Virtual reality is amazing but there’s no escaping the cost. PC-based VR is expensive, requiring not just the headset and tracking kit but also a PC powerful enough to run it all. Oculus has an answer: the Quest is poised to change the game on consumer VR and if you’ve been on the fence, now is the time to hop down. This is our review of the Oculus Quest.
- Current Price: $399 (64GB), $499 (128GB)
- Resolution: 1440 x 1600 per eye
- Panel Type: OLED
- Refresh Rate: 72Hz
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
- Memory: 4GB RAM
- Motion Tracking: 6DOF, hand tracking with controllers
- Battery Life: Approximately 2 to 3 hours (varies based on content)
- Weight: 571g
Some months ago, I guested on a podcast to talk about VR. As one of the resident virtual reality enthusiasts on the site, I made the case that real, true VR was PC-based and that I had my doubts about the Quest. The tech was cool but without a powerful PC driving it, how good could the experience be compared to the full-fledged Rift? I was wrong. The Quest is good, really good, and is the single best way to get started in virtual reality.
If this is the first you’re hearing about the headset, the Quest is Oculus’s standalone VR solution. It doesn’t require a PC or smartphone like the Gear VR. All of the processing is done right inside the headset, so it’s a single purchase to receive everything you need to get started on your VR journey. Most impressively, it also allows you to enjoy full, room-scale experiences with six degrees of freedom (6DOF) and hand tracking. You can walk around inside your space, lean in, kneel down, dodge, grab, throw… this is full-fledged VR at its most affordable.
Looking at the specs, the Quest has a resolution of 1440 x 1600. This is meaningful upgrade from the original Oculus Rift which was 1080 x 1200. It’s a bit heavier, coming in at 571-grams but I didn’t find it uncomfortable to wear, even after a solid two hours of use. Under the hood, it’s using a SnapDragon 835 system on a chip and 4GB of RAM. The chipset isn’t the newest, debuting in 2017, but it’s still a capable performer that also helps to keep the cost down. The unit can also be purchased with 64GB or 128GB of internal memory for another $100, bringing the cost up to $499.
Disappointingly, there is no microSD slot for expandable storage. With games coming in around 4-5GB most of the time, you can download quite a lot before space becomes a concern. I haven’t hit the wall on my 64GB model yet, but I know the day is approaching when I’ll have to delete something to free up space. It would have been nice to be able to add in some cheap extra storage, so I hope they change this in a future version.
Like the new Rift S, the Quest uses inside-out tracking, which means you don’t need to setup any extra tracking stations to monitor your movement. Instead, it tracks your position using a series of sensors built into the headset and the controllers. This makes setup easier much easier; after turning the headset on and updating, you walk through a tutorial, trace the boundaries of your room and you’re off to the traces.
The onboarding experience is also great. Oculus has preloaded a pair of experiences to introduce you to the basics of VR and how to use the controllers. One is essentially a toy room where you can fly a toy blimp, launch model rockets, and play with small toys. That quickly breaks out into a shooting mini-game and another where you grab hands with a robot and dance through a disco. It’s intuitive. My five year old son was able to get playing with only meager help. Seeing him dance through our living room with the VR robot was also adorable.
From there, you launch into your VR home. I was struck all over again at how easy and natural it is to interface with VR. Your controllers become pointers and your head is the camera. It also helps that the storefront is very well laid out, presenting the most popular and new content right off the bat and allowing you to download with only a couple of clicks. Oculus has done an amazing job with removing obstacles. While those are downloading, you’ll also find a couple of demo experiences already installed so you can have some fun while you’re waiting.
But enough will all of that - what you really want to know is how good the VR actually is. It’s good - very good, in fact. So good that it blows the Gear VR right out of the water, even with a two year old chipset. Here’s the thing: even though the graphics are scaled back and the refresh rate is capped at 72 Hz, the Quest is a ton of fun. In fact, it performs so well that it’s probably the single most compelling you can buy today.
When I loaded into Beat Saber for the first time, it hit me: this is on the level of PC VR. Across seven different games, that fact rang out like a clarion bell. We have arrived at a point where a high powered PC isn’t a requirement for “real” VR anymore. The Oculus gives you an excellent feeling of immersion and presence in the game world, in large part thanks to the full 6DOF tracking and room-scale movement.
One of my favorite early experiences was a little game called Ultrawings. It’s a bit like Pilotwings 64 in first person and with better realism. The graphics weren’t fancy; in fact, they were like many VR games are took the cartoony approach, but it didn’t matter. I parked myself in my cockpit (read: my recliner) and went through my take-off procedure and then soared through rings in the sky. It felt like I was in the air thanks to the excellent 3D and I felt a great sense of motion as I flew - I actually had to turn on some comfort settings it was so powerful.
Later, I loaded into SuperHot VR. I’ve played every version, including PCVR on the Valve Index and the Quest version is the hands-down best way to play. Being able to pick up and play anywhere, free of any wire made taking on each puzzle-level a unique joy. It’s a game that absolutely shines with the level of freedom the Quest offers.
Another favorite of mine was Creed: Rise to Glory. It’s like Nintendo’s Punch Out but with much better graphics and you're the one doing the punching. The dual controllers were great, accurately tracking my every movement. One second, I’d be blocking punches to my face and gut, the next I’d be faking a right only to nail with my left. At first I pulled my punches, but the Quest’s controllers can also track speed, so I tightened my wrist strap and let loose. When you go all in, the game gives you a workout.
Since Oculus has positioned the Quest as a gaming machine and equipped it with enough horsepower to deliver, lots of developers are signing on board to bring their games over. Moss, Thumper, Beat Saber, Space Pirate Trainer, RoboRecall, are just a few of the games that have been ported over and there are more on the way.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind, however. The first is that you shouldn’t expect the same high-powered graphics a performance gaming PC is able to deliver. You’re dealing with a system on a chip, after all. On my PC, I enjoy cranking my graphics as high as I can but in VR I find that it makes much less difference. Since virtual reality is about existing within a place, I’ve found myself much more willing to accept my surroundings for what they are and rarely even think about what they could be. It’s part of being immersed - you don’t look around your backyard and think about the graphics of reality, and in VR, it’s much the same. As long as the environment is believable your mind takes the game world for exactly what it is and spends its time translating your place within it.
The other consideration is battery life. I found two to three hours to be accurate, trending closer to two for more intense, higher fidelity games. At the same time, with the eye fatigue that often accompanies VR sessions, I was often ready to put the headset down for a while at that point. If you’re so inclined, you can continue to play while the unit is charging though that isn’t recommended because you’re once again tethered.
The Oculus Quest is the single best way to get your feet wet in VR. If you don’t have a powerful computer or don’t want to be locked into a heavy tether at the back of your head, there is simply no better option. I’m disappointed that they didn’t include removable storage but I’ve found 64GB surprisingly plentiful over the last month. Likewise, my worries about scaled-back graphics turned out to be completely unnecessary thanks to the immersion the Quest provides. I went in a skeptic and the Oculus Quest made me a believer:
Don’t sit on this one. The Quest really is that good.
- Room-scale, 6DOF VR
- No tether, play anywhere
- Comfortable without being too heavy or getting hot
- Very good sound
- No extra base stations
- Never once lost tracking on me
- No expandable storage
- Battery life is only 2-3 hours (though this is a good fit for VR gaming)
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.