The Nintendo Switch of VR.
VR gaming has largely been a difficult space to navigate from a consumer perspective. PC-based platforms require a decent rig, the room to prop up external sensors, and the willingness to deal with wires--not to mention the high cost of entry. As vast as VR worlds can be, the setup requirements have been somewhat restricting. Oculus Quest forgoes all of that by delivering a standalone VR gaming platform with the features we've come to expect from the high-end. It's not perfect, but Quest is an example of the ideal VR experience.
Quest offers a whole lot more than its cheaper, entry-level counterpart, the Oculus Go. With Quest, you get six degrees of freedom (6DOF) for positional tracking thanks to the headset's four inside-out sensors--formally called Oculus Insight. This translates to roomscale capability without external sensors. In many ways, it's an improvement over the requirements of beefier PC-based headsets which rely on base station sensors (save for the upcoming Rift S) since you're no longer tied to a dedicated space for VR. A potential drawback of inside-out tracking, however, is the headset's inability to pick up controller movements that fall outside the range of the sensors, though it hasn't been an issue in our experience thus far.
Another piece of tech that elevates Quest above other mobile VR platforms is the incorporation of the revised Touch controllers. These are fully-featured controllers with analog sticks, face buttons, grip buttons, and triggers--they're reminiscent of the first run of Touch controllers, but lighter and with the motion-sensing ring above the face buttons for better tracking with the Quest's sensors. You won't miss out on functionality offered in PC-based VR, and Touch remains the best solution for VR controllers at the moment with their ergonomic design and smooth buttons and triggers.
So, what's powering Quest? Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip. It's typically used in smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8, and the reliance on a mobile (though relatively powerful) chip is an inherent compromise that needs to be made, and the visual limitations show with games like Apex Construct and Journey of the Gods. This isn't a slight against the quality of those games, it's been enjoyable to explore their full 3D worlds. Rather, they're examples of the general upper limit of Quest's hardware capabilities, which fall far short of mid- to high-range gaming PCs. Regardless, the Snapdragon 835 provides enough power to render an acceptable level of visual fidelity for games.
Quest will launch with Robo Recall but the game was not made available during our review period; it'd be a good test of Quest's ability to keep up with something more graphically demanding. However, there's reason to believe that it'll work just fine. Tweaking level of detail and graphical features isn't the only option to make things work. A technique called foveated rendering lowers the pixel count of screen space in your periphery, and it helps ease the hardware's workload without sacrificing necessary visual clarity. You can think of it as adaptive resolution for the areas you're not focusing on, and the drop in peripheral resolution is only noticeable if you're looking for it.
I almost think of the Oculus Quest as the Nintendo Switch of VR; it's not the most powerful piece of hardware, but its portability and ease-of-use makes it stand out against existing platforms while delivering a new way to enjoy games.
The headset projects a total resolution of 2880x1600, higher than the current mainstream HMDs, but it's worth noting that Quest's fast-switch LCD displays run at 72Hz. On paper, it's a considerable drop from the 90Hz we've come to expect from VR displays, but there haven't been any perceivable issues with the downgrade quite yet. Having played games like Thumper, Beat Saber, I Expect You To Die, and Face Your Fears 2, the loss in peak framerate won't make much of a difference. And if Space Pirate Trainer and the Superhot VR demo are anything to go by, 72Hz might just suffice in the long run. Again, a fast-paced experience like Robo Recall would be a good test to see if a max 72 FPS is enough to mitigate disorienting players.
By and large, the hardware performs admirably, and the operating system follows suit. Quest is painless to setup; every time you boot it in a new location, you simply set up your Guardian boundaries to establish a safe play area, or you can just set the ground level and continue as a seated experience. It runs Oculus OS, so your only means to access software is through the Oculus Store--Quest is a closed system.
Battery life might seem disappointing at first as Quest lasts for around three hours on a full charge. But considering that I didn't feel the desire to stay in VR for too long, I could easily go for three to four sessions before needing to juice up the headset. And if you don't mind staying tethered to play while charging, a lengthy USB-C cable comes packed in.
One aspect I find disappointing is long-term comfort. Quest's headstrap is adjustable on the sides and on top with secure velcro straps, and the whole thing pulls back and lifts upward with ease which makes the process of getting it on rather painless. But Quest needs a better facepad out of the box. The stiff padding isn't so much the issue as it is the noticeable pressure point it creates on your forehead. I've tried loosening the straps, but the headset would sag a bit. I tilted the headset downward a little, but offset the pressure to my upper cheeks and pull my undereyes downward. I wouldn't call this a deal breaker since I'm not one to stay in VR for too long, but after about 45 minutes, I needed to give a rest before bearing the discomfort again.
Given that most of the Quest library is comprised of games that are already out on other platforms, it may not be all that attractive for those with existing VR setups, though it's worth mentioning that several games will be cross-platform between Rift and Quest. While there'll be 40+ games at launch, we've only been able to experience a handful of them with the Oculus Quest. You're not going to get photo-realistic 3D worlds in games, so the appeal of Quest really relies on the creative use of the headset's power. Journey of the Gods and Moss, both of which will be available at launch, are such examples where imagination overcomes graphical limitations, and the hope is that more games like them are in Quest's future.
Above all else, Oculus Quest nails down convenience. It's a unique feeling to be able to slap on a headset and get a full untethered VR gaming experience with ease. I almost think of the Oculus Quest as the Nintendo Switch of VR; it's not the most powerful piece of hardware, but its portability and ease-of-use makes it stand out against existing platforms while delivering a new way to enjoy games. It's between the lesser mobile headsets and traditional powerhouses, and that's an attractive place to be.
This sentiment isn't set in stone, though. Again, I still need to experience more demanding games in both the graphical and physical sense to see if it can keep up. But our initial impressions after about 10 hours with a handful of games are promising, so there's reason to believe Quest is the platform VR gaming needs. Oculus Quest launches on May 21 with the option for 64GB storage at $400/£400 and 128GB at $500/£500. Pre-orders are now open on the official Oculus website.
|The Good||The Bad|
|+ Accurate inside-out tracking is a game changer||- Closed system limits the types of experiences you can have|
|+ Full game experiences due to capable hardware, 6DOF, and Touch controllers||- Not the best facepad out of the box|
|+ Quick and painless setup|