Valve revealed the Index last month without a notice; promising to “upgrade your experience,” the VR headset was confirmed to be bundled with the new Valve-designed "Knuckles" controllers and the SteamVR 2.0 base stations, with availability planned for June 15. All that was missing was the price, which was to be revealed on May 1 – alongside the opening of preorders.
Just a day early, Valve today announced everything there is to know about the Index. It’s designed and developed in-house by Valve – not in partnership with HTC.
Index uses two custom-built 1440x1600 panels, providing the same resolution as the Vive Pro. However, the Vive Pro relies on AMOLED panels with PenTile subpixels, while the Index is using LCD panels with full RGB subpixels. As a result, the Index loses out on the true blacks that AMOLED can produce, but the subpixel arrangement helps reduce the infamous screen-door-effect. Also, while the Vive and Vive Pro both have a 90Hz refresh rate, the Index pushes it to 120Hz with an experimental mode going even further at 144Hz.
Valve claims that the Index will comfortably fit 95% of adult heads as it offers not just adjustment for inter-pupillary distance (IPD), but also lens-eye distance, the rear strap, and the top strap. As for the field-of-view, Valve says it should be “20 degrees more than Vive for the average consumer.”
Audio is a major focus as well; the Index features what Valve is calling “near-field off-ear” speakers. It’s worth noting because these headsets do not touch the ears – they sit at a distance, allowing users to listen to the real-life environment around them.
Valve ships the Index with its new Index Controllers, codenamed “Knuckles.” These controllers strap onto your hand, which means you can let go of them and move your hand and fingers naturally; finger tracking is included as well, for each finger – including the thumb. It can also detect the force of a user’s grip. As an effect, this allows for a more natural interaction in the virtual world with users being able to pick up objects using their hands as they would in the real world. Index Controllers come with in-built rechargeable batteries with seven hours of battery life, per Valve.
Index also ships with Valve’s upgraded SteamVR Tracking 2.0 base stations. These have been in the works for a while, and as expected, are smaller, lighter, quieter, and consume less power. It’s also possible to use four of these together. It’s worth noting that the Index will work with older base stations that were available with the Vive, but the new base stations won’t work with older headsets, such as the Vive or Vive Pro.
Pricing is, perhaps, the most important bit; here’s how it goes:
Index by itself is $499, but it doesn’t include the controllers or the base stations. If you have previously purchased a Vive or Vive Pro, you can simply buy the headset and use your older controllers and base stations.
Index with the new “Knuckles” controllers bundled is $749, but without the base stations. Once again, these will work with older base stations.
Index with the new controllers and the new base stations – the complete bundle – will punch your wallet with $999. This is, essentially, the cost of the complete VR system.
Valve is also selling the new controllers separately for $279, and the new base stations for $149.
If you do end up buying into Valve’s pitch for the perfect VR system, you are required to be equipped with at the minimum an Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD RX 480, though GTX 1070 or higher is recommended. Valve has made a handy app to judge whether your PC is ‘Valve Index Ready’.
Index will plug into the PC via DisplayPort and one USB port; USB 2.0 will work, but USB 3.0 is required for the camera passthrough feature. You will also have to supply power separately. Alternatively, if you own one of the newer GPUs with a VirtualLink port, a separately-purchasable $39.99 cable will allow you to plug the headset into that single port for display, power, and data. Additionally, the base stations will also need to be powered individually – if you end up buying four base stations, you would be using four power sockets.
Valve Index will work on Windows, macOS, and Linux; preorders open tomorrow, available here, and begin shipping starting June 28 in the U.S. A slight delay from the original June 15 date.