Is The Oculus Quest Worth It?
VR has come a long way since it’s mainstream induction a few years back. Oculus began life as a Kickstarter project, eventually going on to get purchased by Facebook. The public first got their VR fix with the release of the Oculus Rift in 2016, though this was, unsurprisingly, a lot less accessible than many would like.
The Oculus Rift was indeed revolutionary, as evidenced by the many emulations released since it’s announcement in 2012. The HTC Vive, PS VR, and even the Google Cardboard served as decent entry points to the world of VR, though the main flagships weren’t for everyone.
We’re not talking about the comfort or motion sickness issues either. The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift require beefy PCs or computers to power the visuals, and the system requirements aren’t exactly low.
The hassle didn’t just end there. There’s set up every time you want to use VR, there’s cables, and there’s the price, which doesn’t even take into account the price of extra required hardware.
While we can certainly admit that the VR experience is impressive, there’s no way around the barrier to entry. That is, until now.
What is the Oculus Quest?
The Quest is the new standalone VR headset from Oculus. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, these are large visor- or goggle-like devices that you strap to to enter the titular “virtual reality”, in a sense, blocking out the real world temporarily, letting you enjoy games at an extreme immersion level.
Since the Oculus Quest is standalone, that means you won’t need a connected PC or smartphone to play games or watch videos. The Quest runs a modified version of Android, and plays games purchasable off Oculus’ own store without the need for extra hardware.
The Quest isn’t the first time Oculus tried an affordable, easy to use version of their VR headsets. In 2018, the Oculus Go aimed to being VR to the masses, though it was met with a middling reception, mainly due to the weaker hardware and small battery life.
Yet, there was a certain magic to the Go, and the Quest seeks to capture that same sense of awe with improved hardware and visuals. Essentially, the Oculus Quest aims to hit the sweet spot between the Go’s simplicity and the Rift’s hardware prowess.
The end result is a streamlined package with no wires and minimal set up required. You charge it up, turn it on, scan the space and you’re good to go. This really is a system you can use nearly everywhere.
How does it feel?
Control-wise, the Oculus Quest is excellent. One of the big negatives of the Oculus Go was the lack of six-degrees of freedom. With the Go, it only detected rotational movement, so while you could look around by turning your head, translational head movements (forwards and backwards, left to right) were ignored.
The Quest fixes that, which makes both gaming and media consumption feel much more natural. Oculus’ Insight Tracking and Touch controllers further enhance the realistic feel in the VR space. In fact, the same controllers are shipped with the flagship Rift S.
In terms of comfort, the Oculus Quest is decent enough. VR headsets aren’t always the most comfortable, given their weight’s concentration at the visor portion. This is a common problem with most VR headsets, but thanks to the lightweight nature of the Oculus Quest, the issue is somewhat mitigated.
While I still believe the PSVR to be the best in terms of comfort with its excellent weight balancing, the Quest is definitely no slouch in this regard.
Speaking of comfort, the Oculus Quest has some good onboard speakers, meaning you can potentially skip having an extra pair of headphones on during your VR experiences. I found the speakers to have a comfortable amount of bass despite its small form-factor, which was somewhat unexpected.
How does it play?
The Oculus Quest is not the most powerful system out there, but it still packs a punch with it’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. The same processor was found in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Google Pixel 2, which shows its pedigree despite its age.
With this processor, you definitely lose out on a bit of graphical prowess. However, VR games have never been particularly well-known for their amazing graphics anyway. The differences here aren’t too noticeable, especially once you’re immersed into the games.
Thankfully, optimization was done well here, with the currently available games focusing more on a fluid framerate over flashy graphics.
The screens have a resolution of 1440 x 1660 per eye, which is even higher than the 1080 x 1200 found on the original Oculus Rift. This means the visuals are sharp despite the hardware limitations in games, and media consumption is still excellent.
Speaking of games, there’s a solid selection of over 50 games at time of writing, which will scratch the VR itch until more games get released (and that’s certainly a given, considering the Quest is sold out in many regions).
Vader Immortal, Dance Central and Creed: Rise to Glory are marketed as launch titles, and have definitely deserved their critical acclaim. Popular VR titles like Superhot and Beat Saber have also been ported to the Quest, meaning you’re getting a solid library to start with.
Battery life isn’t too impressive. A full charge gives you around 2-3 hours of game time, which is good enough for short bursts of gaming, but not enough for extended gaming sessions. Granted, most of the games aren’t designed for long playtimes, so it’s not as big of an issue as you’d think.
Is it worth it?
Now comes the $399 question, is the Oculus Quest worth it?
If you’ve never tried out VR before, and are looking to enter the fray, then definitely. The Oculus Quest manages to be both affordable and powerful at the same time, delivering a solid VR experience. Oculus has always been at the top of the VR game, and the Quest puts all that experience to good use.
If you’ve already got a flagship VR headset, this will feel like a downgrade. This is especially true if you regularly use VR for gaming. The Oculus Quest wasn’t designed with you in mind. However, if you’re looking for something to use on the go, then there’s no real alternative to the Oculus Quest.
The fact that many friends are actively using the Oculus Quest despite owning Rifts and Vives is a testament to the Quest’s convenience. By removing the set up and hassle from the equation, Oculus has made an experience worth recommending to just about everyone.
You'll find that most critics love the Quest. It's the closest we've gotten to convenient yet powerful VR, and it's easily the best jumping in point for people wannting to enter the realm of virtual reality.
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