Go through the geeky team here at GSMArena and you can easily find a wealth of expertise on anything from drones and electric scooters to robot vacuum cleaners and fancy coffee makers. There are a bunch of avid gamers between us and plenty of tinkerers, so it should come as no surprise that there are a few VR enthusiasts in the mix, as well. This reviewer has personally owned an original HMD (Vive DK1) back in the day, followed by various experiments with Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Cardboard and Daydream platforms and View headsets. Beyond that, I have experience with the original Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, Pimax 4K and have been daily-driving the Lenovo Explorer for the past few years – one of the best Windows Mixed Reality devices around. The latter will be a frequent reference point alongside the original Oculus Quest, which I also have some experience with.
Ironically, however, neither my own past experience, helpful as it is, nor any evangelical stance on the future of VR are really going to matter much in this exploration of the new Oculus Quest 2. The Quest 2 is not about complicated setups, advanced room-scale tracking systems with body sensors and cable pulleys or complicated multi-tier software compatibility layers to get Leap motion working inside a VR game on a not officially supported platform. It is the polar opposite of that and arguably the best effort we have seen thus far to actually bring VR to the masses by making it more accessible.
Oculus Quest 2 specs at a glance:
- Headset: 191.5 mm x 102 mm x 142.5 mm (295.5 mm with fully-unfolded strap), 503g; Color: white.
- Controllers: 90 x 120mm (per controller, including tracking ring with IR LED-based tracking), 126g (per controller, without battery), around 147g (with a AA battery); Around 30 hours of usage from one AA battery; Color: white.
- Display: IPS LCD, 1832x1920px per year resolution, 90Hz native refresh rate (currently capable of 72Hz, 90Hz coming with software update); around 90-degree field of view (estimated); adjustable IPD – three-position slider – 58mm, 63mm and 68mm
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 (7 nm): Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 585 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 585 & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 585); Adreno 650.
- Memory: 64/256GB 6GB LPDDR5 RAM.
- OS/Software: Oculus Mobile, based on Android 10, no Google Play Services, uses proprietary Oculus store for apps and games; Supports playing PC VR games through Oculus link and third-party wireless solutions.
- Tracking: Supports 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) head and hand tracking through integrated Oculus Insight technology (inside-out tracking); 4 front-facing cameras for visual controller tracking, plus gyroscopes and accelerometers in headset and controllers; Hand tracking (beta).
- Play space: Stationary and room-scale support, up to around 20m x 20m play area is mappable.
- Headset Battery: 3,640 mAh (14.0 Wh) lithium-ion (2 to 3 hours of use on a single charge); 10W (5V@2A) charging (around 2.5 hours for a full charge).
- Audio: Built-in stereo speakers and microphone, 3.5mm audio jack, support for 3D audio.
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac(5)/ax(6), 60 GHz Wi-Fi ay module (currently not in use); Bluetooth 5.0 LE; Type-C USB port, with USB Host support; 3.5mm audio jack.
That applies to both the overall experience itself in terms of convenience as well as the pricing. Oculus made some major strides with the original Quest. It basically managed to combine the convenience of “inside-out” tracking, eliminating the need for pylons and room-filling hardware setups with the comfort of a PC-independent experience. Strapping what is essentially a smartphone to your head might sound dumb on the surface, but has actually successfully managed to eliminate a large number of traditional VR hurdles.
The Quest 2 thus builds on the solid Quest foundation with all-round improvements – faster chipset, higher resolution and refresh rate, better tracking and connectivity and more features than ever. Probably most-crucially of all, though – a lower starting price of just $299 for the 64GB version and going up to $399 for the 256GB one, which constitutes a huge $100 pride drop from the original Quest.
Sure, that came with certain sacrifices. Most notably physical ones in materials and a simplified construction and no bundled strap, but a few other downgrades here and there. However, nothing really essential to the actual experience was stripped.
For better or worse, the now heavily Facebook-infused, but also massively subsidized Quest 2 is the closest we’ve ever gotten on paper to VR for the masses. An easy-to-setup standalone device that’s relatively affordable will hopefully entice more newcomers to the wonderful VR space. While it’s tempting to call it the Nintendo Wii of VR, it’s really too early and a bit overly-ambitions to make such bold claims. That being said, join us as we explain why we believe the Quest 2 is good enough to actually bring new users to the space and perhaps even some non-gamer and is basically the new go-to VR headset.
Hardware, comfort and ergonomics
We’ll do our best to keep this brief. Since comparison between the new Oculus Quest 2, the original Quest and my own, daily-drier Lenovo Explorer will come up a lot, let’s just kick off with a quick table, outlining their specs.
|Product||Oculus Quest||Oculus Quest 2||Lenovo Explorer|
|Headset||193 x 105 x 222mm, 571g; Color: black/grey||191.5 mm x 102 mm x 142.5 mm (295.5 mm with fully-unfolded strap), 503g; Color: white||185.1 x 94.8 x 102.1mm, 380g; Cable-length: 4m; Color: Iron Gray|
|Controllers||86 x 120mm (per controller, including tracking ring with IR LED-based tracking), 115g (per controller, without battery), 136g (with an AA battery); Around 7.5 hours of usage from one AA battery; Color: black||90 x 120mm (per controller, including tracking ring with IR LED-based tracking), 126g (per controller, without battery), 147g (with an AA battery); Around 30 hours of usage from one AA battery; Color: white||152.7 x 119.1 x 119.1mm (per controller, including tracking ring with IR LED-based tracking), 126g (per controller, without battery), 168g (with two AA batteries); Bluetooth 4.0 connection to PC; Standardized for Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets; Color: black|
|Display||OLED, 1440x1600px per eye resolution, 72Hz native refresh rate; around 100-degree field of view (estimated); adjustable IPD – 56 to 70 mm on a linear slider||IPS LCD, 1832x1920px per eye resolution, 90Hz native refresh rate (currently capable of 72Hz, 90Hz coming with software update); around 90-degree field of view (estimated); adjustable IPD – three-position slider – 58mm, 63mm and 68mm||2x 2.89″ LCD, 2880 x 1440px per eye resolution, 90Hz native refresh rate; 110-degree field of view; no physical IPD adjustment, only in software|
|Chipset and memory||Snapdragon 835 (10 nm), Adreno 540, 64/128GB, 4GB LPDDR4X RAM||Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 (7 nm), Adreno 650, 64/256GB 6GB LPDDR5 RAM||none|
|Tracking||6DoF head and hand tracking through integrated Oculus Insight technology (inside-out tracking), Hand tracking (beta)||6DoF head and hand tracking through integrated Oculus Insight technology (inside-out tracking), Hand tracking (beta)||6DoF head and hand tracking (inside-out tracking)|
|Headset Battery||3,640 mAh (14.0 Wh) lithium-ion (2 to 3 hours of use on a single charge); 10W (5V@2A) charging (around 2.5 hours for a full charge)||3,640 mAh (14.0 Wh) lithium-ion (2 to 3 hours of use on a single charge); 10W (5V@2A) charging (around 2.5 hours for a full charge)||none|
|Audio||Built-in stereo speakers and microphone, 2x 3.5mm audio jack, support for 3D audio||Built-in stereo speakers and microphone, 3.5mm audio jack, support for 3D audio||3.5mm audio jack|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac(5); Bluetooth 5.0 LE; Type-C USB 3.0 port, with USB Host support; 2x 3.5mm audio jack||Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac(5)/ax(6), 60 GHz Wi-Fi ay module (currently not in use); Bluetooth 5.0 LE; Type-C USB 3.0 port, with USB Host support; 3.5mm audio jack||Y Cable with HMDI video connection and USB 3.0; 3.5mm audio jack|
|OS and software||Oculus Mobile, based on Android 7.1.1, no Google Play Services, uses proprietary Oculus store for apps and games; Supports playing PC VR games through Oculus link and third-party wireless solutions||Oculus Mobile, based on Android 10, no Google Play Services, uses proprietary Oculus store for apps and games; Supports playing PC VR games through Oculus link and third-party wireless solutions||Uses Windows Mixed Reality portal on PC with support for most other PC VR platforms and games|
The new Quest 2 is very similar in both design and dimensions to its predecessor, but at 503 grams, it is noticeably lighter. A definite plus in terms of my own personal transition from the 380-gram Lenovo Explorer.
The extra helf is easy to live with when you consider the inclusion of a what is basically a whole mobile phone, plus a battery on the front of both the Quest and Quest 2. Both are distinctly front-heavy, which is one thing I instantly felt, compared to the Lenovo Explorer. If you turn your head around quickly, the extra weight shifting on your face can and will fatigue you a bit more.
Beyond raw weight, however, a large part of that kind of comfort comes down to weight distribution and strap design. This is one area in which Oculus clearly downgraded the Quest 2. The new Velcro strap design is simpler and definitely cheaper than the one on the original Quest. The whole mechanism on the Lenovo Explorer is radically different – it uses one of the best designs in terms of ergonomics, as well as functionality, with its snap-up hinge. You can also see in on the PlayStation VR headset.
Anyway, this might be an unpopular opinion, but I personally found the strap on the Quest 2 more comfortable than that on the original, even if it’s inferior to the one on the Lenovo. The original Quest simply squeezed the back of my head way too hard to the point of causing pain. The velcros, while less secure, can be adjusted quite a bit more and don’t dig into the skull nearly as much. The side adjustment on the Quest 2 works similar to backpack straps, which is arguably more-versatile than the spring-loaded, tension-based slide-out mechanism on the original Quest. Though, admittedly, the original Quest is much easier to put on with one hand.
This will be a matter of personal taste and if you still like the old design better, Oculus will be more than happy to sell you an Elite strap for the Quest 2. There are also straps that include an additional battery pack and even third-party options and plenty of DIY solutions to attach really advanced straps to the Quest 2. Overall, the Quest community is one that loves to modify, tinker and find workarounds, if that is your thing.
Continuing the physical comparison between the Quest 2 and the original Quest a bit further, it is worth noting that the old unit is not only heavier, but also bigger. This is arguably a plus for the old design, though as it has a notably wider fit around the face and more internal space between your face and the lenses. Hence, for a bigger adult, the older design is arguably more comfortable.
If you wear glasses, you might still want to do so with VR in general, since regardless of the fact that the display is only inches away from your eyes, distortions like myopia still apply to visibly-distant objects on the screens. Oculus has taken this into account and has an extra spacer in the box of both the original Quest and the Quest 2. You snap that on to the back of the face cushion to give yourself some extra clearance. You lose some field of view as a result, though.
In my own personal experience, getting my glasses inside any headset has been a challenge. While it is a bit easier on the original Oculus, since the Oculus 2 is so narrow at the “entrance” that most size glasses don’t even get past that point, it is still far from ideal on either headset. Plus, the lenses are fairly easy to scratch, so I ended up only trying this once, failing and then opting to live with myopia vision in VR.
Distancing my very sweaty and bearded face from the lenses a bit did help with the fogging situation though. A bit more on the new Quest 2 than on the original, since that one allowed from quite a bit of the air exhaled from my nose to go up into the headset and fog things up. I had no such problems on the newer tighter-fitting design.
Do make sure to take these points regarding fit and comfort with a bit of salt as they vary for everyone. I personally tend to get sweaty from VR before I get pain or discomfort from the straps or face piece, while other VR users around me have reported quite the opposite.
Looking at the Quest 2 and the original Quest side by side, though, the fact that the new design has a distinctly more-budget bill of materials is much more objective.
Despite skipping on some little trims here and there, like the mesh surface on the original or the thick strap design, the Quest 2 still feels very solid and well put together. The lenses probably remain the most sensitive bit that should be protected, Other than that, we are fairly confident that both the headset and the controllers and their thick plastic will survive bumps and hits. Probably even usage by younger children.
The new white color scheme will definitely show wear and tear more than the original dark one. However, it still looks very slick and at the price point they have managed to achieve, we can’t really fault Oculus for saving every penny they can, even if it is as little as going for a cheaper color for the plastic.
Fundamentally the new Oculus Quest 2 and the original one are very similar in terms of functional components. Makes sense, seeing how both use the same kind of “inside-out” tracking a have what is essentially a full set of smartphone components crammed inside to deliver similar functionality.
Oversimplifying things a bit, “inside-out” tracking basically refers to a system that tracks its surrounding and the position of the headset and the controllers without the use of external sensors, like the pylons some higher-end PC headsets use. Instead, the Quest and Quest 2 rely on a set of four specialized cameras on the front, meant to track strategically-placed IR emitters on the rims of the controllers, in conjunction with gyroscopes and accelerometers.
Is it the most accurate way to do tracking? – No. Does it suffer from intrinsic limitations, like inability to properly track the controllers while outside the field of view of the cameras? – Yes. Is it good enough for most experiences and average users out there, while keeping everything cheaper, simpler and more compact? – A resounding yes.
Before we get to the controllers, we have a few more notes on the controls on the headset, as well. Like we said, the Quest and Quest 2 basically have a full set of smartphone components on the inside, so it’s not surprising that their I/O is similar, even if slightly moved around. The Type-C charging and data port and the 3.5mm audio jack are still on the left side on both models, though slightly relocated.
The new headset still has around 2 to 3 hours of juice on a single charge, like the original Quest. Both use the same 3,640 mAh (14.0 Wh) Li-Ion battery pack. Gaming will likely be closer to two, whereas something like movie-watching can probably net you 3 hours and some change.
A full charge with the charger and cable in the box takes around 2.5 hours. Despite its modern Type-C interface, the charger is only rated for 5V@2A or 10W of current. There’s no Power Delivery, which means it works just as well with any charger. Plus, with those simple power requirements, “MacGyver-ing” a battery-bank solution for extra juice is also doable with practically every power bank out there.
On the right side, the original Quest has a power button, status indicator and a second 3.5mm jack. That setup, while potentially convenient in very rare circumstances was rethought and simplified with the second 3.5mm jack absent from the Quest 2 and a slightly different arrangement for the two other controls.
The bottom of the Quest 2 holds the volume rocker, just like the original Quest. The thing that is notably missing is the IPD (interpupillary distance) slider of the original. IPD settings are crucially important for getting a clear picture in VR. One of the biggest gripes I personally have with my Lenovo Explorer is that like most other Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets, it lacks physical IPD adjustment and only does that digitally in a highly imperfect manner.
Luckily, despite lacking the convenient external slider of its predecessor, the Quest 2 still has physical IPD adjustment! You just grab the lenses and gently, physically slide them inward or outward. The two are tied together and more in sync and snap into three pre-defined positions – 58mm, 63mm and 68mm. This is a fairly-wide IPD range (even if not all-encompassing). Plus, if you find that your personal IPD falls in the middle of two of the presets, with enough patience and precision, you can gently slide the lenses into a middle-ground placement and just leave them there.
There is a proximity sensor on the inside of the Quest 2, between the lenses, which looks a bit more-crude than the original Quest, but works just as well for detecting when you have your headset on. There is the option to even have the Quest 2 automatically turn on when you put it on.
Last, but not least, like the original Quest, the Quest 2 has both speakers and microphones built-in. Both are noticeably improved too. The speakers are embedded in the side plastic bits that attach to the headset strap and also, provide some minimal degree of vertical swivel – around 30 degrees upwards and maybe 5 degrees downwards. The speakers on the Quest 2 are moved back quite a bit and have much better clearance than those on the Quest. They also look bigger, which is probably why they sound better. As a side note, since it tends to come up, the Quest 2 does support 3D audio.
The Quest 2 has two microphones, positioned on its bottom side, which sound surprisingly well and are good enough for in-game voice chat. Oculus originally had some issues getting these to work while the Quest is connected to a PC via Oculus Link, which is now fixed.
Just like its overall headset design, Oculus hasn’t drastically changed its controllers. The overall shape is very similar and many of the same cut-backs in materials and surfaces can be found on the controllers. For instance, the grippy, soft-plastic bits of the original Quest are gone, replaced by a uniform, single-material plastic finish. Though, just like with the headset itself, this material swap is not really all that noticeable or detrimental.
Longtime fans of the brand might notice that the Quest 2 controllers seem to borrow a bit from their predecessors. The Quest 2 headset might have shrunk a bit compared to the original Quest, but the controllers have grown a bit in every dimension. The new design definitely feels comfier for people with larger hands.
Oculus Quest 2 controllers
The growth spurt comes with improved ergonomics of the Quest 2 controller. The button layout might be more, or less, unchanged from the vanilla Quest design, but everything is better spaced out now. There is also a dedicated thumb rest area to the side, for those extra intense gaming sessions that invite accidental button-presses. The Oculus home and menu buttons have been moved to the opposite side and recessed to the same end. The thumbrest on the right controller even has a textured patch, so you can feel and differentiate the two controllers. A task which the passthrough camera view on the Quest 2 also simplifies by placing dynamic L and R labels on top of the controllers.
The new Quest 2 controllers are a bit wider at the base of the handles, which also helps with comfort and might be related to the new battery cover design and position. Oculus has successfully addressed the battery cover issue on the original Quest, where it would get knocked-off fairly-easily in-game. The Quest 2 battery cover is repositioned and with much stronger clips.
Like its predecessors, the Quest 2 controllers use a single AA battery. Weight-wise, a new controller wights around 147 grams, with the battery – a tad heavier than the 136-gram Quest 1 Oculus Touch controller, but not far off. Still the weight is heaveier despite the new design having fewer tracking infrared LEDs.
Oculus claims the new controller maintains the same and even better tracking. This is a bit subjective and hard to properly test but we can definitively say that a few of us at the office found the overall tracking precision and stability of the new Quest 2 better than the original. Especially with things like aggressive movements and edge tracking cases, where the headset cameras temporarily lose sight of the controllers and the software has to improvise for a few seconds going by gyroscopic and accelerometer data alone. That is noticeably better on the Quest 2.
Having less active LEDs is one of the reasons behind the quadruple improvement in battery life on the Quest 2 controllers, compared to the Quest ones. Some clever connection and sleeping algorithms that turn the controllers on only when the Quest 2 is on your face or they get picked up, also save on battery quite a bit. You can expect around 30 hours of playtime from a single AA battery.
Rounding off the list of impressive overall improvements to the controllers, we have to mention that the haptic vibration on the Quest 2 controllers feels noticeably more convincing than the original.
Display and visual fidelity
The Quest 2 brings a bump in specs and performance in pretty much every aspect. Starting with the display resolution, which is up from 1440×1600 pixels (per eye) in the original Quest to 1832×1920 pixels in the Quest 2. That makes for a surprisingly noticeable difference. The screen-door effect from the original, which, for the uninitiated, is the unfortunate situation of seeing the gaps between the pixels in a display, as if watching something through a screen door, is almost absent on the Quest 2.
The Quest 2 also has a faster refresh rate of 90Hz, compared to the maximum 72Hz on the original Quest. The difference between 60Hz and 90Hz is also pretty noticeably with motion in VR. As things currently stand on the Quest 2, there is an experimental 90Hz toggle in settings, which only affects the menu and not the actual games.
Oculus is basically waiting on enough of its third-party developers to update their games before it flips the 90Hz switch system-wide, with an OTA update. Of course, apps and games will still be able to stick to 60Hz if they deem 90Hz impossible or unneccessary as with things like multimedia consumption for battery conservation.
Since we are on the topic, another thing most developers are still currently actively working on is bumping up resolution and overall graphical fidelity in their games to take advantage of the extra resolution and performance on the Quest 2. That means creating a new performance profile specifically for that headset and pushing an app/game update.
It is a time-consuming process, especially considering many VR titles tend to come courtesy of smaller teams and studios, with many even attributed to one indie developer. That’s kind of the beauty of the exciting new VR scene. It worth noting that a select few titles form the original Quest outright don’t work on the Quest 2. We found a nifty community-sourced Google Spreadsheet to reference on that, as well as progress on Quest 2-specific game improvements. While many graphical updates to title across the original Quest and Quest to will be minor, we have to say that Arizona Sunshine looks remarkably better on the Quest 2 post-update, with higher-resolution textures, completely revamped, more realistic zombie models, better lighting, including dynamic lights, more flora and fauna in the background.
Since this will inevitably come-up, yes, the Quest 2 uses LCD tech instead of OLED, which has led to many people fixating on things like “deep blacks” and “punchy colors”. Honestly, we can’t say we found the Quest 2 lacking on either account. We did look for some other, arguably more relevant aspects to the technology switch to compare, like the loss of the near-instant pixel-response time of OLED. Honestly, even it the best type of “controlled” test we managed to set up, we couldn’t tell the difference.
The overall fidelity of VR is still not nearly on the level of conventional displays, where you can confidently have such discussions of smearing and pixel response times, versus panel refresh rate. In its current state, VR is still dealing with much more basic things like fogging of lenses, imperfect focus points and nausea.
Addressing another pretty common discussion online regarding field of view going from the Quest to the Quest 2, we found a very small and mostly inconsequential difference. Oculus doesn’t officially state a field of view number of either, but the best estimates put the original Quest at 100-degrees and the Quest 2 at about 90. That’s presumably before you introduce things like spacers for glasses, which bring the effective field of view down further. We’ll just put it this way – coming from the Lenovo Explorer and its 110-degree field of view to the 90-ish degrees on the Quest 2 is noticeable, but only if you look for the “tunnel vision” effect. In reality the extra resolution and the vastly superior overall VR experience the Quest 2 offers vastly overshadows any such flaws.
Internals and performance
On a hardware level the Quest 2 swaps the Snapdragon 835 and 4GB of LPDDR4X RAM of the original Quest for a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 and 6GB of LPDDR5 RAM. The latter seems to be based on a Snapdragon 865 and even reports as such in conventional Android hardware info apps. That means a total of four Cortex A77-derived CPU cores, one prime one going up to 2,841 MHz, three oramping up to 2,419 MHz, alonside another four low-powered cores, working at up to 1,804 MHz.
In the GPU department, we have an Adreno 650 in the Quest 2, up from an Adreno 540 in the old one. It is also somewhat interesting to note that the original Quest has its OS based on or at least reported as the aging Android 7.1.1 Nougat, while the Quest 2 has Android 10.
Beyond what is clearly a notable update in raw performance, we can’t ignore the fact that unlike its predecessor, which uses a conventional mobile chipset, the Quest 2 uses the XR2, which is specifically made for VR tasks. This includes tangible improvements like the ability to connect up to 7 concurrent camera feeds to the XR 2 and track a greater number of sensors with higher precision.
Also, there are software improvements to the platform, like AI specifically geared towards motion and other VR tasks, as well as context awareness to voice recognition. All things that in the hands of the capable Oculus developers add up to a better overall experience.
Being the geeks that we are and since both the Quest and Quest 2 technically run Android, we couldn’t help ourselves and sideloaded some benchmarks to run, just to get some numbers. This process was riddled with plenty of issues like input irregularities and graphical glitches, which is perfectly understandable, since we are well outside typical use case scenarios here. Some benchmarks outright refused to run on one or both headsets. As such, don’t really read too much into the numbers.
GeekBench 4.4 (multi-core)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
GeekBench 4.4 (single-core)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
The newer GeekBench 5 refused to run at all and we can’t say that the GeekBench 4 numbers are anywhere in line with what we would expect from these sets of CPU cores. Again, these numbers are definitely not comparable outside this weird test of ours. Still we at least hope that the variance in performance between the two Quests is of some value.
Here are some GPU scores for you to check-out as well.
GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (onscreen)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (onscreen)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
It is worth noting that just like any conventional Android app, GFX Bench ran on a flat surface “display” within the Oculus OS environment. The original Quest and the Quest 2 have markedly different “on-screen” resolutions for this environment – 720 x 540 pixels and 900 x 675 pixels, respectively. In many of the apps we tried, this difference as well as some other OS DPI parameters was enough to force vastly different UI layout variants of said apps. The Quest 2 definitely used its increased resolution for better legibility than the original Quest even in this scenario of running unsupported sideloaded APKs on a flat surface.
Aztek Vulkan High (onscreen)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
GFX Aztek ES 3.1 High (onscreen)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
3DMark SSE ES 3.1 (offscreen 1440p)
Higher is better
Oculus Quest 2
The VR experience and how it compares to other VR headsets
Coming from a Lenovo Explorer as a daily driver VR headset for the past few years, the Quest 2 really convinced me that it’s time to upgrade. Mind you, despite its age, the Lenovo Explorer still delivers a very competent VR experience – it has very decent tracking, good resolution 90Hz screen and is quite comfortable. Also, the Windows Mixed Reality platform has great compatibility with practically every PC VR experience out there and great control mapping for seamlessly making all of them work.
However, it’s exactly the Mixed Reality portal and its overall user experience that have really started showing their age, compared to the modern Oculus experience. Starting with the extremely convenient and guided setup process.
All of the instructions are on screen, there are no sync buttons and Bluetooth pairing procedures. You just put on the Quest 2, go through a few prompts, then continue with a few steps on the companion app on your phone. Which, by the way, is a godsend for browsing the Oculus store and picking up games or managing contacts. You know, tasks that you wouldn’t want to put the Quest 2 on for.
Then there is the whole boundary setup process, which on Windows Mixed Reality headsets requires holding the headset in your hands and physically tracing the space. The Oculus way seemed properly smart in comparison the first time I experienced it.
Using its array of cameras, it provides a video feed of the surroundings and then simply asks you to touch one controller to the ground to get the ground level and simply point and draw the boundary. Afterwards it even detects different elevation objects inside the boundary and warns that these might be obstacles that need removing.
Speaking of that passthrough video feed, it might be low-res, in black and white and with very limited frame rate, but it is definitely good enough for checking your surroundings when you need to. Oculus now has an experimental feature that allows you to double-tap either side of the Quest or Quest 2 and get said passthrough feed instantly, even while in-game. A real game changer.
Another futuristic feature was the hand-tracking, which was just introduced to the Quest and Quest 2 with a software update. You can ditch your controllers, which by the way also offer some level of rudimentary finger-position tracking and just use your hands in VR, plus pinch gestures to select things and press the home and menu options.
It is still far from perfect and most games don’t support it as an input method, but comparing it to the overall experience I have personally had with adding Leap Motion hand-tracking to the Lenovo Explorer, the Oculus hand tracking and its prospects are in a whole other universe.
Then there is Oculus Link and in general the ability to attach the Quest 2 to a PC and play full PCVR titles. Experiencing this for the first time with Half Life Alyx is definitely what pushed me over the edge in the decision to completely retire the Lenovo Explorer.
Officially, the Quest and Quest 2 can be wired to a PC using either the official Oculus Link cable or a compatible third-party one. The former works best, since it is actually an optical USB cable, but costs a lot. If you plan on picking up a cheaper third-party option, you will probably want a 5m cable, which is pushing right-up against the maximum length of the USB spec so it needs to be a good-quality one.
There are other considerations as well and quite a few excellent resources online explaining which cables work. We have had great success with a 5m Anker PowerLine+ USB Type-C to Type-A 3.0 cable, for a reasonable price. Luckily, it is all that you need for Oculus link, for now, since its 5 Gbps data throughput is enough.
Then there is the even more revolutionary wireless approach to PC connection. Our method of choice and pretty-much the de facto standard for most users online is the 20 EUR Virtual Desktop software. You need it, plus, for the best experience – a wired ethernet connection to the PC you are streaming VR games from and a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection to the Quest 2.
There are plenty of subtleties to consider, but even with a fairly old 5GHz router, we managed to get a very clean picture on the Quest 2, with an 866 Mbps connection and a manageable 30-ish milliseconds of latency. Perhaps not good enough for pro-level Beat Saber, but more than adequate for casual and sightseeing games.
The Quest 2 also supports Wi-Fi 6 and with a fancy new Wi-Fi 6 router with relatively few devices attached to it, we got a 1,200 Mbps connection. This is enough bandwidth to even enable the relatively new 90Hz mode in the Virtual Desktop software and enjoy PC VR ant 90Hz with absolutely no noticeable traces of compression and an even average latency in the 20ms range.
This almost seems like magic, but out best guess is that it has something to do with the way the Quest and Quest 2 are designed to work in this PC-tethered mode. Unlike a conventional PC VR headset, which has a standard video interface (usually HDMI), alongside a USB for data, the Quest and Quest 2 only have one USB data connection. This means that the video and control and sensor data are packaged, compressed and then sent from one end to the other and uncompressed in real time.
Oculus dedicated a lot of effort on things like lag and latency mitigation and this real time decompression tech for its first-party Oculus Link solution, which is what Wireless Desktop seems to be building upon for its wireless solution. It is also interesting to note that the Quest 2 also has a 60GHz Wi-Fi 802.11ay module and antenna, currently not being leveraged for anything. We have already seen some wireless VR solutions leverage said ultra-fast, close-range technology and our best guess is that sooner or later Oculus will also be launching a dongle and a wireless version of Oculus Link.
Speaking of wireless communication, the Quest and Quest 2 have Chromecast support. This provides a rather convenient way of sharing the in-game view with a group. Something that, ironically, I have found to be a big part of my VR usage over the years. The ironic part being that VR is somewhat inherently asocial. It doesn’t really have to be, though, when you are like me constantly trying to indoctrinate friends into the realm. With the self-contained Quest 2 it easier than even.
Finally, for those of you that don’t have any experience with Oculus Mobile OS running on the Quest 2, we have a few crude screenshots, captured in VR. Excuse the awkward angles.
Oculus Mobile OS interface and optional hand-tracking controls
Oculus Mobile is built on top of Android, which allows the Quest and Quest 2 to easily take advantage of what is essentially the smartphone internals they are based on, without too many headaches or development overhead.
The UI is extremely clean and orderly. Menus and options are laid-out logically. It is also very eye-catching and overall a pleasure to use. If you dig deep enough into the Android guts behind the scene and start sideloading APKs and various apps, you will inevitably encounter some odd input and pointer behaviors and glitches. Other than that, Oculus has done an amazing job of hiding away the inner-working of their self-sufficient Quest devices.
In a growing and exciting niche that still has some major public image and user-base issues to tackle in its future, Oculus, or rather Facebook seems to be one of the few really taking the market seriously.
The Quest 2 is nothing short of a revolutionary device, albeit on a sluggish and fragmented scene. It is incredibly well engineered, well put together and powered by polished software, delivering an approachable and fluent experience in a league of its own.
While definitely outperformed in some aspects and raw power by other, more serious VR solutions, it still manages to pack enough of a hardware punch with its resolution and overall fidelity, as well as quality of tracking to outpace the vast majority of competitors out there.
And as far as a value proposition goes, with a starting price of just $299 for the 64GB model it is in a league of its own. Not even the fairly big splash the Microsoft managed to pull off in terms of good value VR with the Mixed Reality platform can come close to the value on offer with the Quest 2.
Of course, it is hardly a secret, that this was only possible through the major backing and price subsidies by Facebook, with all of the controversy that has brought along. We definitely won’t defend any of Facebooks more egregious practices of late. The 180-degree turnaround on the promise to keep Oculus free from Facebook account requirements is a particularly sore blow to VR fans that most can’t get over.
But judging by the public interest in the Quest 2 even going as far as to gather massive pools of jailbreak bounty money, it is fair to say that even the harshest of critics agree that as a device, the Quest 2 is nothing short of revolutionary for the VR realm as a whole.