte.

So what does Index do that’s so impressive? Let’s dig in, because there’s a lot to talk about here, both good and bad.


Index comes with a nice headset. A really nice headset.

A single cable runs from the display and connects to a small splitter that includes the DisplayPort and USB connections that need to go to the computer, as well as a power cable that needs to be plugged into the wall. It’s a much cleaner setup than the breakout box in the original HTC Vive, but there are still a lot of cables to manage once everything is connected and ready to go.

The mechanical dial on the back of the headset itself makes it a snap to loosen or tighten the fit, and the dial on the side makes it just as easy to adjust the distance between the screen and my eyes. The headphones sit a few inches away from the ear — which might be annoying for other people in the room if something loud is playing — but they’re simple to adjust, and the sound is absolutely phenomenal. Index is a premium headset with a price tag to match, but the headset itself delivers a premium experience. And right now we’re just talking about fit.

The optics and screens are another area where it’s easy to get bogged down in stats, so I’m going to try to keep this as brief as possible. The two 1440x1600 LCD screens provide a higher-resolution image than competing headsets, and they can be set to 80, 90, 120, or 144 Hz to provide increasingly high frame rates during play. Read more

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