As I sit here right now, the Oculus Quest 2 is charging nearby. I’ve been going up, down, and all around with this thing through various virtual worlds and experiences. Truly, out of all the VR headsets I’ve ever strapped to my face, I can’t recall one that has ever been so easy to flip a switch on and go. Yet I’ve found myself considering what it asks in return. For all the accessibility and versatility the Oculus Quest 2 brings to the table under a budget price tag, I can’t help but notice an unspoken price of admission in either the information ecosystem it demands you adhere to or functional inconveniences for which users might have to buy their way out.
Out of the box play
From the get-go, the Oculus Quest 2 has maybe one of the easiest setups I have ever seen in a VR headset. You turn it on, it syncs up to the controllers, you use the controllers to actually draw a play space like laser pointer-powered sidewalk chalk, and that’s it. Functionally, you’re ready to go. As with its predecessor, Quest 2 flies in the face of any and all clutter required by other VR solutions to play. And it does so additionally while providing an overall light headset weight. It does rest just a touch much on my cheeks and forehead for my liking, but once I was in place, I could go long periods of time without any kind of discomfort to my face, head, or neck from wearing it.
That said, the resting point of this headset doesn’t bring up one of the issues I have with it. First, the head strap feels unmistakably cheap compared to other VR options. The fabric head strap doesn’t take much to adjust and is quite easy to move into comfortable position in a jiffy, But I’m not sure I can ever say it felt 100% secure on me. This feels like one of the areas where Facebook and Oculus cut costs because right out of the gate there’s an additional headset that features a more supportive design starting at $50 and coming on launch day.
Another strange move is the function of the interpupillary distance (IPD) mechanisms for adjusting the lenses to your eyes. Where many different headsets have a slider of some sort to comfortably arrange the lenses to the orientation of your pupils, the Oculus Quest 2 has a very rigid structure that requires you to actually grip the lense fixtures and move them rigidly between only three settings. Moving them also slightly adjusts the pixels in the display to match your vision sweet spot, but only for three settings. It feels a little bit like you’re out of luck if your eyes happen to fall between or beyond these presets. Ultimately, it’s a bit unnerving having to forcibly touch any part of the lense components themselves to do this.
All of this aside, the Oculus Quest 2 still has a lot of ease in its setup and I’d be happy to see this level of accessibility become a standard in VR headset versatility. I would just also hope that more range of head and face shapes would be considered in the initial purchase price.
Inside the Quest 2’s playland
The Oculus Quest 2 boasted some performance upgrades versus its predecessor out of the box despite cutting some costs. $299 gets you the headset with 64GB of system storage ($399 gets you 256GB), 6GB of RAM, and a new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 CPU running the show, complete with two touch controllers and USB-C charging cable in box. All of this comes packed with a single fast-switch LCD screen providing 1832×1920 per eye (a 50% boost over the original Quests 1440×1600 per eye resolutions). With those specs put to work, Quest 2 does indeed impress when it’s all in motion.
Throwing the headset on and jumping between an app ecosystem including the likes of Rez Infinite, Beat Saber, and more was a snap. Loading screens felt pretty short and the action was smooth and constant throughout. I could exit a game, start another game, go shopping, or even go online into the built-in browser with relative ease. There’s also an Oculus companion app that you can sync up to a smartphone allowing you to sideload apps onto the device so they’re ready next time you turn it on, which is very nicely convenient.
It’s worth noting that if you’re looking for a high framerate, the Oculus Quest 2 won’t be doing anything for you that the original Quest didn’t do already. The refresh rate currently tops out at 72Hz, though it can be configured down to 60Hz as well. Facebook and Oculus claim that 90Hz is coming, but it wasn’t available during my testing. For more hardware intensive VR gaming, it’s also worth mentioning that the Oculus Quest 2 can also link up to a VR-ready PC via the Oculus Link USB-C cable ($79). A steep price for a cable, but likely worth it if you have any hopes of playing games like Star Wars Squadrons or Half-Life: Alyx with this headset. That said, it could also be considered just another cost of really unlocking Quest 2’s full potential.
The two controllers are redesigned from the original Oculus Touch controllers, featuring a supposedly longer lasting battery life on just one AA battery a-piece. The controllers have a little bit of extra bulk to them compared to the Touch, but they also feel sturdier as a result. There were a few games where I accidentally clacked them together doing the motions of a game, but I never lost performance throughout. With an expanded button base, you’re also going to be stretching your thumbs a bit more than you did with the Touch, though it’s not a terrible strain and, I’d argue, eventually feels easier and more intuitive to use than the Touch controls ever did. That said, I can also say I experienced just a touch of jank in their response when it came to high-level performance and speed in games that demand it. They do well for the most part. I’d just keep that in mind, especially during high-difficulty rounds of Beat Saber.
The Facebook factor
This is where this headset is going to divide people and that was always going to be the case the moment that Facebook said it was killing Oculus accounts in favor of forcing Oculus headset users to use Facebook accounts to log in. Let’s talk about just how invasive that is. The fact of the matter is that Facebook requires you to use a personal account tied to a name to login. Now someone might try to cheese it with a burner account, but if you get locked out, you’ll likely have to provide real identification in order to work your way back to a successful login. I understand to a certain degree, because it means that in any social gaming or app setting, it will hard to be toxic behind the veil of anonymity when it comes to reporting and moderation. But also, those looking to use this as just a gaming device may be (rightfully) alarmed by how much information it asks you to make available just to play.
Furthermore, logging in with your Facebook account prompts a number of questions throughout setup. How public would you like your Oculus activity to be? How much would you like your friends and public to see? Would you like your activity broadcast throughout your Facebook socials? Bear in mind, you can answer no to all of this and keep things private, but it’s a privacy between you and the good old Facebook data collectors.
Without a Facebook account, there’s a lot of features you can’t access on the headset. I had a Facebook account prior and have little to hide besides the fact that as a reviewer that deals with embargos, I sometimes don’t want friends to see what games I’m playing. That said, the strictness and nature of Facebook preceded by a spotty reputation for data collection and use over the years is likely something that’s going to be a turnoff to a lot of people who would rather not forego privacy for all-in-one VR access.
Improved all-in-one, but at what true cost?
At the end of the day, the Oculus Quest 2 does a decent job on its own for the price. If you’re looking for a Beat Saber or Tetris Effect machine, it will serve that purpose well. What’s more, between future upgrades promising 90Hz support and Facebook and Oculus’s expanding suite of upcoming AR functionality, the Oculus Quest 2 feels like it’s going to be a versatile tool to have in gaming settings and beyond for years to come. That said, there’s a hidden cost in that alluring $299 price tag that can’t go unnoticed. The cost begins with Facebook’s forced account login, but ultimately it actually hits your wallet with the peripherals necessary to really unlock the Quest 2’s potential. $299 gets you base functionality, but even if you just want to replace the strap and play PC VR, it’s going to be at least $120 more before tax. If you can get past the valid feelings of discomfort that might stir or deal simply with the decent library that the Oculus store provides, then you’re in for what I would consider one of the most versatile and accessible VR setups I’ve ever experienced.
This review is based upon a sample unit provided by the manufacturer. The Oculus Quest 2 is available for pre-order through the Oculus website and will launch beginning on October 13, 2020.