An excellent Valve Index teardown gives a look at the headset’s complex inner-workings. Along with getting a clear look at the headset’s dual-element lenses, the teardown also reveals a screen diffuser.

Valve touted a holistic design approach for its Index headset, saying that each part of the headset was tuned to support each other part in an effort to raise the overall fidelity of the VR experience.

Thanks to Reddit user GamerToTheEnd, who apparently sacrificed the $500 Index headset in the name of science, we can all see inside to see what makes it tick. Of note, the teardown gives a good look at Index’s dual-element optics which are somewhat novel in this class of headsets.

Image courtesy GamerToTheEnd

To our knowledge, every other headset in the same class use single-element optics (though some are more complex than others). In this case, Valve appears to have fused two distinct lenses together into a single package. More optical elements mean more control over the way light passes through the lens (but also mean more weight and cost).

Valve said ahead of the Index launch that their decision to go with a dual-element optic was to improve the clarity and reduce distortions across the lens. While it does seem like Valve achieved their objective on that front, I suspect the dual-element approach may also be why I found notable glare from the lenses in our Index review.

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Previously unbeknownst to us, the teardown also reveals what the author identifies as a screen diffuser, which is generally used to slightly blur the image in order to reduce the apparent screen door effect (the blank spaces between pixels). To our knowledge, among modern headsets, only Samsung’s Odyssey+ and Sony’s PSVR have used diffusers before Index.

The diffuser on the Odyssey+ is controversial because of just how much it reduces the sharpness of the image compared to the original Odyssey (which lacked the diffuser). On Index however, I never would have guessed myself that it was using a diffuser, nor have I heard anyone else suggest as much prior to this teardown, which makes it a pretty interesting find.

Aside from a look at the lenses and diffuser, the teardown also reminds us of how much additional mechanical complexity comes with supporting an IPD adjustment.

The IPD adjustment mechanism doesn’t just move the lenses, it symmetrically moves both lens-display assemblies. Mechanical tolerances here are small because the headset electronically reports the IPD width down to the millimeter to aid in user adjustment. | Image courtesy GamerToTheEnd

Allowing the lenses the move closer or further apart from each other enables the headset to offer the ideal optical position for a wider range of users. The additional parts and assembly needed to make this possible is very likely a major reason why Oculus opted to remove IPD adjustment entirely from the Rift S, even if it means a sub-par optical experience for a portion of the headset’s potential audience.

For more views inside of Index, check out the complete teardown album here.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • RockstarRepublic

    I really hate the “ringed” lenses used in the Vive. In the Vive, the rings are way too noticeable via peripheral vision. Its a shame the Index also uses this approach. PSVR and Oculus don’t have this problem, it just looks and feels like a normal “lens flare” of sorts if you do notice it.

    • dk
    • kontis

      All modern Oculus headsets have fresnel lenses with rings.
      PSVR doesn’t use fresnels, but there is a big trade-off: pupil swim and smaller FOV.

      • Gavin Wardrope

        Regarding pupil swim – I wear glasses and I don’t experience any significant distortion due to the lens. I worry that people are just bringing up these issues out of habit in defending Fresnel lenses because someone said it once. It’s not a real issue though. Eye glasses use normal lenses over Fresnel lenses for many reasons. So it’s not a trade off – it’s actually a preference.

        And normal lenses can have quite a wide field of view – my glasses give me a wider field of view than these Fresnel lenses. So why can’t normal lenses be adapted to these headsets.

        I really question the veracity of these claims that true lenses have any trade off at all.

    • Martijn Valk

      I have an Index and can say that the rings are no longer visible. Also the very obvious ‘god rays’ are no longer there, though there is still lens glare, but of a different kind.

      So it’s not perfect yet, but overall the picture is much more clean than the Vive.

  • Moe Curley

    This is great. Much more professional than a recent headset teardown I saw. It was brutal! Thanks for this!

  • Immersive_Computing

    Very interesting! The face cushion is something I’m working on at moment with 3D printed wide version under construction. Here is Valve’s Index cushion being stripped so I could recover the rubber nose gasket.

  • Pablo C

    IPD is barely necessary for most if not all people. I remember having to adjust IPD for clarity with high detail. Somehow, after a couple of years of VR daily use, my eyes/brain can adapt to the whole IPD range of the Rift CV1.

  • I feel bad for that poor Index being destroyed! Anyway, very interesting disassembly… I was surprised as you to see the diffuser! This may be why the screendoor effect is so reduced on this device

  • Damien

    Does someone know how many wire are in the cable from the headset to the computer. I think 19. I d’like to install a slip ring