Oculus Quest 2 VR Headset Review
- Superb VR experience
- No wires and easy to use
- Excellent resolution
- Smooth motion
- Great sound quality
- Light and comfortable to wear
- Decent battery life
The not so good
- LCD panel means mediocre blacks
- Only three IPD settings
- Requires Facebook account
What is the Oculus Quest 2?
The Oculus Quest 2 is the latest VR (virtual reality) headset from the company that specialises in this particular technology. It replaces the original Quest, improving the specs and reducing the price to just £299 for the 128GB version and £399 for the 256GB model.
If that sounds too good to be true, it’s worth remembering Oculus is now owned by Facebook, and you will need to sign in using your Facebook account when you first set-up the headset. So it’s a safe bet Facebook will be busy mining your personal data, but at those prices who cares?
The big selling point of the Quest 2, and the Quest before it, is that the headset is a self-contained unit, so there’s no need for a gaming PC or console to use it. The complete lack of any wires is another bonus, which means you just put the Quest 2 on whenever you fancy a VR session.
In terms of the actual specifications, the Quest 2 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform with 6GB of RAM and a fast-switch LCD panel delivering a resolution of 1832 x 1920 per an eye at refresh rates of 60, 72 and 90Hz. There’s also a pair of upgraded wireless touch controllers.
The Quest 2 has an integrated microphone and speakers with 3D positional audio, plus tracking via Oculus Insight technology with six degrees of freedom and safety features. There a USB-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, spacers for those wearing glasses, and manually adjustable IPD (interpupillary distance).
Oculus claims a battery life of two to three hours, depending on whether you’re gaming or just watching something, and the battery can be fully charged in about 2.5 hours. Those specs suggest the Quest 2 isn’t just exceptional value, it might be the best VR headset you can buy.
Note: This review is based on the 64GB version, which has since been withdrawn from sale to be replaced by the 128GB version for the same price. New purchases of the Quest 2 will also include a silicon cover for the face mask, due to reports of allergic reactions to the foam padding.
Design and Controllers
The Oculus Quest 2 uses a similar lightweight design to the original Quest, but now comes in light grey plastic rather than fabric-covered black. The outer shell houses external cameras in all four corners, and when paired with motion sensors and accelerometers in the headset, the Quest 2 tracks your head position and that of your hands and the supplied controllers, providing feedback in real time. As mentioned, there's a built-in battery that offers two to three hours of continuous use, which should be more than enough, and this battery can be fully recharged in about 2.5 hours.
Inside the headset you'll find a pair of lenses (one for each eye) that sit in front of the screen to provide immersive and three dimensional stereoscopic images. You can adjust the inter-pupillary distance (IPD – which is the distance between your two pupils) manually by physically switching between three pre-set distances of 58mm (1), 63mm (2) and 68mm (3). This should cover the majority of people, but the distance between a person's pupils can vary quite a bit, so it's a shame the more granular slider control found on the original Quest has been dropped.
The headset is light and comfortable, with foam padding and adjustable fabric strap, but only three IPD settings
The headset fits comfortably against your face using a padded foam mask that blocks out most of the light. The latter is important, because the Quest 2 uses cameras to track movement, and thus you can't play in the dark. It has been reported that some users suffered an allergic reaction to the foam padding, and I have noticed spots and irritation on the bridge of my nose that might be the result of this reported allergy. Thankfully Oculus has addressed this issue, offering a free silicone cover to existing owners and including one with new purchases.
On the right-hand-side of the headset (as you're wearing it), there's a power button and an indicator LED, while on the underside is the volume up/down control. Over on the left-hand-side you'll find a 3.5mm jack if you want to attach your own headphones for a more discreet experience, and a USB 3 Type-C connector for recharging the battery or attaching a PC. Unlike the original Quest, which used a rubberised head strap, the new version uses a strap made of slightly elasticated fabric. There's a velcro fastener for adjusting the fitting, and overall it keeps the headset in place without becoming uncomfortable over a two to three hour period.
There are built-in speakers and a mic, plus motion controllers with improved ergonomics and a longer battery life
There are speakers built into the supports that hold the head strap to the headset, and while essentially just offering left and right channels, they do a great job of positioning sound effects so they retain directionality and a three-dimensional effect. The overall sound quality is clear, with enough volume to deliver directional audio feedback during games, while retaining an acoustic awareness of your actual surroundings. The downside of this is that if you’re playing with other people in a room, they'll be able to hear the built-in speakers. Of course you could use headphones, but in all honesty, VR is best enjoyed as a solitary vice. There's also a built-in microphone, which works surprisingly well and allows for communication during multiplayer games, and even a degree of voice control when interfacing with apps that support this feature.
The Quest 2's motion controllers come in the same light grey as the headset, and benefit from minor improvements when compared to the controllers included with the original Quest. There's more room to rest your thumb during play, making them easier to hold for longer periods of time, while each handle has triggers for your forefingers and side grips. Both have movement sticks, while the left-hand controller has the X, Y and menu buttons, and the right-hand controller has the A, B and Oculus buttons (with the latter re-orientating the VR image). There are straps to stop the controllers from flying out of your hand during more frenetic gameplay, and the plastic rings that surround your thumbs house nearly-invisible LEDs that allow the headset to track hand movements. The controllers each use a single AA battery, and thanks to improvements in Oculus's tracking algorithms, their lifespan has been extended to weeks of continuous use.
Specs and Accessories
The Oculus Quest 2 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset, making it significantly faster than the Quest, which used the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. There are 128GB and 256GB versions, with both including 6GB of RAM compared to the 4GB found on the original Quest. As a result, the Quest 2 offers a better VR experience, with improved resolutions and refresh rates.
This is especially true when it comes to the former, and where the Quest delivered 1600x1440 pixels per an eye, the Quest 2 produces 1832x1920 pixels for each eye. The refresh rate has also been improved, going from a maximum of 72Hz on the Quest, to 90Hz on the Quest 2. The actual refresh rate used will depend on the developer, but the Quest 2 offers a choice of 60, 72 and 90Hz.
The Quest 2 has faster processing, increased resolution and a higher refresh rate compared to the original
The only area where the Quest is superior to the Quest 2 is in terms of the actual display technology employed, with the original headset using OLED panels for each eye, while the Quest 2 has a single fast-switch LCD panel. While this does allow for increased resolution and a cheaper price, it does mean the blacks aren't as good on the Quest 2 when compared to its predecessor. In terms of the image specifications, the Quest 2 uses a 2.2 gamma, a D65 white point, and the Rec.2020 colour space, within which are mapped the CIE 1931 XY coordinates for the primary colours.
Oculus includes everything you'll need in the box, so you not only get the headset and motion controllers (with AA batteries already installed), but also a USB 3 Type-C cable and plug adapter for recharging the headset. There's also a spacer you can attach if you want to wear the headset over glasses.
Oculus offers a number of accessories, including a carrying case for £49, the Elite Strap (£49) for better support and a more comfortable fit, and the Elite Strap with battery and carrying case (£119) for those you want to VR game for longer periods and away from home. There's a Fit Pack to customise the facial interface (foam padding etc.) to better suit your head and face, and for those who wear glasses there's also the option of VirtuClear Lenses, which offers prescription lenses for each eye. In addition to the Oculus-branded accessories, there's a host of licensed third-party accessories, such as adapters to turn your motion controllers into guns – which is cool.
One criticism aimed at the Quest on its original launch was the overall lack of quality games, but this has been addressed since its launch. The Quest 2 is compatible with games originally released for its predecessor, but also has a number of games developed specifically for the newer model that take advantage of its improved capabilities and visuals. Aside from the games there are numerous other VR experiences, ranging from the educational to virtual tourism (which seems strangely appropriate under the current circumstances). There's also a built in video player for side-loading your own clips onto, along with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube available for download. YouTube VR is particularly enjoyable, with some fantastic 360-degree videos that allow you to vicariously enjoy some decidedly dangerous pastimes.
Everything you need is in the box, but Oculus and licensed third parties offer a number of accessories
The Quest 2 can be tethered to your gaming PC, either using a USB 3 Type-C connector or wirelessly, allowing you to enjoy PC-based VR experiences (assuming your PC is powerful enough). This not only dramatically increases the number of titles available to play on the Quest 2, but also allows for more detailed VR experience thanks to the massively superior GPU processing found in a high-spec'd gaming PC. This feature also means that Oculus's Rift and Rift S headsets are largely redundant at this point.
In terms of future developments, Oculus has announced its new passthrough API technology, allowing developers to place augmented reality objects, images and more into your virtual environment. Developers will be able to patch in passthrough API features into their games and apps later this year, and this technology will essentially act as an overlay to your VR activities, allowing you to share a virtual screen to watch a movie, or to fight zombies hiding in your living room. There are also rumours that the refresh rate might be increased to 120Hz, which would result in an even smoother VR experience.
Set Up and Operation
The Oculus Quest 2 is incredibly easy to set up, primarily because everything is built into the headset. I really enjoyed playing VR games on the Sony PSVR, but rarely did because I simply couldn't be bothered to set it up. The PSVR requires multiple cables, a separate camera, an adapter box and power supply, move controllers, and the PS4 console. So you either connected everything up when you wanted a VR session, which took ages, or left all the cables attached, which made the room messy. Neither approach was ideal, and created an impediment to VR gaming.
By comparison, initial set up of the Quest 2 takes mere minutes, and after that it's simply a case of putting on the headset and pressing the power button, which takes seconds. As a result, I've used the Quest 2 more in the last six weeks, than I did over the previous four years with the PSVR. Once you've initially charged the Quest 2 headset, you can set up your Oculus account using the Oculus app and create a wireless internet connection. You will need a Facebook account to initially set-up the Quest 2, but after that I completely forgot about Facebook's involvement. When you first turn on the headset, you'll be shown a few safety clips, and a short video that introduces you to controllers and how their wand like point-and-trigger system can be used to navigate menus.
You'll then be asked to set-up a safe playing area using Oculus's Guardian feature. This uses the headset’s external cameras to show a real-time black and white view of your surrounding environment, and you use the controllers to mark out the edges of your room. This establishes the safe area where you can freely walk around without bumping into the sofa or TV, although there are also stationary and seated settings available. Oculus suggests a minimum space of 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet for room scale titles, but I was able to play in smaller areas if I didn't get too carried away.
Initial set up takes mere minutes and there are no wires to worry about, but you will need a Facebook account
Once you've established the room boundaries, the Guardian wall is shown as a grid-like structure that only makes itself visible if you’re attempting to cross its boundaries. Stick your head through the digital wall, and you’ll see the real-world beyond. It's a great feature, ensuring you know the limit of the play area and keeping your VR experience safe. After setting up the Guardian, the Oculus will demonstrate how to use your hands to navigate menus, instead of the controllers. I just use the controllers for navigation, since I'm already holding them, but it's still cool to see the outline of your hands, as generated by the Quest 2’s cameras.
When it comes to day-to-day use, the Quest 2 is incredibly intuitive and shows that the interface was developed by Oculus as a VR experience from the ground up, as opposed to repurposing existing tech and accessories like the PSVR. The home menu system just floats in front of you, and you can customise the 'home lounge' from a range of different virtual environments (I like the 'space station').
The Home Screen allows you to browse apps, games and video content, manage the storage on your headset, and connect with friends through Facebook. It's a smooth and seamless experience, with easy navigation using point and click with the controllers. Thanks to the faster processing and higher resolution, motion is smooth, fine text is legible, and images are clear and detailed, with none of the screen door effect that plagued earlier VR headsets. The Home Screen tends to fill your field of view, but once you get used to wearing the headset and remember to simply look around, you'll be amazed by the immersive nature of the virtual experience.
It's fair to say that by its very nature VR is essentially a solitary affair, but given Oculus is owned by Facebook, the company has tried to make using Quest 2 more of a communal experience. As with the original Quest, you can use Google Chromecast for screen sharing, allowing anyone not wearing the headset to watch what you’re doing in the virtual world on a second display like a smartphone or TV.
The Oculus Quest 2 delivers an awesome VR experience right out of the gate, and even standing in the space station home lounge looks amazing, with a wonderfully detailed virtual environment. The user interface, apps, videos and games all worked flawlessly, and the design of the controllers results in an overall VR experience that's intuitive, fun and highly addictive.
The self-contained nature of the Quest 2 is another massive selling point. There's no additional gaming PC or console required, and no wires to worry about. You just put on the headset, turn it on, grab the controllers and you're off. Even if the Quest 2 wasn't very competitively priced and better spec'd, I'd still prefer using it to other headsets.
The VR experience is superb, with sharp images, fast response and smooth motion. Only the blacks disappoint
Comparing the Quest 2 to my PSVR reveals that not only is the set-up, interaction, resolution, motion and general gameplay superior, but the Oculus is designed purely as a VR headset, rather than as an accessory to a games console. That's not to criticise Sony, the PSVR is amazing for what it can do, and the re-purposing of existing accessories was ingenious, but the Quest 2 is clearly superior in almost every way.
The one area where the PSVR (and the original Quest) has the edge is in terms of black levels, because both of those headsets used OLED panels for each eye. Using a fast-switch LCD panel increases the resolution and refresh rate, but does mean the black levels suffer. This isn't really an issue with brighter games, but something like Vader Immortal, which takes place in the caverns beneath Vader's castle on Mustufar, does reveal the limitations in the LCD panel's black levels.
However, aside from that one complaint, the Quest 2 is an awesome VR headset that delivers the virtual goods in spades. I've only experienced a few games so far, Beat Sabre and Super Hot VR are both annoyingly addictive and surprisingly good workouts. Vader Immortal and Tales from the Galaxy's Edge Star Wars are fun, and who doesn't want to play in the Star Wars universe, where you can wield a lightsaber and use the force. The first person shooters like Zero Caliber are also great fun, as you grab different guns, lock and load, and charge around shooting everything in sight.
The resolution is wonderfully sharp, while the interaction is responsive, and the motion velvety smooth. On a game like Zero Caliber you run around, which doesn't bother me, but I know this can cause motion sickness with some people. Other games like Vader Immortal use a motion mechanism that allows you to highlight where you want to go, and then jump to that location immediately. This helps eliminate any nausea, but if you think motion sickness might be an issue, try VR before buying.
The battery life is good, the user interface is excellent, and the games aren't expensive, plus there's plenty of free stuff
If you do give VR a go, after a few minutes you'll completely forget that you're in your lounge, and just be immersed in a virtual world of your choosing. While there are options for standing or sitting, I really like the less sedentary nature of VR gaming, and after a couple of hours I feel as though I've had fun and done some exercise. However, you can quickly lose track of where you are in the real world, so setting the Guardian safe play area correctly is really important – unless you want to put your fist through the TV! The battery life is also excellent, and I never had any issues with running out of juice because two to three hours is more than enough time in a headset.
The games themselves are competitively priced, and if you fill up the Quest 2's memory and have to delete a game, you still own it in your library. The games themselves aren't huge, so you can load a lot into the 128GB version before you run out of space. While I primarily use the Quest 2 for gaming, there's loads of free stuff as well, and a lot of VR videos are amazing to experience. As someone who used to live in Hong Kong and Tokyo, I found walking around the streets in a 360˚ video very nostalgic. In fact it's so easy to get distracted by all that's on offer that before you know it, you've been wearing the headset for two hours and haven't even played a game.
Oculus Quest 2 VR Headset Review
Should I buy one?
The Oculus Quest 2 builds on the success of its predecessor and then manages the rare trick of delivering more for less. The self-contained nature of the headset remains its big selling point, offering a superb VR experience without wires all over the place, and no need to buy a PC or game console. The Quest 2 also offers increased resolution, greater processing power, and higher refresh rates for a gaming experience that's sharper, more responsive and has lovely smooth motion. Only the weaker blacks of the LCD panel are worthy of criticism, but otherwise this VR headset is hard to fault. There are plenty of excellent games, loads of videos and apps (many of which are free), and the pricing is insanely competitive. Facebook is clearly using the Oculus Quest 2 as a loss-leader, but whatever its nefarious intentions, it would be rude not to take Zuckerberg up on this generous offer.
What are my alternatives?
The obvious alternative is the Sony PSVR, and you can pick-up a bundle with the headset, PS camera, and some games for around £299. However, for the best VR experience you'll need to buy a pair of PS Move motion controllers (£119), and don't forget you'll also need a PS4 or PS4 Pro to actually use the PSVR. Once you factor in all the cables, the Quest 2 starts to look very tempting, and is not only the cheaper option, but also better in terms of its VR experience.
Oculus offers the Rift S, but there's very little difference when compared to the Quest 2, and you need a gaming PC to actually use the Rift S. Since the Quest 2 also works with the Oculus VR PC games, the Rift S is now redundant and being phased out. If PC gaming is your thing, you could also look at the HTC Vive Pro 2 at £719, or the Valve Index VR, which will set you back £919. At this point it should be obvious that the Oculus Quest 2 offers exceptional value for money.
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