A new era in VR technology arrives with the Oculus Quest standalone headset.
The Oculus Quest shouldn’t exist—at least not at this price. First teased at Oculus Connect 3 in 2016 as “Oculus Santa Cruz,” the Quest has spent the last three years evolving into a jaw-dropping piece of technology that could end up defining the future of an entire industry.
Whereas a majority of major VR headsets force the user to choose between comfort or quality, Oculus has somehow managed to find a sweet spot between the two, offering users a combination of untethered 6DoF technology and captivating visuals that fall just short of PC VR quality. Most importantly, the Oculus Quest ditches the past complexities and considerable expenses of modern VR, ushering in the dawn of true consumer-level virtual reality. No cables. No PC. No sensors.
After spending just a short time inside this game-changing technology, it’s already one of my favorite pieces of VR technology to ever hit the market. Here’s our review of the incredible Oculus Quest:
Right off the bat, the Oculus Quest looks and feels incredibly well-made. The compact design and fabric material wrapped around the sides of the visor give off a futuristic—but approachable vibe, while the matte-plastic faceplate feels sturdy and reliable. This is an important detail as the front plate houses four forward-facing cameras located along the edges of the visor. These cameras enable the headsets passthrough mode, which allows users to view the real-world when outside their designated play spaces, and assists with the headsets inside-out tracking.
While the pass-through mode has proven itself an incredibly useful feature—allowing users to step into and out of VR easily without having to remove their headset—I wouldn’t go performing any physically-intensive activities with it just yet. While the four built-in cameras do an amazing job of stitching the real-world together into one clear image, depth perception is almost entirely nonexistent. The good news is the visor can flip up several inches, allowing you to perform simple tasks without fully removing your headset, such as checking your phone or having a drink.
Located on the sides of the headset is a USB-C port for charging and connecting to PC’s, a standard power button, and two 3.5mm audio jacks (one on each side). While the Oculus Quest does feature built-in spatial audio located in its straps, you are free to plug-in your own pair of compatible headphones. Located on the bottom of the headset is a volume adjustment button as well as an IPD slider, allowing users to manually select the distance between their lenses to create the best possible picture. As more and more headsets continue to opt for automatic software-based IPD adjustment—which doesn’t support those outside the normal IPD spectrum—it’s nice to see Oculus favoring hardware that helps a wider range of potential users.
In terms of comfort, the Oculus Quest comes in just below the Oculus Go and miles above the Lenovo Mirage Solo, another standalone 6DoF VR headset. Similar to the Go, the Quest features a three-strap system (two on the side, one on the top) culminating in triangle-shaped harness at the back of the head which does a solid job of distributing the overall weight of the device. The face padding is comfortable and blocks a majority of light from entering the headset; although despite my best efforts to move the padding into a secure position, I did notice just the tiniest sliver of light creeping in from the bridge of my nose. Not enough to ruin the experience, but a noticeable occurrence none-the-less. The Quest also comes with a spacer attachment for those with glasses.
As for the weight, the Oculus Quest weighs 571g; more than the Oculus Go, but still light enough that I didn’t feel weighed down during any games. Film and TV is another story, however. When engaged in an intense table tennis match against the surprisingly condescending robot opponent in Racket Fury, I didn’t have time to feel the weight of the front visor as I continued my losing battle with the worlds most disrespectful AI. When I was kicking-back binge-watching Stanger Things, however, I had a little more time to feel the actual heaviness of the device. So while you should have no problem gaming for multiple hours, odds are the Quest won’t end up being your headset-of-choice in terms of TV and film.
The Oculus Quest includes dual OLED display panels with a display resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye— the same as the Oculus Rift—and a 72Hz refresh rate thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. Simply put, the visuals—while a noticeably lower quality than that of the Oculus Rift—are still an impressive accomplishment considering the limited power offered by the Snapdragon processor. So while hyper-realistic experiences are still a long way away for standalone VR, you can expect a consistent, stable frame rate with little to no motion sickness.
Some games, such as SUPERHOT and Beat Saber look nearly identical to their PC VR counterparts, while others—including Robo Recall and Apex Construct—take a noticeable hit graphically. To summarize, if you’re someone who values stable performance and well-designed gameplay over graphical fidelity, this is the headset for you.
In terms of battery, expect 2-3 hours of playtime before having to recharge. This will of course depend on what type of content you’re displaying; visually-taxing games will drain the battery faster than watching a film). Still, 2-3 hours was about the max amount of time I could spend in the headset at one time, so battery life shouldn’t be an issue. For those of you who prefer lengthier playimes, a standard USB battery packs can keep your session going longer.
The Oculus Quest features over 50 apps and games available for download. This includes everything from ports of established hits, such as Apex Construct, Beat Saber, SUPERHOT, and Creed: Rise to Glory, as well as brand new offerings, like Shadow Point, Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series, and Journey of the Gods. Of course, the tried-and-true VR games feel fantastic on Quest; titles like Beat Saber and SUPERHOT were meant for untethered play. But these new experiences—built from the ground up with the Quest in mind—establish a very promising future for the Quest catalog.
Fantastic narrative-driven experiences like Vader Immortal, Shadow Point, and Bonfire prove that professional VR storytelling has begun to find its feet; meanwhile social experiences such as VRChat and Pokerstars VR have found new life on the headset, offering users an easier, more convenient way to party in virtual nightclubs or lose their cash to a bunch of strangers. Helpful apps such as Bigscreen and Virtual Desktop let the user to remotely access their computer, allowing them to play 2D games, complete work, or just browse the web straight from their headset.
Pretty much every experience feels better on Quest thanks to the freedom of untethered gameplay.
THE GUARDIAN SYSTEM
While it’s true I’ve been having a blast taking down stormtroopers in Vader Immortal and serving up some dope moves in Dance Central, I often find myself having the most fun simply messing around with the Quest’s Guardian system. When establishing a new play space, Quest users must draw the boundaries of their play area using their Touch controller; just seeing how incredibly accurate the tracking is enough to put a smile on your face.
Upon stepping out of the designated play space, the headset automatically switches to “pass-through” mode, allowing users to see a live black-and-white feed of their physical surroundings. As you walk around your physical environment, you can turn back to your place space to see the guardian system patiently awaiting your return. It sounds simple—I know—but it really is such an impressive safety system that doesn’t get enough credit considering how accurate the tracking is.
The updated Touch controllers are a pleasure to use. The ergonomic design fits comfortably in a majority of hands and their small, lightweight design makes them easy to hold up for long periods of time. The button inputs feel extremely solid, and the analog joystick features a surprising amount of grip. The controllers are powered by single AA batteries located beneath a magnetic cover which can sometimes come lose during intense play.
The only other negative I can find involves the movement of the “halo” frame from the bottom of the controller to the top of the handle, which can sometimes result in awkward weight distribution during certain experiences. Virtual guns, for example, feel a little odd to hold in-game thanks to a majority of the weight being pushed further back on the controller.
The original Touch controller had the halo ring facing the floor, forcing most of the weight to the front of the controllers. In order to provide adequate inside-out tracking between the controllers and the Quest headset (which relies on inside-out tracking as opposed to external sensors), Oculus repositioned the sensor-filled ring above the controller. The result is near perfect controller tracking at the cost of balance. Not uncomfortable by any means, but a definite inconvenience.
Similar to the approach taken with the Oculus Go, the company is putting a major focus on shared experiences right out of the gate. Using the Oculus Quest dashboard, users can record gameplay, live stream to Facebook, even cast their headset to compatible smartphone and Chromecast devices.
The idea is to curve public perception of VR as an isolating technology and instead package it as a shareable experience which those outside the headset can still enjoy. Being able to cast to smartphones and TV’s is a fantastic option for anyone looking to entertain guests, while the recording and live streaming functionalities open up a world of possibilities in terms of VR gaming personalities.
Features such as casting and live streaming are limited at the moment, with users able to cast strictly through the Oculus app or Chromecast devices generation 3 and up and live streaming relegated strictly to Facebook. Hopefully, as VR continues to develop into a mainstream technology, we’ll begin to see more streaming options begin to appear.
The Oculus Quest is available in two models: 64GB for $399 and 128GB for $499. Considering the amount of technology packed into this headset, $399 honestly feels like a bit of a steal. It’s clear Facebook is prioritizing mass VR adoption over profits with the Quest.
Again, this is an all-in-one untethered 6DoF headset for just $399. No cables, no expensive gaming PC, no external sensors required. Sure the visuals aren’t as impressive as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but you’re essentially getting the same gameplay experiences without the need of an expensive gaming PC or external sensors.
THE VERDICT: Buy it now!
If you’ve been on the fence about VR—whether it’s due to the expensive price of entry or intimidating hardware—now is the time to jump onboard. The Oculus Quest is the perfect headset for both VR veterans looking for a more convenient way to access their favorite titles, as well as complete newcomers looking for their first VR experience.
Games like SUPERHOT and Beat Saber feel as though they were meant for the Quest, and the ability to seamlessly hop into classic PC VR titles is a total game-changer.
Whatever your opinion on the future of VR may be, rest assured the Oculus Quest will be apart of it. This is a headset not only for those interested in VR, but those interested in revolutionary technology as a whole.