Valve, the company behind the best-selling computer gaming store Steam, has launched its first standalone virtual reality headset dubbed the Valve Index. The company claims that it “pushed visual, audio, and ergonomic technologies to create the best-in-class VR experience.” Offering dual 1440×1600 LCDs which run at 120Hz (or offer an experimental 144Hz mode), this virtual reality headset could be the most technology-packed model that we’ve ever seen.

Valve Index offers dual 1440×1600 screens at up to 144Hz

This is really one of the biggest selling features for me. The headset offers dual 1440×1600 RGB LCDs that offer “50% more subpixels than OLED, resulting in greater sharpness.” This isn’t the only standout here, as the displays run natively at 120Hz (with backward compatibility for 90Hz games). Plus, there’s an experimental 144Hz mode for higher frame rates, offering improved realism and optical comfort.

The displays offer a reduced illumination period of 0.330ms to 0.530ms, depending on the frame rate you’re using. For comparison, most high-end gaming monitors offer a 1ms latency, giving the Valve Index a “5x improvement over first-generation VR HMDs”.

Fine-tuned lenses offer sharp and wide views

The lenses on Valve Index are also unique. They’re optimized for a wide field of view that offers a sharp view across the eye’s full range of travel. This is unique, as it offers you the ability to see in virtual reality what you’d see in real life, all without even moving your head. This creates a more realistic setting, and the dual-element lens offers 20-degrees more field of view than even the best-selling HTC Vive for typical users.

valve index

Off-ear audio offers optimized immersion and comfort

If you’ve ever worn headphones for a long time, you know it can be somewhat tiring. The Valve Index offers off-ear audio, which is a unique take on offering immersion. According to Valve, this is a more natural way to experience audio, as the Index’s speakers don’t actually touch your ears. Audio will flow freely and interact with the geometry of your own ears, much like it does in real life.

Since there’s no physical contact with your head, there’s no warming or clamping to worry about. The speakers just float right off of your ear, giving the best experience possible.

Expandable, for the tinkerers among you

Being a company that makes its living from at-home developers, the Valve Index offers many benefits for the tinkerer. With stereo, global-shutter RGB cameras made specifically for computer vision, the Valve Index enables application like high-quality stereo passthrough, allowing those in the computer vision community to create some unique scenes.

Plus, there’s a front expansion slot with a USB 3.0 Type-A port. There aren’t any real specifics on this port just yet, but Valve says that it’s specifically designed for tinkerers and makers and they’ll be providing more details soon.

Pricing and Availability

You can purchase Valve Index in a multitude of ways. The headset alone will run $499, the controllers $279, and the base station another $149. But, if you plan to pick up multiple components, we recommend getting one of the bundles.

There’s the Valve Index Headset + Controller bundle for $749, which would be $778 if purchased separately. Or, for those who want to go all-in, the Valve Index VR Kit is $999, which includes the headset, controllers, and two bases, a $1,076 value.

Shipping for the controllers and base station begins June 28, the headset and headset + controller bundle on July 31st, and the full VR kit on August 31st.

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Patrick Campanale's favorite gear