Valve Index

VR enthusiasts and VR hopefuls, I do hope you were sitting down when you read that headline. Valve announced the full details about their upcoming virtual reality headset that they're calling the Valve Index.

The Index now has an official release date, a full list of specifications, and even a set of confirmed prices. There are also a list of games that have been updated to include support for the new Index controllers. It's an impressive bit of hardware, without a doubt, but it's one that comes at a hefty price.

If you do not own any VR headset, or if you don't own any of the HTC Vive Pro VR gear, a complete Valve Index VR Kit will set you back $1,000 (USD). Well, it's actually just $999.00, but you get the idea. For this price, you get the Valve Index VR Kit. This includes the Headset, Controllers, and two Base Stations.

Priced at a bit more reasonable $749 is a package that includes just the Index Headset and controllers. This is for those that already own the Base Stations. Keep in mind that those who purchased a Vive Pro VR headset probably already own these base stations.

Finally, there are options to purchase each component separately. You can get the Valve Index Headset for $499 if you already own a Vive or Vive Pro. You can get the Valve Index controllers for $279 if you already own the Vive or Vive Pro. Finally, you can get the latest Valve Index Base Stations for $149 if you already own a Vive Pro. These are apparently version 2.0 of the Base Station, featuring better range, a wider FOV, and support for up to four Base Stations in a single setup.

The Valve Index does come with some impressive technical specs, for those of you who are into that sort of thing.

Valve Index Tech Specs

So, you are fine with the price and you're ready to pick this up, what else is there to know?

Well, it should be noted that pre-orders for these begin on May 1 through the Steam Store. The hardware won't ship until June 28, 2019 and is expected to arrive to consumers by July 1, 2019.

It should also be noted that you will need some decent PC hardware to run this adequately, especially if you want to enjoy those higher framerates. Valve suggests that you have at least the following for their Index.

System Requirements
  • OS: Windows 10, SteamOS, Linux
  • RAM: 8GB+
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970+ or AMD RX480+ (Available DisplayPort required, HDMI not supported)
  • CPU: Dual Core (with hyperthreading, or better)
  • USB: 3.0+ (for headset cameras)
Fortunately, at least so far, it seems as though the high price set for the Valve Index is mostly worth it. A few pre-release impression pieces went up today at sites like Road to VR and UploadVR.

The upgrades to the display—both in low persistence and refresh rate—really make the VR world look more ‘solid’ than ever before. 144Hz looks buttery smooth and feels closer to what you’d expect the real world to look like by pushing latency even lower than typical 90Hz headsets. These two elements are arguably a bigger improvement to the visuals than the upgraded resolution which, indeed, brings a sharper image, but is still far from eliminating the screen door effect.

Field of view is definitely higher than the Vive—thanks to the eye-relief adjustment easily allowing me to dial in the maximum field of view—but the difference didn’t exactly blow me away despite being nice to have.
They also explain to us a few additional details about the Index. That big gap in the front that's covered by a translucent bit of plastic? Valve apparently calls that a "frunk" and is a generic expansion port for whatever modifications people may want to create. It features a USB 3.0 port inside. Valve, however, has no specific use cases for it. Valve also apparently doesn't have any specific use cases for the two forward-facing cameras on the Headset. They aren't used for inside-out tracking on the Index. Valve says that they are merely "very good computer vision cameras" that developers can utilize if they want.

Valve says that they plan to release a "flagship VR game" at some point this year. However, specific details about this game have not yet been revealed to anybody. If you've seen any of the rumors over the past year, you probably have a pretty good idea about what that "flagship VR game" is...