Now that VR has been established as more than just a flash in the pan, there’s no time like the present to dive in, whether you’re into gaming or just embracing VR for the wider experiences it offers. It used to be that there were just two basic tiers; Google Cardboard, which had you putting your mobile phone in a special viewer, and wallet-emptyingly expensive headsets. But now, you’re almost spoilt for choice.
The Oculus Quest 2 is Facebook’s latest foray into the field and, despite its name, is its third wire-free standalone headset, following the Oculus Go and the Oculus Quest.
Facebook must certainly have confidence in the Quest 2, because it has discontinued its other headset, the wired Oculus Rift, in favor of it. It’s not without competition; HTC manufactures the Vive range, a selection of higher-end headsets including one geared towards office VR. And while Sony’s PlayStation VR lacks front-facing cameras, the upcoming PlayStation VR 2 seems likely to remedy that.
Like the Quest and Go before it, the Quest 2 sports a price tag that, compared to the VIVE line, is unlikely to break the bank. And because it doubles as a PCVR headset, you’ll also have access to a vast number of PC-based VR games, including the highly acclaimed Half-Life: Alyx.
Oculus Quest 2 review: Design
- Compact and lightweight
- Comes with two Oculus Touch controllers
- Built in 3D audio
Platforms: Standalone, PC via Oculus Link
Price: $299.99/£299.99 for 128 GB
Resolution: 1832 × 1920 per eye
Field of view: 89 degrees
Refresh rate: 60, 72, 90 Hz (120 Hz experimental)
Controllers: Touch Controllers (included)
From the moment you take it out of the box, the Oculus Quest 2 just screams portability. The headset is 13 x 12 x 9.5 cm (minus flexible strap) and weighs just over 500 grams. Without the need for a PC, it’s a piece of cake to take it to a friend’s house or stow it in a cupboard when you’re done. But there’s nothing flimsy about the Quest 2; it’s a solid, sleek piece of kit that, while we recommend you take care, has survived being knocked off the table a few times.
We suspected the strap would work its way loose, lacking a proper locking mechanism, but the Quest 2 remained firmly in place and was comfortable . That said, we have reservations about its color as white has a tendency to show up grime and dust and, after a couple of months of use, the strap is starting to look a little gray.
The two Touch Controllers are as solidly built as the headset itself, each with a finger trigger, a thumb trigger, a menu button, an X and Y button, and a thumbstick. The one pitfall regarding VR controllers is that you can’t look down at the buttons, but your digits naturally come to rest on the Touch’s triggers.
It may take a little while to get used to the thumbsticks. We kept expecting to find the thumbstick in the middle of the Touch Controller when it’s actually off to the left or right. While it feels odd at first, you’ll get used to it after a day or so. The thumbsticks are smaller than those found on your typical console controller, but we never once found our fingers slipping off.
Facebook could, however, do better when it comes to the headset’s volume control. It has built-in 3D audio (with an optional headphone socket), but in order to raise or lower the volume you have to reach for the buttons at the bottom front of the headset. Having the volume control mounted on either side of the headset, closer to your ears, would have been a more logical approach.
Oculus Quest 2 review: Setup and performance
- Performs well with no stutter
- Excellent motion tracking
- Requires a Facebook account and smartphone/tablet for setup
Unpacking and charging the Oculus Quest 2 is simple – it takes just over two hours to charge from empty using the included USB-C cable and wall charger. The snag is that to set the headset itself up, you need to have or create a Facebook account. It’s not that you need an account to access the Oculus store, you need one to actually use the device at all.
To compound this frustrating requirement, you also need to run the Oculus app on an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet (not a PC) to complete setup. The Oculus Quest 2 has Wi-Fi built in, but registering the device that way is not an option. We initially encountered difficulties because the Oculus app kept crashing on the first phone we tried. We were able to run the app on an old iPad and we had better luck with a different brand of smartphone, but it wasn’t a good introduction to the device.
Fortunately, once you clear that hurdle, the remainder of the Oculus Quest 2’s setup is much more intuitive. You’re guided through setting up the Touch Controllers, tweaking visual clarity by changing the distance between the lenses, and setting up a guardian boundary for unobstructed play. The latter needs resetting if you change rooms, but it warns you if you start straying. If you wear glasses there’s an additional insert that goes between the headset body and the foam eyepiece.
Even if the Quest 2’s enforced Facebook login has you rolling your eyes, it’s worth tolerating for this headset’s excellent standalone performance. It sports a Snapdragon XR2 chip and 6 GB of memory, a major step up from the first Quest, and we were thoroughly impressed with the Oculus native games and apps we tried.
Beat Saber, a rhythm game that can be more than a little frenetic, worked flawlessly and its four cameras were able to track our controller movements even when we dialed up the difficulty. You can, should you so desire, use the headset’s hand-tracking feature with some apps but, while it’s novel, it’s not a patch on using the controllers, and pinching to activate an on-screen object feels unnaturally clunky.
The Quest 2 doesn’t pretend to be 4K, but, on native apps the graphics are sharp and there’s not a hint of stutter or slowdown. The lack of a trailing wire makes it easier to turn around without getting tangled and the headset handles fast turns admirably. We did indeed get between two and three hours of battery life out of it, which was about when we felt like we wanted to give our eyes a rest. However, if you’ve bought a longer cable, you can charge the Quest 2 while wearing it.
Tethered to a PC, either via an Oculus Link compatible cable (preferably connected to a USB 3.0 port) or the experimental wireless Air Link feature, the Quest 2 acts a PCVR headset. In this case, your PC will be doing most of the heavy lifting so you’ll need to check your machine can run whatever game or application you have in mind.
As a PCVR headset, the Quest 2 performed well, although when playing wirelessly we did detect a tiny hint of lag while playing Beat Saber. This went away when we used a cable, which also meant we got a good six hours or so of play out of it as the PC was charging the headset.
Oculus Quest 2 review: Software and games
- Over 200 Oculus native titles
- Range of experiences as well as games
- Can play SteamVR and other PCVR titles
At the time of writing there are over two hundred Oculus Quest 1 and 2 native titles (both of which can be played on the Quest 2).These range from games, such as Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife through to experiences like Apollo 11, which recreates the moon landing, and apps like VR Chat. While you can’t play Quest Go titles on the Quest 2, it’ll play the entire Quest library. A handful of new games are released each month, including some high profile titles. The upcoming VR version of Resident Evil 4 will be the first Quest 2 exclusive and, with Facebook putting their weight behind the headset, you can expect more down the line.
Vader Immortal, while it doesn’t have you playing as the infamous Sith Lord, is a fun foray into the Star Wars universe. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is another stand-out title; dispatching zombies, then realizing how badly you’ve let yourself get outnumbered is quite something. And Beat Saber, while it’s not billed as such, is a great musical work-out.
Even if science fiction and horror leave you cold, you’ll find plenty of Quest outings to catch your eye. How about climbing a skyscraper, courtesy of The Climb 2? The majority of Quest titles support seated and standing play, and can be purchased directly through your headset (you can put your smartphone away once you’ve set the Quest 2 up).
There are also social apps, hence the Facebook integration, so aside from just chatting in VR, you can watch (paid) movies with other people and share your gameplay. Although we dabbled in some of these, none of them kept us engaged once the initial novelty wore off.
On top of that, by connecting your headset to your PC you can choose from Steam’s library of over 5,000 VR or VR supported games as well as any other Oculus compatible titles – Fallout 4 VR, Skyrim VR, and Half Life: Alyx are all excellent and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a little more messing around involved in playing PCVR titles, launching Steam VR, and so forth, so given the choice of playing the Quest version of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners or its slightly prettier PC incarnation, we’d choose the latter.
Oculus Quest 2 review: Price
- Excellent value for money
- Available with 128 GB or 256 GB storage
- Official Oculus Link cable is overpriced
At $299 for the base 128 GB model (and we’ve not come even close to filling that), the Oculus Quest 2 is superb value for money. It’s comparable in price to the PlayStation VR (when you factor in the controllers), but offers superior tracking, display quality, and doesn’t require any additional hardware.
The official Oculus Link cable, used to connect the headset to a PC, is particularly pricey, however, considering what it does. It’s five meters long, which is a reasonable length, but costs $79.99. The Oculus website suggests that this Anker cable is a suitable, much cheaper, substitute and we’ve had absolutely no problems with it.
Should you buy the Oculus Quest 2?
Unless you’re looking for a top-range VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2 is well worth purchasing. Its performance belies its price and it’s much easier to immerse yourself in an artificial world without worrying about a wire getting caught. It has a library of quality native titles and if you do connect it to a PC using Oculus Link or Air Link you can play thousands of other games. You won’t be disappointed by the Oculus Quest 2.
If Oculus Quest 2 isn’t for you…
If you have a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5, Sony’s PlayStation VR headset is similarly priced alternative. The tracking isn’t as precise as the Oculus Quest 2, but there are several PlayStation exclusive VR or VR supported titles such as Resident Evil 7, Hitman 3, and Blood & Truth. Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 headset is likely to arrive next year.
If you want Virtual Reality in 5K and have a powerful PC, the HTC VIVE Pro 2 is designed to deliver stunning visual quality and exceptional comfort. You will need to make sure your PC is capable of supporting these resolutions at a respectable frame rate, however.