The last 18 months have been an exciting time for the virtual reality (VR) industry, with one headset above all dominating; Facebook’s Oculus Quest. The standalone headset promised what all VR enthusiasts had been wanting for years, full wireless freedom, no cables or the hassle of external sensors to worry about. Well, the time has come to improve upon that design with the Oculus Quest 2, a lighter, more powerful headset which aims to cement Facebook at the top of the VR mountain.
Oculus Quest 2 instantly wins points for the fact that it further reduces the cost of entry into VR, with the 64GB model coming in at £299 GBP/$299 USD, £100 cheaper than the original. And for those who want more storage, the 256GB version is £399/$399, still not a bad price for full-blown 6 degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) VR.
What’s nice to see is the move away from the monolithic black plastic block to a far more eye-catching two-tone, black and white design. This gives the Oculus Quest 2 a refreshing aesthetic, inviting and dare I say it trendier look to help appeal to a mainstream audience, not just the die-hard VR fans. The quality can be seen throughout, from the box presentation to the build of the headset and controllers, Oculus Quest 2 feels like the premium product it should be.
Oculus Quest 2 has seen a major overhaul both inside and out, yet all the improvements are merely enhancements over the original rather than trying to do something new or groundbreaking, much like the Oculus Rift S did. At its heart is the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform, actually designed for XR hardware rather than the original Quest’s Snapdragon 835 processor found in smartphones.
Whilst this is already being put to good use with developers rolling out enhancements for previously released videogames, much like consoles I expect the best is yet to come. Further leveraging Oculus Quest 2’s potential, titles will become richer, more expansive experiences, especially as the standalone headset will become Facebook’s only VR device after the Oculus Rift S is discontinued in 2021.
What you get for your money is a smaller, lighter VR headset, in turn feeling comfier as there’s less weight on your face, dropping down from 571g to 503g. It is still front heavy but that reduction is enough so that longer gameplay sessions don’t feel as gruelling on your face. In turn that meant it was enjoyable delving into big titles that offered grand adventures, the only cut off being the battery life. Likewise, when it came to really active titles such as Beat Saber, not having all that weight bobbing up and down made getting into the rhythm far less of a challenge.
This weight saving isn’t purely on the front as Oculus Quest 2 now features a soft strap than a rigid one. The overhead velcro strap is still there but gone are the side adjustments in favour of a system at the rear. Personal preference whether this is an improvement, I found the new design comfortable and easy to adjust, plus it makes the headset far more portable and simple to stow away. The only real concern with the soft strap and the off-white colour is that of cleanliness. The past few weeks with the device haven’t made it that dirty but over time I’d imagine this is going to get grubby.
When it comes to battery life not much has changed. The battery spec hasn’t been released but just like the original Oculus Quest 2 will give you between 2-3 hours, completely dependent on whether you’re watching videos of playing games. Mostly, I got just over 2 hours playing videogames before having to recharge.
Alongside the Snapdragon XR2, on of Oculus Quest 2’s major features is its new display, providing what Facebook calls an ‘almost 4K display’. That comes from a fast-switch LCD providing a resolution of 1832×1920 per eye as well as 50% more pixels to reduce the dreaded screen door effect. This improvement is instantly noticeable, completely removing the screen door effect whilst crisping up videogame graphics on both enhanced and standard Quest titles. The visual quality hasn’t just been improved by the display, as the Fresnel lenses do also appear to have been tweaked to aid clarity – although god rays do appear, usually in higher contrast loading screens.
Like any LCD display, however, it can’t compete with the black levels of the Oculus Quest’s OLED panel. Not great for dark horror videogames, the trade-off ensures a comfortable experience with less digital effects from constantly moving your head.
One feature which has always been a hot topic in VR is interpupillary distance (IPD). On the original Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest this adjustment was manual, so you could easily fine tune the setting. Oculus Rift S went digital – to great uproar – whilst the Oculus Quest 2 has gone for an entirely different method. The IPD is physically adjustable between three settings 58, 63 and 68mm. With a numbered indicator between the lenses you have to grab and move them which is a little weird due to a bit of force being required. This also stops you seeing the image as you make the adjustment, having to take the headset off each time. It’s an unusual compromise seeing as though the first system worked really well.
Facebook has said these three settings should cover the majority of users. Having an IPD of about 67mm the widest setting did suffice but there’s likely going to be some which don’t fit into this bracket.
And then there’s the audio. Oculus Quest 2 still uses the piping system down the strap arms to provide spatial sound which works much the same as the original. There’s certainly an improvement at the lower end, from gun fire to bass in music, the drivers do pack a bit more wallop. You’re still best off using headphones if you can to truly immerse yourself in an experience, with the headset now only sporting one 3.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand side rather than two.
Just as important as viewing a virtual world is how you interact with it. Oculus Quest 2 may have hand tracking yet for most titles the Oculus Touch controllers are the main input source. Just like the headset, these have seen a notable redesign, in fact, harking back to the Oculus Rift CV1 controllers.
They’re bigger than before with a more substantial grip as well as offering a circular faceplate which has a nicer resting area for the thumb – great if you’ve got larger hands. This has given Facebook more room to improve the haptics which are more powerful. It is a shame that the cross-hatching has been removed, with smooth plastic in its place. The absence is most noticeable in really active videogames, having to hold the controllers that little bit tighter. On the flip side, the battery cover no longer uses magnets so it does stay firmly closed – an annoying flaw on the previous version.
Most impressive though is the battery life. Facebook has said the single AA should last 4x as long, and so far that seems to be right. After several weeks of use, the battery indicator had only dropped to 90% with the pre-supplied battery.
With an all-new home to start from you’ve got Oculus Quest’s ever-growing library of videogames and apps to enjoy, with plenty of classics to enjoy.
Studios are utilising both the launch and the hardware to offer new and improved VR experiences. Titles like Red Matter, Arizona Sunshine and Phantom: Covert Ops have all been updated to enhance their visuals, from texture details to particle effects. When it comes to new content the Oculus platform is getting The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, Rez Infinite, Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing and more on day one.
In the following weeks and months Population: One, The Climb 2, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, Myst, Jurassic World Aftermath and Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister are all due for release. So there’s plenty still to come.
What’s missing is content to really test the hand tracking feature. It’s mostly used in Oculus home and other first-party apps. Only a few titles like The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets and Tsuro: The Game of the Path actually use it to any degree.
And let’s not forget about Oculus Link, hooking the Oculus Quest 2 up to a PC to play content from platforms such as SteamVR. Opening up a whole new world of content, the feature is still in beta and generally works ok. It does need to be improved with the onset of Oculus Rift S’ discontinuation. You’ll also need to buy a long USB-C cable as the one supplied isn’t long enough to support the feature.
Let’s address this controversial issue. All new customers to the Oculus platform or those upgrading to Oculus Quest 2 will now have to use their Facebook account to log in. Oculus accounts are no longer being offered, although if you do already have one then the merging process can be delayed until 1st January 2023.
Designed to provide one social ecosystem, if you love VR but have resisted social media then this is where it gets tricky. Buy an Oculus Quest 2 and you have no choice in setting up a Facebook account as the two are now intertwined. It’s long been expected and now unavoidable.
Because of this VR users have to adhere to Facebook’s policies when it comes to community conduct. Fall foul of these and at worse your account will be suspended, in turn, stopping you from playing all that VR content you’ve bought, hence the big furore. Now, this is unlikely to affect many owners but the fact remains it’s still there, putting off those who were keen on the platform before.
So does all of this add up to a more capable machine? It most certainly does. Oculus Quest 2 offers a better experience in every way, and for a cheaper price! Possibly not enough for current Oculus Quest owners to jump on an upgrade unless you’re really keen but certainly even more tempting for new arrivals or those coming from alternate hardware.
Just be aware that there’s no expandable storage so while the 64GB is more than enough now, games are expected to get bigger. There are also all the accessories to consider such as the Elite Strap. VRFocus didn’t have these for review but the Elite Strap with Battery pack which supposedly doubles gameplay duration will likely be tempting for VR enthusiasts and we’ll review that as soon as possible.
The login issue is now here to stay so if it bothers you then a SteamVR headset is a good bet. Otherwise, if you have a Facebook account and want a good wireless VR headset, then you can’t go wrong with Oculus Quest 2.