Getting my head-settled on VR in it’s current state
After spending a month with the Oculus Quest 2 the time has come to share some thoughts regarding the Quest 2 and the current state of (wireless) virtual reality headsets. Have we finally reached the mainstream adoption phase of VR? It’s starting to look like it. Lets backtrack: My first proper introduction to wireless VR was a couple of years ago while i was working for HP on a gaming expo. HP was trying to push their “Omen” gaming brand, and had a HTC Vive paired with a HP Laptop in a backpack, with huge battery packs on all side. The thing was heavy, but the potential was definitely palpable. Even months later, i would still occassionaly brag to my friends about how impressive Google Earth VR looked in wireless mode.
PSVR – Not what i hoped
About a year later i bought a Playstation VR headset in hopes of reviving my enthusiasm for VR. While impressive at first i soon grew tired of it and sold it, the main culprit being the fact that the headset was tethered to the Playstation. Wired headsets, while arguably always able to provide higher fidelity visuals (more on that later), will always impair your freedom of movement. For some folks, this is a manageable caveat, but for me it was a dealbreaker. And i couldn’t see myself splurging on a VR backpack, so i parked my wireless VR dreams in the dusty corners of my brain alongside my dreams of a new F-Zero game and a new Jurassic Park movie that doesn’t suck.
And then came Oculus Quest 2. Seemingly out of the blue, Facebook not only announced a successor to the wireless Oculus Quest 1, but also made it clear the Quest VR line is here to stay by retiring the wired Rift S headset as early as spring 2021. It’s a bold move in the right direction. Because after a month with the Quest 2, i can safely say this device is an absolute game-changer for me, despite it’s shortcomings.
Let’s talk shortcomings first. The basic head strap is kinda flimsy. Its especially noticeable when you move your head. The headset just isn’t seated that firmly, so it tends to move around a bit when looking up and down. Also, the strap gets dirty real easy. I’m not sure if the white fabric used on the straps was the best idea. Mine are already starting to look like a pair of dirty undies, and i can only imagine what torture will befall the device in the coming months.
Another annoyance is that you have to be in the EXACT sweet spot of the fresnel lenses to enjoy the 1.832 × 1.920 pixels per eye with the least amount of glare. The glare is inherent to the type of lenses used, and if you have an IPD (interpupillary distance) above 68, you’re in for some D.I.Y. solutions to minimize it. The Quest 2 has 3 IPD settings, and i discovered my IPD is actually higher than the maximum allowed value of 68. Funnily enough, i discovered the headset actually does go higher than 68 if you push the lenses outward manually, and i created a very ghetto D.I.Y. solution with a piece of an eraser as you can see below. Looks like crap, works like a charm! Don’t expect to fully get rid of the glare though.
The field of view isn’t amazing either, and i’m also not a big fan of the LCD screen used as opposed to the Oled display used on the Quest 1, but 90hz is definetely a huge improvement, and for bright and colourful games, the diplay has been outstanding. Oh, and there’s that Facebook thing, yeah. Ehm. Well, for €350, something’s got to give. Your privacy, apparently. It raises questions that for convienience’ sake I will sidestep in this article.
Shortcomings aside: Wireless VR 2.0!
If you can live with the glare, the headstrap that gets dirty quicker than toilet paper and the fact that Mark Zuckerberg knows exactly what kind of porn you watch in VR, you’re in for a treat. Not only is the headset an insanely good deal at €350, it’s also extremely easy to set up and use. The snapdragon XR2 proves to be a capable chipset for VR, and the overall visual quality is impressive, especially if you unlock the full texture resolution via Sidequest (framedrops incoming). Even though the Quest 1 was already a decent device, the Quest 2 improves on it in nearly every aspect. It really feels like VR has matured enough to be adopted by the mass market, and the Quest 2 not only shows a glimpse into the bright future of VR, it partially is the bright future of VR. Of course, good hardware doesn’t succeed without good software, and there’s plenty of quality in the Quest 2’s library. Take a look at my personal top 3 so far:
A fisherman’s tale. A charming puzzle game that works fantastic in VR. Loved it from start to finish.
Red Matter. Another puzzle-adventure game, with amazing graphics and a very dope sci-fi setting. The best looking game on the Quest 2.
Pavlov VR. (Sidequest). Counterstrike meets Goldeneye 64 in VR. Amazing, but not suitable for all types of players. Easy to get motion sickness, amazing nonetheless.
PC VR Please!
For my setup, i used a Quest 2 connected wirelessly to a Tenda AC10u router via Virtual Desktop. Streaming bitrate around 90MBps. RTX 3090.
Enough about the Quest 2’s built-in games though. Because i mainly bought this thing to be able to play PC VR games wirelessly. And this is where my Quest 2 shines the brightest! After a bit of technical wizardry, you can begin to enjoy the true potential of the Quest 2. Connected to a PC with a decent GPU, i was finally back in Google Earth VR, wirelessly walking through New York once again. In these strange times of being partially locked down, it felt super liberating being able to visit my friends’ house in Brooklyn virtually from the other side of the world, and to fly through the Grand Canyon moments later. It all worked stutter and lag free, with visuals as crispy as a bag of prawn crackers. Another stunning example is the all new Star Wars Squadrons. I haven’t played enough of it to reach a verdict on it, but the first mission (played with a Thrustmaster Flight stick) was as cinematic and epic as a blockbuster movie. The true potential of VR is hard to ignore in this game, even for the most bitter sceptic. The force is simply too strong with this one.
Medium – Well done
Being fully wireless in Adobe’s free 3D sculpting software “Medium” is a next level experience. As i’m standing in my room modeling and sculpting, i catch myself grinning and saying out loud to myself how amazing this program and overall experience is. Granted, i have never tried the application at all wired, so i had my mind blown twice. Once by the sheer intuitiveness of the program, and once again by being untethered to a PC. The last time i did some 3d character modeling around a decade ago, i spent hours and hours struggling trying to create a face, in Medium i created a pretty decent model in a mere 15 minutes, and a full colored figure in a few hours. I’m in no way a professional 3d artist, and the ease of use of these VR sculpting tools really feels like a next-gen experience. Sculpting just makes so much sense in VR, it feels like this is the future. If you haven’t tried it, i urge you to.
And last but not least: Half life Alyx. This one impressed me a lot. Maybe even a bit too much. Thanks to the power of PC VR the graphics are fantastic, far above and beyond anything the Quest 2 can squeeze out of it’s XR2 processor, and the gameplay is so insanely immersive that i’m starting to get my Touch controllers sweaty. This game is almost too intense at times. I played it in sessions of one hour at max, and catched myself needing at least an hour long break after playing. Heavy stuff. I’m genuinely impressed with the way virtual desktop worked with all these applications. Some minor stutters here and there aside, the experience has been mostly smooth. I can only conclude the Oculus Quest 2 is as amazing standalone as it is in PC VR mode. Even though Half Life Alyx looks amazing, i couldn’t help but fantasize about the future of VR graphics. The Quest 2 is a little bit rough around the edges. I tried photoshopping the way it looks inside the headset as best as i could, as seen below:
All in all my first month with the Quest 2 has been a wonderful experience. It’s incomparable with my PS VR. On the surface the devices might not seem all that different, but the wireless aspect of the Quest 2 is a game changer. It redefines the medium and opens a whole new range of possibilities. The Quest 2 is a fantastic device, albeit a deal with the devil. If you are cool with Facebook snooping around in your data with no clear intent, and can get over the limited field of view and glare, this headset is an absolute steal. The Quest 2 is a worthy successor to the Quest 1 in almost every way. While not a perfect device in every regard, access to amazing standalone VR and PCVR is finally affordable. And until Facebook launches a Quest 3 with a 120hz Oled screen, or the competitors launch a wireless alternative, the Quest 2 should be your go-to device for all your VR needs.
The future of VR is brighter than ever. I’m just curious about the future of our privacy.
Good enough to be amazing, but a few limitations hold it back
The Oculus Quest 2 is a huge step forward for mainstream VR, and a step backwards for consumer privacy. It's a deal with the devil, and one that's hard to resist, because the device just does so many things right.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Amazing visuals, both standalone and PCVR
Built in sound is surprisingly good
A ton of quality content available
Virtual desktop quadruples the value of the headset
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