In 2019, it is worth talking about only two headsets, and this is one of them.
It seems that not so long ago, Valve officially announced their own virtual reality headset (VR), Index Valve. Of course, the images were distributed on the Internet long before the official release, but when the actual official mention of the device was made, it made it even more exciting. Three months passed and Index Valve now began to deliver to customers who were lucky enough (and quickly enough) to place their pre-orders in May. And frankly, they made a great decision.
Immediately after Valve first introduced the headset at a special press event in Seattle, the company made clear its intentions regarding Index Valve. The virtual reality helmet was not designed to attract more users to the market with cheap devices cost. It was designed for high-quality experience and all VR enthusiasts.
Quality of construction
Valve has definitely made a qualitative leap forward in the presentation of its products. The complete set comes in a massive smooth, shiny black box that feels heavy and solid enough to sit on it. Inside there is a beautiful two-layer layout with the main equipment-headset, controllers and base stations on top and all cables, and other attributes below. The top layer also has comfortable fabric tabs on both sides to prevent damage to the device during transport.
As expected from Valve, the entire kit is well made and assembled. Plastic does not seem cheap, which is good, because there are so many moving / adjustable elements in the system. Discounting things like buttons and triggers, controllers, like the Oculus Touch or HTC Vive, have only one wrist strap. Valve Index controllers have a fabric pad for the back of the hand.
Similarly, the Valve Index headset is equipped with a ratchet disc for tightening the helmet strap for convenient location on the back of the head, manual IPD adjustment at the bottom and another disc on the side for moving the lens back and forth depending on preferences and whether you wear glasses. At the moment this is all great, but time will tell how well such a mechanism will work in reality.
As already mentioned, because of all these options for setting up and fitting the headset, it is extremely pleasant to use. The device proved to be extremely convenient even in such active games as Beat Saber, Aperture Hand Labs and Shadow Legend VR. This is partly due to a good balance with a really strong and soft strap for the user’s head. The VR headset will always have more weight in front because of the lenses, boards and displays, there is no way around this. But Valve seems to have found a happy compromise.
Image and sound
And let’s not forget about the quality of the screen. It may not be OLED, like HTC Vive, but that did not stop Index Valve, which is a feast for the eyes. The user will receive an RGB LCD display with a resolution of 1440 × 1600 per eye (just like the HTC Vive Pro) and a refresh rate of 120 Hz. Which, roughly speaking, means Index Valve makes VR awesome. The LCD may not be as good on darker scenes as OLED, unable to generate the same black levels, but so what. The effect of the screendoor is significantly reduced, the colors are bright and penetrating, and the visual effects are correspondingly clear.
In combination with the display, the speakers provide the user with a rather pleasant and clear sound. Many users were worried about external noise during the first inspection and were disappointed that there was no headphone jack in the device. However, if you are not using Index Valve on a busy construction site, we would not be worried, as you barely notice any external interference. Video games such as Beat Saber demonstrate a rather pleasant range of sound, just don’t expect to hear halftones in a tune!
Perhaps even more impressive and definitely more interesting for the game are the Valve Index controllers. While the headset raises the stakes when it comes to all the variables mentioned against competitors, don’t forget about the controllers who make the whole system as it is, and they are the best reason to buy.
It’s one thing to talk about Valve’s own games, but it’s another when developers also need to optimize their experience for the device. Fortunately, many have done this. Owlchemy Labs Vacation Simulator, for example, is a good example of the integration of finger tracking technology. And Shadow Legend VR shows the capture function.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to controller dexterity. The season of hand movements is now open, and the only real limitation is how well developers can implement these functions.
When it comes to cost, and those who will buy Index Valve, there is one particular market that the system targets, namely the owners of the HTC Vive. In particular, those of you who owned it from day one. If you purchased HTC Vive during the first 12 months after launch (especially in the first six months), then the index – Valve is even more than HTC Vive Pro. Use your old sensors and simply order a headset and controllers. Base stations 2.0 are more suitable for massive areas and VR arcades anyway.
Should I buy?
Oculus Rift users? If you bought all your VR games on Steam, then yes, you will have to purchase a complete set. As for everyone else who only enters the VR field for the first time, you will not appreciate what the Valve Index offers, Oculus Quest is the best entry point for you.
Of course, the novelty has a rather frightening cost, most gamers will not be able to afford it, and Valve knows it. Have you loved VR for many years and can’t go back to regular screens? Then the Valve Index is for you.
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