Valve does not care about the initial entry threshold.

What do you want from your next VR headset? That’s right – the next generation headset. Even those who have been following the latest trends of VR from the very beginning, perhaps even buying dev-kit’s before commercial versions appeared in 2016 probably have a thirst for something new. 2019 is certainly a year to upgrade your kit, but which path will you choose? Valve knows that even the most loyal VR enthusiasts want more: improved picture, audio quality, comfort, and improved interaction. And with the Valve Index, you get all this, however, laying out with a round sum.

First impressions

Valve, of course, is not going to take half measures with its new device. The company is not trying to indulge the mass consumer market with a low-cost entry-level VR headset. She wants to demonstrate what virtual reality is and what it is capable of without going into the corporate segment. Index from Valve immediately looks and feels like the hardware of the premium class – and this is even before you go to the basic analysis of the entire system.

The cable is still there, but this shouldn’t really worry about resistant VR supporters who are well versed in using any of the main headsets. It is easy to put on, adjust and go straight to the update, but there are several factors to get used to.

Headset

First of all, Valve is committed to visual accuracy, and not to keep the built-in display (HMD) cheap. Thus, the system boasts a customizable LCD with full RGB, which, according to Valve, has 50% more subpixels than OLED.

Before you see the excellent quality of the screen, you need to wear and adjust the headset. Valve has made sure that its new device has as many adjustments as possible, allowing not only to perfectly fit it, but also to give the opportunity to join as many people as possible to the new device.

On the back belt is a system with a pivot element, which is beginning to become more and more common, providing a quick and easy adjustment. There is still a velcro strap on top, and under the headset is a manual IPD adjustment, which, apparently, has a fairly significant range. Much more unique was the adjustable “eye relief”, in the words of the company itself, thanks to which the controller on the side panel of the device moves the lenses back and forth. This feature is that Valve does not forget about FOV, as those who wear glasses will want to move the lenses further (reducing the FOV), while those who do not have or wear contact lenses can position the helmet lenses as much as possible. closer, making the field of view maximum. When the lenses are located as close as possible to the eyes, the FOV definitely seemed wider than the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

Valve also took a bold step by doing something rather unusual when it comes to sound transmission. The design made it possible to create a much more natural stream of clear sound that is pleasant to listen. Since the headphones do not touch the ears, there is no problem with comfort. On the other hand, the presence of this gap means that external sounds can also be heard. The fact is that in fact it is not so bad. In a noisy VR room, this may be a problem, but at home it probably won’t matter.

Controllers

Until now, Valve’s Index was a dark horse, if not for one small leak. Knuckles controllers, which are now called Valve Index Controllers, have been published for several years, and Valve regularly releases prototype updates. In fact, the first acquaintance with these controllers is not as exciting as one can imagine.

Comfortable to hold with a fabric strap tightened around the back of your hand, they are equipped with sensors to track all your fingers. Each of them was accurately tracked, although the system begins to fail, if we move everything at once in a random order.

Controllers may look big and bulky, but they are not heavy or difficult to use. What initially causes difficulties is to let go of something. Grabbing the ball or any virtual object, and then throwing it. It just seems weird when we naturally grab, and then hold the controllers to release the item, but it works and works well. Another new small function is pressure, you can actually use force (shake hands with a robot, for example), which may have some interesting variations in the future.

And thanks to traditional joysticks, A / B buttons, trigger and trackpad, they are fully compatible with the SteamVR interface and backward compatible with base stations 1.0.

Games

Naturally, in order to showcase their new headset, Valve wanted to get the best when it came to video games. And the best way to show how good new base stations 2.0 is is a crazy rhythm action. Not only is it nice to look at, it is also a great demonstration of tracking. Four base stations were set up to cover the three headsets of the Valve Index, which is very good for multifunctional spaces – tracking on the Beat Saber did not miss a single blow.

The new headset has to boast new titles, and Valve did not disappoint again. Stress Level Zero showed its game based on Boneworks physical interaction, which skillfully demonstrated the capabilities of the controllers, and also looked as if it were the best game of the studio.

In the number of games for the new headset, Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky also lit up and the first impressions are very good. For five minutes, the demo version allowed you to dig, wander around the planet for a while and take off into space. Teleportation was the only available movement option, but the studio stated that more options would be available, including smooth movement.

Valve keeps pace with the times, and to help new players get used to the controllers, the company has created Aperture Hand Labs. From a handshake to playing “rock, paper, scissors,” a demonstration quickly and simply helps to understand how diverse these controllers are.

For owners of HTC Vive who want to upgrade – the system is also fully compatible with SteamVR, so it will work with any VR games on the platform.

Impressions

Honestly, the first acquaintance makes an impression. Valve managed to find a middle ground between promoting virtual reality and integrating worthy useful features. Although parameters such as eye tracking and rendering were omitted, no one forgot about them. Valve’s full-featured Index costs $ 999, which is a lot compared to peers, but as an upgrade option for current HTC Vive users, the new helmet will be available for $ 499 and this is a seductive choice for those who started thinking about switching to something better.

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Practical experience Valve Index – VR geek

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