Alongside the company’s new Index headset, Valve offered an optional VirtualLink adapter which would replace the three plugs on the end of the headset’s tether with a single VirtualLink port for use with compatible GPUs. This week the company canceled the adapter and offered refunds, citing technical issues and a lack of adoption of the VirtualLink port on laptops.

Revealed in 2018, VirtualLink is a connection protocol and port (based on USB-C) designed for VR headsets. The open standard is officially backed by NVIDIA, Valve, Oculus, AMD, Microsoft, and HTC.

Valve was the first company to offer a first-party VirtualLink adapter, as an optional accessory for $40. The adapter would replace the three ports on the end of the default Index cable (DisplayPort, USB, and power) with a single USB-C port to plug into VirtualLink compatible GPUs.

Image courtesy Valve

This week the company told customers who ordered the adapter that they decided to cancel the product and issued full refunds in addition to giving those customers $20 in Steam credit. In the cancellation note to customers, the company was also quite transparent about its reasons for cancelling the Index VirtualLink adapter:

The adapter cable was originally meant to provide added convenience for Valve Index users, making it so they could rely on a single USB-C connection to the headset rather than requiring separate physical connections for video, USB, and power.

However, for multiple technical reasons we no longer believe that the product would deliver that added convenience. Foremost on that list is reliability. Our current testing indicates the VR connection may fail to establish in a reliable manner. Additionally, Virtual Link technology has not been widely adopted by manufacturers, laptops in particular (where a single connection could be the most beneficial), translating to very few PCs having viable ports for the connection.

Valve wasn’t clear if the reliability issues were due to its own adapter design, or relating to the VirtualLink protocol. Whatever the case, it’s clear that the company felt it wasn’t worth fixing the issues to get the product out the door due to what it says is a lack of adoption of VirtualLink in laptops, where the ability to use a single port would be most beneficial.

Indeed, while all of NVIDIA’s RTX Founder’s Edition GPUs (and many third-party RTX cards) support VirtualLink, the situation with laptops is much different.

We wrote recently about this very problem: while all ‘GeForce RTX’ certified laptops technically support VirtualLink, not all (likely not even most) have the correct inner-piping to connect their USB-C ports to the GPU (a requirement for VirtualLink). That leads to a confusing situation where a laptop may have both the horsepower to run VR applications and a USB-C port, but not actually support VirtualLink. And it doesn’t help that, as far we know, no laptop makers have yet begun to clearly label the USB-C ports on their laptops to indicate VirtualLink compatibility.

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Further, while NVIDIA has been aggressive with VirtualLink support on its desktop GPUs, AMD GPUs are much less likely to include a USB-C port to work with the feature, even though its latest generation of cards are technically capable (as long as a USB-C port is present).

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  • Yay, I just got the 18€ of Steam credit!

    • Francesco Kasta

      I’d rather have the cable though.

  • what a disappointment. I mean, it won’t be an actual USB-C cable in itself, but the idea of an adapter to finally see how VirtualLink worked was awesome, so sad that they decided to cancel. Would like to know if it was their design or VirtualLink itself, because it’s been held as the golden goal for VR connections for so long.

    • Smokey_the_Bear

      The golden goal is wireless, which they are likely working on. They probably thought is was dumb putting resources into a better cable, when no one wants a cable.

      • vtid

        Lots of people would rather have a cable for greater reliability of connection and PC power.

        • d0x360

          And lower latency. Plus 1 thin cable would be less likely to get im your way. There might be fears over the strength of the USB C port but… That would be a weak excuse.

          Makes no sense since their core audience is desktop not laptop

      • Miqa

        Wireless still needs a connection to the GPU.

        • Caven

          That connection can be done on the PCI bus. That’s how the Vive adapter does it.

          That said, a wireless solution for laptops would benefit from VirtualLink if the other issues are resolved.

          • Miqa

            I guess you can use PCI, but that is not really more convenient. Will not always work, depending on your setup. VirtuaLink is simpler in that regard.

      • Devilik g

        not having a need to shake every 2 hours when your battery dies

        • Jarilo

          6+ hours on a 20k mAh anker batt.

        • 2 hours is the limit I want to spend in VR though.

      • Kev

        It’s not an either-or. Many enthusiasts of this enthusiast product would very much use VirtualLink and have the wireless adapter have a virtual link option to get rid of the power brick, the usb port, & Displayport.

        I’ve used VirtualLink on the Rift. I don’t want to go back to multiple cables. I pre-ordered this VirtualLink adapter to avoid all that.

        I would have made the VR headset use VirtualLink and an adapter out-of-the-box for those using old GPUs & etc.

    • Kev

      I’ve used VirtualLink on my RTX card for my Rift just fine. That’s what makes this announcement so frustrating: It’s as if they don’t want to be blamed for the mishandling of the capabilities of a laptop’s USB-C connector that happens to have an RTX card: That’s not their problem!

      This is a chicken-n-egg problem they’e unnecessarily exacerbated by not releasing this.

  • kuhpunkt

    “even though it’s latest generation of cards…”

    *ITS latest

    • benz145

      Thanks for the spot, fixing!

    • Dave

      “even though it’s the latest generation of cards…”

      works as well :)

  • Immersive_Computing

    Got my Index on 28th, the controllers were defective with no actuation in forward position (cannot sprint).

    Had to send them back they would not offer advanced replacement, 2 week turnaround.

    Whilst waiting for them I bought gamepad so I could do some seated VR and a fault developed in the headset cable or cable socket causing sparkling artifacts, serious enough they sent “advanced replacement” headset.

    The new headset has vertical banding (grey stripes) if I turn my head, the displays are defective. The new controllers just arrived, still have same defect as my originals.

    VirtuaLink got cancelled, was looking forward to that it was a pre-order along with full kit.

    Let’s see what Valve does to resolve my issues.

  • AlanWake

    That’s bad..

  • wcalderini

    Yep. Disappointing. Had been checking my order status regularly since I knew it was about to ship. I mean I’ve got plenty of ports to handle the index, but I really liked the “all in one” concept, and freeing up posts is always a good thing when running multiple headsets. Well, the money is back in the ban and I have a $20 credit. So there is that. But I do hope it does not mean they are abandoning the tech altogether. Especially for laptop users. (It can be a struggle if your USB and HDMI/Displayports are on different areas of your laptop).

  • Francesco Kasta

    Very disappointed. I have a a triple screen setup taking all the 3 display ports in my graphics card and a TV Set connected via HDMI, the only free port in my VGA is the VirtuallLink and this adapter could have been a god send.

    Yeah, I realize it is silly first world problems but still…

    • Jistuce

      Will a USB-C->DP adapter work, or is a VirtualLink implementatoin incapable of functioning as USB-C(if there can truly be such a thing) in DP alt mode? Hell of a design oversight if they missed that possibility.

      My current setup the vidcard has 3 DP, 1 DVI-D, and 1 HDMI output. My flatscreen and my Rift both connect through HDMI. Fortunately, HDMI is designed to be compatible with DVI-D, so a cheap passive adapter does what I need.

      • Francesco Kasta

        That is the exact same setup I had with my previous GTX card and the Rift. I wish I had kept my old GTX instead of getting the new RTX with (a now useless) VirtualLink port and without the extra DVI-D.

        I will look for a “VirtualLink->Display Port” adapter and see if I find something that works.

        • Jistuce

          Good luck. I know USB-C->something normal adapters exist for pretty much every video port standard, I just don’t know if they work with VirtualLink ports.

          Oh man, if VirtualLink ports DON’T work as “normal” USB-C ports, despite being considered a legal and valid configuration by the USB-IF, that’d make USB-C the worst standard ever.

          • Francesco Kasta

            Perhaps, with the right adapter, I should at least be able to connect one of the three monitors to the USB-C and leave the VR headset hooked to one of the DP. It should work.

            Only one way to find out I suppose…

          • godsbane

            This is how mine is setup. I have a USBC –> HDMI / USB / USBC (power) adapater thing i bought off amazon. I have my projector on this, and my index on one of the displayport outputs. Works fine.

        • Travis Walls

          I don’t think it has to be specifically for VirtualLink. I use this USB-C->DP adapter on my RTX 2080Ti FE, and it works great with my Rift S:

          • Francesco Kasta

            Yup, that’s very similar to the one I purchased from Amazon four days ago. I got the first cheap-o (relatively speaking) adapter I could find with one day shipping and I have been testing it successfully since.

            Oddly enough it only works with the Index though, if I connect it to one of the monitors it won’t display anything. But I don’t care because my goal was to have all of my devices hooked up and working at the same time and the CHOETECH USB-C > DP adapter made it possible.

            Thank you very much guys for your helpful posts !!!

  • doug

    “VR ready” laptops have VR-class GPUs, but often don’t have the cooling required to run them at full utilization for more than a few minutes. Read reviews before you buy!

  • Ratm

    I wonder how the sales went after some people bought it and the cocaine -like advertising fainted,maybe its not worth it for them anymore.

  • Jarilo

    Bummer, it would have been convenient but their excuse is a good one. If it’s not reliable then it’s not reliable.

  • Randy V.

    I am using it with the Rift. I have had a couple strange issues from time to time but for the most part it not only adds length to the overall cabling but also frees up a USB port. Sad to see it not getting used for this headset.

  • WyrdestGeek

    This is that problem of VR not being quite there yet. The lack of adoption is probably because laptop manufacturers are like “why include one more port just for this very niche thing? We can’t afford it.” Meanwhile, not having the convenient port means it will stay niche longer.

    But it will get there eventually. Maybe when there’s an all-in-one VR device that can *also* be wirelessly or wired-ly connected to a GPU, or maybe when the cloud has near 0 latency.

  • Kev

    I used VirtualLink on my Rift prior to upgrading to a Valve Index. I don’t want to go back. Valve needs to seriously reconsider this.

    The over-reliance on Laptop & AMD’s lagging is inexcusable to me for a high-end VR product.

  • d0x360

    Well that’s stupid…what about their core audience which isn’t laptop owners?