Three-year-old Valve Tech Blows Meta’s VR out of the Water
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Three-year-old Valve Tech Blows Meta’s VR out of the Water

With a glut of AR and VR headed our way—last fall saw Meta’s Quest Pro, and entrants from Apple and Sony are slated for 2023—we thought it was high time we took apart the Valve Index. We previously did take it apart to show you how to fix it—there’s a full set of repair guides available, but it never got the teardown treatment. And in light of the miserable showing of the new Oculus, er, sorry, Meta hardware, now feels like the right moment to take a closer look.

After the nearly a hundred and fifty screws and hours of anguish required by the Meta Quest Pro, we hardly expected the years-old Valve Index to be streamlined in comparison. But it turns out, Valve really knows what they’re doing. They are a game company, making gaming equipment for gamers. They have a sensible budget, and some really clever ideas. And it shows.

26 Screws, straightforward disassembly, and yes, some very human mistakes. But all in all, an impressive showing, and you can bet it didn’t cost 36 billion dollars. Are there some things we wish had a little more forethought? Sure. 

  • The Lighthouses don’t seem to be serviceable, and given their rapid rotation, that seems a shame. This is likely due to calibration issues, but still we’d love the opportunity.
  • Many of the cushions on headset and even controllers are permanently affixed, and for something that comes into frequent contact with oily, sweaty skin, that’s not great.
  • There’s also a couple instances of overly aggressive glue. Again it’s probably an issue of calibration or last-minute fixes to improve durability, but repair can keep a device alive longer than glue any day.
  • And those controller batteries, well, that’s a complaint for another day…

But it’s hard not to delight in the simple solutions Valve came up with here. The sound is amazing; they’re not afraid to add distinct speaker arms to the headset. The headband that holds those speakers is held to the main band with just a couple copper pins by the way, no wires to get pinched or worn—a frankly brilliant design. Everything about this design from the excellently weighted controllers to the delightful tutorials feels so thoughtful, and really just, human. Meta seems to have struggled to find their audience—the virtual corporate office? A new way to browse Facebook? The disconnect shows. Their hardware, while handsome, feels over-complicated and the software is sterile and lacking in warmth and personality. Valve seems to know, and honestly be part of the Index audience, and has played to that (pun intended).

Yes this device is a few years old, and in tech that can sometimes be an entire epoch, but this headset is truly in a class of its own. We love not only this thoughtful hardware design, but also the consideration Valve has shown throughout their product lineup, making their handheld Steam Deck fully serviceable and supplying parts is phenomenal foresight. We can only imagine the bright future promised by “Project Deckard”—the next VR headset from Valve. Here’s hoping it’s a repairable one!