The Oculus Quest VR glasses are designed to simplify the virtual reality experience considerably. As a stand-alone device without sensors in the room and a meter-long PC cable, it is fascinatingly easy to use – but is it also good? You can read in our test why the Quest is both a step forward and a compromise with air to the top.
Anyone looking for „the year of VR“ on Google will find out that, at least since 2016, Virtual Reality has been proclaimed „the year in which Virtual Reality will celebrate its breakthrough“ almost every year. Maybe I have the wrong friends, but owners of VR glasses in my environment can comfortably count on five very un-virtual fingers, just a few have been seduced by this new technology so far.
Waiting for the VR breakthrough
In my experience, technology has not yet really gained acceptance. Sure, with PlayStation-VR Sony has created a reasonably inexpensive platform to make the technology suitable for the masses. In the PC gaming scene, the topic has its lovers. VR applications on smartphones or Labo-VR for the Nintendo Switch now seem like gimmicks compared to the resolutions and possibilities of „large“ devices – so the technology has made good progress. But such a real breakthrough still looks different.
Facebook’s new glasses will not solve the biggest hurdles of virtual reality – the relatively high purchase price and the rather poor selection of applications – on their own. But it overcomes, at least partially, another one: the unhandiness in installation and operation.
PSVR owners know, for example, that the leap into other worlds is preceded by a few minutes of tangling with cables and additional hardware. Previous Oculus models and HTC-Vive series devices also needed cables to the graphics card of a running PC and sensors throughout the room to detect the position of the wearer.
The Oculus Quest doesn’t need any of this. In addition to the glasses, only two wireless controllers with batteries (one for each hand), a clip-on spacer for spectacle wearers and a charging cable are included. To play, I put on the glasses and first see my living room as a grainy black-and-white picture, which the camera at the front delivers to me. I touch the floor with a controller and „draw“ a virtual boundary around me to define the play area. Then I log in with my Oculus account – and off I go. First I watched a few VR porn movies and got really excited to see women have an orgasm right in front of me.
Virtual Reality as a Plug and Play Experience
The Oculus Quest isn’t just a pair of VR glasses, it’s more of a small VR console that I wear on my nose. The PC stays off, the games run directly on hardware in the case. It has never been easier or faster to start a round of the fantastic VR rhythm game „Beat Saber“ or to go to the edge of nausea in the virtual roller coaster simulator.
Even watching YouTube videos on your personal cinema screen or surfing the Internet is no longer much more complicated than on a smartphone, tablet or PC. Well, there is no keyboard. But the input via motion controller is so precise that it is easily enough for anything other than typing long texts.
The controllers are tracked via the cameras on the glasses, which works well as long as you don’t move them out of your field of vision (i.e. behind your back or head). It’s always better than sensors in the whole room. The standalone design of the Oculus Quest provides an ease of use that has never been associated with VR before. It is the biggest plus point of the device and if you are curious about how Virtual Reality can be easily integrated into everyday life, you can’t avoid the Quest at the moment.
Technically moderate, but sufficient
Technically, the Oculus Quest is a compromise. The internal hardware with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 smartphone processor doesn’t come close to what modern PCs can do. The image output quality is not high enough to completely avoid fly screen effects. The image is basically well resolved, but looks a bit more grainy compared to PC glasses like the new Oculus Rift S. The image is not as good as it should be.
The field of vision is clearly limited, black edges have to be accepted – tunnel vision instead of all-round vision. The Oculus Quest weighs 580 grams, a good 100 grams more than the new Rift – you’ll notice that in the long run, even if the glasses sit comfortably on your head thanks to adjustable head straps and lenses. The battery life is around two to three hours, depending on the application.
Fully suitable for gambling, only okay for multimedia
Fortunately, all this doesn’t bother in the main application area of the Quest, namely gaming. On the other hand, the glasses with their full-fledged tracking and gaming controllers are much better equipped than the Oculus Go, which also works without a PC. I could play the fast-paced „Beat Saber“ for a long time without any problems, as well as the more leisurely adventure game „Journey of the Gods“. The only drawback: With much faster movement, the battery compartment of the controller loosens from time to time without affecting the functionality.
Getting used to effects and the constant movement quickly ensure that the resolution is no longer a problem. Under normal indoor lighting conditions, the tracking of the controllers is very precise most of the time, and the sound is loud and powerful enough via the integrated loudspeakers. But there is also a headphone jack.
It gets more difficult when I want to watch a video on YouTube or Netflix. Sitting still and staring at moving pictures – that’s not really fun with the Quest yet. I got dizzy after a few minutes with the low-resolution videos, and the weight and smell of new synthetic fiber quickly become noticeable when using the glasses „passively“. The latter disappears however certainly with the time.
Limited games library
So the best application for the Oculus Quest at the moment is gaming, but there are some hooks here as well. Because the processing power of the glasses is limited, many games released for the „big sister“ Oculus Rift do not run on the standalone device. So the games catalogue is much smaller at the moment.
After all: If you have ever had Oculus glasses and bought games on your account, you can often play them on the Quest if they are compatible. Some titles (like „Beat Saber“, „Superhot“ and „Moss“) don’t have this cross-buy function according to UploadVR – you have to buy the games again for the quest.
Using the glasses optionally with a PC and Steam Games is currently only possible with third party apps and with considerable quality losses. The standalone solution is only meant to be a standalone solution, which means a big loss of flexibility. However, they also have other VR glasses – only in other areas.
The Oculus Quest offers the easiest, most accessible, and most portable VR gaming experience available today. Of course, it doesn’t play in the technical VR upper league, but is fully equipped for playing many titles. The fact that many VR games are often mini-games rather than full experiences is not the fault of the Quest, but of course a possible obstacle. The fact that these games could theoretically even be played in the subway, on the beach or in an airplane is a merit that the Oculus Quest deserves to be credited with.
For those interested in VR gaming without a PC with top equipment, the glasses are an absolutely satisfying way to get into virtual reality. If you want to immerse yourself in Virtual Reality for a round in between and don’t necessarily need epic role-playing games in photorealistic graphics, then the glasses are also a good choice.
For everyone else, the Quest is a look into the future of virtual reality. If the technology is really to reach the gaming and entertainment mainstream, it has to be based on the spontaneous usability and intuitive operation of the glasses. Even more comfortable to wear and better technology will hopefully come with time. So maybe it will finally work out with the big breakthrough.