GameCentral reviews the new Oculus Quest 2 VR headset, which despite being more powerful than the original is also much cheaper.
As the gaming world awaits the start of the next generation of consoles we still know nothing of Sony’s future plans for PlayStation VR and there’s no indication yet that Microsoft is going to release a headset for the Xbox Series X/S. A few years ago, around the release of the original Oculus Quest, many predicted that VR would finally be going mainstream, as it was embraced by the wider world for not just games but every other task imaginable. But, as you may have noticed, that never happened.
Although there was certainly an upsurge in interest at the time, VR is still held back by the intractable problems of being too expensive and the experience still suffering from obvious technical limitations. Oculus Quest 2 arrives only a year and a half after the first and yet not only is it unequivocally superior in terms of technology it’s also notably cheaper than the original. Which is not something we thinking we’ve ever been able to say about any new hardware.
Although the Oculus Rift line of headsets helped to popularise modern VR they were limited by the fact that they had to connect to a PC, which meant you not only needed a powerful gaming PC for it to work but you also had to put up with trailing wires between the headset and computer. The key appeal of the Oculus Quest is that it is completely self-contained. It doesn’t need to connect to anything and all the hardware is self-contained in the headset itself.
How much is Oculus Quest 2?
There are two versions of the Oculus Quest 2, with the cheapest having 64GB of storage and coming in at £299 in the UK. Which is £100 cheaper than the equivalent version of the Oculus Quest 1. If you want more storage space then there’s also a 256GB version that costs £399, which again is £100 cheaper than the Oculus Quest 2 equivalent (which was only 128GB, so that’s a double bargain). Both headsets will be released in the UK on October 13.
Since the Oculus Quest has no connection to another device its graphical abilities are modest compared to a powerful gaming PC, or even a PlayStation 4. Even with the first Quest model though that compromise was well worth it given the convenience of being a wireless free headset at a relatively low cost.
That was especially true given it comes bundled with two high quality controllers (infinitely preferably to the PlayStation VR’s aging Move controllers) and the system supports roomscale tracking without the need for any additional hardware – meaning you can walk around in a virtual world that you mark out on the floor (although you always have the option to just sit if you prefer).
Is Oculus Quest 2 better than the first one?
Oculus Quest 2 has all the same features and capabilities as the original, except that (almost) everything is better. The graphics have more horsepower behind them and, importantly, the resolution of the screen is significantly better, thanks to a 50% increase.
If you want to get technical, the headset has 6GB of internal memory instead of 4GB and uses a newer Snapdragon XR2 chipset instead of the older Snapdragon 835. The improvement in graphics is still mild, at least with the games we’ve tried so far, but the increase in resolution is significant. Even relatively small text appears very sharp and the overall fidelity of in-game worlds is much clearer and more convincing than before.
The resolution has increased from 1440 x 1600 (per eye) to 1832 x 1920 and just as importantly the Quest 2 can run at a refresh rate of up to 90Hz, instead of just 72Hz. It’s not a generational improvement – to use a console comparison – but it’s at least as significant as the jump from the base models to the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.
The Quest 2 is also lighter than the original – at 503g to 571g – and while the battery life of the headset is the same, at a maximum of two and a half hours, the two controllers will now last twice as long.
In terms of the physical design the one area that isn’t an obvious improvement is the way the headset attaches to your head. All you get is a few simple fabric straps, with no padding. It’s fine, but it’s worse than the original and neither are as good as the PlayStation VR.
The designers clearly realise this as you can buy a separate ‘Elite Strap’ for £49 that’s supposedly more comfortable and does have more padding, although we haven’t had a chance to try it. That’s a bit of a cheek but if it’s what keeps the headset so cheap it still feels a fair compromise, as the headset is still far from uncomfortable even without paying for a new strap.
The only problem we had with it is that if you wear glasses you need to use the extra separator – a relatively thin bit of plastic that sits between the headset and the foam mask you stick your head into – to get comfortable. Which is not something we had to do with the original Quest. This works fine but it does expose a large gap at the bottom of your view where you can see the world outside.
This is present, to a lesser degree, whether you use the separator or not, and was also a bugbear with the original Quest. But with the separator it’s even worse and we found ourselves jury-rigging a bit of cloth to cover it up. We’re not sure why there isn’t an official solution to this problem, as it’s easy to fix, but it’s probably because it ruins the otherwise clean aesthetics of the headset.
Apart from being white instead of black that aesthetic is more or less the same as the original, just a little bit smaller. The controllers have also had a colour change but are functionally almost identical. The original Quest introduced hand tracking a few months ago as a patch and as you’d expect Quest 2 uses its from the start. It’s impressively accurate in terms of hand movement, given there’s no separate camera to look straight at you, but we still find the pinching gesture used to select things too unreliable to bother with.
Since the headset has its own built-in speaker you will probably want to find a pair of headphones or earbuds to use with it. Any will work but the odd shape of the headset has seen us break two pair of headphones over the last year – although only the arms and they still work fine as they are.
As well as being entirely wireless one of the main draws of the headset is that you now have the option to connect it to a PC if you want, so you can use it as a standard VR headset. You’ll need to buy a separate cable for this, that costs a hefty £89, but given how much standalone headsets cost, and the huge range of additional games that gives you access to, it’s quite the bargain.
You’ll still need a powerful PC to run it on but it means you can play top-end PC VR games like Half-Life: Alyx without having to use a different headset.
You also have the option to Google Cast whatever you’re doing on the headset to a nearby TV or other display, which works similarly to keeping the TV on when using PlayStation VR. This greatly helps with making VR seem more sociable and is already used by a few multiplayer games.
Do I need to join Facebook to use Oculus Quest 2?
Despite the hardware being close to problem free the one big negative with Oculus Quest 2 is the company that owns it: Facebook. In order to use the headset you’ll have to sign in with a Facebook account, with existing Oculus accounts being forced to do so too.
This doesn’t make any difference to using the device, but many people will be understandably reticent given the inevitable surge in VR-related ads heading towards their feed. Pre-launch we haven’t noticed anything like that, but then we never use Facebook much anyway.
Thanks to the headset’s outward facing cameras Facebook, theoretically, knows exactly what you’re doing whenever you’ve got it on. And then there’s the question of Facebook monitoring, and attempting to monetise, your choice of games and what you do in them.
There are no ads when you use Oculus Quest 2 though, so if you’re happy to just ignore Facebook, and are okay with them knowing about what apps you use and where in your house you play, it doesn’t make any difference. Although concerns about what happens if you get banned from Facebook – which can often happen in error – are yet to be fully answered.
What games are available for Oculus Quest 2?
The obvious benefit of the Oculus Quest 2 is that because the original has been around for over a year there’s already a large catalogue of great games to play, many of which are enhanced for the new hardware. There’s around 200 apps from day one and while they’re not all games the selection is already impressive.
Rhythm action game Beat Saber remains the Quest’s most obvious killer app (so much so that Facebook bought the developer) and it’s been optimised to take advantage of the Quest 2, as have other popular games such as zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine, Red Matter, and Trover Saves The Universe.
You’ve also got Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series, which works far better than the PlayStation VR version and a new Star Wars title called Tales From The Galaxy’s Edge. The Room VR: A Dark Matter and Phantom: Covert Ops (the one that’s a mix between Metal Gear and a canoeing simulator) are also great fun, as are existing titles such as Robo Recall: Unplugged, Moss, Superhot, and A Fisherman’s Tale.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners launches the same day as the headset and there’s also upcoming tiles including Jurassic World Aftermath, Myst, a Splinter Cell game, Rez Infinite, Medal Of Honor: Above And Beyond, and Sniper Elite – which all seems very encouraging.
Oculus Quest 2 review summary
In terms of both price and technology the Oculus Quest 2 is without question the best value VR headset on the market, and by a considerable margin. There are improvements across the board from the original version, although they’re mild enough that if you already have the first Quest this probably isn’t worth upgrading to unless you can make use of the PC cable link feature.
Although it’s slightly less comfortable than the original, the only real weakness with Oculus Quest 2 is the association with Facebook and how the games library compares to Sony’s headset – especially as the PlayStation VR is old enough now that it’s often cheaper than the Quest 2.
In terms of games the PlayStation 4 does still have the advantage, with a number of exclusives that will never appear on Quest, but Quest 2’s catalogue of games is no slouch and where the same game exists on both headsets it’s notably better on the Quest 2.
£299 still isn’t exactly an impulse purchase though, and the constantly evolving nature of the VR industry means the Quest 2 will no doubt be superseded in a year or two. It also doesn’t solve any of the intrinsic problems of VR, in that you look ridiculous while using it and whether you get nauseous using the headset depends both on the individual person and the app they’re using.
All those caveats aside Oculus Quest 2 is a hugely impressive piece of hardware and if you’re not tempted by Sony’s four-year-old technology then this is clearly the best option. The fact that it’s not only better than the original but also cheaper is hugely encouraging and makes this an important milestone in VR’s slow, but increasingly steady, march towards ubiquity.
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