In this article, I will put two popular VR headsets, Oculus Quest and Valve Index, head-to-head. Although comparing these headsets is a bit like comparing oranges to apples (different purpose and price range), they are both excellent products that deserve your consideration.
But which one is right for you? Having owned the Quest for more than half a year and used the Valve Index on several occasions, I will give my personal insights and overview of the two headsets. I hope the information will help you make a more informed decision about which product to choose. Let does begin!
Headset Type: Standalone / PC-Tethered
Display Type: OLED (PenTile)
Resolution: 1440 × 1600 (per eye)
Refresh Rate: 72 Hz
IPD Adjustment: +
Tracking: Inside-out (6 DoF)
Battery Life: 2 – 3 hours
Weight: 20.1 oz (571 g)
WHICH HEADSET IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Buy the Oculus Quest if …
- You don`t own a gaming PC (and are not planning to get one)
- You are purchasing your first headset and want a good all-around VR experience
- You are looking for a gift to a tech-savvy friend or close person
- You are on a limited budget
- You are a person who values general playability over visual perfection
- You travel often and want to take the headset with you to play games or watch movies while away from home
- You see yourself often visiting friends / family and bringing the headset along for entertainment.
- You appreciate room-scale VR experiences without a cable tripping in your way.
Buy the Valve Index if …
- You own a capable gaming PC that meets the “Recommended requirements” (or planning to get one)
- You have a “man cave” with enough space where you do all your gaming. You don`t see the need to use the headset elsewhere.
- You have previously used an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift CV1 and want a noticeably improved experience
- Money is not an obstacle and you just want the best VR experience
- Top-notch graphics along with high frame rate (FPS) are essential to you
GAMES & CONTENT
With the Oculus Quest, you will essentially have access to every VR game that is available. As a standalone device, you can use the Oculus Store to purchase and play a variety of games (which also includes some exclusives to the Quest).
When used as a PC-tethered device (via Oculus Link), you will additionally get access to the titles in Steam and also Viveport. The compatibility for the games on different platforms is remarkably good.
As the Index is developed by Valve, the native VR game library is Steam, of course. Although this means access to a large number of games, you are going to face compatibility issues with several (Oculus) titles. In most cases, this means you will have to take some time to fiddle with controller settings in order to get everything working as expected. With Valve Index you will also have access to Viveport, but again, be ready for some incompatibility issues.
Oculus Quest is primarily a standalone device. This means it packs the GPU and all the required hardware components within the headset. While this is excellent in terms of “carry-along-and-use-anywhere”, it also means limitations to the computing power. The result is that oftentimes the games are “tuned down” (shadows, textures, etc) to run properly on the Quest. The key takeaway – do not expect the same kind of visual quality you get from a PC-tethered device, such as the Valve Index.
The Quest comes with two OLED displays, able to produce a resolution of 1440 × 1600 per eye, running at 72Hz. Compared to the Index (and the LCD screen it uses), the Quest outputs darker blacks and more vivid and “popping” colors in general.
However, the PenTile matrix layout of the Quest`s OLED screens also means 1/3 times fewer subpixels for the same resolution and thus significantly more screen door effect (SDE), compared to the Index.
Running at 72Hz, the image will not be as smooth and fluid as the visual experience you get from Valve Index. However, for most people, it will be enough for a pleasurable experience.
When you use the Quest as a PC-tethered device (via Oculus Link) you can expect significantly improved graphics, since in that case your PC will do all the hard work. Keep in mind, you are still bound by the 72Hz refresh rate though.
With the Valve Index, you can pretty much expect the best visual experience that VR currently has to offer. However, the prerequisite for this is that you have a very capable PC that is able to generate the content and run it smoothly. There really is no point in getting the Valve Index, if your PC merely meets the minimum requirements for the headset.
The Index packs inside two LCD displays, which are able to produce the same resolution as the Quest ( 1440 x 1600 per eye). However, as the LCD-s use RGB stripe arrangement, you actually get 1/3 times more subpixels than the Quest. The result is that the screen door effect (SDE) is virtually non-existent. The headset also offers excellent edge-to-edge clarity for the visuals, unmatched by the Quest.
Last but not least, the Index excels at the field of view (FOV) it is able to output. A wide FOV greatly adds to the overall experience and immersion. If you can get the headset close enough to your eyes (using the integrated FOV “eye relief” knob), Valve even claims a FOV of up to 130 degrees.
On the negative side, the colors on the Index seem much more washed out, especially the blacks. This is quite well noticeable (and also slightly disturbing) in the darker scenes. You might also notice that light objects tend to bloom over darker objects generating god-ray like effects.
While comfort is quite subjective and dependant on the particular person, I think I am doing nobody any injustice when I say the Quest is not the most comfortable headset you can buy.
With all the necessary hardware packed into the headset, the device is quite unevenly balanced and nose-heavy. After about 30 minutes (or even less) you are quite certain to feel some strain on your forehead and nose. This isn`t something that is unbearable (I have done several 2-hour sessions with the headset). However, most probably you are going to have to readjust the headset from time to time and transfer the weight to different parts of your faces.
There are ways you can improve the overall comfort level of the Quest by adjusting the headset properly and using custom cushioning.
Although the Valve Index headset is quite a heavy device, it is easily one of the most comfortable VR headsets ever produced.
The anti-bacterial cushioning used on your face and back of the head has a nice soft feeling and does a great job of distributing the pressure evenly. If you adjust the headset properly, I might go as far as saying that it feels like you have a pillow in your face.
I do have to admit that the longest continuous session I have personally done with the Valve Index was about 30 minutes (I do not own a headset). But based on this experience, it felt like I could have kept going for hours. It really is a nice experience and a significant difference compared to the Quest that I use daily.
Oculus Quest utilizes four wide angle cameras built into the headset to track your (hands) position in the room. This means no need to set up any external base stations.
The tracking accuracy is very adequate on the Quest and worth praise for good implementation. The only times I have faced tracking problems is when placing the controllers behind me or to the side of the head (e.g bow-shooting movement). And even then the software algorithms do a pretty good job of predicting your movements (so that tracking is not lost right away even when controllers are out of sight for the cameras).
At the end of 2019, Oculus also introduced hand tracking feature to the Quest. The idea is that you can use your hand and finger movement to control menus and actions in the game. This makes for a more intuitive and realistic experience compared to using controllers. The functionality will quite certainly be a fantastic addition when it matures a bit and more content is released as time progresses.
Unlike the Oculus Quest, Valve Index utilizes two external base stations for its tracking. These sensors are usually placed on the wall or some other higher place (e.g shelf) where there is clear visibility to the playing area itself.
Once set up correctly, the tracking accuracy for the Valve Index is pretty much perfect. You are going to have a hard time to lose tracking even if you some reason specifically aim to do so.
Like the Oculus Quest, the Valve Index also utilizes finger tracking (with its controllers). With two mainstream VR manufacturers enabling finger tracking, now is hopefully the time when developers and content creators start to utilize it more in their games and experiences.
With the Oculus Quest, you get the second generation of the Oculus Touch controllers (different from the original Rift for example).
Like with most everything, the usability and comfort of the controllers are subjective and the opinions vary. I personally find the Quest`s controllers both intuitive to learn and easy to use. I don`t think they will stop anyone from enjoying the VR experience.
The Oculus Touch gets a 4 out of 5 rating, because to my preferences (and hand size) they feel a tad small. But it is also true that my hands are probably above average size. Another small complaint I have is that in order not to press the “grab” button on the back of the controller, you have to keep your hand in constant slight tension. This doesn’t bother me too much but is an area for improvement nevertheless.
Overall, however, the Oculus Touch controllers are a good piece of equipment.
If I had to choose one over another, the Valve Index “Knuckle” controllers would be my personal choice.
What I like about them is that firstly, they just suit my hand size better. Although this might be slightly subjective again, they just feel more natural to hold.
Secondly, I like the way you put the controllers on like gloves. Once on, you can relax (and release) your hand without the controllers falling down. This makes for a more natural experience overall.
Another factor to mention is “grabbing”. Whereas with the Quest you press a button to grab items, with the Index`s knuckle controllers you press your hand together like you would in real life. Again, this just feel slightly more natural.
Overall, however, both the Oculus Touch as well as Index knuckle controllers are great choices. You will most probably get used to and like either one.
EASE OF SETUP
The Initial setup of the Oculus Quest is really very easy. The only prerequisite is that you have a smartphone or tablet with internet connection.
You then only have to download the Oculus app, create an account, complete some very basic “next, next” steps and that is pretty much all. It takes about 15 minutes to complete the whole setup process and start enjoying some VR gaming.
The Valve Index is not quite as easy to set up as the Quest, mainly because of external tracking base stations.
If you are lucky and you have some shelves in the correct places (clear visibility to the center of the play area) then you can get away quite easily. You can also use the floor stands that come with the stations. However, if you do not, then that means drilling some holes and mounting the base stations on the wall. Luckily the initial setup is a one-time activity and once set up, you are good to go (unless you plan to play at multiple rooms).
Besides tracking setup, the install process is quite basic and easy. You have to update graphics card drivers, install Steam VR and connect the headset to your PC. Which is pretty much it.
EASE OF USE
The Oculus Quest is VERY, VERY easy to use. Pretty much all you have to do is pull on the headset, push the Power button and you are ready to go!
You do not need your smartphone anymore (which was required for the initial setup). You do not even need to draw playing boundaries if you have done them once. The Quest can remember play areas for up to 5 different rooms.
The menus are very intuitive to understand and easy to navigate. Overall, Oculus has done a really good job in terms of usability for the whole package (both hardware and software).
Although not quite as easy as the Quest, the use of Valve Index is fairly simple as well. As the headset is PC-tethered you must first understandably boot up your PC.
You then connect the headset, give it some power, launch SteamVR and verify that all devices are properly connected and turn green.
Nothing too complicated, but at the same time, not even close to the usability of the Quest. Especially when playing at multiple locations.
With the Oculus Quest, the audio speakers are built straight into the headset. The sound quality is OK, but nothing to get too excited about. While there is enough volume and the highs and mids sound great, the speakers are lacking in the lows. For games and content with music, I personally plug in my headphones to get a more enjoyable experience.
What you also have to take into account is significant sound leakage. Be assured, others will hear if and what you are playing. This might or might not be a problem for you, but I think it is important to mention.
That being said, the built-in speakers are totally usable and do their job nicely for most regular gaming purposes.
The Valve Index comes with a set of adjustable speakers that hover over your ear. Like with the Quest, you can still hear the surroundings while playing.
Unlike the Quest, however, the sound system of the Index feels much more polished. What is special about the speakers is the way they deliver spatial sound. Left, right, behind you – it really feels as the incoming sounds have a specific place of origin, similar to that of real life. This adds to the overall immersion and experience you get.
While I would personally like tad deeper lows and a slightly higher volume (at times), overall, the Valve Index audio solution is something quite special.
VALUE FOR MONEY
There really is no other score I can give to the Quest, than a perfect 5 out 5 when it comes to value for money. For less than 400$ (at the time of writing, March 2020) you get a headset that totally sucks you into the VR world. It`s just an excellent overall package for both VR newcomers as well as veterans.
With the additions of Oculus Link (using it as a PC-tethered device) and hand tracking, the Quest got even better than before. Having used the headset regularly for over half a year, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to pretty much anyone.
I was at a bit of a crossroad situation, about whether to rate the Index a 3 or 4 in terms of value for money.
While it is true that the Valve Index is an excellent product, there is a price tag to match it. At the time of writing, you have to spit out about 1000$ for the whole package (headset, controllers and base station). And this is not taking into account that you also have to have a powerful PC to run it. Many would argue that even the 399$ price tag of the Quest is too much for a “gaming console”, let alone the price of the Index.
However, as an enthusiast`s high-end product, Valve has delivered a simply stunning headset, which offers a whole new dimension to gaming compared to regular PC-s and consoles.
Oculus Quest is an excellent product that delivers a lot of value for your money. The headset excels at how easy and convenient it is to use. However, the Quest also delivers on the VR experience and immersion you get. I think it is the perfect choice to buy as the first headset but is also very suitable for a “senior” VR consumer. It really is a great all-around product that will most probably not disappoint you.
The Valve Index, although quite different from the Quest, is similarly an excellent product. It offers a superb and polished package in terms of visuals, comfort, audio and innovative controllers. But there is also a price tag of ~1000$ to match the quality. Valve Index, therefore, is the enthusiasts’ choice, who are after the very best VR experience that money can buy.