Oculus Quest 2: Ready For PrimeTime?

on November 2, 2020

I recently started testing the new Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality (VR) headset from Facebook, and it’s a very good product. As I noted back in September, it’s an evolutionary step up from the original headset, with a handful of technical improvements, delivered at a substantially lower starting price ($299). I expect the Quest 2 to sell very well, bringing quality VR to a much wider audience than ever before.

Smooth Setup Experience
The Quest 2 is slightly lighter and smaller than its predecessor, and I found these decreases made it noticeably more comfortable to wear. Some reviewers have complained about the Quest 2 head strap, which is all fabric versus the plastic one on Quest, but I didn’t have any trouble adjusting the fit to my head. That said, it’s clear the new head strap was an area where Facebook shaved cost, and the company offers several after-market versions (starting at $49) for those who want something more robust. The other area where Facebook saved some money is the inter-pupillary distance adjustment. While the original Quest had a slider that allowed for precise adjustments, the new Quest has just three settings. I used the default middle setting, so this also wasn’t an issue for me.

After completing the physical adjustments, running through a setup tutorial, and installing a system update, I was off to the races. I don’t remember much about setting up the original Quest, but with the Quest 2, Facebook has created a smooth and mostly frictionless experience that should be straightforward for even a VR novice.

Notably Better Display and Next-Gen Silicon
One of the significant changes with the Quest 2 is the shift from dual OLEDs to a single, fast-switching LCD that offers 1832 x 1920 resolution per eye. The display supports a 72Hz refresh rate at launch, and a future software update should enable a faster 90Hz refresh rate. In a word, the display looks fantastic. I found the new screen to be even more immersive than the Quest, although when you’re fully engaged in a great game or app, you stop paying too much attention to the pixels. After spending about 30 minutes in the Quest 2, I put on the original Quest, and at this point, the screen enhancements were much more noticeable. Perhaps the most significant improvement on the new headset is the much less perceptible screen door effect.

The Quest 2 also includes a faster processor, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2, and more RAM than the original Quest. I didn’t notice better performance with my existing apps, but I suspect that we’ll see more software take advantage of the better silicon over time. I also expect the new processor to help drive a better PC-tethered experience through the Oculus Link. I haven’t yet acquired the right USB Type C cable to test this feature, but I look forward to doing so soon (and playing Half-Life: Alyx).

The other update to the Quest 2 is to the touch controllers. The new version has a slightly wider, rounder surface area where you place your thumbs. I don’t find them to be noticeably better than the original versions, although I do wish they were plug-in rechargeable versus a standard AA battery. One thing worth noting is that since the launch of the original Quest, Facebook has rolled out hand-tracking capabilities, and I was able to set this feature up in the Quest 2. At present, the apps I’m using require controllers, so I used hand tracking primarily for navigation. But I’m excited to see more apps use hand tracking, as it has the potential to increase the feeling of immersion inside VR dramatically.

Ready for Prime Time?
All told, I’m very impressed by the Quest 2, and the product should sell very well for Facebook this holiday season. In fact, in many countries—including the United States—we are still dealing with a pandemic where the infection rates are going up instead of down, which means smart people will be spending more time at home in the coming months. Throughout much of 2020 VR headsets and the Quest, in particular, have been nearly impossible to buy as demand radically outpaced supply. Our view into the supply chain suggests Facebook has placed massive orders for the Quest. Even so, the headset initially sold out (it’s available again now). However, accessories for the device, including the previously mentioned headstrap, are pretty hard to come by.

So I think the Quest 2 will sell very well through the end of 2020 and into 2021, even as it faces stiff competition from the launch of new consoles from both Microsoft and Sony shipping this month. The Quest 2 should please existing VR users looking for an upgrade, and it will delight anyone who has never used VR or whose only VR experience was in an early smartphone-based product. The Quest 2 is also poised to help drive the continued robust adoption of VR in business.

Is the Quest 2, and VR more broadly, ready for a move into the mainstream? That’s still unlikely. But with each iteration, the hardware gets better and less costly, and the experience more immersive and enjoyable. What the market needs now is more mainstream content. To date, gaming remains the primary consumer driver, and while it is obviously a lucrative market, it’s not going to win over everyone. To date, there’s still no killer app that would make the average consumer buy into VR. Facebook has long suggested that social could be that use case, and there’s no doubt that games with a social aspect have legs in VR. When Facebook launches its upcoming Horizon social platform (currently available as an invite-only beta), we’ll get a chance to see if that is what VR needs to win over the masses.