Oculus Quest - Review

When the Oculus Rift was first announced I didn't know what to think of it. Back then I had a pretty basic PC that was really only good for playing low end games and handling my school work, but I couldn't deny that I was at least a little bit interested. I still remember when I was a kid and how I asked my parents for this "VR" snow boarding game. The TV commercials made it seem really cool, and the kids "playing" it felt like they were actually in the game. It just looked amazing, and I wanted to see what it was like for myself! Sadly the harsh reality of that toy was... Well... It was just a toy. Thing was no different than a tiger electronic toy that you wore on your face. It had two colors, and the board you stood on to play it hardly worked. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed by it, but getting a Dream Cast and a Game Boy Advance that year more than made up for it. Still that didn't change the fact that I wanted a real VR game to be released. So yeah, the Oculus Rift did interest me, but I thought it was going to always be out of my reach. Then things changed.

In 2015 I found myself having to upgrade my PC after my old one stopped working correctly. It didn't like the Windows 10 update, and honestly fixing the drivers and what not was more trouble than it was worth. Everything on that system was outdated anyway, and it finally gave me an excuse to stop holding onto it and to upgrade. So during my week long Summer Vacation from work I did some research, and for the first time ever I custom built my own PC. A gaming PC. A "VR Ready" gaming PC. I was planning for the future and that future would eventually be the Oculus Rift... Or not.

I never did get the Rift. Instead the PlayStation VR came along, and that gave me pretty much all of my VR needs at the time. I loved that thing, and I still do. Sure I was missing out on a lot simply because the PSVR works only on the PlayStation 4 which is a closed platform, but I really didn't care. PC VR wasn't quite to the level I was expecting it to be at the time, and I was having enough fun playing what the PSVR had to offer. It was (and still is) great, but it would only be a matter of time before it started to lag behind.

Jumping ahead to today, and PC VR has improved greatly. There are so many developers out there now creating some truly amazing things, and that's something that will most likely never stop. Technology will continue to advance, and VR will keep going along with it. Even as I type this there's a pretty good chance someone out there in the world is already hard at work on the next major thing to come to VR, and it's only a matter of time before it's released for the public to experience. It's an exciting new world, and one everyone should really experience for themselves. The only problem is, it's expensive.

While price isn't the reason I held off on getting a Rift, it's completely understandable why many wouldn't want to drop that kind of cash on a headset (and not to mention the price of a PC that can actually run VR). Thankfully now days we have more options open to us, and I just happened to pick up one of them earlier last week. The Oculus Quest.

Now I know what you might be thinking. "Why would you pick something so inferior to the Rift S?" Well, there are a lot of reasons. While I too was one of the people who passed this thing off as a cheap wannabe PC headset when it was first released, now things have changed by quite a bit. So while I haven't experienced everything this headset has to offer, I figured I'd take the time to give my initial impressions, and let you guys know exactly what the Oculus Quest actually is. And really, you might be just as shocked as me.

The Specs and Hardware:

Before we get into too much about what the headset is, and everything it has available for it, I feel we should get the specs out of the way. This is something that will be pretty important to many VR users, but it's also kinda the most boring part for those who don't know too much about VR in general. So I'll try to keep this short.

The Oculus Quest has an OLED screen with a resolution of 1440x1600 per eye. This is quite the step up from the original Oculus Rift which was 1080x1200 per eye. As for the Oculus Rift S? It's resolution is 1280x1440 which is higher than the original Rift, but still lower than the Quest. (It also uses an LCD screen rather than OLED). So in this department the Quest is actually ahead. However when it comes to refresh rate, the Quest is a bit lower.

Refresh Rate on the quest is only 72Hz, which although honestly isn't bad, is lower than other headsets out there. Rift S has a 80Hz refresh rate, while the PSVR ranges between 90-120Hz. As someone who has spent thousands of hours playing PSVR however, I honestly barely notice the difference (and even then I have to try pretty hard to realize it). Still the fact remains that the Quest does have a lower refresh rate, so keep that in mind.

The Field of View on the Quest is something that's a bit hard to judge, but most sources will tell you that it is roughly around 95 degrees. This is only slightly smaller than the 100 degrees on PSVR, or 110 degrees on HTC Vive. For a reference the field of view of a human is around 220 degrees. While losing roughly 125 degrees of your vision may sound like a lot, it's actually not that noticeable once you are in VR. Or rather, you get used to it pretty quick. One good way to explain how this looks to someone who's never experienced it is to just take your fingers and place them on the corner of your eyes to block out your peripheral vision. This is pretty similar to how it'll be in VR.

And finally you have the stand alone specs themselves. Without connecting the Oculus Quest to a PC, the device is running on older mobile technology, and is limited because of that. While it can handle most non gaming apps without issue, some things are off limits or have to be toned down. The Quest does have access to a lot of games, but graphical effects are toned down compared to the game's PC counterparts. The device also only has about a 2-3 hour battery life (depending on what you're using it for), but it can be used while plugged in.

As for controls, it make use of the updated Oculus Touch controllers, and also supports hand tracking. The device has cameras on the outside which are used to track these controllers and hand movements, and also allows for room scale VR without needing to set up cameras or motion detectors around your play space -- which is great considering the quest is made to be completely wire free.

And that about covers it! Overall the headset is pretty nice, and is better than others on the market in multiple ways. However the fact that it's basically a mobile phone holds it back from being anything great... Or does it? If this was a year ago I'd say so, but now times have changed. What many might not realize is, this "mobile" headset is also a full PC VR device... But we'll get back to that later.

The Home Space:

So assuming you're using the Quest for it was originally designed for, the first thing you'll come across is the Quest's Home Space. This is just a mini VR area you can sit in while you navigate the Quest's menus and actually get to it's core content. You have a library that shows you all of the apps and games you own, and you also have a basic web browser so you can search for things or even watch videos. This whole thing is running on a modified version of Android, so it works a lot like a mobile phone with most of the basic features. Really the core OS isn't that impressive, with only a few mini built in VR experiences to help you get used to VR. That's to be expected though, because you buy a Quest for the apps it has access to, and not what comes built in.

Before you get into any games or apps however, you do need to get some things set up. First of all you have to tell the device if you are going to be using room scale VR, or stick to a localized area. The localized area option will place a cylinder around you and basically expect you to stick within that area. If you step out of it the headset will warn you, and will activate the external cameras so you can see where you are in the real world. This is a safety feature and lets you readjust before you hurt yourself. The room scale option on the other hand works in a similar way, but with much more control. Once again the outside cameras will become active so you can see where you are in the world, and it then asks you to draw "safe" areas where you can walk. At this point you can trace as much of your house as you want, while avoiding objects that are in your way. Ideally you'll want to have an open space and make your play area as big as possible, but if you want you could make paths around objects in your room and even expand your play area though multiple rooms. Just be careful when you do this as you could run into something and get hurt/break things if you're not cautious. Once this is all setup though, you're ready to jump into some VR experiences.

The Apps:

Now in the future I'd like to go into each of these apps in more detail, so I'll keep their descriptions and how they work as short and sweet as possible.

Netflix -

This app works as one might expect. Loading it up places you in a virtual living room with a giant TV screen in front of you, but you're also given the option of turning it into a black void where you can adjust the screen size. The Quest handles this app very well (as it's not that demanding), and the video quality is really nice also. I've personally spent quite a few hours just laying on the couch while watching Netflix this way, and it felt pretty great. No complaints from me.

Bigscreen -

This one is pretty impressive. Bigscreen is a social VR experience where you have multiple rooms of a house to travel to, and even full theaters to visit. At the theaters you can watch official TV and Movie channels, or you can physically buy digital movie tickets to go watch 3D movies on the big screen. Other users can also host their own rooms and stream their own content, which also means you have access to this too. By downloading the app on your PC you can actually broadcast whatever you want to Bigscreen, and watch your own content however you like. You have everything from living rooms to movie theaters to cast to, and there's even a room with a bed so you can lay down in your own bed to watch TV on the ceiling. It's a great app, but sadly at this time there is no way to control your PC from within the headset itself. You need to physically go to your PC in real life, setup a playlist using your favorite movie or video app, and then let it go in auto play. The developers have mentioned PC controls will be coming in a future update however, so this issue will eventually be fixed.

YouTube VR -

YouTube VR is pretty cool. You can watch normal YouTube videos on it, but you also have full 360 degree videos that can be watched. Now these are the very same videos that can be watched on your mobile device with motion tracking, but seeing them in VR is a completely different experience. While they aren't as high quality as a real VR video, they still help you feel as if you're actually in that world. You can go on tours of movie sets, watch movie trailers, go inside of video game worlds, and during events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade you can take a front seat to the show. It's a lot of fun, with thousands of hours of content already uploaded for you to enjoy.

Amazon Prime VR -

Another movie app, but also one of high quality. The Amazon Prime VR app lets you watch all of your favorite Amazon Prime TV shows and movies in a wide verity of locations. The video quality is great, and there's something about watching TV on a movie theater screen that just feels great. On top of this Prime VR also has a collection of VR and 360 degree videos, so there's something a little extra to go along with the usual Prime content.

VR Chat -

Possibly one of the biggest things to come to VR. VR Chat lets you jump into virtual worlds with other people from around the world, and simply have fun however you like. The game supports custom content so it's filled with avatars and worlds from all forms of media. Want to run around your favorite childhood games like The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time while in the body of 2B from Nier? You can actually do it! People are uploading new content to the game constantly, and you never know what you'll find because of that. However due to the Quest running on mobile hardware, this game is actually pretty limited. Only a faction of the content can be played on the Quest, with other player's avatars often being defaulted to a generic robot because the Quest cannot load them. There is still a lot to see and do despite this, but you really are missing out if you can't get the whole experience. This is one you'll want to use Oculus Link for if you can.

Rec Room -

Another popular VR social game. Rec Room is a play room that lets you create your own games and content. It's nowhere near as demanding as something like VR Chat, and can actually be played on a lot of devices. There is even a mobile version of Rec Room you can download and play, so the fact that it works really well on the Quest really isn't that shocking. Sure there's no denying that the PC version is superior, but that doesn't change the fact that the Quest version is still pretty great. This is an app I'll gladly play away from my PC without feeling like I'm missing out.

Beat Saber -

Beat Saber is a music game where you slash blocks with a sword. It's a pretty popular VR game, and has been released on basically every VR platform. While some of the graphical effects are toned down a bit for the Oculus Quest, there's nothing here that's too demanding for the Quest to handle. The controller tracking works perfectly, and you can even activate the developer mode and use 3rd party apps like SideQuest to install custom songs to the game. It's really no different than the version you have on PC.

Super Hot -

Another popular VR game that's built for room scale VR. In Super Hot you become an action hero in a Matrix like world. In this game time only moves when you move, and your goal is to take out all of the enemies without getting killed. You dodge bullets in slow motion, punch enemies to death, grab their guns as they fly through the air, and then shoot the remainder of your targets while possibly throwing objects at someone else across the room. This game makes full use of your body, and has you doing some pretty crazy things across all of it's levels. It's not that demanding of a game, and the Quest's tracking works perfectly so you'll have no issues playing it.

Others -

There's no denying there is a wide verity of games and apps on the Quest, but it really is only a fraction of what is available on standard PC headsets (or even the PSVR). Again, the the Quest runs on mobile hardware, so what it can handle is quite limiting. New content does get released pretty often however, and non official apps can be installed if you're looking for something more. Just because it isn't on the Oculus App Store, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Even so everyone needs to be aware of the device's limits, and it's a good idea to check into what apps have been released before you buy one. That is assuming you're not going to be using the Link feature.

Oculus Link:

This is the biggest feature of the Quest that many people don't realize you have access to. Oculus Link connects your Quest to your PC and transforms it into a full on PC VR headset. Yep, all of the limitations mentioned above? They are gone and instead governed by your PC's limits. Assuming your graphics card is on the supported list (which can be found at Oculus' website), then there's nothing stopping you. You simply download the Oculus App on your PC, connect your headset to a USB 3.0 or USB C port, and then follow the on screen steps (which consist of you hitting "continue" a few times), and then you are good to go. Inside the headset itself you just need to click the enable link button, and you will now find yourself in your VR space.

Oculus Spaces -

Similar to the Home Space on the Quest, the full version of Oculus Spaces is a place where you can access all of the Oculus menus and apps you own, but it's also a lot more. You have a remote desktop button which lets you access your PC without having to take off your headset, you can add app shortcuts for quick and easy access, and the space itself is completely customizable. You can change the layout, add furniture, insert different VR toys to play with, etc. The idea is to customize this area to your liking, and then use it as your virtual home. It's a really cool feature, and something you could easily spend hundreds of hours in just customizing.

SteamVR -

If you'd rather use Steam instead of the Oculus store, that's possible too. Simply allow outside sources in the Oculus App, and you're good to go. You can launch SteamVR from within your headset using your desktop controls, or even add shortcuts to it for quicker access. Oculus can also detect other VR compatible games on your system, and when you launch them from the Oculus App it will automatically switch you over to SteamVR before loading said game. Either way, no matter how you get to it SteamVR will take over and give you full access to it's features. Similar to Oculus Spaces, SteamVR also has it's own home space for you to explore and customize, and also gives you access to your friends list and other basic Steam features. If you're already familiar with Steam then you'll know how everything works, it's just you need to find the new location for things in VR.

VRChat -

Going back to the PC version of VRChat... It's the complete experience. You still have all of the same content as the Quest version, and any Quest compatible rooms or Avatars will not seem any different between the Quest version and PC version of the game. These areas are optimized for the Quest, and have no issue running because of that. So playing in the same areas on PC won't give you any noticeable jump in quality; however once you leave these areas for the PC only areas, then you'll realize just how big of a difference it is. The Avatars and worlds open on the PC are massive in comparison, and support features the Quest simply can't handle. Lighting effects, particles, Avatars with special abilities built in, music, dancing, Mario Kart racing, towns ripped right out of Persona 5, The Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask, insane night clubs, etc. The only limits to the areas in this game are determined by the user's PC, and as long as someone with a high end gaming PC can still play it, then someone will make it. Of course this also means you may still come across areas that will be off limits to you due to your PC's specs, but overall it won't be that limiting when compared to just how much is already out there.

Google Earth VR -

Another free app that is only on PC. Google Earth VR is, well, Google Earth in VR. You can fly over the Earth, explore 3D recreations of cities and areas, and even take to Google Street View to walk around streets across the world. It's a really cool app, and offers a lot more than the standard 2D version of Google Earth. Overall it's not that demanding so most PCs should be able to play this, but it's also something that has not been optimized for the Quest itself.

Other VR Games -

Every other PC VR game I've tested out worked perfectly with no issues. I didn't notice any latency when moving in a room scale environment, nor did my motion controllers have any issues keeping up with my actions. Everything just worked. The only down side is that my USB cable is only 10' in length, with Oculus recommending not going past that to avoid seeing an impact on performance. Now there are cables out there with extenders that relay the signal to allow for more distance, but you really need to do some research before you decide on which one to buy. Not all of them work as well as they claim to, so keep an eye out for those.

Non-VR Games -

Just because a game isn't a VR game, it doesn't mean you can't play it on the headset. The remote desktop feature allows you to see your screen, so you can technically play anything you want as long as you have a controller or mouse and keyboard for it. On the other hand many non VR games can actually be converted into VR with the use of mods. If you're on Steam G-Mod has a wide verity of VR content released for it, and it can be loaded into many different supported games. Want to play through Half-Life 2 with the new Half-Life Alyx VR gloves? You can do it! What about something like Final Fantasy XIV? Well it's doable, but not to the same extent. The point is, as mentioned before, developers continue to expand on VR, and they continue to release some pretty amazing things. If there is a will there is a way, and because of that at some point many non VR games will eventually be converted into VR -- officially or not. The possibilities are limitless, so do some research on your favorite games and see what's been done for them. You might just be surprised.

The Link without the Link -

Now being tied to a PC may sound bad to someone who bought the Quest for the wire free experience, but fear not there is actually a solution for this. Even if you don't run through Oculus Link itself, there is an app out there called Virtual Desktop. This app lets you broadcast your desktop content to the Quest itself, but it's quite limited when downloaded from the Oculus Store. If you buy it and download the "full" version of it using SideQuest however, these limits go away. By doing this you can actually stream full VR content from your PC to your Quest without needing a cable to link your PC. Sure you still have to buy the app to gain access to this feature, but it's perfect for those with a solid internet connection who would rather avoid being tied down. It's not a native Quest feature, but it's doable!

The Good and the Bad:

Overall the Oculus Quest is a pretty nice headset. It has a lot of good features, but also has a few things holding it back. As for the pros:
  • It is wire free when not charging.
  • It has built in speakers if you don't have a headset.
  • It supports full room scale VR.
  • The motion and controller tracking is pretty spot on.
  • OLED screen with a nice resolution (1440x1600 per eye).
  • It comes with a glasses spacer for those of you with glasses (like me).
  • You can replace the lenses with prescription lenses if you rather not wear glasses.
  • The foam face plate comes out and can easily be washed or swapped out for a new one.
  • There is an eye slider to fit your eye's IPD (other headsets do not have this option).
  • The games supported by the Quest work perfectly with no real issues.
  • It has a wide verity of non gaming apps that anyone can enjoy.
  • You can install custom content using apps such as SideQuest.
  • It continues to be updated by Oculus with new features being released all the time.
  • And it can connect to a PC to become a full PC VR headset.
As for the cons...
  • Only a few hours worth of battery life, so you'll find yourself playing on charge quite often.
  • The refresh rate is lower than other headsets (72 H).
  • Controllers use AA batteries so those need to be changed (not that big of an issue honestly).
  • It is running on older mobile phone hardware so many PC apps and games are not available.
  • It is mostly a solo experience, with screen sharing only sharing video and not audio. Some apps also block this feature in general.
  • And finally the biggest issue of all... Comfort.
The only real con of the Quest is how comfortable it is to wear. The thing has two side straps and a top strap to hold it onto your head, with the weight of the headset itself mostly falling forward and pushing up against your face. Now if you put the device on correctly the back of your head should take some of this weight, with the rest of it resting on your forehead. If done incorrectly, or if your head is shaped a bit differently, then a lot of pressure will fall on your face. If this is the case you should adjust it until you find the best possible fit for you. Other wise this will start to hurt, and it may even make you consider taking it back. Thankfully there are other options as well.

While I personally have found the best adjustments that make it so I can wear the thing for hours without hurting, I know this won't be the solution for everyone. In that case there are multiple products out there dedicated to fixing this problem. You have counter weights you can put on the back to take pressure off of your face (some actually use battery packs so they can extend the headset's life), and there are multiple padding solutions you can look into. Some have even fully modded their headsets by replacing the straps completely, and instead using their own contraptions to keep the headset from falling off their face. Mods such as these are not reversible however, so think carefully before you decide to do anything drastic. There are much similar solutions to fixing this problem, so always explore those options first.

Putting this aside however, this really is the only major issue with this headset, and it's one that can be fixed. It's a shame that Oculus didn't think it's design through a bit more before releasing it, but I'm sure using straps did cut down the price by quite a lot. So it's sort of a trade off.

Should You Buy It:

Should you? Well that's completely up to you. If you're interested in VR at all, then this is possibly the cheapest way you can dive into it. Without needing a PC or anything to hook to, you will get access to a nice verity of VR experiences. However without a PC you will be extremely limited in the end. If you're fine with that then the Quest is a much better option than something like the Oculus Go (which is very basic VR) as it is a PC experience up to a point, but you need to understand that you won't have access to the vast majority of VR content that has been created. So it's still a great headset and all, and you can get a lot of use out of it on it's own, but you still might want to consider looking into a gaming PC down the road. That's where the real use for the Oculus Quest comes in.

If you have a VR ready PC, then the Oculus Quest is a no-brainer. It's high quality OLED screen is very nice, the tracking is built into the headset so you don't have to worry about setting up censors and what not around your room (unless you want to to expand the experience), and there's basically nothing a normal PC headset can do that the Quest can't. At this point the Quest is a full PC headset, and that's all there is to it. If you're looking to get into PC VR gaming, or would just like to use PC VR apps in general, then the Quest is perfect. It's a cheaper option, but it offers so much more in the long run. This thing is fully mobile and can be played without your PC, so you don't always need to use your PC for every little app out there. Things like Bigscreen or Netflix are perfect when laying on the couch, and you're not missing out by playing games like Super Hot without a PC. On the flip side you can still stream VR content from your PC to the headset, so you can always do that instead if you don't want to mess with wires. This is something other VR headsets on the market can't do, and is just another reason the Quest is worth it.

So yeah, it really depends on you. If you're that interested in VR, or would simply like to try it out, then the Quest really is the device you should be considering. It's surpassed my expectations in many ways, and I can't wait to see how it evolves over time. This is one I would definitely recommend, and I can see myself using it for many years to come.
Previous Post Next Post