The Valve Index Virtual Reality Console Is Too Ahead of the Game

The Valve Index looks promising, but is it worth the splurge?

Later this year, Valve will debut the most advanced VR system yet: the Valve Index. Priced at a whopping $999, this brand new VR set comes with vastly improved features compared to the Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive Pro, and PlayStation VR.

The Valve Index gives us the innovation that VR should have, but the question is: do we really need it right now? The Valve Index is literally ahead of the game—we don’t have the kind of high-resolution VR games that the Valve Index is meant to play.

What Is Valve Index?

The Valve Index is a high-fidelity VR system, meaning that you’ll have an amazingly immersive VR experience. Before we get into why the Index isn’t worth buying (yet), let’s take a look at some of its features.

The Headset

The Index comes with two custom 1440×1600 LCD panels—these panels use a specific pixel layout to diminish the “screen door effect” that causes your VR world to resemble a grid.

When you get ahold of the Index, you can opt to set the refresh rate to the experimental level of 144Hz. Combine that with a pixel persistence of only 0.33ms, and you’ll have the smoothest VR experience to date. The Index also offers a wider field of vision, giving you a more realistic perspective of the virtual world around you.

You’ll notice that the Index’s headset is similar to the Vive’s. Both use straps that extend on the sides and top of your head. Instead of equipping the headset with headphones that touch your ears, the Index comes with speakers that merely hover over your ears. This unique feature makes the audio sound as if it’s coming from the world around you.

The Controllers

If you’ve used a VR system before, you know that you can’t really make any gestures with your hands—it’s a real struggle to form a peace sign or flip the bird to an NPC. The Valve Index finally lets you show the world how you really feel by using 87 sensors to accurately pick up your hand and finger movement.

In addition, the controllers attach right to your hands, so you don’t even have to grip them. There’s not even a trigger to clutch when you want to hold an item—simply close your hand to pick up an item, and then open your hand to drop it. The Valve team tried to get as close as they could come to real life, and I respect that.

The Base Stations

The Index comes with two base stations that increase your play area by 400% when compared to older VR consoles. If you want to shell out the extra cash for two more base stations (which cost $149 a piece), you can expand your play area to as large as 11 x 11 yards. That’s right, I said yards not feet.

The Index’s laser tracking technology gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of space. Lasers pan the room 100 times every second to ping the sensors on your controllers and headset.

Why the Valve Index Isn’t Worth It (Yet)

After reading about the Index’s amazing specs, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t want to head to the Steam store and preorder it. I would love to splurge $999 on a system that gives you a truly realistic virtual experience, but in reality, you just don’t need a system of this caliber right now.

I’ve previously discussed why purchasing a VR system isn’t totally worth it, and some of the same reasons apply to the Valve Index. The games currently available for VR just don’t impress me, and most of them operate with lower end graphics to compensate for the high amount of performance needed to run the game. Perhaps the world of VR will appear much clearer when you put on an Index headset, but with such a limited amount of genuinely good games to choose from, you really don’t have a variety of options.

Unless Valve ships its system with awesome new VR games, I’d say that purchasing the Index is a no-go. Why should I pay $999 for a system that has no titles that actually match up to the high-quality specs of the Index? It’s just like driving Lamborghini through a town that’s prone to potholes—there’s just no point.

VR Developers Need to Step It Up

In order to reach the level of the Index, VR game developers really need to spend more time creating games with beautiful graphics. Since many VR games are made by indie developers, they just don’t have the funds to do it. We need AAA developers to hop in and create a highly-detailed VR-only game like Robo Recall—until that happens, we won’t need the Index.

Motion sickness is another reason why people avoid VR. To find out why you might feel sick when playing VR games, take a look at our article that explains everything you need to know about motion sickness in virtual reality games.

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  1. VR content is still lacking except for a few genres where you can play for months or years
    – simulations (racing, flight sim, space sim, swording…)

    – cardio (beat saber, boxing, table tennis, swording…)

    – Online FPS

    – Action RPG (no infinite length but a few hundred hours with Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR, even more with mods)

    Also image quality and resolution are starting to be good enough for watching movies

    1. The cardio games are such a good way to make use of VR! But I don’t know if they’re worth the crazy prices of Valve Index, HTC Vive, etc. For now, I see the Oculus Go and Oculus Quest as the best options for VR rookies and everyday folks, at least for the next few years. Can’t wait until we get to the point where VR starts looking like real life!

  2. I feel a bit differently. I’ve had my Rift for quite a while now. I actually regretted the purchase right up until the point where I put it on.

    But I don’t mind being tethered to a computer. The field of view (or lack of) doesn’t bother me once I’m involved in a game. I never notice any ‘screen door’ effect.

    I have a few games that I don’t think I would enjoy at all if they weren’t in VR. The Climb, for instance. It will work with a game pad, but then you’re missing so much of the game. I don’t think Lone Echo would work half as well using a monitor. Playing Elite in VR is amazing. A little difficult due to not being able to see the keyboard, but amazing, nonetheless.

    So, yeah, I’m very happy with what I have in terms of VR. And I’m sure it’s just going to get better over time if people stick with it.

    As far as the Index goes, $999 is a lot of money, but that’s for someone going in cold. If you already have a Vive you can upgrade things individually in your own time. I’m not sure there’s even a reason to get the new Lighthouses.

    For me, I was all set to go with the Rift S, because I would really like to get rid of the three sensors I have. They’re kind of ugly, there’s wires going all over the place, and I wouldn’t mind freeing up three USB ports.

    Switching over to the Index would be an option, but then I’d still have two Lighthouses. Not as bad as the Rift sensors, but still things taking up space. The main draw, though, are the controllers.

    If Fallout 4VR was modified to work with the Index controllers so objects could be manipulated without having to press a button (press a button to pick up a mug, press a button to open a door, press a button to… well, you know; after playing Arizona Sunshine and opening doors, trunks, and drawers like you normally would, pressing buttons seems archaic) then I’d most likely take the dive and get the whole setup.

    Anyways, I’m loving VR. I’ll love it more when No Man’s Sky has its VR support released. I’m also looking forward to Stormland by Insomniac.

    1. I have the Rift as well, and I do like it. Some of the games are great (like Arizona Sunshine), but I feel like VR just needs better games. I haven’t gotten around to playing the Climb yet (I”m afraid of heights!), but it does look awesome.

      But you’re right, you can only play games like that in VR because you don’t get the same effect with a controller. I also think that $1k is a little much for a VR system right now, especially for a beginner.

      1. Certainly. Unless they have the money to spend and that’s the kind of thing they want. For me, it’s all about that controller. I thought the Touch controllers were really good and managed to give a good sense of when you’re holding something, but to have every finger accounted for. Well, that may actually be overkill except in the case where you want to be able to use hand gestures.

        I’m also afraid of heights, but that’s why I like the feeling of being high up in games. I’m not going to fall. Or, if I do, it won’t be very far. I’d recommend The Climb as you’ll be concentrating more on the wall in front of you than how high you are, since you won’t be falling to your death. In a literal sense. In a game sense, you’ll be dying quite a bit when you miss jumps.

        I’m also looking forward to Lone Echo’s sequel. I really liked Lone Echo and thought it was just long enough. Not too short, not too long. Although I haven’t gone back and tried to collect all the voice recordings.

        Mage’s Tale is also an interesting game, although I’m stuck at a combat heavy section at the moment.

        Strangely enough, it was Lucky’s Tale that really gave me my first “Wow!” moment in VR. I was toodling along and wondered if I had gotten all the hidden things. And I realized, I just had to turn around me and look and see if I could find something. Which I did. Then i stood up and looked around. And I was like, “Wow. Other games would be cool if I could do that. Like Mario 64, or Ratchet & Clank.”

        If you happen to know a developer who’s looking for a VR project, I’d appreciate it if you pitched a “Crazy Climber” game. Like The Climb, but on the side of a building with people throwing stuff at you (Crazy Climber the arcade game).

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