Oculus Quest 2 Review: Improved Wireless VR Performance
The original Oculus Quest was probably my favourite VR headset. Yes it isn’t capable of gaming in as high fidelity as a Rift S, but the wireless experience, portability and lower barrier of entry were a winning combination. A Rift S or a Valve index will set you back not only the cost of the headset, but the cost of a powerful gaming PC as well. The Oculus Quest removed the need for that gaming PC and offered an all in once, Qualcomm-powered VR experience for just £399. Now, with the release of the Oculus Quest 2, that barrier of entry has been lowered to just £299, and a spec bump has made the experience even better.
My first impressions of the Quest 2, before even taking it out of the box, were good. The most obvious difference hits you straight away. It’s not black anymore, it’s white. The design of the first Quest was never bad, but this new look Quest 2 makes the year-old bit of hardware look dated. Starting with the box itself everything has been cleaned up. Oculus are clearly going for the airy, simple aesthetic, and they’re absolutely pulling it off.
Inside the box you get the headset, two touch controllers, a plug and a USB-C charging cable. The headset itself, as well as being a different colour, is actually visibly smaller than the original Quest. When you put both models side by side you can see just how much size Oculus have managed to shave off for the new model. And, of course, a reduction in size means a reduction in weight. This is the first big benefit of the new Quest. When you have it on it just feels so much lighter. I remember the first time I used the OG Quest the lack of wires blew me away, and while the lighter feeling doesn’t quite match that initial Quest experience of VR without wires, it comes pretty close.
Less weight makes wearing the Quest 2 less tiring, and more immersive. At times, when you’re really engaged in the content, it can feel like you don’t have it on at all. The reduction in weight has also made using the Quest 2 super comfortable. It’s way comfier than the Quest, and switching between the two makes that difference even more pronounced. The combination of a more comfortable padding and lighter bit of kit is a great one.
The other obvious difference on the outside of the Quest 2 is the new head strap. It’s now made from elasticated fabric, and while it’s lighter it’s definitely not an improvement over the old one. Tightening the strap around your head is a faff. It takes far too much effort to do, especially when compared with the old model’s velcro head strap. The material itself just doesn’t feel great in comparison. It’s just a very simple piece of elasticated fabric that I could easily see breaking, or getting very dirty with long term use. The good news however, is that you will be able to change the head strap to a ‘Pro’ version which is more similar to the old one, the bad news is that it will be an option, paid for, accessory.
So, now that the new design is out of the way, let’s talk about using the actual headset itself. It is better than the original Quest, not hugely better in my experience, but definitely better. The internal chip has been upgraded to Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon XR2 chipset, which is faster and more powerful than the old one. Because of the apps which I tested the Quest 2 with, which were all apps designed for the original Quest, I couldn’t see much of a graphical improvement. I did notice an improvement with loading times though, and I’m sure that as games that make use of the increased power come out the graphical improvements will be more obvious.
The main area I did notice an improvement in though, was the clarity and resolution of content on the Quest 2. The screen resolution has been bumped up to 1832×1920 per eye, that’s 50% more pixels than the original Quest. And when gaming or consuming content that extra resolution does make a difference. Games and videos look clearer, and this makes the overall experience better. The Quest 2 is also going to be getting a refresh rate increase from the 72Hz up to 90Hz which will potentially add even more to the experience. The only catch with this is that this isn’t happening at launch, it’s something that will be added to the Quest 2 down the line.
The Quest 2 still uses the awesome infrared camera tracking that was used on the original Quest. Unlike some other VR headsets the Quest 2 and the Quest don’t need sensors placed around your room to communicate with the headset and let it know where you are in relation to them, it’s all done in the headset itself using cameras. This, along with the fact it’s wireless, is the main reason why the Quest is such a great VR headset. You can use it pretty much anywhere, as long as there’s enough space.
The obvious concern with tracking that’s done in this way is that it may not be as accurate as with extra sensors, and in my experience this is definitely the case. 99% of the time it is amazing, it works better than it has any right to, but on that occasion where it doesn’t it can be incredibly frustrating. This is an issue which I had with the original Quest and the Rift S, and unfortunately it seems to be an issue that has carried over to the Quest 2. But I find that generally, the upsides to this tracking method, like the plug and playability and portability, outweigh the tracking being great but not perfect.
At the same time as releasing the Quest 2, Oculus is also getting rid of their Rift line of headsets. This means that the only way you’ll be able to play games from Oculus on your PC going forwards will be on a Quest device, as that’s all they’ll be selling. Because of this Oculus are bringing Oculus Link, the service which allows you stream PC VR games from your computer to your headset through a USB-C cable, out of beta. I used the Oculus Link beta a little bit with the Quest 2 and was surprised by how good it was. The one thing that I do find a bit odd however, is that after announcing this change, Oculus have changed the USB-C cable the Quest 2 comes with from the super long one that came with the Quest 1, to a ridiculously short one. Oculus also sells an Oculus Link 5 meter cable on their website for £79… This may be how they managed to get the price down so low, but either way, I wish the long one was still in the box.
The battery life on the Quest 2 is pretty much the same as on the Quest 1. It doesn’t last very long, but thankfully it also doesn’t take too long to charge. This short battery life can be solved by one of the new accessories you can buy for the Quest 2 though. A battery pack that attaches to the pro head strap and gives you an extra few hours of playtime. I found the built in speakers to be a bit better sounding on the Quest 2 as well, but nothing to write home about. Oculus have also redesigned the touch controllers. Most obviously, the colour has been changed from black to white, but Oculus say they’ve also been ergonomically improved. What this roughly translates to in my experience is – there’s a nice big space you can use to rest your thumbs on when you’re not using the joysticks.
So overall the hardware itself is brilliant. It’s an improvement on the old Quest in almost every single way, and it costs £100 less. But the thing I like least about the Quest 2 has nothing to do with the hardware, and everything to do with the software. To use an Oculus Quest 2 you require a Facebook account. If you purchase an Oculus Quest 2 and do not have a Facebook account you have two choices. Make a Facebook account, or take it back to the shop. I get that Oculus is owned by Facebook, but why do I need to have a Facebook account to use your VR headset? If Facebook and Oculus were deeply entwined and key features were shared between both platforms which elevated the experience of both I would understand the decision. But they’re not. As far as I can tell, having a Facebook account has had absolutely no impact on my experience using the Quest 2 whatsoever.
Overall I did really enjoy my time with the Oculus Quest 2. It’s a definite improvement on the original model in almost every way. The better performance and better screen are nice improvements, but the biggest improvements for me by far is the reduction in size and reduction in weight, which both make it much more comfortable. There are a few issues, the battery life isn’t great, I don’t like the head strap it comes with much, and I shouldn’t have to have a Facebook account to play my VR games. But, even with all of those taken into account the Oculus Quest 2 is very easy to recommend. The original Oculus Quest was already the best VR headset for most people and the one I’d recommend to most people. With the Oculus Quest 2 the best VR headset just got even better, and most importantly, £100 cheaper.