The original Oculus Quest was the device that really made virtual reality make sense to me. While the console-connecting PSVR was my first taste of home VR, and remains an impressive system that’s capable of far more than its hodge-podge of peripherals would have you believe, it’s hard to go back once you’ve experienced standalone VR without any wires. Oculus Quest 2 does such a good job of smoothing off the original unit’s few remaining rough edges, there’s very little reason to have to.
The Oculus Quest 2 looks every inch like a desirable piece of modern tech. Having ditched the original’s all-black aesthetic, the Quest 2 is a pleasingly rounded, pure white headset that looks as though it’s been designed to sit on every Ikea table you can find on Instagram. It’s smaller too, feeling more compact in your hands, less bulky on your head, and remedying one of the key faults of its predecessor.
The biggest downside to the original Quest was its weight. An hour or two of the front-heavy system and you’d be feeling it in your cheeks for the rest of the day, no matter how you positioned the headset’s straps. The Quest 2 makes a resounding move to rectify this by dropping the unit’s weight from 571g to 503g, and within moments of putting it on the difference is obvious. It’s still not effortlessly weightless – we’re a long way from being able to pack these kinds of specs into something you won’t notice – but it’s a major improvement, adding some precious minutes to how long you can have it strapped to your head before feeling fatigued.
They’ve altered the strap too, swapping out the rubberised strap for a fabric one. In terms of usability they’re very similar, with a central pillar connecting up with an adjustable band that runs around your skull and keeps the Quest 2 firmly in place, but the new strap has a pleasing tactility that feels far nicer under your fingers and against your head.
If you’re looking for the an even better experience, Oculus have created a pro strap with an optional battery pack. It brings back some of the weight that was removed, but with it set at the rear of the unit the idea is that it provides balance and extra play time. We’ll be running a full review of this peripheral when we’ve spent more time with it this week, but our first impression has been very positive.
The other major physical change from the original Quest is the loss of the lens slider. This was used to set the distance between the lenses across a range of increments, but it was easy to accidentally knock, whether during play or when coming in or out of storage. The Quest 2 alters this so that now you physically move the lenses inside their housing.
It reduces the number of lens positions down to three, which feels like a step back in a number of ways, but if you’re swapping between different members of a household it makes the experience far quicker and easier. The positions are simple to click through, with a central button clearly showing which numbered slot the lenses are in. Once you know what your setting is you can just move to it within moments. I assume that some original Quest users will have lost their preferred setting, but across our household no one experienced any problems with the reduced range of options.
With the removal of the slider the outside of the Quest 2 features a fairly minimal number of controls. There’s a volume rocker on the underside, and the left-hand side plays home to both the power button and the sole 3.5mm connection. The only other defining features are the Quest 2’s camera units that allow for its inside-out tracking. Much like the original Quest they do a fantastic job of tracking you in whatever play space you’ve defined when starting up, and they’ll allow you to see the outside world if you come up against that boundary.
The other main part of the Quest 2 package are the touch controllers. You get two in the box – one for each hand, as if that needed saying – and it’s gratifying to find that there’s no need to invest in anything else to get up and running; the box even serves as a robust place for keeping the Quest 2 safe, so you don’t even necessarily need a case.
The touch controllers haven’t had much in the way of external updates over the original other than getting a white makeover to match, but they were already a mature and well-conceived VR interface. It’s a shame that they still rely on the AA batteries and haven’t had a rechargeable upgrade but you can easily remedy that yourself for £10, and they certainly last a long time during use, boasting a 4x improvement over the originals.
The Quest 2’s UI is largely unchanged from what Quest owners have been experiencing over the last few years, and it’s a great example of a company getting the fundamentals right. The central bar shows the battery status of both your headset and the touch controllers, as well as giving direct access to your apps and games, sharing options, friends and options. That’s all there is to it, but you’ll find you can hop around from game to option to chat with no sign of lag or stuttering. The enhanced innards of the Quest 2 keep everything nipping along at pace, and it’s a pleasure to interact with.
It’s been fantastic to see the evolution of the original Quest, with features like the Minority Report-aping hand and finger tracking now included in the central options, and the Quest 2 has benefitted from the three years of consistent development. While the Quest never felt unfinished in its early days, the quality of life improvements of the firmware match up to the newly revamped hardware of the Quest 2. This is a slick, sleek virtual reality tech package, and Facebook are making a major play for the space.
Therein lies one of the rubs. You can no longer simply use an Oculus account to use a Quest device, and you’ll be needing a Facebook account in order to do so. Who you trust with your data is becoming an ever-more difficult task to monitor, and the recent history of the company may not fill you with confidence that it’s going to be well looked after when directly in Facebook’s hands. For the majority it will barely register, but it’s disappointing that there’s any kind of barrier to entry when the technology is as good as this.
One of the most obvious improvements to the Oculus Quest 2 is the increased resolution. Coming in at 1832×1920 per eye, the jump over the Quest’s 1440×1600 is apparent from the moment you put the headset on. It’s difficult to quantify what that will come to mean in usage terms, especially when many games haven’t had a Quest 2 update to take true advantage of both it and the added oomph of the new Snapdragon XR2 chip, but as of this moment, everything is crisper and cleaner than it was before.
Tetris Effect – easily one of my games of this generation – looks utterly beguiling, and those Tetronimoes and their psychedelic surroundings have simply never looked better. Similarly, the tactical squad shooter Onward benefits greatly from the cleaner display, the sharper image working wonders as you line up a sniper shot through a scope or sneak a peek around a corner.
The Oculus Quest 2 has also upped its refresh rate to a punchy 90hz, and though that’s currently limited to the home screens and a few select titles, soon enough everything on the Quest 2 will be hitting that natively. Alongside a smoother experience it should help those that suffer from motion sickness to feel a little less overwhelmed. Anyone that’s suffered from it during a VR session will know how horrifyingly bad it can be, and anything that can reduce it is a godsend.
The improved resolution and refresh rate could well be key for those that want to use the Quest 2 as a PCVR headset, and if you’re looking to play some of the impressive PC exclusives like Half-Life: Alyx, the Quest 2 makes a convincing case thanks to its innate versatility.
It’s as simple as hooking it up to your PC with the Oculus app installed – ideally with the Oculus fibre-optic cable, though cheaper USB-C cables are available – and you can play Oculus and SteamVR titles with ease. There’s even an option to play wirelessly using Virtual Desktop, though there’s a few hoops to jump through and it may not quite function the way you’d hope depending on your WiFi setup. Still, when the Quest 2 isn’t just replacing its predecessor, but the Rift as well, it gives you some indication of just how important and integral Facebook think it is.
The Oculus Quest 2 is the next step in home VR that builds on the foundations of the original Quest’s genre-defining standalone setup. This is a truly next generation console that’s beaten both Sony and Microsoft to the punch.