Virtual Reality saw great growth when Half-Life: Alyx came out this summer. The game has created a new wave of interest in the platform, and now comes a product that will undoubtedly do the same.
Facebook-owned Oculus is out with the new Quest 2, a VR headset you do not need cables, computer or base stations to use.
Quest 2 comes in two variants, with either 64 GB or 256 GB of storage, and replaces both the previous generation Quest and Rift S.
Thanks to the possibility of connecting to a PC with the Oculus Link cable or streaming via Virtual Desktop, this is a headset that can be used both alone and with a computer that operates. It opens up access to a large library of content.
With a price of 3800/5000 kroner, the entrance ticket to proper VR has never been as affordable as now, and we can reveal that here you get a lot of value for money.
The new generation Oculus Quest has become lighter and more compact. The appearance can not say anything about me either. This is a stylish product. The visor itself is so light that one does not notice anything special about it over longer periods of use, but the strap is not as good as the previous generation.
It is possible to buy an upgraded strap for 500 kroner, which I think is cheating by the manufacturer. The usual strap works well if you find the right position where she does not fluff her hair on the back of her head, but I feel a little pressure after having Quest on for 5-10 minutes or more. Fortunately, there is a lot of room to make adjustments, so spending time finding the right setting can help a lot.
I have not been able to test the upgraded strap yet, but I think it can be a decent investment.
The pillows for the forehead are comfortable against the skin, and the pressure on the face is distributed so that you do not notice anything on the visor itself. The only downside to the design, other than the strap, is that there is a little more room around the nose than it should be. If I look at the lower half of the lenses, I have a tendency to get some light from the floor. It can tamper with the feeling of empathy.
Inside the visor you can adjust the lenses, so that you find the right distance and get an image that is as sharp as possible.
Finally, we find some small sound elements at the end of the straps, which offer a perfectly ok sound experience. The volume is a bit slack and the sound image is not particularly detailed, but it does the job. I would probably use my own headset anyway to get proper sound.
The setup of Oculus Quest 2 is simple and quick. Once you put on your visor, you will be asked to create a play zone to play sitting or on a room scale, and after a short instructional video, you are ready to go. You can easily access the play area thanks to a camera that lets you see your surroundings inside the headset.
As long as you do not connect the headset to a PC, you must go to the Oculus store to buy games and software. You can control it directly through the headset, but you need an app for the first setup.
And here is one of the big controversies around Quest 2. You are dependent on a Facebook account.
Facebook has announced that they will crack down on those who create fake accounts to use the headset. It’s pretty lousy. I have no idea how much personal data they can collect here, but it’s scary to think about what they are actually sitting on after a quarter. Here they have probably seen their chance to bring in both the one and the other.
But otherwise you are actually up and running once you have downloaded the app and started Quest. Then all you have to do is shop for games, download them and play. My first Vive is covered with a thick layer of dust in a closet, simply because it is so much trouble to make it ready to play every time. Base stations, room scale setup and other controls take ten minutes each time. Here I jump right in.
That makes VR far more interesting for me.
Tracking and controllers
Oculus Quest 2 uses so-called “inside out” tracking, where one has internal elements that take care of tracking the headset instead of base stations. This works brilliantly. I have not noticed any problem with the tracking at all, not even in low light.
The same goes for the controllers, who seem precise and responsive. They are very similar to the previous generation, but have become a little heavier. The controllers have also lost some of the texture on the surface, so it is easier to lose them if one gets sweaty in the palm.
But otherwise there is little to complain about. The controllers get power from the AA battery, which means that they will probably keep the boil for a few months. After two days of intensive use, they are on 100 percent battery. Otherwise, I have tested a number of games without noticing any errors with the tracking, on either the headset or the controllers.
It promises well.
Screen and performance
The biggest upgrade from the first generation of Quest comes through the screen and the built-in processor. The first Quest had an OLED screen with a resolution of 1440 x 1600 in each eye. This has 1832 x 1920. The new Quest benefits from a 72-hertz LCD panel, the same refresh rate as the previous generation, but which will be increased to 90 hertz in an upcoming update.
The difference in quality is great. I can clearly see some pixels clearly, but it is much less noticeable than with the previous generation. One of the biggest problems with VR has our so-called “screen door effect”, where it looks like you are playing through a mosquito net or similar, and here Oculus takes a long step towards getting rid of this.
The viewing angle on the screens is actually somewhat lower than the previous generation (from 95 degrees to 92), but that may not be the most important thing to get right. The jump in dissolution is, after all, what we have been waiting for.
At the same time, I hope that the upgrade to 90 hertz will come soon, because I notice that it can be a little uncomfortable to play over longer periods with such a low frame rate. It probably has most to do with the fact that I am water with a higher frame rate from other headsets, but it is nevertheless disappointing that Oculus has not seen any date for an update.
When it comes to the performance itself, Oculus has equipped Quest 2 with a “system-on-a-chip” from Qualcomm. This is the same technology as one finds in game consoles and mobile phones, where both video card and processor sit in the same unit. Previous Quest drove on Snapdragon 835, and this time it is the XR2 that drives the headset. The memory is also increased from 4 GB to 6 GB.
There is a big difference. I do not have the opportunity to benchmark the games I have tested, but so far I have only noticed a few cases of drops in frame rate. Then I tried games like Arizona Sunshine, Onward, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, Vader Immortal and Beat Saber. They drive mostly flawlessly.
Here Quest 2 impresses.
But powerful performance and a good screen require power, something I notice in battery life. She’s about two hours. Charging goes relatively quickly over USB-C, but this is in the scarcest layer I think. At the same time, it is good to take frequent breaks when playing in VR, because the resolution and frame rate are so low that you can get a sore eye from playing for more than 20-30 minutes.
The biggest problem with Oculus is the lack of content. Oculus has not released all of Rift’s games for Quest, and all of the Steam VR content is unavailable in the Oculus Store. I do not think it takes very long to work through what is of interest. It is simply too little. Most of the good games that are out in the store I have been to before, and there is little new for VR veterans.
But Quest 2 supports Oculus Link (only 72 hertz), which lets you connect the headset to your computer and sharpen your game like Half-Life: Alyx. The shops for the cable are currently empty so we have not been able to test this yet, and will therefore wait to give a final grade on Quest 2. We will return with this when we have been able to test Link.
One option is to use Virtual Desktop software to stream games from your computer to your headset. There needs to be a bit of fiddling with some user-created updates and such, and you are dependent on having access to your own routes to open gates. I do not have this, so I do not get to test it completely yet.
In any case, it is good to know that there is relatively little interesting content for VR.
Alyx is the big attraction for VR, and games like Star Wars Squadrons or Stormland are good enough to justify spending 4-5 thousand bucks, but compared to what is available on Steam otherwise, the VR market has a long way to go.
It will be interesting to see how VR develops in the coming years. Now the glasses are starting to get so good that many of the childhood diseases disappear, but as at the beginning, one misses most of the rewarding games. There are far too few of them.
This is a bigger problem for the more expensive headsets, because then you get less for your money. Here it is difficult to take Quest 2. The headset has strictly no competitors who successfully follow. This is without a doubt the best cheap VR headset, and when it comes to getting value for money, this is by far the market’s best product, of all that has been launched in the last five years.
And if you want to get the most for your money, you can buy the 64 GB variant. Most games in the store take up relatively little space, so you can rather use what you save on a Link cable and an Elite strap.
I would like to have a more comfortable strap, better sound and longer battery life, but the first two can always do something with yourself. The battery also charges fast enough that you can play for quite a long time if you only charge during the breaks – for those you need a screen panel of 72 hertz.
Overall, the product itself is absolutely king. With the option to connect to a PC with Virtual Desktop or Oculus Link, you can also use the horsepower from your computer, which means that this easily outperforms the Oculus Rift S. One can also save money by buying a similar cable from third-party manufacturers.
A product like this will most likely drive interest in VR further.
The content on the Oculus store is very thin compared to what you get from games on console or PC otherwise, but it can quickly happen that more developers get involved in VR. I think this could be the start of a new VR revolution, similar to the one we got when the first Rift came out.
Still, I think that I, who is already familiar with some of the big VR games, would have gotten bored pretty quickly if I had only used the Oculus store and what is there.
Otherwise, the biggest problem is of course Facebook. I rarely write anything about ethical issues in hardware tests, but here it is important to point out. One should be very skeptical of behavior like this from such internet giants.
I am deeply concerned about what happens behind the scenes when playing with Quest 2, and what assessments Facebook has made about privacy here. They already have tons of information about each and every one of their members. Now they get even more, and on a completely different level.
This is unfortunately the case with most things we do online. Most people probably do not think much about this, but it can quickly bite us in the butt in the future. That’s scary stuff.
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