The Oculus Quest is a VR headset that promises the kind of mobile VR we've been craving. A headset where you don't need to sacrifice your smartphone display to use it. A headset that needs no wires. A headset that you can just pick up and play, with the freedom to explore virtual worlds with no physical barriers beyond the walls in your home.
In the Oculus family, the Quest sits between the Go ‚Äď the company's other portable headset, better used for Netflix and less intensive games ‚Äď and the high-end, computer-powered Rift. Or Rift S, we should say. It aims to merge that portable, easy-to-use feel of the Go with the truly special experience you get with PC-driven VR.
A lot has changed since for Oculus since it hit Kickstarter in 2012, as well as the VR industry as a whole, which is trying to carve out a place in the mainstream. Could Quest be the device that proves virtual reality is on the right track? We've been living with the standalone VR headset, shooting, running around tennis courts, punching out Mr T, hitting ping pong balls, watching videos and more to find out. Here's our full verdict on the Oculus Quest.
Oculus Quest: Getting set up
One of the most appealing aspects of a standalone VR headset is the minimal effort that should be required to get it up and running. Unlike smartphone-powered headsets like the Gear VR or Google's Daydream View, all of the power and smarts lie inside the Quest. Like the Go, you'll need your phone to set things up, but after that, it's a case of picking up the headset and controllers, hitting the on button and waiting for things to power up. Your phone simply becomes an alternative way to search and download things from the Oculus Store and tinker with settings, which you can also do from inside the headset.
Once you've downloaded the companion smartphone app (Android or iOS), you'll have your hand held to make sure everything is set up properly. This hand-holding makes it a very painless process and helps any VR newbies quickly acclimatise. You'll need to have access to Wi-Fi as part of the setup process, and it's here where you'll also pair the two bundled controllers with the headset.
The key addition to the setup over the Go is the need to create your 'Guardian', the area where it's safe to move around in VR. The Quest can be used while stationary or moving around a room, and it's the latter that offers the most immersive and fun experience. Oculus recommends a minimum space of 2 x 2 meters or 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet, but we were able to shrink that and still have ample room to move around.
Setting up that Guardian requires drawing out the area with one of the controllers. You don't actually need to walk around to do that, you can simply reach out and do it from where you're stood. Once that's completed you'll get the grid that outlines your VR space, which turns red when you're at risk of going outside of that safe play area. The Quest also introduces the new passthrough camera, which lets you view your surroundings to establish whether you're in danger of bumping into something.
When that Passthrough comes into action it's a bit like peering through a night vision camera, turning everything black and white, but giving you the ability to clearly see what is happening in the physical world and springing into action when you breach your perimeter.
This sounds like a lot of effort, but once you've done it the Quest will remember your designated space every time you boot it up. It can do this for multiple spaces too, so if you're moving between locations to use it, you don't need to go through the process of drawing out another Guardian again.
In total, the time between taking the Quest out of the box and starting our first game was about 15-20 minutes.
Oculus Quest: Design and build
Looks-wise, the Quest feels like a nice mash-up of the Go and Rift headsets. It's the Rift from the front, complete with the lightweight construction of the most affordable Oculus headset. Up top you've got the matte black plate with four sensors in each corner and the on/off button and USB-C charging port nicely concealed on the sides.
Working back and the Quest has a nice fabric-covered body and an OLED display that offers 1,440 x 1,660 resolution per eye. The headband is made from a soft touch flexible rubber with velcro straps on either side of the headset to adjust the fit. It's initially fiddly to put on, tearing away the velcro straps, positioning it on top of your head and fastening the straps again. But it's comfortable and, crucially, doesn't weigh heavy on the head.
At 571g, it's heavier than the Go (468g), but in reality that extra heft isn't something you notice when it's on and you're in VR mode. For glasses wearers, there is a glasses spacer included in the box, which comprises a piece of quite flimsy-looking plastic that sits inside of the cushioned area around the lenses.
At the bottom of the headset you'll also find the volume up/down control and the lens shifter, which can be used to adjust the space between the lenses for a better viewing experience. Meanwhile the 3.5mm headphone jack on the side means you can plug in headphones if you're not satisfied with the built-in speakers.
Something Oculus has retained from the Go is the quite sizeable nose gap, which can let light in and has the capability of breaking that VR illusion. In our experience though, it wasn't something that troubled us. This is not like the nose gap you get on Google's Daydream View headsets. That immersive feeling doesn't suffer because of the design decision and it's also nice to have the ability to stare down at your controllers, or know what's going on in the real world without activating the Passthrough camera.
Oculus Quest: Tracking and controllers
Also elevating the Quest from the Go and other smartphone-powered headsets are those controllers and the Quest's improved tracking capabilities.
Let's talk about the headset first, which unlike the Go is now capable of tracking your location in VR, without laying out sensors and base stations around the room as the original Oculus Rift and Vive required. Support for 6DoF (degrees of freedom) means the headset will track all of your movements ‚Äď including backwards, forwards, up and down ‚Äď which is a step above the Oculus Go's 3DoF, which only lets you look around from one spot.
It's very smooth, responsive and feels a little more polished compared to the 6DoF tracking on Vive's standalone Focus headset.
Then there's the controllers, which are a huge step up from the solitary one you get with the Go. Bundled with the headset are two matte black Oculus Touch controllers that have been redesigned since they were first introduced for the Rift in 2016. Changes have been made to improve handling when in VR, and to make accessing the buttons, joystick, trigger and grip buttons easier and far more intuitive.
Getting to grips with where everything lives does invariably take a few attempts because there's a lot going on here.
It takes a few sessions, but things become second nature soon enough, and the passthrough feature really helps with the learning process. Also, don't underestimate those included lanyards, which tether the controllers to your hands. We've had enough forehand smashes in Sports Scramble and uppercuts in Creed: Rise To Glory send those controllers flying from our grip ‚Äď we dread to think what state the controllers would be in otherwise. They're also battery-powered (just a single AA battery for each), meaning you don't have to worry about charging.
When those controllers are ready to put to use in VR, they really are impressive in transforming button presses into virtual movements like picking up items, throwing things and just being able to interact with things in that virtual space.
Oculus Quest: Apps and games
When the Quest was announced we were told there would be 50 "titles" at launch. That means a mix of games, apps and experiences. Unlike the Go, you're getting some of the PC-level titles including ones that have already proved popular on the more powerful Rift. Beat Saber, Thumper, Space Pirate Trainer and Creed: Rise To Glory are among the games that make the cut.
Read this: Oculus Go apps and games to try out
Oculus is encouraging developers to build for the Quest and Rift with the lure of both headsets offering the same controllers and room tracking. But with the difference in processing power available, there will invariably be games that will only make it onto the Rift. Asgard‚Äôs Wrath, Stormland and Lone Echo II are among those being reserved exclusively for the Rift simply because of the power that's needed to keep them running smoothly.
With those controllers and that six-degrees-of-freedom tracking, developers still have the tools to make great experiences for the Quest, and the ones we've sampled so far have impressed. We haven't tried all 50, but we have spent time with around 30 of the titles that should be available when the Quest goes on sale.
Visual quality is strong and, crucially, a noticeable step up from the Go. Games like Beat Saber, Creed: Rise To Glory and Ballista run smoothly. The ability to move more freely in these VR spaces and the finesse of interacting via the Touch controllers brings a whole new dimension to things and makes everything feel that bit closer to using a Rift.
Audio without headphones offers good clarity and decent power, but you'll be better plugging some in when you want to truly play solo. You get that great spatial audio support that was introduced on the Rift to add to that immersive feel, but those speakers are not going to drown out the world around you.
One thing we have noticed on the Quest are the load times. They're not achingly long, but for some titles it's noticeable. There's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor under the hood, which features in a host of last-generation smartphones. So when you're throwing games at it that are beyond your typical phone games, it's unsurprising that they don't launch instantly.
Something we haven't touched on is the local multiplayer support: you can have multiple Quest owners in one place taking each other on in various games. We've had the opportunity to try this out in our initial hands-ons with the Quest, but we'll update our thoughts on this when there are a few more people with Quest headsets who'll dare challenge us at Sport Scramble tennis.
Oculus Quest: Battery life
Like the Oculus Go, you've not got heaps of battery life time to play with here. But based on our playing time, it was usually enough for us to pass it around and play between a few people. Oculus says you should expect between two to three hours. It's closer to two hours if you're gaming or three hours when watching media. We can imagine most people won't be spending longer than an hour at a time (our sessions naturally lasted about 45 minutes to an hour), so battery life doesn't feel too constraining.
The good thing is you can keep a check on battery status from the Oculus Home main menu screen, so you know when it does need charging. When you run out entirely out of power, there's a USB-C charging cable that plugs into the front of the headset, and it will take a couple of hours to get back to 100%. You can also still play on with the headset charging ‚Äď this is more suitable for sitting VR experiences, but at least you do have the option.
Oculus Quest versus the rivals
So how does the Quest stand up to its rivals? Well, in many ways it doesn't have many rivals to fend off. We thought for a long time that the Vive Focus would emerge as HTC's answer to the Quest. But the arrival of the Vive Focus Plus saw HTC target the enterprise world with its controllers and base station-free room tracking. Lenovo's Mirage Solo, which runs on Google's Daydream platform, is similarly priced to the Quest and offers a standalone experience, but has less sophisticated controls and more restrictive room tracking.
If you take price into consideration, the 64GB Quest costs the same as the new Rift S, but to enjoy that better VR experience you'll need to have a powerful enough computer to make it all happen. We would have loved to have seen the Quest come in just a little cheaper, but when edging closer to the Rift as opposed to the Go in terms of tech, it's understandable that it's been priced similarly.
- Room tracking works really well
- Great controllers
- Really easy to set up
- Won't play all Rift games
- Loading times can be slow
- Same price as the Rift