(Pocket-lint) - The Oculus Quest is an exciting move that offers affordable, wire-free, untethered and standalone virtual reality gaming for the masses.
We had some play time with the headset at CES 2019 and were suitably impressed. But, now we've had some proper time with it in the home and been able to deep dive into the games and the experiences to bring you our thoughts.
Affordable and accessible design
- Wireless headset powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM and a built-in Lithium-Ion battery
- Integrated backwards-firing speakers
- Six degrees of freedom-tracking through integrated Oculus Insight technology
It is, if you like, a VR headset for more casual gamers than the Rift or HTC Vive.
The Oculus Quest's best feature though, is that it is wireless and doesn't need to be tethered in any way to a gaming PC. Yet, with clever internal hardware, it's still capable of running some impressive gaming experiences that are superior to those on the Oculus Go or any other mobile headset you might have tried.
You only need a smartphone to set the Quest up, then it runs all on its own (as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection to download games) without hassle or fuss.
This wire-free experience is an utter joy. We've been a big fan of it since we upgraded our HTC Vive with wireless adapters.
As a standalone virtual reality headset, the Oculus Quest is undeniably brilliant. You're not tethered to a gaming PC in the same way as Oculus Rift, so you're free to move around and play almost anywhere in your home or, indeed, other people's. This is vastly more enjoyable simply because it's more immersive.
It's more than that though, because the Quest is entirely standalone. There is no reliance on external trackers, hardware or even power. That means you can game almost anywhere.
One disappointment is it doesn't appear to work outside - you can't go and play in the garden, for example - a shame as it would have been refreshing to have the sun on our skin and wind in our hair as we game.
Tracking is handled by the four sensors on the front of the headset. These work with the Oculus Insight tracking system to monitor your movements in the real world and translate them into the game world.
For VR gaming, comfort is a must and we're happy to report the Quest is remarkably comfortable. Sure, you've still got a heavy, sometimes hot thing attached to the front of your face, but it's well balanced and reasonably snug.
The straps are easily adjustable, there's a glasses spacer system for spectacles wearers and an IPD adjuster for setting the right lens spacing for your eyes.
Of course, with all the internals powering the thing, the headset does get warm when you're gaming. However, we didn't find this much of an issue as we always get naturally hot playing VR games anyway - it's barely noticeable in that regard. It certainly didn't overheat at any point while playing or cause us any problems in that way.
Being wire-free does come with one caveat: limited battery life. The built-in Lithium-Ion battery is only capable of supporting around two hours of playtime. This might sound like an issue on paper but, realistically, unless you're playing Skyrim VR, you're unlikely to sink much more than that into one session anyway.
Gaming in virtual reality is tiring and regular breaks are sensible, if not essential. The good news is the Oculus Quest has a USB-C port and power cable, which can fill the battery in under two hours as well.
Another highlight is the same rear-firing built-in speaker system we saw on the Oculus Go. This negates the need for headphones and keeps the headset wire-free.
These speakers are fairly capable too. They're great if you want a good audio experience, but still want to be able to hear the world around you at the same time. It's good to know what's happening nearby so you don't accidentally punch a family member or get shouted at for ignoring the wife while you play. They're also designed to deliver positional audio so you can hear things moving around you in the virtual gaming world.
It's not great if you're trying to shut yourself away in your own little virtual world to escape the humdrum of everyday life, but there is always the option of using the 3.5mm jack if you want a more personal experience instead.
Playing with the Quest
- 1600 x 1440 pixels per eye
- OLED display with 72Hz refresh rate
- Adjustable IPD lens spacer
- 50 games at launch with more to come
Around 50 launch games have been confirmed for the Oculus Quest - not a terribly extensive list when compared to the Rift or HTC Vive. However, it's not a bad starting point and will no doubt expand in future.
In fact, gaming content may well be a highlight of the headset going forward, as Oculus is making moves towards cross-play with this new device and its other headsets. The company told us that, after release, owners of both the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest will be able to play with or against each other.
Content will also be accessible across both devices. In most cases, games that run on the Oculus Rift S will also run on the Oculus Quest. You should, in theory, be able to purchase games that work on both headsets. Although, obviously, the experience will be higher-quality on the PC-powered Oculus Rift S.
The immediate highlight for us is there are a number of big titles we've played on the high-end VR headsets that are also available on Quest.
Superhot VR is one of them, Beat Saber is another, and both Creed: Rise to Glory and Space Pirate Trainer also make an appearance. We dove straight into all these games as we'd reviewed them in the past for PC-tethered equivalents and were keen to see how they compared. We're happy to report that they appear to play really well on the Quest. Surprisingly well, in fact.
Oculus suggests that you won't be able to tell the difference between gameplay on Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift. We're quite so sure about that: how can a wire-free, all-in-one headset cut the mustard vs a high-end gaming machine-powered device? But, all told, we were suitably impressed with the performance of the headset and games during our play session. The tracking appears accurate, smooth and doesn't suffer from any lag issues.
Games are purchased, downloaded and installed on the headset via the Oculus app for smartphones, or directly within the headset itself. Internal storage is limited to either 64GB or 128GB depending on which model you purchase, so this limits the number of games you can install. That said it's easy to delete and install new games if you need to.
The OLED display on the Oculus Quest supports 1600 x 1440 pixels per eye with a 72Hz refresh rate. Obviously, these specs aren't quite as high as the flagship VR headsets, but for a casual gaming experience, they're decent.
The visuals are pretty impressive too. Sure, you can see the edge of the screen if you look hard but, otherwise, the lenses deliver an impressive VR experience. There are no massively distracting issues with blurry visuals, screen tearing or poor refresh rates.
Freedom of movement with a safety net
- Seated, standing or Roomscale play supported
- Roomscale requires 6.5-feet x 6.5-feet play space
- Virtual "passthrough" and guardian border system
- Easy setup almost anywhere
As a standalone VR headset, the Oculus Quest is designed to work almost anywhere. The inside-out tracking developed for this new headset (and the Oculus Rift S) appears to work just as intended. Everything is tracked by the headset itself, allowing for six degrees of freedom movement and accurate tracking of the battery-powered controllers too.
The lack of base stations doesn't appear to be an issue unless the controllers are out of view of the forward-facing sensors - a rare occurrence. This means you can walk around freely and make movements, such as jumping or crouching and have them registered perfectly in the game.
The fact that this headset isn't tethered means you can play almost anywhere. There's the option to play in either seated or standing positions and you can play at "Roomscale" too. This gives you more freedom to move around in the virtual world, as long as you have space in the real one.
You need at least 6.5-feet x 6.5-feet play space to get the best experience but since the headset isn't tethered to anything, we found it much easier to set up and play in any room. There are no hassles of having to move a laptop or setting up sensors each time you want to play.
The Oculus Quest also has a fantastic passthrough system which uses the sensors on the front to give you a virtual view of the world around you. This system enables you to set the borders of your play space whenever you want. It guides you through marking-out the guardian borders by simply painting lines around the room to set a safe space to play in.
It's also easy to adjust this view or to move to another room or area and reconfigure the play space to account for the change. You can even use the virtual passthrough view to move around the house without taking the headset off.
Another feature we loved here is the way the guardian border system works. With a virtual barrier in the room, you see a hatched blue outline whenever you get near the edges and these turn red if a controller-wielding hand or your head get too near.
This is a great way to quickly highlight when you're in danger of hitting walls, bashing into things or smashing precious household items. It also turns invisible when you're not near it, meaning it's not there to constantly ruin the immersion.
The accompanying Oculus Touch controllers will be familiar to anyone who's played with an Oculus headset in the past. They're slightly updated now, with the loops on top to help with tracking. Otherwise, they offer the same comfortable experience. Each controller quickly and easily pairs with the headset and is powered by a single AA battery, so it's easy to get them up and running again when juice runs low.
The Oculus Quest is an interesting VR headset in the company's line-up. It's certainly more capable than the Oculus Go and features a lot of the similar upgrades we've seen on the Oculus Rift S.
We love using a standalone device that's both wire and hassle-free. However, we have some initial reservations about content. With only around 50 games at launch, there are considerably fewer games to play on the Quest than there are on the similarly priced Oculus Rift or Oculus Rift S.
That said, the current games available do show the power and potential of this headset and, if developers are able to easily create content for it, the headset will be worth every penny.
From a gaming performance point of view, the Oculus Quest is a welcome step-up from the Oculus Go and we are certainly surprised by just how capable it is. Not needing an accompanying gaming PC makes the asking price seem a lot more sensible.
If you're considering getting into VR gaming but don't want to spend thousands on a gaming PC to power a tethered headset then Quest may well be for you. It's versatile, comfortable and thoroughly accessible.
The Oculus Go isn't quite as serious at gaming as the Oculus Quest, but it is a lot cheaper. It's also wireless and great for doing things like watching Netflix wherever you feel the need. If you want to dip your toe into the VR gaming world, then the Oculus Go is worth considering.
Oculus Rift S
The Oculus Rift S is the replacement to the company's original flagship VR headset. It's the same price as the Oculus Quest, so if you have a virtual reality-capable PC to power it then this is the more sensible option. It offers better spec and access to considerably more games.