Jamie Knight
Mon, 11/09/2020 - 17:16

The best of the best

The Oculus Quest 2 is, in almost every measurable way, an improved Quest 1.

It's lighter, more powerful, and has a screen resolution that puts almost every other headset to shame. Add to this that they've somehow made it $100 cheaper, and there you have it. It's the best stand-alone headset, and easily best value wired headset on the market today.

For folks still on the fence about VR, and there are a number of good reasons why people might still be on this fence, be it lack of software, or waiting for the right specs or price. Quest 2 is the epoch for mass-market consumer-friendly VR, with a solid game library, killer specs and an insane value proposition.

As someone who has spent thousands of pounds on lesser headsets over the years, the idea that you can get everything you need for a top-end experience for just £300 ($300) is nuts.

Is it worth upgrading from a Quest 1?

This is a little harder to answer.

To say the Quest 2 doesn't offer anything new over the original, while technically correct, would be quite unfair, as the various firmware updates released for the Quest post-launch, already added many of the features people were expecting to be a Quest 2 or 3 milestone.

I don't think any of us who got the original Quest 18 months ago, expected it to have full-on hand-tracking added post launch, but here we are.

Display

Reading about the Quest 2 prior to release I was expecting the largest improvement to be the new screen, which has a epic sounding 50% pixel density increase over the original.

But I think I had my expectations too high, and ended up somewhat disappointed when trying it out in person.

In foresight, I forgot just how complicated the optics are on these devices, the increased resolution is a noticeable improvement, with text is a lot easier to read now when it's in the sweet spot, but given that Oculus hasn't found a way of bending the laws of physics yet, it still suffers from the same god-rays and lens distortion as every other headset, and so outside of the sweet spot it's questionable how much of an impact that higher resolution actually has.

On the flip side, they've also switched from an OLED to an LCD screen this time around. I believe this is so it can run at a higher refresh rate (90hz compared to the originals 72hz), but it also crushes the blacks quite a lot. This is very noticeable in say, YouTube, where the pitch back void background is now more of a greyish soup. For folks who primarily use their headset as a fancy portable media player, I'd argue it may end up being more of a downgrade than an upgrade all things considered.

The more powerful CPU/GPU is an absolute beast and can not only push the extra pixels around, but have enough horsepower left over to offer a generational leap in terms of graphics.

Not many titles have been upgraded yet so we'll have to wait a bit longer to judge just how much better Quest 2 native titles can look, but almost every existing title automatically gets the benefits of the higher resolution display, and the new home areas look lush and detailed in comparison to those designed for the Quest 1.

Video playback is another area that has seen massive gains from the new chipset, the original Quest wasn't exactly a slouch in this department, but would eventually top out at around 5k/60fps playback. But the Quest 2 is able to handle everything I've thrown at it so far, including some 8k 90fps videos.

Cost-cutting & Accessories

So it's got a better screen and more powerful chipset, and yet it's $100 cheaper, so what's the catch?

It's safe to presume that Facebook is losing money on every headset sold. Just adding up the parts and doing a bit guesstimation work, there is no conceivable way this thing doesn't cost more than it's RRP for them to manufacture.

But that's not to say they are throwing money away, and some of the changes in the Quest 2 have likely been done to try to bring these costs down, or to allow them to sell expensive accessories to try and recoup some of that money.

The strap on the Quest 2 is the most obvious downgrade, the original Quest had a thick rubber strap that cupped the back of your head, helping to counter-balance the device and move some of the weight off your face. It wasn't great, but this was mostly as the device was simply too heavy.

In comparison, the Quest 2 takes a step foward by being 20% lighter, but then takes one massive leap back by ditching the old rubber strap and swapping it out for a cheaper elasticated fabric strap. You could argue it's easier to take it off now, but it also does a worse job of keeping the headset sturdy, which is a problem if you intend to play games that require sudden movement.

To make up for this Oculus is selling the 'Elite Headstrap' accessory for £50/$50, which is more akin to the original strap, but with improved ergonomics and extra cushioning. It's a massive upgrade, and if you were to ask me on day one, I would say almost essential purchase.

But unfortunately, just one month from launch, a lot of users have been reporting various manufacturing defects with the strap, with the arms either snapping or cracking during use due to the rigid cheap plastic used on the arms, or the entirely plastic PSVR-style dial-mechanism on the back for tightening the device, getting worn away and failing to function properly due to plastic rubbing against plastic.

My strap is currently still in one piece, but given how cheap it feels; I'm not expecting it to remain like this for very long.

At the time of writing this review, the Elite Strap is currently unavailable from both the Oculus store and third-party sellers. There has been no official statement, but this is presumed to be due to an internal investigation happening over these reports of widespread failures.

My other peeve is the new travel case, the Quest 1 case was expensive at £50/$50 but this felt justified, it was snug, well designed and built to last. I used it for lugging my headset to work, to demo events, and even on vacation, and I never had any concerns about it damaging the headset inside

In comparison, the Quest 2 travel case costs the same, but is flimsy and made from cheap materials, the tiny "this-feels-like-its-going-to-break" zipper is just glued onto a horrible coarse fabric. It also does a very poor job of holding things in place, with the touch controllers moving about during transit. I still use it to store the device at home, but I would be wary about taking it outside of the house in this, and to be blunt, it's only a marginal improvement from keeping it in the box it came in.

The accessories being over-priced is one thing, but both, in my opinion, are unfit for purpose and should not be on the market at all. My advice is to either wait until they recall and resolve the issues, or go with other third-party solutions for now.

Conclusion

So long as you stay away from the poorly made accessories, the Quest 2 is an absolute winner of a system. It offers substantial improvements over the original Quest in almost every area, and manages to reach the epoch of bringing high-quality VR down to mass-market prices.

If people are still not ready to buy into VR now, then to be blunt, VR is dead in the water.

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