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HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite vs Valve Index (2021): Comparing Premium VR Headsets

For the most immersive virtual reality experiences, you’d want only the most high-performing full VR kits. At the top end of available VR headsets are the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite and the Valve Index, both promising stunning graphics, precise movement tracking, and responsive controls for any VR title. We put these VR headsets in a head-to-head comparison to see which one ultimately comes out ahead.

HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite vs Valve Index VR Headset Comparison Chart

ModelHTC VIVE Cosmos EliteValve Index
 HTC Vive Cosmos Elite Virtual Reality SystemValve Index VR Full Kit
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Headset TypePC-tetheredPC-tethered
DisplayDual LCDDual LCD
Resolution2880 x 17002880 x 1600
Field of View~110°~130°
IPD AdjustmentManual58 – 70 mm
Eye ReliefNoYes
Refresh RateUp to 90 HzUp to 144 Hz
TrackingSteamVR 1.0 (external) plus 6 internal sensorsSteamVR 2.0 (external)
AudioStereo headphones37.5 mm off-ear
ControllersVIVE ControllerValve Index Controllers
Required PortsDisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0DisplayPort 1.2, USB 3.0

Design

The Valve Index has a more comfortable design than the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite.

Here are the full VR kits of the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite (top half) and Valve Index (bottom half). Each kit comes with a head-mounted display (HMD), two controllers, and two base stations.

First up, the most critical component we need to look at is the VR headset design. After all, you’ll be wearing it the entire time you’re playing, so they need to fit comfortably and snugly for maximum enjoyment. While the overall HMD designs of the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite and Valve Index are similar on the surface, several slight differences make the latter the superior VR headset.

The Valve Index headset has softly padded dual straps that you can adjust to perfectly cup the back of your head. You can then secure it using a knob at the back that controls how tight it fits. This lets you find the most comfortable setting for you, which works wonders especially considering that the Valve Index HMD is one of the heaviest.

Two straps at the back plus an overhead strap provide a nice balance and fit for the Valve Index HMD.

In comparison, the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite only has a single crown-style strap, which is a bit troublesome to fit just right. Moving it higher on your head to get the display into the “sweet spot” can feel like it’s not secured tightly enough. Securing the strap to where it feels comfortable pushes the display out of optimal visual clarity. Moreover, tightening the headset can cause strain on your face when worn for long.

It’s unfortunate that the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite essentially makes you choose between comfort and clarity, since it has a flip-up design that lets you switch between VR and the real world easily. Most VR headsets, including the Valve Index, require taking them off completely to do so, which means you need to readjust them again to re-wear.

Headset

The Valve Index has a wider field of view and max refresh rate than the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite.

You can easily see the headset design differences between the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite (left) and Valve Index (right) here.

The technical specs of the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite and Valve Index clearly show the latter’s advantages. The Index has a higher standard refresh rate of 120 Hz as well as maximum of 144 Hz, resulting in smoother visuals compared to the Cosmos Elite’s 90 Hz ceiling. Moreover, the Valve Index provides a wider field of view of up to ~130° compared to the Cosmos Elite’s ~110°.

This is a result of several factors, including the dual-element lens and canted optics of the Valve Index. While both have manual inter-pupillary distance (IPD, the distance between the eyes) adjustment, the Valve headset also has an eye relief setting letting you adjust how close the lens are to your eyes. In comparison, you can get that feeling of wanting the Cosmos Elite’s displays closer to your eyes but having no way to do so. Again, you get that sweet spot much easier on the Valve Index.

The side view of the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite shows its balance and fit issues due to its single halo strap and bulky visor.

The HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite does have a slightly higher total resolution of 2880 x 1700 pixels, but in reality, your eyes won’t be able to tell the difference against the Valve Index’s 2880 x 1600. Both use RGB LCD panels that deliver amazing graphics with very minimal screen door effect. You’ll get great visual clarity from edge to edge with both head-mounted displays, but the Index’s advantages make it the clear standout.

For audio, both Cosmos Elite and Index VR headsets have removable integrated speakers with an important distinction. The Cosmos Elite’s headphones rest over your ears while the Index hovers over them. Interestingly, this gives the Index better spatial and directional audio than its VIVE competitor, even though their sound quality and volume are pretty much on-par.

Tracking

The Valve Index covers a wider play area than the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite.

These are the included base stations for the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite (left) and Valve Index (right).

External tracking via base stations provide a more accurate and responsive tracking of VR headsets and controllers. Thankfully, both of these HTC VIVE and Valve VR kits come with two base stations that you’ll need to set up for reliable tracking. The difference is, the Cosmos Elite ships with SteamVR 1.0 base stations while the Index comes with SteamVR 2.0.

Performance-wise, there’s hardly any difference between the SteamVR 1.0 and 2.0 base stations. Both lighthouses are excellent at tracking your movements across the play area, so your views and actions are perfectly reproduced on the displays. They prove SteamVR tracking is the best in the industry for room-scale tracking.

However, the SteamVR 2.0 base stations have improved range and field of view over the 1.0 lighthouses. This means you can enjoy a larger play space with the Valve Index than the VIVE Cosmos Elite. Moreover, the 2.0 base stations are scalable, so you can use up to four of them to get a play area of 10 x 10 meters.

Still, for the majority of users, the 3.5 x 3.5 meter coverage of the SteamVR 1.0 lighthouses are enough, so the Valve Index’s advantage over the HTC kit really only matters if you have a huge room to play in.

Controls

The Valve Index has better controllers but the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite has an optional wireless adapter.

The adjustable straps of the Valve Index Controllers allow open hand interactions and a more relaxed grip.

Valve hits all the right buttons with the design of their Index Controller, as it’s arguably the best VR controllers you can get right now. What makes them stand out are the adjustable straps and pressure sensitive wands that enable more actions such as grabbing, squeezing, throwing, and holding up a peace sign.

Since the controllers are strapped onto your hands, you can release them in between actions and rest your hands. Moreover, its finger tracking sensors let you articulate hand gestures and perform more interactions. Also, button placement feels just right and you can actually squeeze the wands for grip input.

These are the original HTC Vive wands featuring large rings for internal tracking.

Unlike the HTC VIVE Cosmos which ships with its own custom controllers, the Cosmos Elite comes with the original HTC VIVE wands which utilize motion sensors. Their pistol-style grip makes them comfortable to hold, though they don’t offer nearly the same level of input as the Valve Index Controller. Furthermore, you need to hold them at all times while playing which can stress your hands during long sessions.

One notable advantage of the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite is the optional wireless adapter, which will free you from having to mind cables while moving. Note that both Cosmos Elite and Valve Index are fully tethered VR headsets, and the Index doesn’t have any wireless capability just yet.

Verdict

The Valve Index is superior to the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite.

As you can surmise, the Valve Index outperforms in nearly every aspect, from its headset design to its controls. For enthusiasts, it more than justifies its premium price, and it’s well worth saving up for if you really want an immersive and more thorough VR experience.

At its current price range, the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite is difficult to recommend over the Valve Index. Still, it’s a worthwhile upgrade if you already have the original Vive kit or if you’re after a wireless VR headset. Discounts will make it even more enticing, and availability is of course always a factor.

FAQs

📌 Is Valve Index better than VIVE Pro?

Yes, the Valve Index VR kit has a higher refresh rate, snugger fit, wider play space, and better controls than the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite.

📌 Is the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite wireless?

The base kit for the HTC VIVE Cosmos Elite is a fully tethered headset. However, a wireless adapter for it can be purchased separately.

📌 Is the Valve Index worth it?

Yes, but only if you want the most high-end VR experience you can get. If you have a more limited budget or simply want to try VR games, the Valve Index can feel too expensive as a point of entry.

📌 Do Index controllers work with VIVE Cosmos?

Yes, the VIVE Cosmos Elite supports other controllers including the Valve Index Controller.

Last update on 2020-12-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.