By Gerald Lynch Review Source
The Oculus Quest 2 is worn on the head, quite a bit like a scuba mask. Where a scuba mask’s window would be, you’ve instead got a padded cavity that houses a pair of goggle-like lenses that sit in front of a screen, giving you stereoscopic 3D visuals. Paired with motion sensors and accelerometers in the headset, you can move your head and see the motions reflected in real-time on the digital screen in front of you as if you were looking out and moving around in the real world.
It’s a similarly lightweight design to the first Oculus Quest (now available in white plastic rather than a dust-hugging, fabric-covered black) with its outer shell housing external cameras that help to track your positioning and that of the supplied controllers.
You tighten the headset with a velcro, slightly-elasticated fabric strap – a change (not necessarily for the better) from the more structured rubberized original.
The internal improvements between the Quest 2 and the original Quest headset are significant. Compared to the original Quest, the Quest 2 offers 6GB of RAM compared to 4GB, and there’s a much faster Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset running the show. This allows for greater fidelity in experiences shown on the Quest 2, as well as allowing for boosted resolutions and refresh rates.
The first Oculus Quest made use of dual 1440 x 1600 resolution OLED displays (one for each eye), but the Quest 2 opts for a single LCD panel, split so as to display an 1832 x 1920 pixel resolution per eye. That’s about 50 percent sharper than the original, and while we’d usually prefer the richness of an OLED display, we hardly missed it here. LCD also opens up an improved refresh rate of 90Hz to developers, compared to the original Quest’s 72Hz - with an experimental feature bumping it up to 120Hz. Where supported, it will be a notably smoother experience.
Note though that there's a change to the Interpupillary distance (IPD, the gap between your pupils) slider on the Quest 2. Previously, you could make fine adjustments with a slider on the underside of the original Quest. Now you have to physically shift the goggles themselves over three pre-set distances, 58mm, 63mm, and 68mm. While most won't notice any difference (the three settings cover the most common IPD ranges), it's a shame that more delicate control has been lost.
The Quest 2 does all of this while still offering the same 2-3 hour battery life as the first Quest, depending on the application you’re using. That may not sound like much, but longer play sessions than that are unlikely to be comfortable anyway.
Oculus has managed this thanks to significant improvements to its tracking algorithms, which extend to the controllers too, now offering double the battery life (we’re talking weeks of constant play) compared to their predecessors.
The motion controllers themselves have seen some small improvements too. Now available in white, they offer more room to rest your thumb during play, making them easier to hold for longer sessions. Each has a baton-like handle, including triggers for your forefingers and grips, as well as facial buttons and movement sticks for your thumbs. A strap keeps the controllers from flying free from your hand, while a plastic ring surrounds your thumbs, housing the near-invisible LEDs that allow the headset to track your hands’ and arms’ movements.
Speakers are built into the headset’s strap supports, offering directional left and right stereo sound. They’re reasonably clear and loud enough to get across the drama and directional audio feedback of your games, while keeping your ears free in order to allow you some awareness of your physical surroundings. Note that if you’re playing in a room with a friend, they’re going to hear everything going on using the built-in speakers, but there’s also a 3.5mm jack if you want to connect your own headphones for a private session.
A microphone is built in too, again clear enough for communicating in multiplayer games and doing some voice searches in the various UI elements of apps that support it. Speech recognition is surprisingly accurate, too.
Intuitive set-up and safety system
Impressive hand tracking features
Chromecast-enabled screen sharing
Getting a VR headset set up can be a painful affair – there’s usually loads of wires to plug in, and external sensors to arrange. But because all the computing and motion tracking is done on the self-contained Oculus Quest 2 headset, getting into the action here take just 5-10 minutes.
You’ll turn on the headset after its first charge, and be showed a few safety clips, and a very short intro video that introduces you to controllers and how their wand like point-and-trigger system can be used to navigate menus. You’ll then be asked to set up what's called a ‘Guardian' – the first of many 'wow' moments the Oculus Quest offers.
Using the headset’s external cameras, you’ll be shown a grayscale view of your surrounding environment on screen, in real-time. You’ll then use the controllers like a spray paint can, painting around the edges of your room to show the headset the safe play space you can freely walk about in without bumping into, say, your TV or sofa.
Stationary or seated settings are also available, but it’s these room-scale experiences that prove the most immersive. Oculus suggests a minimum space of 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet for room-scale titles, but you can probably get away with a bit smaller if you're careful. With the boundaries established, the Guardian wall is then revealed: a grid-like digital wall that only makes itself visible if you’re attempting to cross its boundaries. Here you’ll know the limit of safe play space, and if you stick your head through the digital wall, you’ll again see your real-world environment. It’s an ingenious safety feature.
The safety video animation below, which was revealed alongside the original Quest, does a good job of illustrating how it works:
With the Guardian set up, you’ll then be shown how to (optionally) use your hands to navigate menus, instead of using the controllers. Small movements like thumb and forefinger pinches can be used to select options and looking at your palm with fingers touching opens up menus. While the number of games using it remains limited, it's so intuitive that we're sure we'll see it used more and more in the future.
With set up out of the way, you’re into the Oculus menu system, which sits like a floating panel over your customizable ‘Oculus Home’ environment, a bit like a virtual living room.
It’s here that you can browse app, game and video content, manage the storage on your headset, and connect with friends through Facebook. Note that a Facebook account is now an unavoidable part of the Oculus Quest experience, so if you’d rather not be a part of Zuckerberg’s data-harvesting empire, you’re going to have to pass on the headset entirely. It simply can’t be used without one.
There are plans to bring in a separate login method, however, we've not yet heard specifics of when this option will be available.
That moral quandary aside, it’s a smooth and easily navigable device. It also instantly shows just how far VR has come, especially mobile VR. Text is sharp and legible, and motion smooth and comfortable. While your field of view is narrowed by the goggles, it doesn’t take too long to get used to inhabiting the virtual space. For a newcomer, it’s breathtaking.
And while VR is often accused of being a solitary affair, Oculus has made strong efforts to make using Quest 2 in a group accessible. Like the original Quest, you can use the Google Chromecast screen sharing function within the Quest 2’s menu to allow someone not wearing the headset to watch what you’re up to on a second display like a smartphone or TV. Some games even actively encourage it, with one player taking charge of a role in the real world, while another navigates the VR world presented in the headset.