Oculus Quest

“Oh, wow, I have to get a picture of you with that on.”

My girlfriend was not impressed with the Oculus Quest, the latest iteration of the headset from the Facebook-owned virtual reality brand. But that’s only because she wasn’t the one wearing it.

While Oculus hasn’t solved the bulk or general ridiculousness of VR gear (yet), the Quest is pretty nimble once you put it on (and if you ignore the chuckles of significant others in the room). It’s the company’s latest attempt to turn virtual reality into a portable plug-and-play endeavor with mass appeal; besides the glasses and controller, you won’t need a powerful PC or console to get started, just a smartphone and the Oculus app.

Note: While the Quest is untethered and easy to use, Oculus also released the Rift S this week, which works in tandem with your high-end gaming PC and is decidedly more powerful. We’ll be concentrating on the Quest, which we demo’d a few weeks back at a media event and then again over a few days with a unit at home.

Oculus Quest

Some stats:

The Quest features an OLED display panel, a 72Hz refresh rate and 2880×1600 total resolution (1440×1600 per eye). It comes in a 64GB model for $399 USD and a 128GB model for $499 USD, both of which run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. You can use the unit with or without headphones.

There are no external sensors here — all the tech you need to jump into a virtual world is embedded into the headset.

The setup:

After charging the headset for a few hours, the actual setup of the Quest took maybe five minutes, including the download/update of the Oculus app and connecting everything to our home wifi.

The first thing you’ll need to do is set up Guardian. This is you virtually drawing a “boundary” on the surrounding floor so you won’t bump into your real-life environment; if you reach past the boundary, the Quest will warn you and (if need be) bring your headset view back into the real world. You’ll want about 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet of space, which was admittedly hard to accomplish in a New York apartment.

There’s also a “Stationary” viewpoint if you plan on sitting or standing fairly still, but hey, what fun is that? The joy of VR is that you’re getting the workout and movement of an old-school Wii within an immersive virtual world. Remember, your arms are pretty much gonna be swords or guns — you want freedom of movement here.

Oculus Quest

The intro part of the Oculus experience, where I attempted a dance and a guns demo (uh, separately), along with some gripping exercises, took an additional five minutes.

From there, you’re plopped within a 360 degree “home” where you point and click your hand controllers to access your preferred apps, games, videos.

What works:

As stated before, this is a really easy device to setup and use. Everything is intuitive and geared toward getting you playing within minutes.

The controls were fantastic — it was easy to shoot, grip and swing, and I never had to readjust my natural actions to match what I was doing within a game. If I swung quickly to the left, my sword/paddle/hand followed naturally at the same speed.

Even without headphones, the sound from just the headset alone was fantastic and added to the immersive experience.

What needs work:

It’s all going to depend on content; at Quest’s launch there are 50 titles, from boxing (Creed: Rise to Glory) to music (Dance Central) to shootouts (Dead and Buried II), along with some takes on popular games (Angry Birds) and immersive experiences from the likes of National Geographic and a VR-focused YouTube.

Right now, there’s not a lot that’s gonna keep the average gamer busy. Look, “slicing” colored blocks in tune to beats (via the aptly named Beat Saber) got me sweaty in about two minutes; it’s certainly fun and something I could play every day. But other games lost their appeal after a few minutes; an adventure title (Journey of the Gods) that involved exploring, grabbing and fighting felt simplistic; I honestly felt more embedded in another world playing Destiny 2 on my old-school big-screen TV and Xbox One.

Admittedly, I didn’t get a chance yet to play Vader Immortal, the Star Wars title that’s part lightsaber game, part longform narrative. That could portend some better titles post-launch.

Talking to Oculus reps before launch, they wanted to position the Rift S as a gaming unit and the Quest for more casual users. To that sense, a lot of the games and experiences here felt like updates of phone games placed into 3D, 360 degree worlds. So they’re fun and simple to learn, but your enjoyment’s going to depend on how well you deal with repetitiveness.

Oculus Quest casting

Quick thoughts:

  • At launch, there are apps built for Oculus that’ll help you watch movies, Netflix, live TV (via Sling) and play PC games on a big virtual screen. There’s even a 3D painting app. A lot of this, however, you’ll find more comfortable doing on a regular, 2D screen.
  • Somehow, even during a sweaty dance game, my headset never fogged up.
  • I didn’t try it, but you can “cast” your VR experience to another screen so other people can get an idea of what you’re seeing.
  • Since you’re going to ask: VR p*rn is still way too awkward.

What others are saying:

“It comes with a few downgrades from PC-based systems, but all told, the Quest is loads of fun, and brings true VR to a whole new audience.”IGN

“Four stars out of five. There’s no better mobile VR experience than the Oculus Quest, and its full-motion untethered design feels like the future. Let’s see how good the app library becomes.”CNET

“With the cord-free Quest, Oculus finally makes high-quality VR easy.” — Digital Trends

“The Oculus Quest is convenient, immersive, and extremely fun — exactly what VR needs to succeed.” — Mashable

Recommendation:

Even at a comparatively low price, the Quest is still a very expensive toy that doesn’t quite have the right gaming or app library (yet). If you’re patient, however, this does seem like a headset you’ll be able to use and come back to for a few years.