I want to start this review by explaining my position on virtual reality. I’m a huge fanboy. There. I think it is the one technology I have seen in the past couple of decades that could genuinely be a game-changer.
Yes, it relies on the success of another tech, better processing, displays, and so on, but it one of the few things I have encountered that you can give to somebody who has never used it and they just go ‘wow’.
I can show a 4K display to my wife and she can’t really tell the difference between that and normal HD. I can show my friend’s Read Dead Redemption running at 4k on a massive screen and they might be impressed. Then you tell them it costs over $1000 dollars to get anywhere close to that and suddenly they are happy with good old 1080p.
Put a VR headset on somebody though and there’s that initial wow factor (assuming they don’t throw up) of something they genuinely haven’t experienced before.
I had that way back. I mentioned I was a VR adopter early on. I had an Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 long before the original came out and it changed my gaming landscape forever. I poured hundreds of hours into Elite Dangerous in VR, hours that I would never have put in had I been playing on a flat screen.
I upgraded to a normal Rift when it came out. I upgraded my GPU to get better framerates in VR. Something I wouldn’t have done ordinarily, but as you can probably tell from that description, I spent a lot of cash getting to virtual reality nirvana.
And that has been the problem. The barrier to entry is enthusiast high in terms of outlay. And that’s before you consider that you need a decent gaming PC to get anything good out of it.
There is simply a lack of people ready to pay that much money, wire up their rooms with sensors, and risk punching through their monitor to make that kind of VR anything more than of passing interest to anything other than a small percentage of serious gamers.
When you add into the mix that that VR is hardly awash with AAA titles but is seemingly abundant with fun, playable games that don’t carry a huge advertising budget so you have likely never heard of them, it lessens the sell still further.
There have been crossover successes such as Beat Saber, Elite Dangerous, and Superhot but, well, that’s still a lot of money to spend on a rhythm game and a space sim.
Then, an interesting VR proposition arrived in the form of the Oculus Quest. A standalone headset that didn’t require a beast of a PC to connect it to. The downside, little chance ever of AAA arriving, a display that wasn’t as crisp as the big hitters from Oculus and Valve surely counterbalanced by a price of around $300.
Now we are talking. Surely with a global lockdown, a well-priced decent spec entry into VR for beginners is bound to be a success…. Except it was sold out everywhere.
Cue Oculus Quest 2. Announced with minimal fanfare but a mass-production run that enabled it to get into hands without the problems other tech companies have recently had the Quest 2 has been beguiling me since it arrived a couple of weeks ago.
I never bothered with the original Quest. There was no need with having my Rift. All my VR needs were fulfilled. Or were they? MY PC in my home office is decent but the room is pretty small, especially as it is filled with arcade machines and old consoles that don’t appreciate being battered with a Touch controller by accident.
I kind of wanted a bigger space, but moving my PC downstairs wasn’t really an option. Could Quest 2 solve my problem? I could use it anywhere then. Even in the garden if I didn’t mind the neighbors laughing at me.
So the box arrived and being used to Oculus’ previous high-end packaging it was noticeable that some corners had been cut here, but to be fair, it still looks premium in a very sturdy bespoke, albeit, cardboard, box.
Inside you get two controllers, improved over the original Quest, the headset itself, a USB-C cable, and a spare spacer to fit on the headset if you wear glasses – I do – I didn’t need to use it.
And that’s it. Minimal instructions that tell you in tiny text to go to oculus.com/setup on your PC or download the Oculus app on your phone (iOS or Android).
So I did just that. I already had the Oculus software installed on my PC because of my Rift so I opted for the cell phone version. Put on the headset, jumped through a few simple hoops to pair it with the app and I was in. Alongside a massive elephant in the room.
Facebook or nothing - take it or leave it
You may have seen some of the fuss around this already online. If you have read the excellent VR story Ready Player One by Ernest Cline you will know that VR in that is called the Oasis and there is an ongoing battle to control it. That’s kinda what we have here, only it’s good old Facebook here.
Everybody’s least favorite Social Network bought out Oculus a few years back, perhaps waiting for this movement. The moment when VR might finally begin to reach the masses and they’d all need a Facebook account to use it.
There was a promise when the acquisition took place that you would never need to have a Facebook account to use your Oculus (Rift at the time), but that seems to be long forgotten. Only last week I started receiving PC messages that I had to merge my good old fashion Oculus account with my (rarely used these days) Facebook one. I could still use my Oculus one for now but in a few months, I wouldn’t be able to.
Better security in their ecosystem blah blah. Mmm mmm. Okay guys, whatever.
More worryingly it has since come to light that (potentially), should I ever close my Facebook account, guess what, all the software I bought for my Rift / Quest, even before they took over, might not function anymore. Wow.
Now, this is a hardware review so I am going to have to leave it there but that’s simply not acceptable. What if you don’t have a Facebook account and didn’t know you needed one before you bought the Quest 2? Well sign up my friend or send it back. Again. Not acceptable.
If you aren’t bothered by all this and have more important things to worry about, good on you (although please read around the subject), let’s get on with the review.
Once you have gone through the basic setup and signed in with your Facebook account, through gritted teeth or otherwise, you are in. If you have used VR before you will be pleasantly surprised. I still found myself grinning at being back in a familiar virtual environment.
If you haven’t used VR before prepare to have your gaming life altered for good.
The first thing Oculus Quest 2 will prompt you to do is set up your Guardian boundary. This is basically the software’s way of letting you know you are about to walk into a wall. It was actually less of an issue with a regular Rift because you were always tethered by a snake’s nest of cables to your PC, but the Quest 2 gives you the freedom to roam and the freedom to fall over your coffee table.
This bit is pretty cool. You see through a clever ‘pass-through’ camera, a black and white version of your actual room and you can then ‘paint’ on the floor the area you are safe to play in.
If during a game, you approach the boundary of your safe zone, a virtual wall will appear holodeck style within your game to alert you to impending danger. It works really well and it’s nice to see how it’s been tweaked since it was first implemented in the Rift.
With the VR admin out of the way that’s it. The world of untethered VR is yours and man, what a difference it makes.
With my Rift, I was constantly aware of cables on my head, the proximity to my really expensive equipment, and the potential for my innate clumsiness to cause a disaster.
With that in mind, I tended to stray towards seated VR experiences such as the aforementioned Elite Dangerous and car racing sims. With Quest 2’s arrival, the game has definitely changed.
Over the past two days, our living space has been transformed into a whirlwind of kids playing the boxing game ‘The Thrill of the Fight’, and while it may have been distracting for anybody else in the room, there has been a definite benefit gained in seeing them not lounging around simply playing Xbox or wasting time on Tik-Tok. Quest 2 has given my kids something that has been missing for too long this year – exercise and activity. The complaints about a ‘sweaty headset’ being passed from one to another are a testament that calories are being burned here.
It’s also funny watching my daughter scream when she gets virtually punched in the face.
What games can you play on the Oculus Quest 2?
Well, if like me you are a previous owner of a Rift you may already have some games in your library that you have purchased that you can now also play on the Quest 2. This is using something Oculus calls Cross-Buy and they actively persuade developers to make their games available cross-platform with a single purchase. So if you have bought The Thrill of the Fight on Rift, you can download it to your Quest and get going straight away.
However, it’s not always as simple as that, as while Oculus has pushed for Cross-Buy not all developers have taken that on board. Oculus seems fine with that saying it’s up to devs to make their own minds up, but I hugely object to having bought Beat Saber on my Rift to be expected to purchase it again for the Quest. You can say it’s on a different operating system all you like but it feels like a cheap cash grab, and well, for me, Beat Saber won’t be getting bought again.
There are other games that have gone down that path too and it’s disappointing. If the Oculus Quest 2 is your first VR headset it’s not a problem. You would need to buy anyway and the number of Rift users who might benefit from Cross-Buy is not that many really.
The issue will arise going further forward though if users decide they like VR so much having used the Quest they decide to upgrade to something like a Rift S and then find their Quest library needs to be re-bought to play it on more powerful hardware.
It just seems a bit unnecessary and, along with the Facebook nonsense, leaves another slightly salty taste that didn’t need to be a thing.
If you are coming at Quest 2 afresh though there is a wealth of games that are worth your time and attention that really benefit from the freedom of movement and conversely a distinct lack of the seated experiences the Rift excels at. There is no Project Cars, no Elite Dangerous, and so on to choose from, well not in the way you might think.
What is Oculus Link?
Oculus Link is potentially one of the most important features that Quest 2 brings with it, yet it’s one that the majority of users may never bother with. Link allows you to, well link, your Quest 2 headset to your gaming PC and effectively stream VR games from it to your $300 headset.
So I could in effect stream my Elite Dangerous game to my quest and play without the need for bolting sensors to my ceiling as I had to do with the Rift.
Now there are caveats as you would imagine. The Oculus Quest 2 hardware is a lot less powerful than a Rift or Rift S. The display, while excellent perhaps doesn’t have quite the same crispness, not that everybody will notice and you are obviously removing the portability aspect.
The other thing is you will probably want a decent length USB-C cable (say 10-foot minimum) and they are more difficult to get hold of than you would imagine. The Oculus site points to a variety of third-party ones but stresses they may not work – one of the issues when Link was first enabled was that many cables were simply not fast enough to work. Oculus sells it’s one cable for just under $100. Yes, you read that correctly. For a cable. The headset only costs $300!
If you are wanting this option though and money isn’t an option it might be your best bet, but we’d always suggest at least trying one from a company like Anker for a more manageable $20 from Amazon and you can always return it if it doesn’t work.
What accessories are there for the Quest 2?
If the price of the cable raised an eyebrow, you might be less surprised at the premium price of some of the other addons you can purchase. Beyond the replacement Touch Controllers, you might be interested in upgrading the sound from the built-in speakers (which work surprisingly well, positioned as they are close to your ear) to a set of in earbuds that connect to the headset. That will set you back $50 and again, aren’t really necessary.
What you may be more interested in however is the £50 Elite head strap which removes the issue of what I found to be the Oculus Quest 2’s biggest failing, and one that was obviously incorporated to keep RRP down.
The strap the headset ships with isn’t great at all. It’s fiddly to adjust, not particularly secure – indeed we almost suffered a few headset drops during a fraught boxing match – thankfully we caught it before any smashing occurred, and just feels like there could be a better option.
There is of course but all these addons potentially raise the price above the wholesome $300. I’d certainly recommend upgrading the strap as soon as possible – the only issue at the moment is that they are sold out on Oculus’ website such has been the success of the Oculus Quest 2’s launch.
You can check out our best VR accessories article to see if anything takes your fancy.
How long does the Quest's battery last?
Charging via a USB connection to a standard charger plug you can get pretty much a full charge into the unit in well under two hours which isn’t bad. What is less impressive is you will only get, realistically between two and two and half hours of gameplay out of it before you need to charge again.
Now that might not be as bad as it sounds, not many people play hour after hour in VR and if you are playing a game that is particularly active, you will be tired out long before that. It might become more of an issue if you using something the Netflix app to watch programs projected onto a cinema screen in VR (yes you can, cool eh?) but, well it probably won’t be an issue often.
How comfortable is the Quest 2 headset?
In truth it’s not bad, it doesn’t feel heavy although it does let out a bit of heat quite quickly from the top you never really notice it. The strap is the main problem unless you upgrade it and that’s a shame.
The foam eye pads are fine but after you have had a couple of sweaty kids in it you may start to think about how grim it could get. You can buy third-party replacements and superior pads though from the likes of VR Cover.
The fact it is has no wires tethering you to a particular spot is the game-changer though. This makes it more comfortable to wear because you are at ease to move about more freely without running the risk of garotting yourself.
Not everybody’s eyes are the same width apart. This measurement is called the IPD (google it, we don’t do the science here) and having this set wrong in the headset giving you a slightly blurry image on the screen. This can be adjusted (and is part of the initial set-up) by a rather medieval-style dragging and pulling on the lenses themselves which feels a bit counter-intuitive when you know the lenses are what you avoid any kind of damage to at all costs.
As a one-off alteration at the start, it’s fine but if you need to keep altering them to suit other people I would be concerned it might have some long-term effect on the cogs.
Can I wear glasses in the Oculus Quest 2?
Good question, I do and it’s a bit of a pain. But I get by. Depending on your frames they can catch on the inside of the headset, especially when you are removing it and I have found mine falling to the floor at this point several times.
The way around this, and again, it won’t be for everybody, is to get custom lenses made to your prescription by one of the several online companies that do this – indeed Oculus offers the service on its own site. Then you just swap them out and you never need glasses in VR again! The problem here is that then makes the headset bespoke to your vision and useless for anybody else. Have you ever tried putting somebody else’s glasses on? Exactly.
Oculus Quest 2
For all its minor flaws I love the Quest 2. It, to me at least, is a true stepping stone on the path to VR getting the level of adoption in the mainstream that it needs to succeed.
Even though I can see where the corners have been cut to get the price down – that strap for one – the headset doesn’t ever feel cheap. The Touch Controllers are as good as ever and the ability to play wire and camera free is just a revelation.
For families, it’s great too, although the recommendation is that it’s not for children under 13 but here we something that can be used not only to play games, but keep humans active and also there are some great educational experiences to have – virtual yours of the solar system, witnessing the launch (and indeed being onboard) Apollo 11. Fascinating stuff that will really draw kids into learning if they are that way inclined.
There are two versions of the Quest that really differ only in size of onboard storage, the base model with a rather measly 64GB and the other, costing $399 with 256GB. All this means really is the limit one what you can have loaded at any one time. 64GB doesn’t last long but yu really don’t need to have a big library stored there.
In short, you can have great fun with Quest 2 for $299. Should you spend a little extra and at least get the Elite Strap, assuming you can find it for sale, absolutely but it’s just a quality of life thing you could live without.
Quest 2 finally gets VR into the hands of the regular folk, it just needs a killer game so we can really see VR fly off the shelves for the first time.