Oculus Quest review: This is the VR headset you've been waiting for
The Quest is the first VR headset to pull from both camps and, perhaps unsurprisingly, that middle-ground approach holds a lot of appeal.
Thus far, your choice of VR headsets have always split along two axis: fidelity and portability.
Either you get a high-end headset like the Vive Pro and hook it up to an equally-capable gaming PC or you opt for the world of mobile or standalone hardware like Google Daydream and Oculus Go.
The Oculus Quest is the first headset to break free of that dichotomy and the results are splendid to behold.
Display type: OLED
Display resolution: 1440 x 1600 per eye
Refresh rate: 72Hz
Processor: Snapdragon 835 Processor
Integrated microphone: Yes
Integrated headphones: No
Ports: USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack (x2)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Design-wise, the Oculus Quest looks like a hybrid of the original Oculus Rift and the newer Oculus Go.
As you might infer from that sentiment, it’s got a very similar look and feel to both. You’ve got an easily adjustable headband and the visor of the Quest can be flipped upwards at a moment’s notice if you need to jump back into regular reality. The Quest also comes with two reworked Oculus Touch controllers and 6-degrees-of-freedom/inside-out tracking.
Essentially, what this means is that you get the same ability to move around in 3D space that you would with something that relies on external sensors but contained within the Quest itself. It’s futuristic in concept but the reality of the execution here goes a long way towards making the Quest one of the more accessible VR experiences out there.
There is still a bit of setup involved. You have to download the Oculus Quest app on your phone, create an Oculus account, download software updates and pair the headset with the bundled-in controllers. Still, when compared to the physical labor of setting up sensors and running wires from your PC to a traditional VR headset like the Rift, the Quest still feels like a massive leap forward in usability for this kind of product.
Every time you strap in, the Quest invites you to create a new playspace. If you just want to experience VR in a stationary position, you can hit the prompt that tells it you want to do that.
If you want to set up and move around 3D space, you just paint a circle around yourself with one of the Oculus Touch controllers and you’re good to go.
If you accidentally wander towards or outside the bounds of your play area, the headset will use the infrared sensors that the Quest relies on for tracking as cameras, gently pulling you back into the real world to help you reorientate yourself and avoid accidentally injuring yourself or others. It’s a really smart safety feature and something that it feels like these headsets should have already had for years.
Last but not least, I do want to shout out the nifty travel pack that Oculus are selling for the Quest. Even if it’s sold separately, it’s something well worth paying that little bit extra for. As a former-Oculus Rift owner, finding a safe and easy way to pack away and store my VR gear was always a massive pain. That carry-bag looks like a godsend.
Software & Performance
There is one catch though.
While the Oculus Quest does support experiences of the kind and of much of the fidelity you’d get from a fully-fledged VR headset - it doesn’t get all the way there and the software library is here is pretty reliant on VR developers actually porting their content to the Quest.
The Quest doesn’t run the same games or apps as the regular Rift, nor the Go. It’ll only run apps that are in the Oculus Store (DIY-ers are out of luck) and specifically only software experiences that have been optimized for the headset ahead of time.
Oculus do say they’re working to make this easier than ever for developers but, at the same time, it’s hard to shake the notion that we're in a bit of a downswing when it comes to VR investment right now. And while some of those VR experiences feel like pitch-perfect adaptations for the platform, others don’t. The first episode of Vader Immortal is a thrilling and cinematic romp that’s smartly constructed around the limitations of the hardware, the Quest-compatible Robo Recall: Unplugged looks and feels noticeably worse than it’s Oculus Rift counterpart. Beat Saber remains a lot of fun but it’s hard to know just how much Oculus Quest content there will be for the platform over the long run.
And for what it’s worth, the actual experience of pulling on this headset and using it is genuinely brilliant. Some apps take longer to load than others but the experience of turning on the Quest and going from regular-R to virtual-R in a matter of seconds is almost seamless. Hell, I enjoyed messing with the Oculus Quest so much that I wanted to take it on a plane flight and use it to escape the trauma of economy seating.
The biggest downsides here are ultimately the pricing and battery life. Even if it might be the best consumer-grade virtual reality product on the market, the Oculus Quest isn’t cheap. At $649, it isn’t that far off most other VR headsets but it’s still well out of reach for a lot of mainstream consumers.
The battery life isn't that much of an Achilles heel by comparison. We'd usually get between three and three and a half hours of usage out of a single charge and, honestly, there aren't many situations where you want to spend that long in VR. Still, it would be nice to see the battery life get closer to five or six hours in future hardware iterations.
The Bottom Line
If you’re after the most advanced or capable VR headset, the ceiling for something like the HTC Vive Pro or Oculus Rift S is much higher than that of the Quest. But if you’re after a VR headset that’s easy to set-up and pack away between usage and one that you’re able to have fun with from the get go, this is the one to get.
I suspect that adoption of the Quest is ultimately going to be dogged by the high cost but nevertheless it feels Oculus have got a solid blueprint for the future of the consumer VR category here. Unless you’re already a VR enthusiast or embedded in the Playstation VR ecosystem, the Oculus Quest is the most compelling VR headset to hit the market yet.
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