Valve Index is the most advanced virtual reality headset we've seen to date
Having teased its arrival last month, Valve has now revealed all the key details for its new Index VR headset, and is opening up pre-orders today. The high-end headset can be yours for US$999 with all the trimmings, but if you already own some HTC Vive gear, you won't need to spend that much.
Valve has previously worked with HTC on the HTC Vive series of headsets, and even though it's striking out on its own this time, you can still use the existing Vive controllers or base station sensors if you already have them. The Index VR headset without anything else will set you back a more reasonable $499.
As for specs, this is immediately one of the most powerful VR headsets you can get your hands on: a 1,440 x 1,600 pixel resolution RGB LCD screen for each eye, a super-fast 120 Hz refresh rate (plus an "experimental" 144 Hz option), and a field of view that Valve says is 20 degrees wider than the competition.
Those resolutions and refresh rates should be able to minimize the blurring and ghosting you often get when moving your head in VR, though as yet we haven't been able to try it out for ourselves.
Adding to the premium feel is an IPD (interpupillary distance) slider for adjusting the distance between the lenses and your eyes, as well as built-in speakers that hover just over your ears. A 3.5 mm headphone jack is available if you want to add your own audio hardware.
If you buy the whole package, the Valve Index comes with custom-made controllers, with no fewer than 87 sensors to track the position of your hands and fingers. That should improve the feeling of immersiveness and responsiveness, though again we haven't had chance to do any testing.
You're going to need a pretty powerful PC to tether this to. Valve recommends a Windows 10, SteamOS or Linux machine with at least 8 GB of RAM, a dual-core processor, and a minimum of an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or AMD RX480 to power the visuals.
All of which puts the Valve Index firmly at the pricier end of the virtual reality market – the Oculus Quest, for example, costs $399 and doesn't need a PC. The Valve Index is therefore for those of you who want the most powerful, cutting-edge VR technology on the market right now, and don't mind paying for it.
As for the games, Valve is promising some big releases in the future (this is the company that got its start with Half-Life, remember), but for the time being there are no details. The headset supports the extensive library of apps and games already available for the HTC Vive headsets on Steam and Viveport, however.
If everything we've described has tempted you into a purchase, head to the Valve Index page on the Steam Store for details of the various configurations you can get hold of and how much they cost. Shipping is slated for June 28.
Product page: Valve Index