Finding the Best Graphics Cards for the Valve Index VR Headset
Whether your PC is suitable for the Valve Index is shown by a test program from Valve, which can be downloaded for free from Steam. While for many VR games the CPU is only conditionally relevant – a halfway current quadcore is usually sufficient – it depends strongly on the graphics card.
If you want to fully extend the index with 120 or 144 Hz without having to lower the resolution, even a Geforce RTX 2080 Ti isn’t always sufficient. But this is not necessary to have fun with the Index: The image is also very good at 80 or 90 Hz.
Motion Smoothing also ensures that it doesn’t jerk when less fps than Hz are calculated. Clever interframe calculations halve the necessary number of frames, so you can play decently at 40, 45, 60 or 72 FPS.
For this, an upscale mid-range graphics card like the RTX 2070 and AMD’s new Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT are sufficient.
Nvidia offers a unique selling proposition with the virtual link connection installed on cards from the RTX 2070 onward, which is optionally even used by Valve Index. An additionally available adapter replaces the last meter of the cable if desired and connects the Index only via Virtual Link with a USB-C plug instead of via USB 3.0, display port and mains power.
Test Results: Best Graphics Cards for the Valve Index VR Headset
Ranking First: Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080Ti
- Top-tier gaming card at the moment
- Amazing performance at high refresh rates at 1440p and 4k
- Best performing graphics card for VR
- Stays cool even under load
Best performing graphics card for the Valve Index VR headset
In order to evaluate GeForce RTX with Turing, it is useful to classify the knowledge gained in the test into four categories: The performance in current and future “conventional” games and applications. The implementation of the new generation Founders Edition. The performance in relation to the new possibilities introduced by Nvidia with Turing, such as real-time ray tracing and AI-supported anti-aliasing (DLSS). And the price.
Both GeForce RTX put themselves at the top for the Valve Index VR headset
In the test course set up by us for this test with current drivers and games with games without RTX or DLSS function, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti takes the lead with a good portion of distance and the GeForce RTX 2080 places itself behind it. With an average lead of 40 percent over the GeForce GTX 1080 as a Founders Edition, the GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition overtakes the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti by six percent and the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti puts about 30 percent on top; the performance gain Ti to Ti is thus 35 percent. This is a decent leap, which doesn’t repeat what Pascal achieved two years ago; here the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition even surpassed the GeForce GTX 980 Ti in the reference design by 30 percent. But Pascal was also a real exception. There is no longer any competition from AMD for Turing.
Performance comparison (Founders Edition)
|RTX 2080 vs. GTX 1080||+ 40%||+39%||+31%|
|RTX 2080 vs. GTX 1080 Ti||+ 6%||+8%||+ 5%|
|RTX 2080 Ti vs. GTX 1080||+78%||+71%||+51%|
|RTX 2080 Ti vs. GTX 1080 Ti||+ 35%||+32%||+21%|
|RTX 2080 vs. RX Vega 64||+ 37%||+ 37%||+32%|
|RTX 2080 Ti vs. RX Vega 64||+74%||+68%||+52%|
The fact that Turing is not simply Pascal in faster, but architecture and memory have been significantly adapted, becomes apparent when comparing the gains in individual games for the Valve Index VR headset – depending on the title, there are significant differences up and down. The new integer units are likely to have a big influence. This adaptation obviously has great potential, should more games be designed for it in the future. The only tangible point of criticism in this category is the memory, which remains unchanged at 8 or 11 GB.
Without increasing the power consumption, Turing cannot reach the shown performance level compared to Pascal. However, the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti’s markup is very low with nine percent, the efficiency measured in FPS per watt increases significantly and is twice as high as that of the Radeon RX Vega 64. The GeForce RTX 2080, however, allows itself an average of 30 percent more under load than its comparable predecessor. The efficiency also increases here, but less significantly. The TDP, which was also officially raised by Nvidia, had already promised this.
The Founders Edition makes life difficult for partners
Because Nvidia has implemented the new Founders Edition significantly better than the previous versions, both graphic cards are still quieter than the predecessors despite increased consumption under load – and this even though Nvidia no longer lets them run into the temperature target. There is currently still a problem under Windows, because consumption and volume are still too high. According to Nvidia, it’s a driver problem that still needs to be fixed.
However, it’s already clear that partner cards will have a really hard time with this generation, because there seems to be little room for maneuver in the reference without a temperature brake. What remains are the still existing but much smaller potential in terms of volume and optics – including RGB LED lighting, which Nvidia doesn’t offer.
New functions are still dreams of the future
If GeForce RTX were just a new generation Pascal in terms of functions and price, the conclusion would be clear at this point: Gamers won’t get the record-breaking performance leap from the 900 to the 1000 series, but 40 respectively 35 percent more FPS in Ultra HD with increased efficiency is still a big leap. But Turing is not Pascal in fast – not in technology and not in price.
With RT-Cores and Tensor-Cores, Turing contains functional units that have never been available on graphics cards for gamers before. Accordingly, the GPU is huge and complex and also expensive. Nvidia has undoubtedly dared a lot technically and initiated a radical change that was unthinkable three months ago: Real-time ray tracing including AI denoising and edge smoothing with cloud and AI support (DLSS) are now possible. Both justify the price positioning of the new GeForce RTX over the old GeForce GTX for Nvidia.
The problem: At the time of the publication of this review, even Nvidia couldn’t provide a single game that already relies on real-time ray tracing or DLSS. And the videos and selected tech-demos presented so far do not yet allow an evaluation of these aspects, which are essential for Turing. With raytracing this is less due to the potential advantages than to the question of performance, with DLSS, which is even less practical, it is due to both aspects.
In both cases the potential seems to be large, but how large it is and if already Turing will be able to use it, about this no statement can be made at the moment. The surcharge imposed by Nvidia for the new functions is thus for the time being only tied to a promise of clear advantages in the future. After all, eleven games with raytracing and 25 games with DLSS have been announced by now,also VR games.
GeForce RTX with surcharge
Because the argument given by Nvidia can’t be judged yet, the prices called for GeForce RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti are definitely an issue with that. Because both models, which don’t have to fear any competition from AMD in the foreseeable future, are above their predecessors (GeForce GTX 1080: 789 Dollar, GeForce GTX 1080 Ti: 819 Dollar, both RRP at market launch) with 849 Dollar for the GeForce RTX 2080 and 1.249 Dollar for the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. It’s only 60 Dollar for the smaller model, but in view of the current market prices for the 1000 series (just under 500 Dollar for the GeForce GTX 1080, just under 700 Dollar for the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti) and the 8 GB memory, this model also needs the new functions as a rational purchase argument. Otherwise, the surcharge for the more performance in conventional games is still significant (RTX 2080), respectively much too high (RTX 2080 Ti).
Verdict: Best performing graphics card for the Valve Index VR headset
The new functions in games for the Valve Index VR headset are visually convincing and well implemented in terms of performance, so they could change a lot in Turing’s assessment. But Nvidia and the game manufacturers still have to deliver here. In view of the many announcements already made, Turing on GeForce RTX will definitely remain a much discussed topic in the coming months. Because no question, the potential for the future is great. How Turing will be able to use it is still open today. All in all, if you want to have the best performance in games on your Valve Index VR headset you need to get an Nvidia RTX 2080Ti graphics card.
Ranking Second: Nvidia Geforce RTX 2070
- Faster than GeForce GTX 1080
- Great 1440p and entry-level 4K gaming performance, especially in VR
- Surprisingly lower energy consumption
- All the Turing features
- Expensive for a ‘mid-range’ GPU
Great performing graphics card for the Valve Index VR headset
A successful debut, provided the price remains stable: The Geforce RTX 2070 leaves an all-around positive impression in the test. The third Turing graphics card is about 40 percent faster than its direct predecessor, the GTX 1070, and places itself between the GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti. It delivers smooth refresh rates in WQHD at all times and still has reserves for U4K/HD with some reductions in detail.
Admittedly, I’ve always had a soft spot for Nvidia’s 70s models, because in my opinion the balancing act of performance, cooling and price (just barely) works best there. The models are not too much overpriced, offer a sufficiently high performance and can be cooled quietly most of the time. The RTX 2070 now follows in exactly these footsteps.
The third Turing graphics card could also provide a more interesting competition again, because the successful reference cards of the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti are quick ex factory and currently cost rather less than the custom designs of the manufacturers, who have a hard time standing out in terms of performance and volume.
With the RTX 2070 it’s different, here Nvidia seems to want to leave the field to the manufacturers, because the 2070 Founders Edition costs 639 Dollar, while the RTX 2070 starts at 519 Dollar (RRP) for not overclocked models as in our test the MSI RTX 2070 Armor – at this price the 2070 even offers a good price-performance ratio.
If the graphic cards are actually sold at this price, the MSI Geforce RTX 2070 Armor 8G should get a lot of attention. Thanks to a generous cooling, the partner card not only boosts well above the reference clock rates, but also stays cool and quiet under load. How well the RTX 2070 Founders Edition performs we don’t know at the moment because we don’t have a sample, but I doubt that it is worth an extra 120 Dollar compared to the Armor 8G.
Verdict: Great performing graphics card for the Valve Index VR headset at a lower price than 2080
The RTX 2070 could also ensure that the market share of Turing graphics cards for VR headsets will grow faster and more players will have raytracing and DLSS capable graphics cards. Because if you’ve thought about whether it should be a GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 so far, you should now also take the RTX 2070 into your closer selection in view of the price, especially for the Valve Index VR headset.
Ranking Third: AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT
- More efficient RDNA architecture
- Beats Vega 64 and RTX 2060 Super
- Good 1080p and 1440p performance
- Best price-performance ratio
- No ray tracing support
Best price-performance ratio graphics card for the Valve Index VR headset
No matter if Radeon VII, RX Vega or the numerous offshoots based on Polaris: Time and again AMD didn’t manage to outdo its competitor Nvidia with its GPU models, especially for the VR segment. With navigation, this should finally change, not least thanks to the new 7-nm architecture. Whether AMD can assert itself in spite of Nvidia’s new super series, you’ll find out in the test.
“My next graphics card will definitely be from AMD” – that’s how many fans have sounded since the announcement of the new navigation system generation. Now the time has come: The first new graphics cards in the form of the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT have been released and should take on Nvidia’s RTX middle class.
We remember back: The last time AMD released a serious rival to Nvidia’s GPU flagship was in 2011, when the Radeon HD 7970 topped the top list for consumer graphics cards. Now the time may come to regain at least some of that fame. A major reason is the new 7nm architecture, which promises a significantly increased efficiency compared to the previous generation based on Polaris. You can get an overview of the technical data here:
A look at the pure performance values could give the impression that AMD has even taken a few steps back with navigation systems. But the impression is deceptive: Thanks to the RDNA architecture, navigation systems can deliver more performance with less technology. And Nvidia has already proven that pure “muscle power” is not what counts.
A further advantage of the new architecture is evident in the power consumption: the new 5700 models consume 180 and 225 watts, respectively, which is noticeably less than their Polaris predecessors. More performance with more efficiency at the same time – that sounds positive, but we’ll see in the benchmark if this is enough to put Nvidia’s RTX models in their place.
The Radeon RX 5700 is still moderately overclocked with clock rates of 1625 MHz base and 1725 boost. AMD adds even more clock speed to the XT model, which runs at 1755 Mhz and 1905. In addition there is 8GB memory for each card, this time also as GDDR6 instead of HBM variant. Also interesting, but for the time being unimportant in practice, is the PCIe 4.0 support. On the other hand, AMD also dispenses with ray tracing support on the hardware side.
In terms of design, AMD has ventured less with navigation than it did with Nvidia with Turing. Again, there is the classic cooler design, which was supplemented with a slight bend in the case of the 5700 XT, which we think AMD could have saved itself. Otherwise, the external appearance is well done, but otherwise rather unobtrusive.
AMD provides its reference cards with a total of four connections, of which three are DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.0b. The VirtualLink connector in USB-C format is unfortunately not available, and can still only be found in the Nvidia RTX series.
That the gaming performance can deviate greatly from the results in the synthetic benchmark is clearly shown in Far Cry: New Dawn. Here, the RX 5700 XT and the RTX 2070 Super deliver a close battle, while the RX 5700 is ahead of the RTX 2060 Super in both cases, or at least on par with it.
Some people had feared that AMD navigation is once again a rather modest attempt by AMDs to lose the connection to Nvidia’s top class. But with the two new maps RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT, AMD has done a lot right. This starts with the good performance rates, but also concerns aspects like volume and power consumption. And even Nvidia buyers benefit from the market launch, which has led to the counter in the form of the Super RTX graphics cards.
Verdict: Best price-performance ratio graphics card for the Valve Index VR headset
AMD is clearly superior in a direct comparison with the non-super models, regardless of the tested game or benchmark. It is more difficult for AMD to hold its own against the RTX 2060 Super and RTX 2070 Super. Depending on the game, the new Radeon models might outperform their rivals, but in general they are slightly inferior in terms of performance. In view of the price of only 350 Dollar (RX 5700) and 400 Dollar (RX 5700 XT), the new navigation graphics cards are a very good alternative to the RTX series, if one disregards the upper class model RTX 2080 (Ti). For this reason, we recommend both cards t everyone who wants to get the most performance at a fair price, expecially for VR.
The Ultimate Valve Index Test 2020
Data sheet: Valve Index
|Optics||Two LCDs, tilted lenses|
|Resolution||1,440 x 1,600 pixels per eye (2,880 x 1,600 combined)|
|Display matrix||RGB subpixel|
|Refresh rates||80, 90, 120 or 144 Hz (adjustable per app)|
|Field of view||Up to 130 degrees depending on the setting / face shape|
|Tracking||SteamVR 2.0, compatible with SteamVR 1.0, requires at least two external base stations|
|Interpupillary distance (IPD)||58 mm to 70 mm, lens distance also adjustable|
|Links||Cable (5 meters), connection box (1 meter), USB 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2, 12V power|
|Face rest||Antibacterial microfiber foam, interchangeable|
|Cameras||960 x 960 pixels, global shutter, RGB|
|Weight (without cable)||809 grams|
|Price||Glasses only: 540 Dollarr|
Glasses and controllers: 800 Dollar
Glasses, controllers and tracking system: 1,080 Dollar
Only controllers: 300 Dollar
After the partnership with HTC is before Half Life VR: With the Valve Index VR glasses the steam operator goes his own VR way. Successful?
In this test you will learn
- How good the high-resolution display is.
- Whether Valve Index is convenient.
- What the controllers are good for.
- And for whom it is worthwhile to buy VR glasses.
Valve Index: resolution, colours and frame rates
Valves first own VR glasses offer a resolution of 1,440 by 1,600 pixels per eye. Thus, the Valve Index does not reach the sharpness of HP Reverb (test), but is ahead of Oculus’ current PC glasses Rift S (tests).
Thanks to LC displays with full RGB matrix (there are three sub-pixels for each pixel – red, green, blue), the image is sharp and rich in contrast. The fly screen effect known from the first generation is no longer perceptible to me. In spite of LC-displays the colors are also very nice: Colourful VR titles offer a rich picture, while decent black levels provide a convincing mid-point feeling in the space of “Elite: Dangerous”.
Sharpness and colours are particularly noticeable in VR games. If you have ever switched from a low resolution monitor to a correspondingly higher resolution screen, you know the effect: There are suddenly considerably more details to discover, the hit rate in shooting games is higher and the distant snow-covered mountains of Skyrim VR (Test) are finally no longer a pixel mush.
Even outside of virtual gaming worlds, the Index is a joy to play: The combination of rich colors, good resolution and an above-average wide field of view (more about that in a moment) will lure me more often to the VR cinema Bigscreen Cinema (Test).
The current unique selling point of the Valve Index: The variable refresh rate of up to 144 Hertz. In the SteamVR menu you can switch between 80, 90, 120 or 144 Hz, which can even be done smoothly without restarting the VR app.
With titles like Beat Saber, high refresh rates are particularly noticeable: My lightsaber gestures have never felt more precise. But with more demanding titles, you need strong hardware to chase 120 or even 144 frames per second through the cable into the VR glasses.
The following video shows an image comparison between Reverb, Rift S and Valve Index recorded directly through the lenses of the VR glasses.
Field of view, sweet spot and interpupillary distance
The field of view of the Valve Index is noticeably higher than that of Oculus glasses, HTC Vive and Cosmos or HP Reverb. Valve indicates up to 130 degrees, depending on the setting and face shape.
A rotary control allows you to adjust the distance of the displays to your eyes. So if you touch the Fresnel lenses with your eyelashes, you can enjoy the widest field of vision – provided he or she is not wearing an eyelash extension.
The wider field of vision offers many advantages: In VR simulations I have more instruments in view, in virtual cinema I see the whole screen without having to change seats. The tube effect is reduced: While HTC Vive and Oculus Rift were still tight diving goggles, the Valve Index has at least reached the level of ski goggles.
The so-called “sweet spot”, which is the center of the lens where the image reaches its highest sharpness, is also larger than with HTC Vive. With my approximately 70 mm eye relief, the sweet spot of the Valve Index is also much larger for me than with HP Reverb.
This is due to the built-in IPD control, which allows me to adjust the interpupillary distance between my eyes between 58 mm and 70 mm.
For comparison: HP Reverb or Oculus Rift S do not have the mechanical regulator. The lenses are fixed at an interpupillary distance of 63 mm. If you are below or above that, you are out of luck, which can even render the VR glasses useless.
The image quality of the Valve Index is for me overall, despite the resolution advantage of HP Reverb, far ahead of it.
Valve Index: wearing comfort, sound and cable connection
For readers in a hurry: Valve builds the Valve Index, the most comfortable VR glasses I have ever had the pleasure of testing.
For this, Valve relies on a head mount that is reminiscent of HTC’s Deluxe Audio Strap (Test). A ring goes around the head, which I tighten by turning the knob. A strap with Velcro fastener runs over the head and carries the weight of the VR glasses.
This way the head strap can be easily adjusted to individual needs and distributes the weight over the head instead of pressing the glasses against my face. Thus the Valve Index is much less front-heavy than for example Oculus Quest (test). When adjusted correctly, it sits comfortably – even on VR trips lasting several hours.
The face pad is pleasantly soft and nestles comfortably against my face. Thanks to magnetic attachment it can be easily removed.
Valve also includes an additional cushion to make the headrest more comfortable at the back. Depending on the head shape, this increases comfort and allows a stable fit even for smaller heads.
The Valve Index is equipped with two integrated ear loudspeakers, which are placed a few centimeters away from the ears. Their sound is great and beats the Deluxe Audio Strap for Vive.
The open design – the speakers float in front of the ears instead of resting on them – also significantly increases wearing comfort without sacrificing sound quality. Disadvantage: In the immediate vicinity, everyone can listen in.
Like the HTC Vive, the Valve Index is powered by three connectors: power, USB 3.0 and DisplayPort. The distributor box familiar from HTC is no longer necessary with the Index, all cables lead directly into the VR glasses.
At five meters, the cable is long enough for room-filling VR. It is also more flexible than the 3-in-1 cable of Vive or the extremely stiff, shorter cable of HP Reverb. Valve has not yet announced a wireless solution.
Best VR tracking solution with SteamVR 2.0?
Valves SteamVR-Tracking from Valve Index uses two external base stations, just like HTC Vive. The cameras built into the VR goggles are only intended for good pass-through mode, not for tracking.
The Valve Index complete package comes with two SteamVR 2.0 base stations. VR-Glasses and controller are also compatible with the SteamVR 1.0 base stations of the HTC Vive and Vive Pro.
Valves Tracking solution has one major disadvantage: it is external rather than fully integrated into the VR glasses.
So if you don’t feel like hanging the base stations on the wall, don’t have room for tripods in the room or no sockets near the boxes, or if you want to take the VR glasses to friends, you should rather use VR glasses with inside-out tracking. Good representatives here are Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest (Test) with a PC connection via Oculus Link (Info-Guide).
However, the external tracking solution with SteamVR 2.0 is also the most accurate on the market: No matter whether the VR controllers are concealed, above the head or behind the back – the base stations reliably track even the finest movements. This is where VR glasses with integrated tracking sometimes have to make slight concessions.
Valve Index tested: The best VR controllers?
Valves Index is a high-resolution VR glasses with high comfort and good sound. But the star of the VR set are the Index controllers.
They can be attached to the hand via adjustable straps and therefore don’t fall down when your hands are open. Such a mount is available for retrofitting the Oculus touch controllers from various third party manufacturers.
Valves solution is however integrated in the controller: The belt is fixed by pulling, the tension is released by pressing a button. Below the analog stick I can adjust the position of the strap to my hand size in four steps.
Sensors and a trigger are built into the grips that record the position and degree of curvature of the fingers. On top there are two buttons, a touchpad and an analog stick, which the controller uses to detect my thumb position.
The controller also detects how hard you squeeze – it feels natural and is comfortable. When I pick up a VR object, I really grasp it instead of just pressing a button. The same applies to throwing: When I want to let go of the virtual object, I open my hand and the controller doesn’t fly with me.
If supported by the VR title, I can easily open my hands and let them slide into a better position, for example, on a handle. In Social VR, finger tracking allows for more extensive body language.
For me, Valves Index controllers are a real innovation: they increase user comfort and create new game and application scenarios.
Test conclusion on Valve Index: The best current VR glasses for the PC
Valve has delivered a really good high-end VR glasses with the Valve Index. They are clearly the best PC-VR-glasses for enthusiasts at the moment – provided you have the necessary change and the will to put in the slightly higher effort for tracking.
The displays offer high resolution, crisp colors and variable refresh rates. Thanks to a mechanical regulator for the eye relief, you can adjust the lenses perfectly for your own face. Further plus points are the very good sound of the integrated audio solution as well as the great wearing comfort and the slightly wider field of vision.
The cable is long and flexible enough for room scale VR applications. The index controllers are innovative, handy and flexible thanks to the analog stick. As with HTC Vive, SteamVR tracking is precise and reliable across all applications.
Due to the external tracking, Valve Index is quite location-bound. So I can’t just quickly take the VR glasses into the living room or take them with me to a buddy. In addition, Index offers a lot, but is expensive: the total package with VR glasses, controller and tracking system costs 1,080 Euros.
So is Valve Index already VR 2.0? Not yet. But Valve’s VR glasses are an excellent upgrade and a successful conclusion to the first generation.
Valve Index is suitable for you if you …
- are looking for the most comfortable VR glasses on the market,
- want high-resolution VR glasses with a wider field of vision,
- want precise tracking and
- attach importance to finger tracking.
Valve Index is not suitable for you if you …
- do not want to spend around 1,000 Dollar on a VR system,
- prefer the flexibility of a tracking system integrated into the VR glasses
- and if you prefer to play Oculus-exclusive VR titles natively instead of using a hack (Revive).