Michal Kohutek
Oculus Quest

Oculus Quest – VR Headset Review

About a year ago, I’ve written a raving review praising Facebook (of all companies) for delivering what I considered the best portable VR introductory experience at the time. Oculus Go still is a great media consumption device, awesome for watching local videos, streaming Netflix and playing simple 3DoF games. With the sideloading community, its capabilities grew even beyond that with extensive library of GearVR and regular Android games. You can even stream your Windows desktop along with games for some seated VR goodness. I never partook in this, as I’m an avid GNU/Linux user and these kinds of streaming apps don’t work with my preferred PC desktop OS.

As I’ve said before, Oculus Go (and it’s 3DoF competitors) are great for media consumption, 360 experiences and simple gaming. The difference between a 3DoF (3 degrees of freedom) headset and the 6DoF counterparts is that with 3DoF you are bound to standing/sitting in one place. You can rotate in place, look up and down and tilt your head, but you cannot move in space. You controller serves mostly just like a laser pointer, limited to the same range of movements as you are. The difference between using Oculus Go and Oculus Quest is such as being quadriplegic, compared to having full control of one’s body. Granted, the device is considerably more expensive (costing ~€450 for the 64GB version, ~€550 for the 128GB version), but the difference in experience is so incredibly high, that I would be willing to pay even more for it. The games for the Quest are much closer in scope and capabilities to “proper” PC VR platforms, in fact, many of the top selling games on Quest are direct ports from either Oculus Rift or Playstation VR, going even so far that some games support cross-buy with the Rift and some even support cross-play with other platforms. Having a PS4 game, such as Creed: Rise to Glory, running on a Snapdragon 835, albeit with downgraded graphics fidelity is simply awesome, especially if you take into consideration much better tracking of both headset and controllers and the complete freedom in movement. I won’t bother going much into the specs, as they don’t really feel representative of the device (considering it’s SoC dates back to 2017, while delivering great performance), but the screen and optics and displays are very good (squarish 1440p @ 72Hz OLED screen for each eye), speakers are on par with Oculus Go and battery lasts 2-3 hours of playtime, which I find reasonable. With that said, let’s get to it!

Hardware

The device itself is built very well, with pleasant to the touch fabric finish on top. The headband is intuitive and holds well on my head, although your mileage may vary. My unit has come with something loose inside, which rattles sometimes, but as it hasn’t impacted the usage in my almost 3 months of use and the Oculus support told me not to worry about it, I won’t take down points because of that. Regarding the unit, on the right side, there’s a power button, on the bottom there’s a volume rocker and a IPD slider and at each of the four corners of the face plate, there is an IR wide-angle camera for tracking the environment and the controllers. Interestingly, there are two stereo 3.5mm jacks on each side of the unit, intended for the first-party earphones accessory, but you can use any old pair of headphones/earbuds and just tie the cable so that it doesn’t bother you. The official Oculus earbuds plug in each of the two jacks and their cables are just long enough to reach your ears without bothering you… all for the lowly price of 50 bucks.

The controllers are smaller than the ones for Rift or Rift S, but fit inside my unmanly-sized hands perfectly. Lumberjacks and ogres may have an issue here, but women, children and IT nerds will be happy. The tracking rings of the controllers sometimes hit my headset, when I was playing Creed, but as I’ve tested with multiple wall punches (ok, more like scrapes), the controllers are quite sturdy. I do have a scratch or two on the tracking rings, but it doesn’t seem to have any impact on their function. The only thing I dislike are the straps, necessary for securing the controllers to the wrists, keep loosening during the more exciting parts of Beat Saber sessions.

Software

Arguably the more important and exciting part of the whole package is the software. It’s the same, Oculus-branded Android distribution as in the Oculus Go, with very slight differences. For some reason, there are no alternative environments available, so you’re stuck with Oculus virtual living room.

Oculus Quest – User interface

An added feature is the ability to pick between a stationary and roomscale mode, the latter of which requires you to set up a guardian area. The Guardian area is an user-defined area, where you can move about freely in virtual space. When you approach the boarders of this space, the grid becomes visible to warn you from not going any further. You can even peek through this barrier and see the real world in black and white, which is a cool feeling. Honestly, I’d like the quest controllers to have an ability to “shine a light” through the VR space to see a small cone of real world, to check if somebody’s nearby, or to grab a beer of the table. On first launch of the Quest, you are welcomed by a very nicely done tutorial, that for some obscure reason requires an internet connection. The tutorial teaches you how to set up the Guardian and then teaches you how to use your controllers to simulate your VR hands. I have to applaud Oculus, because the tutorial is fun, very easy to follow and is translated to a bunch of languages, including Czech. After you play with some cubes, RC zeppelin, dance with a robot and shoot some flying polygons, you are free to download and try out a bunch of demos, including Beat Saber, Creed and Space Pirate Trainer. As with the Oculus Go, you can buy and install more apps from the Oculus Store, browse the web in an integrated browser, chat with your VR friends, take screenshots and record videos, etc.

The Ecosystem

This here is the greatest asset of Oculus Quest. Even on launch, there has been a selection of awesome games ready to buy – Beat Saber, the all time most popular VR game on any platform, Creed – a decent, albeit arcady boxing game, Superhot – a great puzzle FPS, Robo Recall – another VR classic FPS, and many more. With each passing week, the game library grows with both new titles and ported Rift all-stars. That being said, each and every game in the Oculus Store goes through rigorous evaluation, with many popular and well-liked games not making the cut, at least not immediately. Fortunately, being an Android device, it’s very easy to sideload apps packaged as .apk files, which the community has taken to an extreme level. You can download the SideQuest app for Windows, Mac or Linux and with this, you’ll really get your money’s worth out of this small head-mounted miracle. With SideQuest you are able to add custom community-mapped songs to Beat Saber, mod the hell out of it, install so-far unapproved VR Games and apps and even regular Android apps and tweak the hidden settings of your headset. Best of all, the app does all the difficult stuff in the background and links to great tutorials if you need help getting it to run. SideQuest is a must have and I’ll return to it later with it’s very own dedicated post.

Conclusion

Although the price may seem steep for a dedicated VR Gaming machine, it really isn’t. The tech packed in the device is impressive, makes for a great experience and blows the other standalone mobile VR headsets out of the water. On top of that, the real star of the show is software ecosystem and the community – It really shows what the combination of curated official app store and the freedom to install sideloaded apps and mods can achieve in terms of great user experience. I’ve encountered less bugs than with the Go, the tracking is great considering its technical limitations and the incredibly small time necessary to dive into VR makes me use it on a everyday basis. Ever since I got my Quest, the Go gathers dust, even though I still have sizeable game library that I haven’t gone through. I can honestly recommend the Oculus Quest to anybody even remotely interested in VR.

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