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Andrew Hayward / Lifewire
Crisp, clear screen
Good content selection
Less effective straps
Imperfect IPD settings
Requires Facebook account
There’s nothing close to the Oculus Quest 2 when it comes to the sweet spot of quality, affordability, and easy-to-use VR. Not every change here is for the better, but with much-improved performance and a $100 price drop, the Quest 2 is still a no-brainer.
Released in early 2019, the original Oculus Quest was a monumental step forward for virtual reality. No, it wasn’t the most powerful headset out there, using a two-year-old smartphone processor to power its games and experiences, but it was a capable, completely self-contained, wireless VR headset that didn’t require a PC or game console to deliver stellar immersion.
It was one of last year’s greatest new gadgets, and now Oculus has returned with a sequel. The Oculus Quest 2 is smaller and lighter, yet more powerful and with a much better screen—yet it costs $100 less than the original. How did that happen? Well, it’s not all great news, thanks to a couple of cost-cutting measures that you’ll feel and potentially see, but the end result is ultimately a better and more affordable device that serves as an ideal gateway into VR.
The Oculus Quest 2 sticks to the familiar modern VR playbook as a module that you strap onto your face to immerse yourself within its digital worlds but features some different material and construction choices than the original. Unfortunately, the design choices largely are not upgrades compared to the original headset
Noticeably, the module itself doesn’t jut out as far from your face as before, plus it has a white plastic finish rather than the black fabric-lined exterior of the original. It also weighs less, which is a good thing for a device that hangs off of your face: it comes in at 503g compared to 571g with the original Quest.
However, the shallower depth of the module makes an impact for someone like me who must wear glasses while using the Quest 2.
Even with the included, optional glasses spacer, which adds a couple extra millimeters between the lenses and where the padded visor presses against your face, the inside felt much tighter against my glasses. It can be tricky to get the Quest 2 on without my eyelashes brushing against my lenses.
But that’s also due in part to the new fabric strap system, which is less effective than the rubber, dome-like strap from the first Quest. That previous strap did a better job of cupping the back of your head to offset the weight of the module itself and keep it comfortably strapped to your head, but these loose, adjustable fabric straps aren’t nearly as secure. It took me longer to get the headset on and in a comfortable position, and I couldn’t find the same kind of sweet spot as before.
Oculus now sells a $49 Elite Strap attachment that’s more akin to the original Quest strap, and while the Quest 2 straps are usable, I’ll probably make the upgrade and buy the better strap.
The Oculus Quest 2 uses the same kind of “inside-out” tracking system that relies on four cameras on the visor to track the wireless controllers or even your hands, rather than relying on external tracking sensors as some PC-based systems do. Like the original, it works amazingly well, allowing for fluid, six-degrees-of-freedom movement in games and minimizing both initial setup and the time it takes to get going each session. It also means that you can use the Oculus Quest 2 anywhere without the need for any kind of external hardware or accessories.
The Quest 2’s wireless, motion-sensing Oculus Touch controllers are identical in function to the original, but are a little heavier and have a larger surface with space to rest your thumb when not in use. That’s handy. Each has an analog stick and two face buttons, along with a trigger button and a grip button. Oculus also swapped out the magnetically-attached battery doors from the first Quest controllers—which would sometimes slide open when I used the original—for ones that simply click into place. That’s a win for function over form.
But there is a potential loss for function and comfort with one other particular aspect of the headset itself: IPD adjustment. Inter-pupillary distance, or IPD, is the physical distance between your eyes, and a headset must account for it to effectively deliver clear, 3D experiences. On the original Quest, a physical slider let you precisely adjust the distance to match your own face. With the Quest 2, however, there are just three settings, and you can physically shift the placement of the lenses to choose the position that is closest to your own.
If your IPD matches or is very close to one of the settings (58mm, 63mm, 68mm), then you’re all set. If not, then you may notice that the image isn’t as clear as you’d like, and it could potentially lead to headaches if you can’t find a pretty good sweet spot. In my case, my IPD is close enough to the middle setting to be OK, but it doesn’t feel as spot-on as it did on the original Quest using the slider. It might help knock down the price of the headset, but that’s a quality-of-life downgrade that will affect some people significantly more than others.
That might sound like a lot of griping, but it’s only because some of the key physical design changes on the Quest 2 feel like compromises or downgrades. But for most people, they won’t be significant impediments. And if you’re coming to the new headset without ever using the original Quest, then you should be fine—the new straps are usable, but they aren’t as effective or effortlessly adjustable as before. Luckily, the Quest 2 makes significant strides elsewhere.
You should charge the Oculus Quest 2 out of the box, as the modest total battery life means a partially-charged headset isn’t going to last very long. You will need a smartphone, either Android or iPhone, and the free Oculus app to complete setup, as well. Once the headset has a good charge, begin setup from the mobile app and then follow the guided directions, which will involve putting on, adjusting, and getting familiar with the headset itself.
Part of the setup process, and the process each time you use the headset, is to designate your play space by “drawing” a barrier within the augmented view of your surroundings seen through the headset’s cameras. From there, the headset determines whether you have enough space for active, room-scale experiences, or you can choose a stationary setup for seated play modes. During active play, a virtual barrier called the Oculus Guardian appears when you get close to the edges of your designated play space to help you avoid crashing into your surroundings. It’s all rather clever and effective.
There’s one other potential hitch with the Oculus Quest 2 that wasn’t present with the original: the new headset requires a Facebook account and there’s no way around it. Facebook owns Oculus, and while the first Quest could be used simply with an Oculus account, the new one requires the social media account. For some, that may be a deal-breaker, given frustrations over privacy and the increasing role that Facebook plays in our society, so just know that going in.
The original Oculus Quest did a fine job of delivering immersive VR experiences that didn’t feel compromised or significantly downgraded, even if it didn’t hit the same visual peaks as pricier, PC-powered headsets. And it was pretty amazing that the Quest did so with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, a chip found in 2017’s flagship smartphones.
The Oculus Quest 2 takes things to another level, and there are a few reasons why.
First off, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chip here is based on the current Snapdragon 865 chip seen in phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Note20, and is three generations newer than the old chip.
It’s also paired with 50 percent more RAM (6GB) than the original Quest. Even more vividly, the fast-switching LCD screen packs in nearly 50 percent more pixels per eye than the old OLED panels did, for a noticeably crisper and smoother experience.
On the first Quest, you got 1440x1600 resolution per eye: solid, but a bit fuzzy and comparatively lower resolution than some of the PC headsets on the market. Here, however, the single screen provides 1832x1920 per eye, and the difference is obvious. While the switch from OLED to LCD technology should weaken the contrast a bit and dampen the deep black levels, I’ll be honest: I didn’t notice.
What I did notice was sharper interfaces and smoother action, with more fluid-feeling experiences that exhibited fewer of the occasional-yet-tolerable hitches seen with some games and apps on the first Quest headset.
Additionally, Oculus recently enabled the Quest 2 to hit a peak 90Hz screen refresh rate, up from 72Hz on the first headset, which will only help deliver that smoother-feeling usage. Developers must enable 90Hz within their apps and games, however.
I felt the Quest 2’s enhancements more prominently in some games over others. Laser sword-swinging music game Beat Saber, for example, ran well on the first headset and isn’t that different here—just smoother and clearer-looking. But with the online battle royale shooter Population: One, the cleaner-looking textures and more fluid performance helped mitigate some of the light motion sickness I felt playing on the first Quest.
Plugging in headphones delivers a more closed-off, immersive experience, but the Oculus Quest 2’s built-in speaker does a solid job of delivering audio and music. It does sound a tiny bit louder and fuller than the original Quest’s speaker, but not significantly so. Still, if you want to play without being fully shut-off from your surroundings, it works just fine.
Like the original headset, the Oculus Quest 2 is rated for 2-3 hours of usage on a full charge. For such a compact, standalone headset, I think that’s reasonable. You get a couple hours to play, and then you can take a breather and do other things while it charges.
That said, if you’re keen on longer-lasting experiences, Oculus sells a $129 version of the Elite Strap with a built-in battery pack that doubles the play time, or you can get a portable battery pack, plug it in, and stick it in your pocket during use. Lastly, you could just use a lengthy USB-C cable and plug yourself into a wall. If you’re doing room-scale VR games and apps with free movement, however, you’ll need something longer—like 10 feet or more. Otherwise, some seated apps and games will work just fine when you’re tethered to a nearby wall outlet.
The headset’s own interface hasn’t changed much from the first Quest, taking place in a 3D home-like environment with floating menus that you can access via the motion controllers. It’s a pretty easy way to choose between your currently installed games and apps, install anything else in your library, purchase and download new content, and access video content including apps like Netflix, YouTube, and SlingTV.
Oculus has also enabled optional hand tracking, including the use of hand and finger gestures to get around the interface and interact with some games. Hand tracking is definitely more finicky than using the controllers, however, and you’ll need solid lighting to really rely on it. That said, it does still feel experimental, and I encountered enough misread gestures and incorrect interactions to make me want to stick to the controllers. They work reliably great.
Since the original Quest’s launch, Oculus added the ability to connect the headset to a powerful PC to run more advanced VR experiences, and that carries over to the Quest 2, as well. You’ll need a PC that is capable of running headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Valve Index, as well as either the official Oculus Link USB-C cable ($80) or a comparable USB 3.1 cable that can handle the high-speed demands. I bought an unofficial cable for half the price on Amazon, and it worked great.
Using a Razer Blade 15 (2019) gaming laptop, I was able to play the visually demanding and deeply immersive Half-Life: Alyx on the Oculus Quest 2—a game that it could never run using its own internal hardware. It ran a little less smoothly than it did using the PC-native Valve Index headset, but not significantly so. This is a great way to experience higher-end VR games, including the new Star Wars: Squadrons, for example. And with Oculus announcing plans to phase out PC-only headsets, it will also be a key part of the Quest platform’s future.
The $299 edition of the headset comes with 64GB of internal storage and the $399 version nets you 256GB, with some of each tally taken up by system software and resources. Luckily, the games and apps themselves aren’t huge, typically weighing in between 1-4GB apiece, sometimes less, and they’re pretty quick to download again if you want to revisit something. The 64GB edition should provide enough space for most players, as you could probably comfortably have a dozen or more games installed, along with streaming media apps, but anyone who wants to have a robust VR library on hand at all times without waiting might consider spending the extra cash.
Although those aforementioned games and some others are still only found on PC (or maybe PlayStation VR on the PlayStation 4 or 5), the Oculus Quest platform has amassed a very nice selection of native games that you can download and play right on the headset.There is no difference in compatibility between the headsets: all Quest games play on Quest 2 and vice versa, just with performance differences.
Many of the early games from the impressive Quest launch lineup are still among the best games you can play on the Quest 2. The aforementioned Beat Saber, which finds you swinging your controllers to slash faux lightsabers through soaring rhythmic beats, is a frenetic blast, now with a larger library of songs including BTS and Linkin Park packs. Superhot VR is a stylish hybrid of a shooter and a puzzle game, of sorts, as you figure out how to clear through foes while avoiding incoming bullets that only move when you do. Meanwhile, the Star Wars VR game Vader Immortal still does a great job of creating an authentic atmosphere.
But there’s so much more now, too. Tetris Effect and Rez Infinite, both from developer Enhance Games, are trippy, trancelike experiences that you can sit down and really savor in VR. Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners and the aforementioned Population: One show that larger-scale shooter experiences can be immersive and compelling in VR, plus there’s a newer Star Wars game, Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, that blends interactive storytelling with fun blaster battles.
There’s a lot of great stuff on Quest 2, ranging from simple arcade-like experiences to larger-scale adventures, quirky interactive experiences, and more. And on top of that, there are the aforementioned video services for 360-degree videos, plus fitness apps and games, VR chat for communicating with friends and random people, a web browser, and more.
The Oculus Quest was already impressively priced at $399, so launching the more powerful Oculus Quest 2 at $299 is pretty phenomenal. Granted, the design compromises are a little frustrating, and I would’ve rather paid more for a better strap and more precise IPD settings like on the original—but those are the tweaks made to try and broaden the market for the Quest and VR as a whole. Still, even with those design annoyances, the Quest 2 is an incredible value for a portable, fully self-contained VR game console.
Amazingly, there is no direct analog to the Oculus Quest 2 on the market: Oculus seems to be the only company that can release such a powerful device at this kind of price and with this kind of software support. That said, if I had to compare it to another VR headset, I’d put it up against Sony’s PlayStation VR, which requires a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5 console.
The PSVR is a few years old now and is technically overshadowed by the Quest 2 in terms of screen and controller quality. Still, Sony has amassed some stellar exclusive games thanks to its partnerships with game developers, and the PlayStation VR is a solid, reasonably affordable pickup for anyone who already has a PS4 or PS5 console and wants to dabble in VR. But if you don’t already have the console, and you want to get into VR, go for the dedicated Quest 2 instead. It’ll be cheaper than buying a headset and console together, plus it’s a better VR experience.
The best VR device, all things considered.
The significant performance upgrade and surprising price drop outweigh some of the annoying design shifts with the Oculus Quest 2, making it the must-have VR headset for just about everyone. Not only does it play a great library of on-headset games, but it can also connect to a powerful PC to play even more games on top of that. Add to that the ease of use, quality gameplay, and immersive visuals, and the Oculus Quest 2 is another brilliant VR game console.
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