While we offered our initial hands-on impressions with the Valve’s new Index headset last month, we’ve now had many more hours inside the headset, and an opportunity to put it side by side with others. Here’s a deeper look at Index ahead of a full review still to come.

First up, Valve told us that there’s still some Index-related stuff (mostly on the software side) that will be updated between now and when the headset launches on June 28th. So there’s a handful of things I won’t address in detail until our final review; this article will mostly serve to elaborate on what I saw in my initial impressions (things like ergonomics, visuals, and audio) now after hours of long term Index use.

If you’re just coming up to speed on Index, our initial hands-on article has a lot of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ from Valve’s perspective, and I’d really recommend that you start there. With that out of the way, lets jump in.

Valve Index Preview

Photo by Road to VR

In revealing Index, Valve argued that the headset is not defined by one single factor—be it resolution, field of view, etc—but instead that the sum of its specs and features add up to a high fidelity experience. Having used Index for many hours now, I have to say that this reasoning really rings true. When you first put on the headset and play a game, you might be hard pressed to say exactly why, but it just looks and feels more immersive than any other headset in its category. Indeed, the improvement in fidelity doesn’t come from just one factor, but instead from the fact that no single design choice is the blatant bottleneck of any other.

Ergonomics

Photo by Road to VR

I would say it all starts with Index’s excellent ergonomic design, which is perhaps the most adjustable headset out there. Ergonomics in VR headsets isn’t just about comfort, it’s also about visual clarity, since getting your eyes well aligned with the lenses can make the difference between a sharp and comfortable image, or a blurry one with eyestrain. Without being able to get your eyes comfortably into ideal alignment, pretty much every visual aspect of the headset can be compromised.

Thankfully, Index has a physical IPD adjustment, which ranges from 58mm to 70mm, which can accommodate the vast majority of users. On top of that, the knob on the right side of the headset lets you bring the lenses very close to your eyes, maximizing the field of view and your ability to align with the lenses’ sweet spot. The Vive Pro has a similar lens-to-eye distance adjustment, but it doesn’t let you get the lenses as close as Index.

Photo by Road to VR

From a comfort standpoint, Index’s padding is super soft; a knob on the back of the head-mount lets you finely adjust the tightness, and the visor rotates about the hinges to find a good resting place against your face. Though it’s fine for me, I don’t expect that the face gasket will fit everyone perfectly. Thankfully it’s magnetically attached and easily removable; Valve says it plans to release CAD files to make it easy for third parties to make accessories for Index, which will hopefully mean readily available aftermarket choices.

I didn’t realize it initially, but now that I’ve spent a lot of time with Index, I found that the side straps are ‘springy’, just like the original Rift. This means that there’s some ‘play’ to the head mount such that you can put it on and take it off ‘hat style’ (back to front) without re-adjusting the tightening knob in the back every time. For the most part, that means that once you dial in the fit of Index, you shouldn’t have to fiddle with it often. That’s a nice improvement of headsets like Rift S and Vive Pro which generally need to be tightened each time you put them on and then loosened before being taken off.

Visuals

Photo by Road to VR

Field of View

Thanks to all the ergonomic design, it’s easy to get your eyes right into the sweet spot of the lenses for the best visuals. This matters not just for clarity, but certainly for field of view too. Between the displays and the ability to bring the lenses very close to your eyes, Valve says they expect that most users will get a field of view that’s roughly 20 degrees wider than they’d see with a Vive. The difference at first doesn’t seem massive, but going back to headsets like the Vive and Rift S makes it abundantly clear that Index has the widest and most desirable FOV.

It’s possible to bring the lenses so close that you can start to see the edges of the Index displays in your peripheral vision. This is generally undesirable, but tolerable if you want the maximum possible FOV. If you’d prefer the soft round edges of the lenses as the limit of your FOV instead, it’s incredibly easy to dial the lenses back just a bit until you don’t see the display edges anymore.

Display

Index uses an LCD display with RGB subpixels which are know for having better fill-factor/less screen door effect (SDE). It’s a notable reduction in SDE and improvement in resolution compared to the original Vive and Rift, but SDE is still visible. Compared to the Vive Pro however, there’s little overall difference in SDE. This is likely partly due to the larger Index FOV (which serves to reduce pixel density compared to a smaller FOV), and the fact that RGB subpixels create a slightly more defined (if smaller) SDE structure compared to the offset pattern seen with PenTile OLED displays.

Overall clarity on Index pulls ahead of Vive Pro however, which is thanks to the super low persistence and high refresh rates.

Refresh Rate & Low Persistence

Index displays on a test bed | Image courtesy Valve

It’s hard to explain exactly how a higher refresh rate makes the view through Index look more immersive and ‘there’, but it definitely does. Even though the 80Hz or 90Hz or other headsets is plenty comfortable and looks good, it’s still far from the ‘perfectly smooth’ motion of real life. At 144Hz, everything just looks that much more smooth, adding to the ‘lifelike’ quality of what’s around you. It probably also helps that a 144Hz refresh rate means lower latency too.

I would go so far to say that the higher refresh rate is the single greatest contributor to the increased immersion with Index, perhaps even more so than the increase in field of view.

The high refresh rate works in conjunction with Index’s ultra low persistence to keep the image sharp throughout. Persistence is how long a pixel remains lit, and in VR, lower is better because illuminating pixels for less time reduces blur during head movement. All decent headsets use low persistence, but Valve says that Index is the first headset to offer sub-pixel persistence, which in theory means virtually zero persistence blurring.

Sweet Spot

Index’s sweet spot (the area of the lens which offers the best clarity) is also noticeably improved over the Vive and Vive Pro. It’s not ‘edge to edge’ sharp when you rotate your eyes about the scene, but the sharpness doesn’t fall off nearly as fast as with the Vives. The end result is that it feels more natural to look around the scene with your eyes rather than your head, which is especially good considering the wider field of view on Index.

God Rays & Glare

Photo by Road to VR

For the most part, everything described above about Index’s visuals is either on par or an improvement over headsets in the same class, but there is one area where Index makes a compromise: glare.

While most other headsets use single-element lenses, Index uses dual-element lenses. I suspect this was done specifically to expand the sweet spot, but I also suspect it’s the reason why glare has become more apparent than other headsets like the Rift S, Vive, and Vive Pro.

I want to be clear here because the terminology surrounding what many users call ‘god rays’ and ‘glare’ is not particularly precise—so I’m going to explain what I’m talking about with a little extra detail.

When it comes to various light-related lens artifacts in VR headsets, there seems to be two major components. The first is what I believe most people are talking about when they say ‘god rays’—that would be the lens flare-like light that seems to directly emanate from bright objects against darker surroundings. God rays are the lines of light you can see coming directly from objects in the scene. These lines are quite defined, and typically point directly toward or away from the very center of the lens; you can see them rotate around their host object as you move your head. A good example is white text on a black background—the text appears to flare in a quite discrete way, directly against and around the text.

Then there’s internal reflections, which generally equates to what some users call ‘glare’ (and that’s how I’ll refer to it here). Glare is the broader light scattering artifacts that don’t appear to emanate as directly from the object in the way that god rays do. Glare scatters around the field of view more globally than god rays.

With that in mind, when it comes to Index, god rays are an improvement over Vive, and look to be about on par with the Rift S. But glare is worse than Rift S, Vive, and Vive Pro, and can be pretty obnoxious when you have large, high contrast elements against darker backgrounds. The glare on Index seems to be brighter and more defined than with other headsets. It also tends to fall toward the outer edges of the field of view, which I suspect makes it more noticeable because of the way that our peripheral vision is more sensitive to both movement and contrast than our central vision.

I suppose this was a necessary concession to achieve other objectives in the lens design, but I’m surprised with how apparent the glare can be at times.

As ever, both god rays and glare go away in scenes with lower contrast. Smart developers can mitigate god rays and glare by avoiding high contrast elements in their content (Lone Echo being the premiere example)and frankly that would benefit other headsets too if more developers were cognizant of this; maybe Index will be a good wake-up call.

Audio

Photo by Road to VR

The floating headphones on Index are just flat-out excellent. When you put the headset on you don’t even know they’re there because they don’t touch your ears. Then the audio comes in and boom—powerful, full-bodied sound; easily the highest quality integrated audio in any VR headset to date. As these are technically speakers rather than headphones, they’re going to be audible to other people in the room, but you’ll want to use them anyway. If you’d prefer another audio solution, you can remove the Index headphones with an allen wrench and plug in your preferred headphones with the on-board 3.5mm jack (hidden under the face gasket).

I’ve already written in depth about Index’s headphones, though I will share an anecdote.

For me, a true ‘audio upgrade’ is when the upgrade allows you to hear things you’ve never heard before in audio content that you’re intimately familiar with. I’ve logged dozens of hours in The Lab over the years, but it wasn’t until I was using Index that I was struck by how intricate and detailed the sounds are from the little robot dog. It has a bunch of different animations, each accompanied by subtle noises that highlight its movements. I wasn’t even specifically testing the headset’s audio, it was just something that caught my attention as the dog ran around me.

And that’s pretty freaking cool. The Lab came out in 2016and I’ve explored damn near all of it—but three years later I experienced something that I never really noticed until better hardware came along and revealed it.

I spoke with a VR developer who had this same experience with Index of newly noticed audio details, but in their own application that they work on every day.

– – — – –

So, Index really is shaping up to be the step forward in VR fidelity that Valve set out to build, but the company itself concedes that cost and ease of use were not its primary objectives—and that makes Index a decidedly enthusiast product.

Photo by Road to VR

Indeed, the full Index kit runs $1,000 and comes with all of 2016’s VR caveats: set up permanent or semi-permanent tracking equipment, figure out how to use fiddly SteamVR software and settings, and learn how to dial in all of the headset’s adjustments. Not to mention that to get the most out of the 144Hz capable headset, you’ll want enthusiast grade PC hardware to match.

In this sense, I liken the Index approach to a DSLR camera—more expensive, but capable of taking great photos as long as you put in the time to learn the ins and outs, and have appropriate hardware to support it (like a good tripod and lens).

Oculus on the other hand is aiming more for the ‘point-and-shoot’ camera approach with Rift S—lower cost, less complexity, and more user friendly—but simply not capable of achieving the same level of fidelity.

Photo by Road to VR

Just like with a DSLR vs. a point-and-shoot, neither approach is ‘right’. Some of us are willing to pay more and do more to get the best picture. Others are fine with good enough as long as it’s easy and affordable. Good thing there’s options!

Granted, this analogy doesn’t at all consider differences in content, but that’s a discussion for another day.

– – — – –

I’m sure there’s more questions than I’ve addressed here. Fire away in the comments!


Disclosure: Valve provided Road to VR with an Index headset.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.


  • gothicvillas

    I have DSLR :) I like to buy things once and the good stuff, even if I cant afford it lol. As a saying goes, I’m not that rich to buy cheap gear. Valve Index cant arrive soon enough!

    • Cybis Z

      My thoughts exactly. You spend the same money (if not more) when you buy cheap things more frequently vs nice expensive things less frequently.

      • Immersive_Computing

        Quality, not quantity

      • Notung

        Yes, but don’t you think this field is changing too fast for that kind of thinking? I mean, you’ll probably want newer VR technology before your high quality headset gets old.

      • Justin Hogue

        Economy is good, a lot of people can afford this. I feel for younger gamers who can’t yet. Quality vr is what I’ve waited for my whole life, im paying for it.

  • Baldrickk

    Question: Penultimate image, the two boxes with lighthouses icons that are not the power adaptors (the round things, bottom left and bottom right)
    What are they? I can’t quite place them.

    • Puddles

      Cables

    • Cloakist

      I think they’re just coiled up cables. Could be wrong tho

      • Baldrickk

        But what cables? The Lighthouses only require power, and the three boxes in the middle are clearly the three power cables…

        • Popin

          They are not. The three boxes in the middle are the power bricks. If you look closely at them there are 2x with the lighthouse icons and 1x with the Index HMD icon. Those are in fact the power cables for the base stations, which are detachable from both the base station and the “wall wart”

    • benz145

      Those are the power cables for the base stations. They are detachable from the wall adapter.

  • superdonkey

    still LCD tho, come on guys.. give us RGB OLED!

    • Patrick

      Nothing wrong with LCD.

      • Michael Vengoechea

        Agreed. LCD looks great nowadays.

      • Psycold

        LCD is underrated, and OLED suffers burn-in.

        • Nepenthe

          Can you provide any evidence or testimonials about Vives or Rift CV1s or PSVRs suffereing burn-in?

        • nejihiashi88

          oled burn-in for vr is almost non existent because there is no static images like the standard screens, with vr the screen is always showing moving scenes.

      • Charles

        LCD black levels and contrast can never match OLED, unless they use a separate LED dimming zone for almost every pixel, which would be extremely expensive if even possible.

        • Popin

          This difference isn’t as big in VR as it is in the TV space. OLEDs have better black levels and contrast due to not needing a back light and being able to turn off a pixel for very deep blacks. The latency in fully turning off the pixels ends up being significantly slow for VR and as a result they never really turn them off for that really deep black in order to reduce black smear. They are still deeper very dark grey compared to LCD and the contrast is still better, however, the trade offs in persistence and refresh are also notable. Valve seems to think that in most cases the improvements allotted by these LCDs out weigh the brighter image with less contrast.

          • Mike

            I knew that about VR OLEDs not going completely-off. But they do get a lot darker than the best VR LCD I’ve ever tried. I directly compared a Pimax 5K+ to a Vive Pro – it was a night-and-day difference.

            Hopefully these new LCD HMDs coming out do a better job at black levels than the Pimax did – I would find it easy to believe that Pimax didn’t prioritize this in their displays.

            The new HMDs coming out with LCDs were making a tradeoff of price and contrast/black levels versus resolution and RGB pixel structure.

          • KOSTANTINOS KOD

            There are lenses comparison videos out ,the difference is huge not only in night sky but almost everywhere, lcd is looking less .
            Lcd is a cheap HUGE deal braker.

          • Krisi Luttinen

            Yep, takes away the immersion…

    • Baldrickk

      Why do you want OLED? MicroLED is the future after all

      • Dllemm

        and the proof is where? no consumer products.

    • kontis

      RGB OLED -> lower resolution than RGBG Pentile OLED.

      There is a limited amount of subpixels current manufacturing can put on a given area size. If you use 2 subpixels to make a pixel you can achieve higher resolution.
      This method has its trade-offs, obviously, but it’s used for a reason.

    • Gabe Martinez

      OLED wouldn’t have as high a refresh and low persistence, and it would definately have more screendoor effect

    • Gonzax

      LCD is perfectly fine.

    • DJHeroMasta

      The LCD display in the Rift S looks far better than the OLED display in the OG Rift.

  • Jose Luis Quiroz

    How do you see the sun rays and blacks in dangerous elite, DCS world, iracing ?.
    How do you see the horizon and track detail in iracing or game cars?
    compared to a htc vive pro or sansung oddysey

  • The Bard

    Let’s wait till October to see what Samsung will release. I but, much better than Index, half price of Index. Odyssey 2, with OLED and high resolution panels.

    • Patrick

      You sound like a redundant fanboy, that’s not going to happen. And the Odyssey 2 is trash

      • hop

        projection, much

    • Icebeat

      The index is not going to be available until October anyways so,

    • JesperL

      LOL, so what if tracking is shit, and focus sux because of no ipd adjustment

      • Cybis Z

        Odyssey+ does have an IPD adjustment.

      • Augusto

        How do you know the tracking is going to be bad?

        • JesperL

          Because several youtube reviewes says that is reverbs weakness.

    • mark555055d

      you may need to lay off the booze.

      • Jarilo

        While I do think anyone with a booze problem should lay off the booze, he has as slight point. Do you think the biggest manufacturer of screens in the world who was the #1 king of WMR platform is going to let HP get away now with a 4k RGB reverb as WMR king? Samsung will answer to the Reverb by the end of the year to one-up the reverb…but with what? who knows.

        • Trip

          But WMR tracking… eeew. And I sure hope they make better controllers to go with it than the existing generic WMR controllers. Seems fairly likely but who knows.

          Until things change in a pretty big way I don’t want a VR setup that doesn’t use Lighthouse so I feel good about my Index purchase.

          • Jarilo

            Well those are just the negatives of the WMR tracking and that come with it. I feel that’s more up to Microsoft and their tracking licensing tech. I don’t like it either and prefer light house tracking so stick with it, but as far as WMR Samsung has been king with the Odyssey for a while and now they probably aren’t happy about the Reverb.

    • Moe Curley

      Better yet let’s wait until 2030 when I, the visionary psychic PREDICT with absolute certainty, that we will develop out of body experience abilities which will make VR OBSOLETE!

    • Popin

      Still schilling for Samsung? do they pay you in stock options?

  • Patrick

    RoadToVR, tell me this though!..

    The wall-mounts you get with the bundle/sensors, are the like go-pros, so the just stick to the wall and hold it very well, or do you have to screw them in or something?

    • Baldrickk

      It’s a standard camera screw, like you get on tripods

    • benz145

      The wall mounts don’t come with any adhesive. They are designed to be mounted with two screws (included) or to rest on a flat surface (like atop a bookshelf). The 2.0 base stations themselves have tripod screw holes (for attaching to the mount) on the back and on the bottom.

    • dogtato

      The lighthouses vibrate slightly so non-permanent adhesive will probably fail eventually. The 2.0s only have one spinning component instead of two so maybe they vibrate less but I’d still be wary.

    • Jerald Doerr

      Family picture frame… Sure might trust them with M3 tape…. Ahhhhh but $150 dollar 3,600 rpm lighthouses…. Naaa bra… Not going to use anything but screws!!!!

      I can deal with it….

    • Daniel Gochez

      I glued my Vive sensor mounts to the wall with “No more Nails” They were clearly designed for screws as there was no flat surface to glue them only an edge, but still I glued them and they stayed in place for 2 years till I removed them. When I did, some paint chipped off, but no damage to the wall.

  • Immersive_Computing

    Index coming end of this month…very interested to see what its really like.

  • Zirbs

    Great write up! I have an Index pre ordered, and I’m glad to hear that there is value behind the high price. I appreciate your attention to detail when it comes to communicating about VR hardware; it’s not always easy to be clear and concise about nuances of the experiences brought by different HMDs.

    I know Tested had similar complaints about the optics, but it sounds to me like all the other benefits likely outweigh that particular drawback. I’ll find out in a few weeks, in any case.

    • AlexanderBailey

      Poor you, paid way too much for a product that will become irrelevant very soon.

      We should stop talking about tethered VR. I haven’t touched my Vive once since I got my Oculus Quest. Tethered VR is almost dead.

      • WyrdestGeek

        Quest isn’t going to kill tethered VR.

        Tethered VR will not for until there’s a wireless solution that can blast high res graphics to a high end, nearby headset at, apparently, 144 Hz.

        • Muckylittleme

          And even if the hardware is there that will require 5G which will b a great way to get a brain tumour if you ask me given 5G is 20 times more powerful than 4G and is capable of penetrating soft tissue.

          • dk

            it’s mircle u r not dead yet using 2g 3g 3.5g 4g and all wifi versions right now at the same time …that all penetrate far more than 5g ever will….don’t worry 6g is coming around 2030

          • Muckylittleme

            You are clueless clearly so better not to comment. 5G is 20 times more powerful than 4G which is already causing health problems for those who live near masts and since 5G also requires boosting there will be thousands more booster towers.
            5G penetrates soft tissue and can damage DNA 4G is borderline. 5G gives lab rats tumours.
            There are zero tests on human health or how it will affect wildlife except they pass it as safe so long as it doesn’t physically burn the skin.
            Maybe you just don’t understand what radiation is or why it is harmful.

          • dk

            no it doesn’t cause any problems ….it’s low level non ionising radiation …there isn’t even a plausible mechanism for it affecting chemical bonds ….u have fallen for a myth
            5g is the least penetrating and range of other standards ….so much so u will get super weak signal indoors unless u have a router with antenna outside or u r close to a window
            blasting rats with phone signals for most of the day super close range over their entire bodies for years shows only noise in the data compared to the control group from the same studies on average the exposed rats live longer …but no one is writing articles where cellular signal makes people live longer
            u will live a long ignorant life way past 6g which is coming around 2030

          • WyrdestGeek

            4g, and future 5g, and all the rest are below visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum.

            “20 times more powerful” – by way of example, if I take the number 0.000000001 and I multiply it by 20, I get 0.00000002.

            It sounds super impressive to say “20 times more powerful”. Doesn’t mean it necessarily is though.

            Actual information on 5G:
            https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4677

          • Krisi Luttinen

            I have 5G on my router already using it with the Quest… Should I switch to 2.4g?

          • dk

            if u r not joking
            ….ok first cellular signals or 5g or wifi being harmful is an absolute myth
            ….second your router doesn’t have 5g it’s 5ghz ….and not using the 5ghz network with the quest won’t stop your route emitting it …u might have the option to stop the 5ghz network in the router settings …if u want to use slow internet ….2.4ghz has better range through walls but 5ghz has better speed if it’s not obstructed from too many walls

        • Alan Dail

          I have Quest, Rift, and Vive Pro. I haven’t stopped using the other two, but for apps that are available on all 3, I use Quest. It’s so nice to be able to play anywhere I want with full room scale 360 and no wires that I have to stop and untangle. For me at least, that trumps the better graphics from PCVR. And it’s so nice to play Tennis on quest with a wide play area and no concerns of hitting the limit of cord length.

          I also took quest with me on the trip I’m on and set up a L shaped play area that utilizes the most space in my hotel room. I play space pirate trainer with a the widest area plus a large area to the right I can walk forward. Then turn and chance the orientation to play other games with the less wide, but largest rectangle area with the long click of a button.

          You have to try out the quest for an extended period to really appreciate the freedom it gives. It surprised me how much I preferred it. I thought it would just be my travel VR system, not my day to day system preferred system.

          It’s also so much easier to let family members use because they don’t have to deal with the occasional windows related glitch that forces you to take off the headset and set things back up. It always just works with the Quest.

          The Quest is the real Point and Shoot VR system.

          • Krisi Luttinen

            I have a Quest too and I love it. I agree, it just wants you to pick it up and play on a whim. Nothing like the unthethered freedom.

        • KOSTANTINOS KOD

          Hz i are more of an advertising trick using cheap lcd tech than usefull in big games for 2019-2020, xtal is at 72hz and far above in quality.(and price)

      • Jonathan Winters III

        And with the general public consensus of disappointment with Rift S, Quest is going to overshadow it in a big way.

      • Lou Cipher

        “I haven’t touched my Vive once since I got my Oculus Quest.”

        lol. ok

      • Peter Waldock

        I’m ok with the price. Cutting edge product, less expensive than the vive pro but much better. The quest looks very cool and love what it will do for mainstream VR but it wont cut the mustard for my needs.

      • Gonzax

        ha ha as a joke that was quite good!

      • Harmoniser

        The through the lens video of robo recall quest vs rift s are quite telling. The quality of the visuals is night and day. So it really depends what you want. But you keep your quest and I’ll stick with my rift S and index, with library of games they offer and higher graphics setting and for the index superior tracking.

        • Krisi Luttinen

          You mean like Night = Oled pure blacks, Day = LCD gray blacks? lool

      • johngrimoldy

        Tethered VR is almost dead? Says who, other than you?

      • dk

        if only the quest had low latency 90hz full res optional wired/wireless pc mode ….it will be irrelevant pretty soon :P ….jk but yeah it will have to be replaced pretty soon and in the mean time u can use an index all the way to the end of the life cycle of rtx4080

      • Zirbs

        For the record, I have a Quest as well. It’s a fantastic product, and I don’t think it competes directly with the Index, and the two complement each other nicely. There’s value that the Index can provide which the Quest cannot, and vice versa.

  • remosito

    Visual comparison to the HP Reverb would have been nice.

    • Michael Vengoechea

      I am figuring the only reason they didn’t go with that display is trying to get that resolution pump out at 120hz+ on a respectable graphics card. I still would have loved to see that in the index having a 2080ti myself.

      • kontis

        What is with this “peripheral designed with GPU power in mind” fetish? So many people repeat this myth, but it makes no sense and is absolutely not true. Oculus’ highest resolution ever headset is a mobile one with a mobile GPU…

        People reported on red blur issues with Reverb and even HP admitted that the screens are smaller than in their previous headset so they had to reduce binocular overlap to not lose FOV.

        Screens are about tons of factors, not just resolution. It may also not be possible to overclock them to 120 hz (?).
        Valve was probably not happy with several trade-offs of those higher res options.
        I wouldn’t be surprised if Index’s screens are actually more expensive.

        • Jarilo

          With how fast-switch at .33ms of pixel persistence and 144hz my money is on them being more expensive than 4k LCD too.

  • care package

    Stoopid title. Might as well have said Index is the 8 cylinder overhead cam injected turbo charged engine to the Rift S 8 cylinder carberated engine. The Index is the millipede to the Rift S centipede.

    • Cybis Z

      “Might as well have said Index is the 8 cylinder overhead cam injected turbo charged engine to the Rift S 8 cylinder carberated engine.”

      The average person wouldn’t even be aware there was a difference between these two examples. You’d need to be an auto mechanic to know or care about WTF a “cam injected” or “carberated” engine was.

      By contrast, if you’ve ever travelled to, say, a national park, you’ve likely at least seen someone with a professional camera and its big lenses.

    • kontis

      No, it’s a great analogy.

      A lot of people (including some journalists…) commented that a more expensive solution absolutely cannot have more friction/effort/setup time and has to be better in every single aspect, which is z silly expectations, considering it almost never happens in reality and most enthusiast tech has this kind of trade-offs.

      • Jarilo

        Yea, these journalists aren’t VR enthusiasts in many cases anyway. They find having to have a computer “friction” , they can suck my nads.

      • care package

        Nah it’s not, but I can’t argue with opinion.

    • dogtato

      centipedes are more expensive than millipedes

      • care package

        doh!

  • Johnatan Blogins

    In this comparison, is Xtal like a Lytro camera (on a different category altogether) or just Canon to Nikon?!? In academical domain, would the 4x price of Xtal make it stand out vs Index?!?
    Eye and hand tracking with big FOV vs better audiovisual immersion… Would you care to compare clarity, especially with legibility of text, glyphs, icons?!?

  • Pizzy

    Ben skipped talking about the black levels weird.

    • Baldrickk

      Probably because there is nothing notable about it.
      We never got full blacks on other headsets (transition times too long leading to shadow ghosting) and Lads these days are pretty good.

    • benz145

      Still a full review to come. Generally speaking, it’s the same tradeoffs of LCD vs. OLED that you’d expect from other headsets.

      • Ben, I’ve got one on order. Sold my Vive Pro to make the jump. Subjectively, do you think this would be an upgrade, downgrade or cross grade for a game like Elite Dangerous?

        • Jarilo

          It’s the same resolution and essentially it’s OLED trade-off for RGB. Personal taste then, I stuck with my Vive Pro because it also would mean going back to the wire for me and just got the Index Controllers. The Index should be over all the better HMD though with the higher refresh rates options, but still…for Elite Dangerous? Not sure you made the wise one specifically if that’s the only game you play.

          • Oh, it’s not all I play, but definitely a big one. Made the shift for a few reasons… partially the audio upgrade, but also because clarity is a bigger VR priority for me personally than contrast. I’ve heard a variety of different takes on just how noticeable and jarring the lower contrast is, so I was curious to know what his take was.

        • crim3

          When you swtich from OLED to LCD it’s quite a shock. You can’t believe how grey the blacks ares. In a couple of weeks the brain adapts (as usually) and what were greys the first day have become your new blacks.

          • KOSTANTINOS KOD

            I heard that before..You dont adapt,you just dont expect better. Its a cheap lcd,coming from a vive pro,the first days you will cry and then you will get over it.

          • crim3

            At first it looked so terrible that I thought I could no longer do night flights or play Elite Dangerous. Now I can’t barely notice it. But when I use my Vive the blacks feel like negative light :D

    • Bob

      If you’re used to watching content on an OLED TV or have come from a Samsung Odyssey then unfortunately you will notice the black levels and will be somewhat disappointed .

      So far having used the Rift S the black levels are not good at all because in dark scenes the LCD panel is uniformly lit. It doesn’t have dimming zones like a traditional full array LCD so you will notice the blacks are sort of grayish which severely affects the contrast .

  • JT

    What graphics card would I need to run Skyrim vr at 144hz?

    • Xron

      rtx 3080ti

    • kontis

      You should rather ask what CPU, because no matter how good your GPU is and how much you lower your resolution Skyrim and many other games may not run at constant 144 FPS even on the best CPUs on the planet.

  • Rosko

    Good writeup, can’t wait to get mine. The glare issue is disappointing but i guess you can’t win em all. Overall it sounds like a fantastic headset & money well spent.

  • mark_burnes

    Hello Ben, thanks for your review!

    I would like to know if the FOV that we can expect is like removing the foam from original Rift, or perhaps more? Is there a sense of at least some “peripheral vision” and does it at least not feel like a scuba diving mask?

    • impurekind

      At roughly 130-140 degrees field of view, even though higher than something like the original Rift, it seems patently obvious you’ll still get that feeling of looking through a scuba diving mask. Until you’re wearing a VR headset with maybe 200 degrees field of view or more I don’t think that can be avoided.

      • mark_burnes

        not really, a motorcycle helmet doesn’t feel like a scuba diving mask and yet doesn’t even reach 170° most of the time.

        • impurekind

          Actually, almost all the ones I see when doing a quick search have larger than 200 degrees from what I can see–and so they should.

          • mark_burnes

            only the best ones have 180 (usually not 200).

            But my point is that scuba masks have a very typical feeling, I don’t know what FOV that corresponds too, but I would be happy for something halway between the decathlon mask and a typical scuba mask.

  • Notung

    Can we at least hope Valve tests this thoroughly and makes sure it works before putting it on sale? Because the Rift S has been a nightmare for me and a lot of people I know. It’s going back to Oculus and I for sure won’t order another one.

  • sfmike

    Sadly doesn’t sound like that much of an improvement to warrant the price.

    • Gonzax

      – Better FOV
      – Better lenses
      – Better clarity
      – Better tracking
      – Better comfort
      – Better audio
      – Better refresh rate
      – Better controllers

      yeah you’re right, not much of an improvement there xD

      • KOSTANTINOS KOD

        Minus lcd screen equals zero.
        Do you think oculus had 5% more overlaping because they were stupid?
        More fov? What ?are we all gonna shave our eyelashes?
        Add the 250$ for the old type tracking +250 for two joysticks.
        And finaly add that you need an 3080ti turbo to play real games 144hz in vr(Hz is really a nice advertising method people fall for that since pentiums.)

        • Rosko

          It’s clearly the best consumer headset out there, if you can’t afford it go buy something else.

          • Muckylittleme

            I’ll stick with my Pimax 5K+ for now. Can play on small FOV which is still much wider than index and ramp up the SS, the quality is really nice and SD minimal.
            The HP reverb will have better image quality but it is all pros and cons and depends on what you will use it for. Sims are better suited to high fidelity while games generally need better tracking and low latency.

          • KOSTANTINOS KOD

            I cant afford the 72 hz xtal because i wouldn’t give so much for a pair of lenses. I will wait for vive cosmos, maybe theres something good there,for the time i will not buy an lcd headset the difference is huge and unforgivable for a 1000$+ headset.

          • Daniel Gochez

            I don’t like LCD either for it’s lower contrast, but if that is what it takes for the higher refresh/low latency then I’m in. Refresh rate is not a marketing gimmic. The improvement in immersion is easy to test if you have access to a 144hz monitor, just move the mouse around the screen and you’ll see what I mean.

          • KOSTANTINOS KOD

            If we can’t buy gpu to really support those 144 yet,gimmic it is.
            With closer to eye headset for extra fov you get lower resolution vs last years vive pro ,and that using a washed up lcd just because is cheap and eazier to overclock to 144hz and thats where probably the tearing is coming from..
            I wonder how fast our eyes will feel dry using that the summer.

      • Krisi Luttinen

        – Gray Blacks (LCD)
        – Extra Glare
        – Resolution Per Eye (not more than previous gen)
        ;-)

    • M0rph3u5

      Still better and cheaper than going for Vive pro and more practical than other higher resolution HMDs like Samsungs’s and Pimax with their dated controllers and lower frequency/fps.

      • Muckylittleme

        Pimax doesn’t have any controllers yet but the prototypes look promising. Of course you could buy index controllers and use with Pimax.
        Lower frequency yes but lower fps not necessarily.
        I mean good luck running games on decent settings at 120/144 fps on the index even with a 2080Ti

        • Johann Sebastian

          120/144Hz is a big load on CPU. Simulator games you can forget about them right away, they’re all CPU locked. SkyrimVR, FalloutVR, etc, all these titles won’t be able to take advantage of it. +10° FOV to each side is nothing. I think the Pimax takes that throne, especially as it has similar screens and clarity.

    • Harmoniser

      You seem to have read a different preview to me.

  • Aragon

    Ok, so you pay $600 for lower Picture Quality with more glare, which has a more complicated setup and is also less comfortable. I think I’am quite happy with my “Point and Shoot” Rift-S :) Let’s see how the Vive Cosmos and Samsung’s new VR Devices will be in comparison. Hopefully this will be real Upgrades and not one step forward and 3 steps back like the Index.

    • Per the article, the author felt the headset was more comfortable and had superior visuals and audio to competitors… Glad you’re happy with your purchase.

    • Who’s this?

      Woah now baby. Don’t just look at the cons. Better audio, better FOV, higher resolution, sans glare the sweet spot is massive, better comfort, the best in class tracking system for all of VR, and finger tracking controllers with amazing flexibility on use.

      The list goes on my friend, $600 well spent. Samsung will kick ass, but the Index has its spot.

      • Muckylittleme

        LOL $600 well spent? If you including tacking and lighthouses as you did in your feature list better double that.
        Here in the UK the price for the full set is $1,170 but I hope it is a good HMD, we need VR to keep moving forward

        • Rosko

          It was £910 for the whole package. It remains to be seen if it was worth it or not but the Rift-S is absolutely not worth it for me. There just isn’t any better option around at the moment if you care about tracking.

          • Muckylittleme

            Yes that converts to nearly $1,160
            I agree if you are playing games that require controllers and full tracking there likely isn’t a better option right now.
            However if you are using it for seated sim experiences then the HP reverb or Pimax may be better choices.
            I just want VR to improve and will buy whichever I think best like most people.
            I may even by an index once they are out mainstream and all the user experiences and comparisons with other HMD’s come in but for now I can great experience with the pimax using small FOV and supersampling which is still wider than the index and higher refresh rates are meaningless to em at the moment as the sims I play require reprojection/brainwarp anyway because mostly they can’t get close to 90fps with good SS and high settings let alone 120 or 144

    • Jerald Doerr

      OG Vive owner here..
      Yeah, I finally got to try my friend’s Rift S playing Robo Recall and I do have to admit pretty nice little setup for the price… Tracking was a lot better than I expected but not perfect do to strange pops in the HMD tracking… I played for like 20 min and for the 1st time in VR I got out of it and had wired eye strain????

      Still can’t wait to get my Index pre-order… Got a update/confirmation of shipping address E-mail yesterday… Good thing!! My address was off buy one number due to my panic scramble to place my order in the shower!!

      • wcalderini

        Yeah. I was stoked to get my address confirmation today as well. June 28th is sneaking on up on me. Think I’ll take the day off for delivery.
        I was only able to get the “Headset Plus Knuckles” combo although I was willing to go for the whole deal, I too, had some some problems on my first attempt, and by the time I got it sorted out, all the complete packages were gone. Will probably pick up the new base stations, but I’m going to see how my “gen 1” Vive base stations work first. After owning nearly ALL the consumer level product, I think THIS ONE is going to be the daily drive keeper. It appears to hit all the right notes.

    • Popin

      Someone is delusional and did a hefty amount of “selective reading”. Every preview and testimonial have said the picture quality is one of, if not the, best of any HMD on the market. Secondly every single preview have noted the build quality and the comfort. Try taking off your fanboi glasses when reading the article.

    • Gonzax

      Lower picture quality? less comfortable? we must have read very different articles here. And the setup will be pretty much the same as my current Rift which took me 15 minutes and I haven’t had to touch again in over two years.
      The ‘one step forward, 3 steps back’ thing is not even worth any comment because it’s just absurd, no offence.

    • KOSTANTINOS KOD

      You are right,people are just to bias with anything advertised here, lcd(huge brake dealer),same with vive resolution with a biger(but still small)fov, expensive,messy and dated tracking for minimal difference vs 4-5 cameras, But all here are exited with the one and only revolutionary headset called valve index. Pfff

  • James Stormes

    Do we know if the lenses have any anti reflection coatings.

    To continue the DSLR vs point and shoot idea. I know camera lenses without anti reflective coatings flair much than with.

    If they do not have anti reflective coatings, is there any reason why not?

    • johann jensson

      They have not. Coatings are expensive, not to mention the fact that i don’t even know if optical plastics can be coated.

  • Toothlover

    Nice one DSLR, huh? that’s just another lame excuse for an expensive headset.

    • Bob Smith

      What “excuse?” It’s a much higher end headset. That’s why it’s expensive. It doesn’t need “an excuse.”

  • Amazing review, as always!

  • lnpilot

    A long article about a VR headset. Never mentions the resolution. It should be in the first paragraph.
    It’s like an article about a sports car without horsepower and 0-60 time.

    • Popin

      They did tell you to start with their original preview article which does provide that information. I also think it’s a testament to the notion that the “headset is not defined by one single factor—be it resolution, field of view, etc—but instead that the sum of its specs and features add up to a high fidelity experience.” This article was fairly obviously more about his experience(s) using the Index rather than a listing of specifications.

      • lnpilot

        No, it’s not defined by a single parameter, but resolution dwarfs every other parameter in importance.
        – resolution
        – resolution
        – resolution
        – optics
        – tracking
        – ergonomics

        • Gonzax

          Not at all, I couldn’t disagree more with that

          • johann jensson

            Interesting. How can you enjoy a game if you can’t see half of the information on screen, because of SDE & low res? I can’t.

          • Gonzax

            What I meant to say is that resolution isn’t everything. Index has the same resolution as Vive Pro and according to every review it still looks much better. That’s what I meant, resolution is very important of course but optics and other things are equally important. It’s a combination of all the little things that makes the headset not just the resolution.

          • lnpilot

            “I disagree” is not an argument. Big pixels and a screen door effect ruin the suspension of disbelief and reduce the utility of VR to a point that it’s the primary reason VR is not selling among consumers and especially in the business world.
            All AR/VR manufacturers will tell you that this is the primary feedback they get from users.
            I would know. I’ve been working in AR/VR for 25 years, and I’ve designed and built my own VR headsets.

          • Popin

            I would know. I’ve been working in AR/VR for 25 years, and I’ve designed and built my own VR headsets.

            Appeal to authority is also not an argument and means nothing. Everything you’ve stated is also opinion, just as @disqus_e9URXduazM:disqus disagreeing with your opinion.

            All AR/VR manufacturers will tell you that the top 3 things users ask for is resolution, resolution, resolution, everything comes after that.

            Seems odd because it would appear that Valve is saying otherwise. Valve has continued to indicate that there are several more important display attributes that are more important than resolution including low persistence, and refresh rate.

            Secondly, users asking for things doesn’t mean those things are the best approach nor does it equate to the best result. I’ll leave those design choices to the engineers that are actually implementing and testing the technology, and producing a product that has been touted as having the best experience with the greatest sense of presence. Valve engineers are largely responsible for even being where we are with VR now and they have a solid track record of prioritizing various attributes and balancing the entire experience rather than fixating on resolution.

          • lnpilot

            You don’t understand the appeal to authority fallacy. It means that authority in one field does not apply in another.
            Look it up.
            E.g. a neurosurgeon’s expertise does not make him an authority in rocket science, but it does in neuroscience.
            Otherwise you are claiming that your opinion about brain surgery is on equal footing with a brain surgeon who’s been practicing for 25 years.
            Yes, low persistence and high refresh rate are important as well, but none of it matters if the resolution is so crappy that all you see is big pixels and a screen door effect, like on the last couple of generations of VR headsets.
            Also, keep in mind that Valve, etc. are trying to sell you something, and resolution is a hard limiting factor at the moment (display tech and GPU power being the bottlenecks), so of course they’ll try to “redirect the emphasis” to other factors that they can control.
            I, on the other hand am not selling anything, and have nothing to gain or lose based on which spec is the most important.
            I’m simply conveying what I’ve found.

          • Popin

            You don’t understand the appeal to authority fallacy.

            “According to person 1, who is an expert on the issue of Y, Y is true.

            Therefore, Y is true.”

            Who the expert is and what field it is in is irrelevant. The flaw in logic is that the argument is leaning on the “authority” rather than evidence.

            You are arguing that resolution needs to be at least “2k x 2k per eye” at an absolute minimum for what exactly? You’re previous statements would indicate that 2k x 2k is absolute minimum needed for people to suspend disbelief and feel presence. I can provide you with a whole slew of “VR Fails” videos showing people trying to lean on virtual things because they feel presence, using existing HMDs at “crappy” resolutions.

            You provide no evidence that support your claims, nor do you provide actual evidence of your authority. So color me a skeptic if I don’t put any value in your 25 years of experience or your appeal to substitute it for evidence.

        • johann jensson

          Exactly. That’s why i pre-ordered an HP Reverb.

          The Rift S, albeit a great device, had horrible resolution and SDE, and i expect the Index will be similar. Games with outdoor areas look extremely compromised (Crysis, Skyrim VR etc).

          Sure, WMR has some weak points, but i frankly don’t care, because my main use is VorpX.

        • bkydcmpr

          I agree resolution is the top priority for me, but not for everyone, some people are just naturally more sensitive to other factors. The screen door effect makes me throw up, but there are people seem not affected at all.

  • KOSTANTINOS KOD

    Was that a non sponsored preview?

    • Popin

      Disclosure: Valve provided Road to VR with an Index headset.

      Other than Valve providing them with the full Index kit, I doubt there was any other compensation. They would have probably also listed that in the disclosure if it was sponsored (e.g. more than being provided with the hardware).

    • benz145

      I assume this is a joke, but if anyone thought it was serious: Road to VR does not publish sponsored editorial content.

      • KOSTANTINOS KOD

        Ah sz negatives were skiped fast so i wasnt sure what’s goin on.

  • MW

    Too expensive for average user. No average users=no content. No content=no sense.

    • Thomas Sven Whittaker

      Obviously the Index can play all of the same content as any other headset. Have you forgotten that Valve owns Steam, and Steam has more VR titles available than the Oculus store? I own a rift myself and am invested in the Oculus ecosystem, but this comment you just posted was so stupid I had to let my inner nerd shine in public for all to see just to point out how idiotic it was.

      • MW

        Idiotic is spending 1k for the same games available on Quest. You want to spend over 1k to play mobile games?Go nuts.
        By the time when some real VR content will be available, index will be obsolete, my wise man.

        • Colin

          Same games? The Quest runs on completely different hardware to tethered headsets such as the Vive, Rift and Index which run on a PC. The Quest runs on the same processor as mobile phone hardware. It’s the difference between a mobile phone and a PC game. The Quest has its place, but its not the same thing. All games currently out for the Vive will run on the Index. Games for the Quest have to be developed separately.

        • Thomas Sven Whittaker

          I think mobile VR can co-exist with PCVR, in the same way that smartphones can co-exist with desktop computers. Maybe mobile VR will be the more popular option, but that doesn’t mean it’s superior by any stretch, just like smartphones haven’t replaced laptops. They’re different devices that serve different purposes.

          Or maybe you’re right and I’m wrong, either way it’s all just conjecture and speculation this early in the game. The quest opens up a lot of potential for VR, but developers will continue to push high-end PCVR experiences to compliment their mobile offerings, just as console and mobile developers still continue to develop higher quality PC versions of their titles, regardless of whether the PC version makes any revenue comparable to other platforms.

          Also, fuck Facebook as a company, as a platform, and as a concept. That’s another conversation, but I’m hesitant to continue supporting them financially.

  • MOT

    Im tempted by the index but have just got the reverb with its 2k by 2k screens per eye and the visuals are miles ahead of anything seen so far in vr. Im worried after the reverb the index displays wont look so great.

    Its a real shame oculus didnt put a decemt display in the rift s. Instead they have the same res as the basic wmr headsets which have been available for 2 years. It was a strange decision by oculus. Even the quest has higher res displays than the rift s.

  • dz11

    Why is it that every time a website talks about field of view they act like the Pimax does not exist? Is it because Pimax doesn’t spend advertising money here?

    • Leon Jimenez

      Since the updated software that fixed distortion and lets me run everything on my 1080 (even fallout 4) pimax is amazing. There were a few bad units it out of the 6,000 that were shipped and thise complaints were the loudest. Too bad the water was tainted because it deserves a second look.

    • JustNiz

      It’s because they’re paid to promote new stuff, but the truth is that the Pimax destroys it, so they have to just pretend it doesn’t exist. Note how he says stuff like the Index is the best “In its class”. What does “in its class” even mean? It’s such an open-ended and misleading statement because it gives them a get-out for the existence of the Pimax, while still implying that the Index is the best.

  • Jason Mercieca

    Needs Wireless though.
    VR players (like me) that have wireless adapter wont go back to wired..
    Hope they can do something about that…

  • Michael Hoffmann

    You compare a Porsche to a Dacia. With both you can drive. But the Porsche is not worth its money, because the surcharge does not do justice to the added value. Exactly this with the Valve Index and the Rift-S. The Rift S does everything quite well. The index can do a lot better, but also costs more than twice as much as the Rift-S. But the immersion is not twice as good, because the INDEX is also far away from the very good VR headset. And that you still need base stations here is a K.O. criterion for me. I don’t want to have these cables in my living room anymore. Thanks Oculus for the Rift-S.

  • I want to view ultra-high-resolution photo-spheres with the best image quality money can buy, and I’m a Linux user. Should I buy it?

  • crim3

    Funny you talk about how important the higer refresh rate is while I’m experimeting with 60Hz in my Lenovo Explorer, putting up with the flickering of that low refresh rate to be able to game at 60fps in DCS (instead of 45fps with reprojection). I feel so poor now :D
    Looking forward to the full review. Don’t save on details about how it “feels”. I’ve always loved reading about it.

  • Jose Ferrer

    Thanks Ben for your review, I understand you try to be as much objective as possible, but
    Would you be so kind to include FOV measurements with FOV measuring tools and through the lens pictures (I know this is complex but this is what people want to see)

  • Ugur Ister

    Nice in depth writeup =)

  • JustNiz

    Hey Ben, have you not heard about Pimax?

  • The Bard

    Odyssey+ is the DSLR. This one, the Index is between point-and-shoot and some D90 Nikon.