Even if you’ve never played with a VR headset before, you likely know that virtual reality is having a real moment lately. All the biggest tech companies — from Sony to Microsoft to Google to Meta and beyond — are getting involved in VR and VR headsets, with more sure to come in the years ahead. The market’s getting a little crowded as a result. So, with this in mind, which VR headset should you ultimately opt for? Two of the biggest options available today are the Index and the PS VR. But which is truly superior between the Valve Index vs. PlayStation VR?
It’s not a question that comes with an easy answer, especially since Valve and PlayStation both come with their own sets of loyal fans. It’s indicative of a larger debate between console gamers and PC gamers, but there is a way to discuss Valve Index vs. PlayStation VR without stepping on any toes. You just have to look at the facts. So, let’s do exactly that. From a side-by-side comparison of their specs to a discussion of their key differences to an analysis of their respective pros and cons, let’s dive into the debate between Valve Index vs PlayStation VR.
Side-By-Side Comparison: Valve Index vs. PlayStation VR
|June 28th, 2019
|October 13th, 2016
|PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
|2880p x 1600p
|24 in. x 17 in. x 9 in.
|7.36 in. x 7.28 in. x 10.9 in.
Valve Index vs. PlayStation VR: Key Differences
Now that we have a grasp on these primary specs, it’s time to take things a little further and examine the biggest key differences between Valve Index vs PlayStation VR. From the size and functionality of the screen to the actual size and weight of the headset itself to the library of games available for each VR headset, these are the key areas where the Valve Index and PlayStation VR diverge.
There’s little else more important to the overall effectiveness of a VR headset than its screen size. If it’s too small, too glitchy, too laggy, or too close, then the virtual reality experience will fail to truly immerse the player. Thankfully, the Valve Index’s two 1440p x 1600p screens — which add up to 2880p x 1600p in all — provide more than enough coverage for VR users. The Valve Index also boasts adjustable lenses and panels, allowing players to tweak the headset according to their inter-pupillary distance.
The PlayStation VR, on the other hand, offers just one 5.7-inch OLED panel with a resolution of 1080p. It offers the ability to project the screen onto the nearest television, as well, but this does little for the actual VR player themselves and is more for the social aspect when playing with a group. Its screen technology is undoubtedly less than that of the Valve Index, but this is to be expected when the price difference between the two is so drastic. In this context, you can think of their $999 vs $399 price tags to be correlative with their number of screens.
Secondly, there’s size to take into account. After all, isn’t it important to consider the size and weight of the thing you’re expected to wear on your head for prolonged periods of time? Too light, and the thing risks flying off or breaking mid-game. Too heavy, and the thing won’t be enjoyable to play with (and might end up hurting you in turn). Given the Valve Index’s pair of screens, it’s not surprising to learn that it’s much bigger and heavier than the PlayStation VR. The difference in weight is slight, but the difference in actual dimensions is quite tremendous.
The Valve Index weighs in at nearly two pounds — 1.78 pounds, to be specific. The PlayStation VR, by comparison, has a total weight of under one and a half pounds — just 1.32 pounds in all. In effect, the former is almost half a pound heavier than the latter. Their dimensions reflect this difference. The Valve Index measures 24 inches by 17 inches by 9 inches. The PlayStation VR, by comparison, measures around 7.4 inches by 7.3 inches by 10.9 inches. It’s clearly much, much smaller than the Valve Index.
Thirdly — but nevertheless importantly — is the actual selection of games available on both the Valve Index and the PlayStation VR. We must tread lightly here, as this is indicative of a much larger debate surrounding PC gaming vs console gaming — each side with its own diehard loyalists. The Valve Index comes equipped with an exclusive game, Half-Life: Alyx, along with dozens of other VR-exclusive and VR-enabled Valve games and experiences. Valve is home to some of the most popular PC franchises, including Counter-Strike, Portal, Dota, and more. It’s a big plus for PC gamers.
The PlayStation VR, conversely, has a large library of PlayStation games available to play. While Steam’s library is undoubtedly impressive and filled with cult classics, PlayStation is one of the largest names in console gaming. As a result, they have many more games with many more appealing franchise titles. These include Marvel games, Star Wars games, and exclusive VR versions of some of the biggest PlayStation titles of the past decade or so. Skyrim, Resident Evil 7, Minecraft, Doom 3… the list goes on.
5 Must-Know Facts About VR Headsets
- Inventor Morton Heilig developed the Telesphere Mask in 1960. It is largely considered to be the world’s first head-mounted display, complete with wide stereoscopic 3D and stereo sound.
- Virtual reality headsets have recently seen several medical uses in addition to their entertainment value. These therapeutic implementations include treatments for anxiety, PTSD, depression, and more.
- One of the earliest VR headsets, the EyePhone (not to be confused with iPhone), was introduced in the mid-1980s and cost nearly $50,000.
- In addition to the Valve Index and the PlayStation VR, other big names in virtual reality include Oculus, Meta, Magic Leap, Unity, and more.
- The virtual reality industry is expected to reach a value of $34 billion by 2023. Combine this with the augmented reality industry, and that number rises to nearly $100 billion.
The History of the Valve Index
While the Valve Index vs PlayStation VR debate didn’t officially kick off until the release of the former in 2019, the Valve Index was actually in the works long before PlayStation VR’s 2016 release. According to internal staffers, work on the Valve Index had begun as early as 2015 at least — Right around the time of the HTC Vive headset’s release. Serving as their first official foray into the world of VR headsets, the HTC Vive was something of a trial run for Steam’s eventual release of their first in-house headset: the Index.
Valve’s work on the Index was a highly involved affair. Developers were pulled away from Steam’s gaming division to work on the Valve Index. This resulted in far fewer titles from Valve throughout the 2010s, but for good reason. The Valve Index was undoubtedly a big deal, judging by the success of Valve as a company. Steam — Valve’s digital store and online gaming platform — was home to as much as 70% of digital PC game downloads in 2011. For Valve to pull professionals away from this market in favor of their VR headset only proves its significance.
With such a stronghold on the PC market, Valve would not have redirected its focus on VR if it didn’t have absolute faith in its potential. The Valve Index’s official announcement in April of 2019 and its official release in June of that same year proved this to be true. The Valve Index was immediately heralded as the very best of the best in VR. From its immersive 130-degree field of view to its profound Lighthouse 2.0 tracking system to its use of 87 unique sensors, the Valve Index sold nearly 150,000 sets in its first six months alone. A new and improved version is expected soon.
How PlayStation VR Came to Be
The PlayStation VR has a few years over the Valve Index, and for a good reason: Sony had been interested in developing this sort of technology since the mid-to-late 1990s, at least. It even went as far as to release an early predecessor to today’s VR headsets in the form of 1997’s Glasstron. A display mounted on the head with two screens and two earphones, the Glasstron looks not unlike the kinds of headsets you’d see released today. While it lacked the controls of a modern VR headset, the Glasstron proved to be an innovative — if short-lived — way to play first-person games.
While the Glasstron never saw the year 2000, Sony never stopped showing interest in modernizing the technology throughout the first decade of the 21st century. Once the 2010s arrived, Sony felt it was time to get to work on a new Glasstron for the burgeoning VR market. Dubbed “Project Morpheus” (and spawned by the success of the PlayStation Move for the PS3), the device was officially teased in March of 2014. Its name came later, in September of 2015: the aptly titled PlayStation VR.
Officially released the following fall, the PlayStation VR hit shelves in October of 2016 for just $399 a pop. Sure, that’s nearly as much as a brand-new console in and of itself, but compared to the $999 price tag of the Valve Index, it’s practically a bargain. Initially designed for the PS4, the PlayStation VR was reworked to support the PlayStation 5, as well. This model has been dubbed the PlayStation VR2. Its eventual release is sure to drive up the VR headset’s total units sold even higher. (The number already sat at a remarkable 5 million units as of December 2019.)
Valve Index vs. PlayStation VR: Pros and Cons
|Pros of Valve Index
|Cons of Valve Index
|130-degree field of view is top-notch
|A limited selection of VR games
|Remarkable screen quality
|Incredibly expensive, even for VR
|Great sound quality
|Bigger and heavier than other VR headsets
|Simple, natural controls
|Requires a PC to function
|Pros of PlayStation VR
|Cons of PlayStation VR
|Not too expensive compared to other VR sets
|Important accessories come with an added cost
|Boasts a promising future with many key improvements with the upcoming PS VR2
|Lacks the immersive two-screen experience of the Valve Index
|Small and lightweight
|Prone to lag during high-intensity VR experiences
|Fun PS4 and PS5-linked experiences
|A small library of games and experiences
Valve Index vs. PlayStation VR: Which Is Best?
This has been a lot of information thrown out at once, but all of it has played a direct role in determining the winner between Valve Index vs PlayStation VR. Which state-of-the-art virtual reality headset is the best of the best? Let’s review. The Valve Index is much more expensive than the PlayStation VR, complete with more screens and a bigger-sized headset. However, the PlayStation VR is more affordable and more lightweight with a more popular library of games and experiences. Alas, judging by the VR experience alone, the winner has to be the Valve Index.
Even though it has fewer games, despite the fact it has to be wired to a PC, and regardless of its heavier weight and larger size, the Valve Index is likely the best VR headset that money can buy on the consumer market today. (It’s certainly superior to the PlayStation VR, at least.) It’s not perfect, by any means — and we’re probably many years away from any VR headset ever being perfect — but it’s the best that money can buy between the Valve Index vs. PlayStation VR. Spend just a few moments playing with a Valve Index and you’ll know it to be true, as well.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Andy Gin/Shutterstock.com.