The Ultimate Showdown: Valve Index vs Vive Pro vs Reverb G2: Do We Have A VR King?

October 22 2020

hardwarehp reverbHTC Vivevalve indexvirtual reality

It’s getting harder to choose your next VR headset. It's a good problem to have because it shows the maturity of the market. More headsets, more options, more distributed and adopted XR technology.

On one hand, you have to pick between different manufacturers that constantly try to upend each other with new hardware and software improvements to their products. On the other hand, these days there are so many things you can do in virtual reality that some headsets might be uniquely better at certain things than others.

So why don’t we take three flagship PC VR headsets from leading manufacturers - Valve Index, HTC Vive Pro, and the HP Reverb G2, and settle once and for all which headset should be your top choice this year?

We’ll also cover how the recently released Oculus Quest 2 compares to all of them and even speculate about which headset you might buy in 2021.

Let’s dive into the ultimate PC VR headset showdown.

Table of Contents:

  1. Overview: Valve Index vs Vive Pro vs HP Reverb G2
  2. Tech Specs Comparison: Valve Index vs Vive Pro vs G2
  3. Visual Comparison
    • Valve Index Display
    • HTC Vive Pro Display
    • HP Reverb G2 Display
    • Visual Comparison Summary:
  4. Design And Comfort Comparison
    • Valve Index Design And Comfort
    • HP Reverb G2 Design And Comfort
    • Vive Pro
    • Design And Comfort Summary:
  5. Audio Comparison
    • Valve Index Audio
    • HP Reverb G2 Audio
    • HTC Vive Pro Audio
    • Audio Comparison Summary:
  6. Controllers And Tracking Comparison
    • Valve Index Controllers and Tracking
    • HP Reverb G2 Controllers and Tracking
    • HTC Vive Pro Controllers and Tracking
    • Controllers and Tracking Summary:
  7. Unique Selling Points For Every Headset
  8. Pricing and Value: So What Does It Cost Me?
  9. What About Oculus Quest 2?
  10. Which Headset To Buy In 2021?

Overview: Valve Index vs Vive Pro vs HP Reverb G2

valve index circuit streamSource: https://www.valvesoftware.com/en/index

Valve Index headset was manufactured by Valve and released on June 28, 2019. Since then this second-generation PC VR headset quickly amassed many fans due to its impeccable tracking precision, high-quality built-in audio, and innovative strapped on controllers. High refresh rate and precise finger tracking make the model a viable choice for both professional users and hardcore gamers.

HTC Vive Pro is a veteran among headsets. This PC VR model was developed by HTC in collaboration with Valve and released in January 2018. The headset is an upgraded version of the original Vive model. Although Vive Pro is several years old, it is still comparable to more modern headsets due to the high-resolution display and available modifications such as an eye-tracking version and a wireless adapter. Yet the steep price diminishes these benefits.

circuit stream vive pro

Source: https://www.vive.com/

HP Reverb G2 is an upcoming virtual reality headset developed by HP and Microsoft. The model is set to release in the Fall of 2020 (soon!) and is an upgraded version of the original Reverb headset. The headset sports an ultra-high-quality display, redesigned controllers, and the same high-quality built-in speakers as Valve Index. Although G2 is a tethered device that requires a PC to operate, unlike with Valve Index and Vive Pro, HP’s new headset doesn’t require any external base stations to operate due to the inside tracking technology.

circuit stream reverb g2

Source: https://www8.hp.com/

Although we didn’t include Oculus Quest 2 in this showdown, we’ll add a summary at the end so that you could make a full impression about the current VR headset market.

Tech Specs Comparison: Valve Index vs Vive Pro vs G2

Of all the headsets, Valve Index features the highest field of view and refresh rate up to 144 Hz, which facilitates the most smooth VR experience to date.

At the same, time G2 has the highest resolution display with the quality of the image so far unmatched by its competitors. We’ll compare the visual characteristics of all three headsets in a separate section.

Although Vive Pro screen resolution is on par with that of Valve Index, the lack of subpixels and lower refresh rate hints at a somewhat outdated visual experience.

All three headsets are PC VR and require a computer to process and render VR applications.

Feel free to learn about VR requirements for different headsets and check whether your gaming PC can handle VR applications using our “Is your PC VR ready?” guide.

Let’s compare all three headsets in detail and start with visuals.

Visual Comparison

Valve Index Display

Valve Index sports two LCDs each with 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye. Even though the resolution is the same as Vive Pro has, the ultra-low persistence displays of Index provide up to 50% more subpixels which contribute to sharper image, better fill-factor, and almost non-existent screen door effect.

index display quality

(Source)

Compared to other headsets on the market, Valve Index currently has the highest field of view (FOV) of 130 degrees (perceived as 120) and a refresh rate of up to 144 Hz. Using SteamVR software you can set Index’s refresh rate manually to 80 Hz, 80 Hz, 120 Hz, and 144 Hz, but the higher the rate the more powerful the PC you’ll need to run VR simulations. The highest refresh rate allows for smoother, more fluid, and more immersive VR interactions.

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Perhaps the only downside of the Valve Index is the rare glare effect that occurs due to Index using dual-element lenses. The glare effect can be noticeable when large, high-contrast elements are placed against a darker background. There's no such an issue in scenes with lower contrast.

HTC Vive Pro Display

HTC Vive Pro uses a single 2880 x 1600 px 615 PPI OLED display which is great on its own but yet is a downgrade in almost every aspect compared to Valve Index and G2 displays. Having fewer pixels than both mentioned, Vive Pro suffers from a more prominent screen door effect and overall lower image quality.

The headset operates at a 90 Hz refresh rate and features a 110 degrees field of view. One of the few advantages of the Vive Pro is that the OLED display, compared to LCD, allows for better handling of black levels and high-contrast environments, although the difference is not that dramatic given the increased resolution of competitive models.

Below you can see how Valve Index outperforms Vive Pro in term of sharpness and picture quality:

index vs vive display quality

(Source) Left image: HTC Vive Pro, Right image: Valve Index

HP Reverb G2 Display

G2 delivers a stunning quality of the image as it boasts the highest number of pixels compared to both Index and Vive Pro. The headset features two full RGB stripe 2160 x 2160 p LCD panels and operates at a 90 Hz refresh rate.

Although the original G1 also surpassed the competition in terms of resolution, the G2 is even a further step up with updated Valve lenses. The G2 fresnel lenses were developed by Valve, but the headset doesn't suffer from the same glare effect. The G2 model handles black levels better and has less mura effect due to enhanced resolution.

Reverb G2 features an increased 114-degree field of view, which is lower than that of the Valve Index but an upgrade compared to other headsets on the market.

Overall the sharpness and richness of visuals that G2 provides are awesome as you might see in this comparison from Tyriel Wood from VR Tech:

Visual Comparison Summary:

Between all three headsets, Valve Index with its highest FoV and refresh rate offers the most immersive visual feedback in virtual reality, whereas G2 offers the highest image quality.

If you plan to use VR applications that require high degrees of accuracy and reaction, such as business simulations or fast-paced games, Valve Index should be your top priority.

In case you need stunning visual experience and immersion through high-detailed graphics, G2 is a clear winner.

HTC Vive Pro compares to other headsets neither in quality of graphics nor in the fluidity of simulation.

Design And Comfort Comparison

Valve Index Design And Comfort

Although Valve Index is on the heavy side of headsets (~809g), its impeccable ergonomics and weight distribution make Index one of the most comfortable headsets on the market.

adjusting IPD on VR headset

(Source)

The headset features a mechanically adjustable head strap with string struts that allow users to easily put the headset on and off without adjusting it every time. The overhead strap relieves cheeks of the headset’s weight while its cushions are made out of a soft breathable foam material.

The interpupillary distance (IPD) can be mechanically adjusted between 58 mm and 70 mm using a slider on the bottom, which allows the majority of users to use the headset without straining their eyes. There’s also a mechanical dial that controls the distance between eyes and lenses, which allows users to easily find their sweet spot or adjust the headset with glasses on.

Off-ear headphones and strapped on controllers contribute to Index comfort even further, and we’ll cover those in detail later.

HP Reverb G2 Design And Comfort

HP Reverb G2 is noticeably lighter (498g) compared to Valve Index and in terms of comfort is an overall improvement compared to its ergonomic predecessor G1. HP also redesigned the foam padding and now the headset feels softer and lighter on your face. Reverb G2 and Valve Index share similar overall designs with oval shape head-mount and even similar headband styles.

G2 also uses a single-barrel cable that is a major improvement to the original’s weighty double-barrel.

Finally, the headset also features a physical IPD adjustment that ranges from 60 mm to 68 mm.

Vive Pro

Vive Pro is a comfortable headset on its own, but compared with Valve Index it feels a bit stiff and unbalanced. The headset weighs around 770 grams without a cable.

Vive Pro allows for manual IPD adjustment between 60 mm and 73 mm to cover a wide range of users. As with the Valve Index, you can adjust how close the lenses are positioned to the eyes, but you can’t bring lenses as close as with Valve Index, which results in a lower field of view and a less desirable sweet spot for some users.

One of the advantages for HTC Vive pro though is that you can buy a wireless adapter separately and turn Vive Pro into a tetherless device.

Design And Comfort Summary:

Of all the heavy headsets, Valve Index is by far superior in terms of comfort and ergonomics. The best part comes from not having to buy any extra accessories as this level of comfort comes out-of-box.

G2 is largely inspired by Valve Index in terms of ergonomics and overall feels like a well-built medium-range headset. In a way, G2 beats Index in comfort due to being lightweight and not requiring any external base stations to operate.

Although in terms of comfort HTC Vive Pro is a huge improvement compared to the original Vive, the Pro headset feels like a cheaper version of the Valve Index.

Audio Comparison

Valve Index Audio

The quality of sound that the Valve Index built-in audio system delivers is simply off the charts. Optimized specifically to provide a fully accurate virtual reality experience, Valve headphones create superior immersion using the combination of hardware and software engineering.

(Source)

Valve Index features off-ear headphones that float over your ears rather than being plugged-in or pressed against them. This ensures both comfort and positional accuracy with users being able to experience hyper-realistic sound rather than mimicking it through traditional tonal-less headphones or less immersive loudspeakers.

The quality of the Valve Index dual-directional microphone is on par with its speakers at the sampling rate of 48 Hz.

HP Reverb G2 Audio

G2 pretty much uses the Valve audio system for its speakers, ensuring the same level of comfort and accuracy as Index does. The headphones float over your ears by 10 mm with an adjustable fit.

The G2 microphone is different from Index though. Although it is of a bit lower quality, the mic is still great given the headset’s lower price. Unlike Valve Index, G2 doesn’t have a3.5mm audio jack so you can’t plug in your own audio solution.

HTC Vive Pro Audio

HTC Vive Pro features balanced headphones with active noise cancellation and a volume controller on the left earcup. Compared to cheaper headsets Vive Pro is a clear winner, but the quality doesn’t compare with Index and G2.

vive pro speakers

(Source)

There are known issues with bass levels that can be solved using custom 3D-printed clips or rubber bands.

Audio Comparison Summary:

When it comes to built-in audio, Valve Index is a clear winner with its impeccable sound and microphone quality. G2 comes close second with the same audio solution as Valve Index, but a slightly cheaper microphone.

HTC Vive Pro is once again tailing behind and while the headset has good built-in audio on its own, the quality doesn’t compare to other flagship models.

3D Audio constitutes to up to 50% of XR immersive experience. If you are a developer, don't neglect the aspect of sound design in your applications!

Controllers And Tracking Comparison

Valve Index Controllers and Tracking

Valve Index uses “floating” controllers that are strapped around your hands rather than you don’t have to constantly hold them. The controllers detect individual finger motion and pressure with sensors that also spot how close your hands are to controls, which allows you to track even slight non-gripping movements.

valve index controllers

(Source)

Controllers feel very natural. Paired with high-frequency refresh rates of the headset, Index allows for very precise finger tracking, making the headset one of the leaders for business and manufacturing simulations where high degrees of precision are required.

To operate Valve Index requires you to set up at least two tracking base stations that allow the headset to know its location in your environment. Valve Index uses a Lighthouse 2.0 tracking system that is an improvement in terms of FoV and range compared to the previous version that HTC Vive Pro utilizes out of the box.

You can expand your play area up to 10x10 meters by purchasing two more base stations separately.

HP Reverb G2 Controllers and Tracking

G2 controllers look and feel very similar to the original design of Oculus Touch controllers that were highly praised by the VR community for ergonomics and style. Although compared to Oculus Touch they lack texture and premium material which sometimes makes them feel slippery. The touchpad of an original Oculus was replaced with an array of four buttons.

Hp Reverb controller

(Source)

Reverb G2 controllers run on AA batteries which is a downgrade compared to Valve Index rechargeable knuckles controllers. Make sure you invest in rechargeable batteries of at least 1.5 voltage, otherwise you might run into issues when your headset perceives your controllers low battery and turns them off.

In terms of tracking G2 is more comfortable compared to Valve, yet less accurate. G2 does not require any base stations to be set up and instead tracks your movements using four cameras placed within a headset. Although convenient, inside tracking is prone to rare controller occlusion or tracking loss when controllers are too close to the headset.

It’s worth noting that new Reverb controllers are backward compatible with other Windows mixed reality headsets.

HTC Vive Pro Controllers and Tracking

HTC Vive Pro greets you with pretty much the same original HTC Vive Wand controllers used with the original Vive but with an additional sensor to support Base Station 2.0 tracking.

(Source)

As with Valve Index, Vive Pro controllers are rechargeable, yet they don’t achieve the same level of comfort and ergonomics that Index brings with its floating knuckles. Vive Pro controllers support finger tracking, yet the accuracy depends on whether you are using out-of-box tracking base stations or purchase Lighthouse 2.0 separately.

You can also use Valve Index controllers with the Vive Pro headset.

Controllers and Tracking Summary:

The comfort and precision of Valve Index controllers are unmatched by both G2 and HTC Vive. Although Valve controllers can be used with Vive Pro, it requires a series of extra purchases to make them work with G2.

In terms of tracking, Valve Index is once again superior, yet G2 doesn’t require any external base stations and tracks your movements perfectly on its own which contributes to both its convenience and ease of use.

Unique Selling Points For Every Headset

Here’s a quick summary of every headset that will help you decide which one is the best pick for your needs. We’ll include some key points for Quest 2 as well so you could get the full picture of the VR market right now.

Valve Index Summary:

  • Impeccable comfort of use and superior tracking accuracy
  • Smoothest VR experience with the highest FoV and refresh rate on the market
  • Requires high-end PC to operate at maximum performance
  • High quality of the built-in audio system
  • Possibly a wireless version in the development

HP Reverb G2 Summary:

  • Currently, the most detailed and realistic visual experience VR market offers
  • High-quality built-in Valve audio system
  • Easy set up with no external tracking stations required
  • Lightweight
  • Great value for the price

Note: for professional developers and business users there’s also HP Reverb G2 Omnicept version in the works with built-in eye-tracking, face cam, pupillometry, and heart rate tracking.

HTC Vive Pro Summary:

  • Wireless adapter purchased separately
  • Vive Pro Eye model with eye-tracking capabilities
  • Compatible with Valve Index controllers and Lighthouse 2.0 base stations
  • Overall outdated and overpriced headset

Oculus Quest 2 Summary:

  • Best quality for the cheapest price [$299]
  • Facebook privacy concerns [the headset requires a real Facebook account to operate]
  • Wireless, easiest out-of-box setup
  • Doesn’t require a PC to operate

Pricing and Value: So What Does It Cost Me?

Of all the reviewed headsets Valve Index is the most expensive one. The Valve Index $999 full kit contains a headset, two controllers, and two base stations. The kit, controllers, and base stations can be purchased through the Steam platform.

There are several regions/countries that Valve doesn’t ship to including China, Australia, South America, and Russia, so you might end up spending more money at resellers.

Reverb G2 is set for release in the Fall of 2020 at $600. Given its many advantages, G2 offers great value for the money you pay.

HTC Vive Pro starter kit contains the headset, two Wand controllers, two SteamVR 1.0 base stations and is priced at $899. In our HTC vs Oculus guide, we compared all the Vive headsets (including Vive Cosmos Elite and Oculus Rift) in terms of price and value and still believe that at the current price HTC Vive Pro is not worth the money it asks for.

Oculus Quest 2 currently offers the best casual VR experience out-of-box. The model costs $299 but it’s preferable to purchase a separate elite strap at $49 for improved comfort. Although Oculus Quest 2lacks in both image quality and audio compared to more expensive G2 and Index, it still delivers a great VR experience for the money at the cost of a mandatory Facebook account.

Here’s why.

What About Oculus Quest 2?

(Source)

We already explored why the second Quest deserves your special interest in our in-depth Quest 2 review, but let’s quickly cover what the latest Facebook headset brings to the table:

  • Wireless headset — Quest 2 is a self-sufficient tetherless device that doesn’t require any PC and tracking stations to operate. The headset is easy to set up and facilitates a great wireless VR experience.
  • Excellent price/value ratio — Quest 2 ships at just $299. Even though the picture quality doesn’t compare to G2 or Valve Index, it’s still surprisingly great for such a cheap price. There’s also a 256 Gb version available for $399.
  • High-end processor — Oculus Quest 2 ships with the latest Snapdragon XR2 processor and we're yet to discover the full potential of this headset after a series of updates.
  • Mandatory Facebook account — Probably the most controversial feature of the latest Quest is that you have to use a real Facebook account to utilize the headset which raises a few eyebrows in terms of how Facebook handles and exploits user privacy.

With all that said Oculus Quest 2 is still a great wireless headset for the money and will undoubtedly popularize virtual reality among a more casual audience and will likely boost the VR market growth even further.

Which Headset To Buy In 2021?

As easy as it would be to say “it depends” as to which headset should you buy next, we strongly believe that there’s a perfect headset for every task.

Best performance, best business headset, comfortable fit, smoothest VR experience, and tracking accuracy: Valve Index

Best casual VR experience for the lowest price: Oculus Quest 2

Best option for a stunning visual experience: HP Reverb G2. (learn more in our thorough HP Reverb G2 review)

We hope our guide will help you to make an informed choice about the current state of VR headset market. Our advice is to thoroughly analyze how you are going to use the headset before you are going to buy it.

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REVIEWED BY

Dejan Gajsek

Head of Marketing

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