Introduction: The Meta Quest 2
It’s been 2 years since the Meta Quest 2 (formerly known as the Oculus Quest 2) - the virtual reality headset that is still the company’s flagship and most recent product - was released. After what is a significant amount of time in the tech sphere, it seems fitting to revisit and ask, “how is the headset holding up to the VR standards of today?”
A short answer is: The Quest 2 is a splendid device. Two years after its release, it is still a good purchase for anyone looking to play with VR, whether beginner or veteran. There is still a lot to improve on, but as a start, there is much one can do with the Quest 2.
Keep reading for a more detailed answer.
Note: From this point till the end of the article, the Meta Quest 2 will be called the “Quest 2” and the Oculus Quest 2019 will be called “Quest 2019”
A quick comparison of the Meta Quest 2 to the original Oculus Quest
If you’re familiar with the Quest 2 then you already know how it differs from its predecessor, the Quest 2019. The next two paragraphs are a quick run-through for those who aren't.
The Quest 2 is lighter, has a screen that’s 50% sharper, has increased RAM, and has a more powerful processor than the Quest 2019. The materials used in construction are also different. Where the Quest 2019 had a plastic face, fabric-covered exterior, and plastic head strap with velcro fastenings, the Quest 2 is made of strong plastic and has a cloth head strap with velcro fastenings, which unfortunately comes only in white. A real bummer, seeing as white is a color that doesn’t do well with stains. That said, you can purchase a carrying case to store it in when not in use. Another significant difference is how you adjust the interpupillary distance (IPD) - the space between your pupils. You can only pick between three set distances on the Quest 2, contrary to the more analog adjustment settings on the Quest 2019. (The current setting of 3 fixed IPDs doesn’t seem convincing as an upgrade. Yes the screen is sharper and you can see everything fine, but so far I haven’t found a fit that escapes the blur around the edges of the screen. That said, you will probably not notice it while you’re engaged in most experiences unless you have to look through the corner of your eyes. Also, the decision to change the straps from plastic to a cloth strap is objectively worse)
In all, the Quest 2 builds on and transcends the qualities that made the Quest 2019 a solid attempt. They may share similarities, but the two headsets offer vastly different experiences.
Setting the Quest 2 up is super easy
Setting the Quest 2 up is a straightforward process, unboxing it is a breeze. The video below shows how easy it is.
When you turn the headset on, you’re shown tutorial videos on how to use the controllers and are then asked to set up the boundaries of your play area, also called a Guardian. The moment you cross this boundary your VR experience is paused and the cameras on the Quest come on to display your real-world environment and prevent any collisions.
What your virtual homeworld looks like on arrival
After you’re done setting up the Guardian, the next step is a mandatory signing into or creation of a Facebook and then an Oculus account. After that, the headset will automatically install updates; it took about 15 minutes for me, but the install time generally depends on your network speed. Once you’ve set it up you’ll get a quick tutorial on how to navigate your virtual homeworld and attend to some extra details, including the “First steps on Quest 2” app. The “First steps” app is a set of mini-games designed to help familiarize users with the controllers and it has an extremely cool introduction animation. Once you’re done with the app, you’ve practically mastered the basics and are free to explore Meta’s virtual world.
A screenshot from the intro animation of the First Steps app
Meta’s virtual reality experience
Using a virtual reality headset is always an intense experience, it literally feels like being transported to another world. The moment the headset is properly mounted on your head, the real world vanishes and you emerge into your homeworld, a virtual lounge space from which you can access your apps and settings. You can change how your homeworld looks and include objects from your actual surroundings in the space as well, though this latter feature is experimental. But, yes, the experience is definitely something to behold; you have to use one to understand the potential that is there for all forms of storytelling and conceptual exploration.
There are already several impressive exhibits baked into the Quest 2 to start with. The explore button, the first button on your homeworld panel takes you to a hub of curated content from all parts of Metas’ vast media collection. Upon opening the app you’re shown recommendations for games, apps, and videos you can try out.
It can be a little too much if you’re new and are just trying to explore, so a suggestion is to pick something randomly and follow your curiosity trail from there - you’ll find your rhythm. A recommendation, however, is to try the app suggestions in the Meta Quest browser (These are no longer available and you can check out Construct Arcade). They’re simple, have easy rules to follow, and are very engaging. The graphics aren’t top-notch, but the mechanics are on point. You can’t go wrong with Flappy bird VR at the very least.
Flappy bird VR is IT! There are a host of alternatives you can try as well
Pairing the above recommendation with a session spent perusing the short films in VR Animator and creating in the Shapes app, will give you a taste of all the dimensions virtual reality opens up. In terms of designing simulations, building models, and telling stories with virtual reality, there are so many directions you can go with the technology.
Note: With the recent increase in the price of the 128 and 256GB headsets, Meta also announced that anyone who purchases a Quest 2 between August 1st and December 31st, 2022 gets a free copy of Beat Saber for 14 days following activation of the headset. However, this offer expires if the headset isn’t activated before the 31st of January, 2023.
The controllers add to the experience
They’re very responsive and the “grip-trigger” navigation system is intuitive. However, the most eye-catching feature so far is the ability to use your hands instead of controllers.
The “hands as controllers” feature comes with the Quest 2, as opposed to the Quest 2019 where it came via software update. As the name suggests, it allows you to use your hands instead of controllers, the video below displays the feature in action
It’s just as intuitive to use as the controllers, however, it’s not perfect, especially when in areas with poor lighting. When conditions are fine though, it works like a charm and you’ll struggle not to feel like a brilliant scientist in their lab.
Update: The Quest 2 controllers are unusable outdoors. If you try to use it outside the controllers simply will not work. Asking around, I found that it’s a result of infrared radiation from the sun interacting with the headset’s infrared-based tracking system.
How did the headset itself perform?
The Quest 2 is as sleek as it gets, any sleeker, and the conversation changes to VR goggles rather than headsets. That said, adjusting the Velcro strap to get the proper fit can take a bit of tinkering.
A full charge lasts about 3 hours, which isn’t very long but has seemed adequate for daily usage, so far. The standby mode on the Quest 2 is excellent, such that it can go about 10 hours on one charge if left in sleep mode throughout.
Comparison to current VR standards
In the 2 years since the Quest 2’s release, new headsets have been introduced to the market, such as the HTC Vive Pro 2, the HTC Vive Focus 3, and the Pico Neo 3 to name a few. The HTC Vive Pro 2 is a high-end gaming headset that outclasses the Quest 2 in terms of performance. However, it requires a connection to an equally powerful PC to function, and purchasing all the required equipment can cost as high as R29,999.00. You can decide to get the components in bits and purchase the headset alone as a start, for R23,999.
I couldn't play this for more than a few minutes before I started to panic. Again, you need space to play this properly
The HTC Vive Focus 3 is a standalone headset, like the Quest 2, and comes with a much sharper resolution and a wider field of view, and is more easily adjustable both in terms of IPD and how the headset fits. That said, it will set you back at about R31,999.00 way more than the R10,999 you’ll shell out for the 128GB Quest 2. Also, HTC has stated that the headset is mostly for business so the Vive Focus 3 has very little access to content and games, unlike the Vive Pro 2 and Quest 2.
The Pico Neo 3 is from the Chinese manufacturer, Pico. It is similarly specced and priced with the Quest 2 but is very limited in terms of content and library selections. That said, it is a powerful enough alternative for enterprise customers who want a headset that doesn’t require a Meta login.
An upcoming competitor that will have a sharper screen, wider field of view, and a vast library of amazing gaming content, is the soon-to-be-released PSVR 2. However, it won’t be standalone and will probably require a Playstation 5 to function.
Overall, while more powerful and better-equipped headsets have been released, the Quest 2 still has very little competition in the “affordable but powerful enough” category.
Time spent playing with the Meta Quest 2 (formerly called Oculus Quest 2) gives one the impression that VR is for the builders; those who want to actively engage with the real world, but from a new space that merges the best of imagination and reality and uses the result to enrichen how we go about daily living. Or perhaps that’s what Oculus VR is striving to make the experience.
That said, spend some time watching multiple well-made front-row VR concerts in the Oculus Tv app and you remember that some things are just to be enjoyed while sitting back and relaxing. Another feature I’m yet to try but looking forward to is the ability to watch movies with friends in your homeworld with the party app, on a virtual big screen; movie marathons with your friends like they’re there with you in the room, though they’re miles away seems like a feature that will come in handy many times over.
Sports Scramble will give you a proper workout, as long as you have the space
So, yes, the Quest 2 is a new way to experience ideas, connect with family and friends, and explore realms of thought and imagination in ways previously unseen. It has immense potential for improving the quality of virtual education and information-sharing sessions, especially as the technology evolves. One can imagine that with glove-like controllers that respond to subtle finger and hand movements and offer finely tuned haptic feedback, the available use cases for virtually learning hard/artisanal skills will skyrocket.
Unfortunately, there are drawbacks. The Quest 2 for all its sleekness still has some weight and you can only wear one for so long before your face starts to feel the strain, that is if you’re able to adjust the strap in a manner that fits perfectly AND keep it fitted. Another issue is that battery life lasts only about 3 hours - while this reviewer found it adequate for daily use, it is not hard to imagine that this will change as engagement with more content and other users increases. Heavy users can offset the strain and battery issue by purchasing the Meta Quest 2 Elite Strap with Battery pack. A more personal gripe is the lenses; it would have been thrilling to get sharper lenses, which isn’t to say that the current lenses aren’t doing a wonderful job
Overall the Quest 2 is a splendid device. Two years after its release, it is still a good purchase for anyone looking to play with VR, whether beginner or veteran. There is still a lot to improve on, but as a start, there is much one can do with the Quest 2.
Note: You can check out this link to buy a Quest 2. You can pay via Coinbase Commerce, Peach Payments, Yoco, Paystack, Payfast, and in installments via Layup, Payjustnow, and Payflex.