5K+ has been my major headset ever since I started using it. It’s hard for me to go back to other mainstream consumer headsets even though the latter have better build quality, better support, and better comfort. Resolution and FOV are the most deciding factor for me, and the other headsets can’t satisfy me in those aspects. To achieve acceptable resolution and FOV, I am willing to accept some discomfort, inconvenience, and even distortions to some extent.
So I had not much interest in Valve Index when its specification is revealed. It looks not much better than Vive Pro which I can easily dismiss with my 5K+. My heart only jumped when I heard its perceived resolution and FOV are noticeably better than Vive Pro, and I bought one, headset alone.
Man I am converted. There is something that’s comparable to 5K+. The first thing I noticed is the perceived resolution / effective resolution. It’s almost the same as 5K+. I know some people think Index is a bit sharper than 5K+. I think this is because Index has better optics so it appears to have better clarity. 5K+ also has slightly bigger SDE. Still I think the effective information offered by both are about the same. I have compared them side by side with some test patterns. The details I can get from both are the same.
One interesting discovery: Index has the same “black dots” as 5K+! They are both more pronounced against red background. The “black dots” of Index are a bit smaller and harder to notice, but they are definitely there if you look for them. My advice: don’t look for them.
The FOV of Index is slightly smaller than the small mode of 5K+, but it’s still significantly bigger than Vive, Oculus, and Samsung Odyssey. Index has cleaner and more consistent view across the whole FOV, which is a big plus compared with 5K+. The image of Index is so nice and comfortable that I am willing to sacrifice some FOV for it. I feel I can wear Index for as long as I like, but 1 hour will be the limit for 5K+.
So Index is not in the same league of Vive Pro, even though it only looks to be “slightly” better. That “slight” improvement has made it go across a line, the line of “usable” and “not usable” for me after I have used Pimax headset, after which a headset must meet 2 criteria: Perceived resolution at least as good as 5K+, FOV at least as big as the small mode of 5K+. The FOV of Index is slightly smaller than the small mode of 5K+, but they are almost comparable, and it’s not claustrophobic at all. Considering the clear view across the whole FOV, it’s more pleasant to look at, and makes Index more usable than 5K+.
So Index has become my active headset for now, maybe until 8K X comes out. I have more and more belief that FOV is not everything. 110 degree is indeed not enough for 2019, but 130 degree is another matter. With superior optics and clear image across the view, it can beat a headset of much larger FOV but less consistent image. In an ideal world I’d dream of a headset of real human eye FOV and resolution, but we are still at a primitive age of VR, and we have to make compromise, and we have to think where the sacrifice should be.
I can’t thank Pimax enough for the joy they give me, and the push they give for the whole VR industry. They have also gained valuable experience in these years. I wish 8K X could learn from the lesson of 5K+ and 8K, and it could be a more mature and balanced headset of the next generation.