Can you use HTC Vive base stations with Valve Index?
The Valve Index works with original HTC Vive base stations
Original HTC Vive base stations with SteamVR 1.0 tracking will work with the Valve Index head-mounted display (HMD) and motion controllers, as well as the HTC Vive Pro and its refreshed motion controllers. However, the original HTC Vive HMD and motion controllers will not work with the updated SteamVR 2.0 base stations designed for the Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro.
Although you can use the Index with the older base stations, the Index will be held within the limits of the older hardware. If you're dealing with a small play space for casual VR gaming this is no doubt alright, though if you're interested in an enormous play area and motion capture, SteamVR 2.0 tracking tech no doubt makes more sense.
What's the difference between SteamVR 1.0 and 2.0 tracking?
The Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro are both available with updated base stations that use SteamVR 2.0 tracking. Compared to the SteamVR 1.0 base stations that were included with the original HTC Vive, the idea is essentially the same, though there have been some subtle changes.
Physically, the base stations have a more rounded front that allows for a wider field-of-view. There's also now just a single rotor that spins inside, which actually offers more range (about 22 feet or 7 meters). With two SteamVR 2.0 base stations, you'll be able to effectively cover a play space that's 400% larger than is possible with SteamVR 1.0 base stations. With the older base stations, you could only position them about 16 feet (5 meters) diagonally apart.
Whereas SteamVR 1.0 base stations were capped at two units, you can add third and fourth base stations to your setup if you're using the updated hardware. With four total SteamVR 2.0 base stations, you should be able to effectively cover an area up to about 1,076 square feet (100 square meters). That's an enormous play area, and if you're operating anywhere other than your house or small office, it might be worth investing in the latest base stations to get as much roomscale action as possible.
Those who are working with other IR devices while in VR, like motion capture cameras, should note that the SteamVR 2.0 base stations are less susceptible to IR interference from other hardware.
Can you mix and match base stations?
Original HTC Vive base stations that use SteamVR 1.0 tracking and Valve Index base stations that use SteamVR 2.0 tracking cannot be used together in the same VR setup. If you want to enjoy a setup with more than two base stations for an enormous play area, you will have to opt for the newer SteamVR 2.0 hardware.
Is it worth upgrading to new SteamVR 2.0 base stations?
If you already own an HTC Vive setup complete with SteamVR 1.0 base stations, you can save some money and opt for just the Valve Index HMD. You're still going to get a quality roomscale VR experience, though with not as much room for expansion.
For a complete package with Index HMD, motion controllers, and latest base stations with SteamVR tracking, you're looking at spending about $999. To buy each SteamVR 2.0 base station separately, expect to pay about $149.
If you're just starting to get into VR, a complete HTC Vive setup with HMD, two SteamVR 1.0 base stations, and motion controllers costs about $499. That's a far cheaper way to get off the ground, and it's still going to offer an excellent VR experience.
Premium VR setup
Available to buy separately
The Valve Index is a premium PCVR system with high-res display, intuitive motion controllers, and updated base stations. It's also compatible with older base stations that came with the HTC Vive.
More affordable complete package
The HTC Vive has been around for awhile, but it's aging quite well. A complete setup with HMD, controllers, and original base stations costs less than an Index, making it a great way to get in on VR.
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Cale Hunt is formerly a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full-time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.