We will compare the two popular VR headsets Oculus Quest 2 vs Valve Index, to help you decide between them and if PC VR or standalone VR device is for you.
Oculus Quest 2
More affordable and better value compared to Valve Index
Best for action VR games
Overall better display performance to the Index
Superior tracking from external SteamVR base station trackers
Quest 2 gives you the choice of both standalone and PC VR gaming
Best controllers with full finger and gesture tracking
Access to both Oculus Home and SteamVR
More comfortable than the Quest 2
Reliable integrated hand tracking
Better refresh rate
The first significant difference between the Quest 2 and Valve Index is the type of VR headset. The Meta Quest 2 (former Oculus Quest 2) is an all-in-one standalone VR headset, whereas the Valve Index is a tethered PC VR headset.
This means the Valve Index only works while tethered to your PC gaming rig, as no built-in processing exists in the headset. Oppositely, the Quest 2 features the standard Snapdragon XR2 processor, but we will circle back to this below.
In other words, you have freedom in where you can play games with Quest 2, whereas you are restricted to your playspace with the Index, making portability significantly worse on the Valve Index.
Interestingly, an open-source VR application named Monado uses the greyscale optical cameras on the Index to turn them into inside-out tracking sensors. Effectively, transforming the Valve Index into a standalone VR headset. We haven’t had the chance to test the quality of the tracking, but we will update this article once we know its reliability. Further, see later in this article for what Monado also brings to the Valve Index.
Performance and delivering the most immersive gaming experience goes to the Valve Index as its computing is offloaded to a PC raising the ceiling for graphical processing.
Comparably, the Quest 2’s primary use is in standalone mode run by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB/256GB of storage. Despite the XR2 not being as powerful as what is possible on PC, most VR games are optimized for the Quest 2, delivering an overall great experience, but lacking a bit in graphical quality.
Yet, one of the best features of the Oculus Quest 2 is its breadth of connectivity options of WiFi 6 streaming via the Quest Link, Bluetooth 5 LE, and USB-C for wired connection, compared to the Valve Index’s sole option of a cable connection.
This means you can use the Quest 2 as a tethered VR headset and enjoy the same upsides and functionalities seen on Valve Index. You can even run your games from the Steam library on your PC, which we will get to when covering the best VR games for each headset.
Because of the Quest 2’s versatility in standalone and tethered, the best performance goes to the Quest 2, however, when specifically needing to run high-end applications the Valve Index is the one to go for.
Being standalone, the freedom and portability of the Quest 2 are positives. Yet, the downside is the headset runs hot. Namely, under heavy load, you can hear the built-in cooling fan whirring to life and breaking immersion. Usually, this isn’t an issue, as you will be wearing headphones for a better audio experience.
In fact, you will be wearing headphones with both the Valve Index and Oculus Quest 2. However, the audio quality with non-distorting highs, clear mids, and rumbly lows are better on the Index using off-ear speakers vs the Quest 2’s integrated speakers.
What is an issue is the built-in battery placement on the Quest 2.
When the Oculus Quest 2 was released in October 2020, it was before placing the battery in the back of the headset became standard. Instead, the battery is in the front, which means all the weight of 503 grams is centralized on your face pressing down on your nose. Because of this, the Quest 2 is known to be an uncomfortable VR headsets and requires an accessory strap to balance the weight better, adding extra cost to the headset.
Compared to Quest 2, the Valve Index has much better ergonomics, weight distribution, and comfort.
From a specifications perspective, the pixel density and subsequent visual performance are 40% better on the Oculus Quest 2 compared to Valve Index. The Index has a resolution of 1440 by 1600 pixels per eye in a 108° Field of View (FoV) to Quest 2’s 1832 by 1920 in a 97° FoV.
Yet, as you may know, specifications don’t tell the entire truth, which is the case here. For one, the Valve Index is made to work in tandem with your gaming rig, meaning you can push prettier pixels and higher polygon counts to your VR headset compared to the Quest 2.
Furthermore, Quest 2 from the common fresnel lens suffers from visual artifacts like god rays and smearing in bright games. Comparably, the in-house modified double-canted fresnel in the Valve Index is the best fresnel version we have experienced based on visual clarity. You can read more about the importance of optics stacks in VR headsets below.
Lastly, while the Oculus Quest 2 display engine is a Fast Switch LCD, the smoothness and refresh rate is still superior on the Index with standard dual LCDs. The reason is simply that the Index achieves 144Hz vs the 90/120Hz refresh rate on the Quest 2. So practically, action games like shooters and high-precision rhythm games are more suitable for the Valve Index.
Overall, it is a tie between the Oculus Quest 2 and Valve Index for the best display performance.
In many ways, this section is mute as both VR headsets can access the best VR games library: SteamVR.
Because of this, we will tip our hat to Oculus Quest 2 as the headset is integrated with Oculus Home and have native games like Beat Saber and the Social VR app Horizon Worlds available.
Similarly, because the Quest 2 is the most popular VR headset in history, almost all VR games are compatible and optimized for the Quest 2 headset. Comparably, the Valve Index is linked with your PC and how well your rig can handle what you throw at it.
When that is said, then titles like the Steam-exclusive Half-Life: Alyx enjoy perfect compatibility with the Valve (Steam) manufactured Index, like finger and hand gesture support.
This brings us to the neat finger and gesture tracking on the Valve Index controllers. Whereas the Quest 2 only has partial finger tracking.
I love the extra layer of immersion on the Valve Index as you make a thumbs-up in online games or see your fingers interact with the immersive world of Half-Life: Alyx and Wanderer. As a bonus, the Valve Index controllers are also rechargeable compared to the AA batteries needed in the Quest 2 controllers.
Back to tracking. The Valve Index is an outside-in tracked 6DoF headset, meaning you need external base stations to track your movements and actions. Practically, this means you are limited to the playspace in your home. However, the tracking stability and reliability are much better compared to inside-out tracked headsets. The Meta Quest 2 tracks the environment and you in 6DoF from the headset itself. This gives you more freedom, but the tracking quality is better on the Index: as your arms and controllers are tracked behind your back.
What makes up for this on the Quest 2 is the integrated and quality hand tracking. Whereas the Valve Index has a USB insert behind its front cover to add a hand-tracking module, like the one from Ultraleap. As mentioned, an open-source VR app called Monado also promises to bring native hand tracking to the Index.
This is exciting. But because it was recently released, we haven’t had the chance to run it through our rigorous hand-tracking program.
All in all, it is a tie between the two VR headsets. Yet, if hand tracking is required for you, the Quest 2 is better.
As always, what tips the scale is the asking price compared to the offered value. And despite Meta changing the cost of the Quest 2 like Meta’s management branch, the current price point of the 128GB version for $400 and the 256GB for $430 is still an excellent deal.
This is contrasted with a price north of $1.000 for the Valve Index kit, notwithstanding the gaming PC you would need to run your VR games.
In short, times have changed since the release of the Valve Index and Oculus Quest 2 where standalone VR headsets have come a long way like the affordable, yet incredibly powerful Pico 4, or the best plug-and-play VR gaming experience on the PSVR 2.Yet, between the two headsets, the Quest 2 offers a better price-to-performance deal compared to the Valve Index. However, me personally, I am waiting for what Valve has in store for us with the promising Valve Index 2.
Jakob Pii is Writer at VR Expert and currently lives in the UK. He started his career in VR gaming in 2015 and has stayed in XR since, from exposure therapy in VR to 360-degree video documentaries. He is fascinated by how emerging technologies change how we live, play and work.