Updated: Jun 24
VR has taken a crazy turn in the past couple of years with the release of the Meta Quest 2. The increase in accessibility has introduced a crazy amount of people to virtual reality, and increased the player base significantly. As nice as the Quest is, there are a lot of PC VR headsets that provide a much higher quality experience, given you have the PC to support it.
Since there’s a ton of PC VR headsets on the market right now, it can be hard to choose which one to buy. Between resolution, refresh rate, field of view, and comfort, each headset has their own strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, there’s a headset that gives you the best of all worlds, without having to sacrifice too much in any category.
The Valve Index is our pick for the best overall headset, especially for PC VR beginners. Balanced visuals, comfort, and ease of use means that the Index has everything you need out of a general-purpose VR headset, even if it doesn’t have enterprise-grade graphics.
As far as the graphics go, the Index is a small step behind top of the line, graphics-focused headsets like the Pimax series of HMDs. The resolution is the biggest step down from other headsets, at only 1440x1600 pixels per-eye. While that number looks pretty bad on paper, it really does not look all that bad when you’re in the headset. It won’t blow you away, but it’s completely serviceable for any game currently out.
However, what the Index lacks in resolution, it makes up for with its FOV and refresh rate. The FOV is roughly 110 degrees horizontally, and it’s a noticeable upgrade over other headsets like the Quest 2 or the HTC Vive Pro. The refresh rate is also fantastic. It’s adjustable in SteamVR, and ranges from 90 Hz to 144 Hz. 144 Hz feels incredibly smooth, and goes a long way to boost immersion.
One aspect of the Index that often seems to be overlooked is the comfort factor. This facet really should not be overlooked, because the Index is, bar none, the most comfortable headset on the market. The weight balance feels really great. While the headset is on the heavier side, the head strap takes a lot of that weight off of your head, and distributes it in an effective manner such that the headset never really feels too heavy on your face.
The one major downside about the Index’s visuals is the dual-layered Fresnel lenses. While they do help keep the headset light, and keep the overall price of the headset down, they are certainly not as clear as aspheric lenses would be. The Fresnel lenses cause volumetric light scattering, which VR enthusiasts call “god rays”. Essentially, god rays are visual artifacts that appear when viewing certain types of lighting in virtual reality, and they look like the rays that appear when the sun is shining through the clouds or fog. They can look cool in some situations, but overall god rays decrease visual clarity.