Evaluate: The Oculus Quest 2 Might Be the Tipping Level for VR Mass Adoption
Virtual reality has existed in some form for the past few decades, but the original Oculus Rift was the first time you could create a high quality VR experience in your own home. The Rift started a race for the facial computer market, but adoption has been slower than many expected. However, the 2019 Oculus Quest was so popular that months after it was released, it was almost impossible to buy. Oculus didn’t wait long to upgrade the headset either. The Oculus Quest 2 ($ 299.99) is available now and is an improvement over the original in every way. And yet it is $ 100 cheaper than the last version. After spending some time with the Quest 2, we can think of it as the headset that finally brought virtual reality to mainstream consumers.
A revolution in screen resolution
One could argue that the display is the most important aspect of a VR headset. After all, desktop VR systems are really just fancy monitors attached to your face. The Oculus Quest 2 contains all of its computer hardware and has received a speed boost compared to the previous generation. Despite this significant improvement, the new display is by far the most important upgrade.
The OG Quest had an OLED panel with a resolution of 1440 × 1600 per eye. This may sound like a lot if you’re used to looking at specs for phones and laptops, but your eyes are right next to the screen. Modern OLEDs have a pentile subpixel array, and the “hatch” pattern was clearly visible when using the Quest. We call this the “screen door” effect because it looks like there’s a metal screen between you and the virtual world.
With the Quest 2, Oculus switched to a 90 Hz LCD panel (1832 x 1920 per eye) that has full RGB strip subpixels instead of Pentil. You’re losing the perfect black levels from OLED, but that didn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, the display upgrade was a revolution. I’ve always felt that my ability to see depth in VR is a little weaker than most of the others. I could tell when things were closer or farther away, but everything looked a little too flat to be believable. Without the screen door effect, I can focus much better and see the 3D effect without any problems.
The images are still a little fuzzy than on a single 2D monitor, but they are much sharper than the original Quest. Everything looks better – menus, videos, games. I also found that Quest 2 doesn’t cause as much eye strain as the last generation quest. That’s probably because I’m not constantly trying to focus on images that will never get sharp enough.
The best from both worlds
The Quest 2 rises to the Qualcomm XR2 ARM chip, which supports all independent VR functions of the headset. As with the last generation Quest, you can also connect it to a computer with enough power via a USB-C cable to play desktop Oculus Rift VR games. I tested both ways of accessing content in Quest 2 and they each have their own charm. However, only one of them is the future.
Current desktop VR experiences can be surprisingly high quality, and the single cable connection makes the experience less of a hassle than older headsets that required separate power and video cables. I’ve played Star Wars: Squadrons quite a lot and it’s an absolute blast. It’s easy to forget that you’re not actually in the cockpit of an X-wing, but the cable is still there to drag you back to reality on occasion. Even in games like squadrons where you can stay seated, the cable can get caught on the armrest of your chair or you pinch it while swinging the controllers.
In standalone mode, the visual fidelity of VR experiences is still impressive. I’ve played a few games that have been “refurbished” for Quest 2 and they look almost as good as what you get on the desktop. The games aren’t that complex, of course, but the depth of a desktop game in VR isn’t as important as the freedom to remove wires. When you break free from the wire, VR becomes so much more exciting on the Quest 2 and the tracking is spot on. Plus, there isn’t a tedious setup like most desktop VR systems. Casual gamers and those curious about VR can search and play amazing games in minutes.
Standalone VR may not be as technically powerful as desktop VR, but you get both in Quest 2. With the added power of the XR2, I think developers should focus more on Quest games than Rift. It’s just a lot more fun to play without wires.
Not that good
There are things I don’t like about Quest 2, and at the top of that list is Facebook. I had to link my Oculus account to my Facebook login prior to Facebook to set up Quest 2, and numerous people have complained that Facebook banned them from their headsets for violating esoteric accounts. Almost any other company would be a better steward of our VR lives, but we’re sticking with Facebook. I would totally understand if someone wanted to buy the Quest not just because of Facebook.
Oculus has also decided to change the IPD (interpupillary distance) setting for Quest 2. Doing so could make it “incompatible” with your eyes. Instead of a smooth slider that changes the distance between lenses, you have three different settings: 58, 63 and 68 mm. If the distance between your eyes isn’t close to either of these settings, Quest 2 will look blurry regardless of the screen enhancements.
While I believe the Quest 2 is a huge step up for VR, some people will likely prefer to wait for the hardware to be refined. The included bracelet is marginally comfortable, and the Halo-style elite bracelet costs an additional $ 50 (if you can even find it in stock). Even then, the Quest 2 weighs over 500 g, which is not comfortable to wear for long periods of time. If I really want to immerse myself in a game and immerse myself in it for ten hours, I would prefer it to be on a traditional screen rather than VR. And that’s fine, since the Quest 2 battery runs dry in about two and a half hours. It’s a balancing act – add more battery and the headset is too heavy, take it away and it won’t last long enough. Range anxiety is still a problem for Quest 2
Despite these shortcomings, the Quest 2 is an important step for VR. It has the best software library, tracking, and incredible display now. I can’t wait to see what happens when developers start pushing the hardware.