Head(sets) up, Readers. Due to a snafu with Meta’s servers during the Quest 3 review window and a last minute embargo change, I’ve only been able to spend around five to six hours with the unit so far. This means the impressions below are based on those first few hours, rather than an extended play test with multiple titles. As you’ll soon see, my initial thoughts are very positive but please bear in mind there is a chance I’ll have missed some underlying issues that will only arise from longer sessions.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Quest 3, if you’re upgrading from a Quest 2, is its size. The new headset is 40 percent slimmer than the Quest 2 and this means that, when worn, the Quest 3 eliminates one of my biggest bugbears of its predecessor – the downward drag on your face. Before I started using a replacement head strap (the excellent BOBOVR M2 Pro) I found the Quest 2 so uncomfortable to wear for extended periods that I avoided using it whenever I could. Even with the basic material strap that’s included with the Quest 3 however, the difference in comfort between the pair is huge. The smaller size means it’s better balanced on your face and because of this the headset doesn’t slip when you pull off exaggerated physical movements like limboing under bullets in Pistol Whip.
While the front of the Quest 3 is slimmer than the Quest 2, the facial interface is larger and this can even be extended slightly with a quick press of a small catch inside. This meaning that glasses wearers will be able to use the headset from the off without having to buy extra spacers. In terms of the facial interface, the material used in the basic package is nice and comfortable as well, but you can pay extra (£39.99) for a replacement silicone one if you’d prefer. The basic facial interface also does a pretty good job of eliminating light leakage. I did notice a small bit of light shining through from a small gap between the facial interface and the side of my head when I purposefully stood with bright sunlight behind me however, and this effect increased in moments of gameplay featuring darker scenes. This was nowhere near as bad as the light leakage that I experienced with the Pico 4 headset though and it should hopefully be a rarity for those using the headset under normally lit circumstances.
Comfort-wise, the new Touch Plus controllers are also a step up from the Quest 2’s controllers in both quality and functionality. The biggest difference here is the removal of the tracking rings that have been present on all previous Quest controllers. This is something that is a huge plus for those of us who keep accidentally cracking them due to unfortunate wall collisions. Instead of the rings, the Touch Plus controllers have self tracking which means they’re much more accurately tracked when they’re being swung behind or above your head or wherever else they go when you’re rapidly pulling arrows from a quiver behind your back. The reduction in overall size here really helps you forget that the controllers are anything but an extension of your hands. Gone are the days of smashing rings together as you reach for stuff (ooer) and the ergonomic design means they now sit comfortably in your hands with all buttons and triggers nicely in reach.
Another big new upgrade for the Touch Plus controllers is the inclusion of TruTouch haptics. With three haptic units in each controller the immersion of interacting with virtual objects is increased slightly. It’s a shame though that, even with a haptic unit in the trigger, it still comes no way near to matching the immersive pulls of PlayStation’s Adaptive Triggers on the PS VR2’s Sense Controllers. While the Touch Plus controllers disappointingly do still rely on disposable AA batteries, the covers for those now have a little locking mechanism to keep them from accidentally sliding off during exaggerated play, which is a great fix for something that bothered me about the previous models.
For me, one of the most impressive features of the Quest 3 is its updated Passthrough feature that makes setup a doddle. There’s an initial setup process where you have to connect the headset to the Oculus App on a phone or PC if you’re using it with Oculus Link, but once that’s done you’re able to scan your environment in Passthrough, much like you could in the setup for the PS VR2. The difference here though is that the Passthrough is full colour and honestly, it’s by far the best version I’ve experienced so far. There is still a graininess to the visuals and when looking at a light source like a window the image gets blown out a bit, but unlike the Pico 4’s passthrough which is also in colour, the Quest 3’s passthrough works perfectly in low light conditions. When getting up close and personal to objects there’s a wobble of the image but it still looks incredibly detailed and I was able to wander around my house doing everyday tasks like feeding my cats with zero issues at all. I could even clearly read the screen of my mobile phone through Passthrough, although the whites on my computer monitor were also blown out, which made reading small text difficult.
During the Passthrough setup process you’re asked to look around your room and as you do this the headset scans your playspace and places a virtual mesh over obstacles like furniture. Once you’ve got your space scanned and the Quest has suggested a playspace for you, you can then easily edit it using the controllers to paint in or remove extra areas. It’s all very simple but the real jawdropper for me came when I tried out the free ‘introductory’ mixed reality game, First Encounters. After being asked to scan my room again, the headset recognised the walls of my living room and automatically placed a grid over them. Then I had to highlight objects such as sofas and tables by clicking and dragging areas around them to show their length, height and depth. This allowed the game to know exactly where the bare spots of my walls were so that, in the game that followed, they could be smashed down by an invading army of little, fluffy Tribble-like creatures called Puffians.
It all worked great and, as my walls and ceiling came under assault, rubble and plaster would fall to the floor or bounce off of sofas and tumble to the ground beneath. Because I’d marked out my furniture, none of the invaders burst through my chairs or tables in immersion breaking ways and in fact, they’d bounce off those things much in the same way as the rubble would. And it played great too – it’s a simple Whac-a-Mole shooter, but the vibrance of the passthrough and the steadiness of the mixed reality visuals made it easy to believe that a small UFO had indeed just crashed through my ceiling and landed on the floor in front of me. I’ve never been that excited about mixed reality before but after trying out First Encounters I’ll certainly be paying more attention to it now.
On the topic of Passthrough and mixed reality, I also had a quick play around with the Quest 3’s built-in hand tracking. It worked fairly well for me, even when I tried quickly crossing my hands over a few times, but simple button presses and ‘pinch to pick up’ actions often needed a couple of tries for them to register. Your hands also need to be directly in front of you when you use this feature as the tracking of your fingers and arms is completely lost as soon as you move them to the outside of this front facing vision cone. It was a nice novelty to try this out in a mixed reality environment as I searched for demos to download on the virtual Oculus store that floated in front of me in my living room but hand tracking certainly lacked the accuracy of the Touch Plus controllers.
This all leads me on nicely to the rest of the visuals which, thanks to an updgrade to a Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip combined with the new display resolution of 2064×2208 pixels per eye, look absolutely leagues ahead of the Quest 2. I’m not the most technical of chaps, but the jump in visual quality, sharpness and overall performance between the Quest 2 and the Quest 3 felt like a generational leap. These improvements are noticeable as soon as you put the headset on, but one title I played called Dungeons of Eternity had the option to switch between Quest 2 visuals and enhanced Quest 3 visuals and doing this really highlighted the improvements. Quest 2 visuals look blurry and muddy compared to the Quest 3’s enhanced sharpness, extra detailed textures and new lighting effects.
This is all helped by the Quest 3’s new pancake lenses which, along with keeping the headset slimmer, also gave me fewer visual anomalies like the godrays and glare that affected the Quest 2. I didn’t spot a Mura effect either, which was a big complaint from users of the PS VR2 and I think this is due to the Quest 3 using LCD displays rather than OLED ones. I wouldn’t say the field of view is massively increased by these new lenses though. Even though they do look bigger in size than those of the Quest 2, I was still aware of that ‘looking through binoculars’ effect in my peripheral vision.
Along with quicker load times afforded by the power of the new hardware, I was also impressed by the accuracy of the controller tracking in-game. I put it through its paces with the melee combat of Dungeons of Eternity, plus the fast-paced swings and full body movements of both Pistol Whip and Beat Saber and not once did I have an issue with loss of tracking. This was even true when I accidentally punched the metal light shade above my head as I tested how accurately big swings were tracked. I also tested out more fiddly operations like the intricate reloads in Pavlov Shack and the tracking and accuracy worked just as well there too.
One thing that the Quest 3 hasn’t really improved on is the unit’s battery life which, like the Quest 2, sits at around two to three hours depending on how heavy the processes are that you’re using it for. I had to charge the headset a couple of times during the testing process as I was using it from full to empty battery each time, so you may want to look into third party headstraps with built in battery packs if you’re after longer play sessions.
I was never a huge fan of playing native Quest 2 games, due to a lot of issues that have been rectified by the Quest 3, such as visual fidelity. Instead I mainly used it as a PC VR headset so of course I had to try this out with the Quest 3 as well. Again, setup was very simple and using Quest Link allowed me quickly and easy access to my PC desktop, all while sitting in full colour Passthrough. If I’d have had handtracking on at this point it would have been very Minority Report indeed! I tested out a couple of PC VR games including Half-Life: Alyx and once again the clarity and higher resolution of image was really noticeable compared to that of the Quest 2. So much so that I couldn’t imagine not using the Quest 3 as a full time replacement for all my PC VR needs.
Audio-wise, the new built in speakers of the Quest 3 are louder than before, with bassier sounds. It probably won’t be a replacement for wearing headphones if you’re after the best quslity but it’s certainly an improvement over the tinny Quest 2 speakers. A quick test of the in-built mic during in-headset video recording sounded fine too. Nothing special but not terrible either.
Talking about video recording, this was something I was really interested in checking out as I often have to do this on the Quest 2 for VR Corner and it’s such a pain in the bum. Unfortunately there’s not a huge amount of improvement here. The default recording sizes aren’t great and in-headset you can only push it to 1920x1080p, 20Mbps with a variable frame rate of 36fps (although my recordings using these settings have come out at 45fps). This means anyone wanting more than this will have to bypass the in-built settings using something like the SideQuest app. Also, audio drift issues are still a problem with longer recordings so anyone planning on producing long form Let’s Plays will need to do a bit of re-syncing in the edit.
Overall then, I’m really impressed with the Quest 3 and I’m confident that it will become a full time replacement for my Quest 2 in all aspects. I honestly never enjoyed using native apps on my Quest 2 due to the rather ropey visual quality but going forwards I’m way more interested in giving them a shot. There’s a few negatives from my first experiences sure, battery life being one of the major ones, but the positive points really do outweigh the issues I have.
At a lower price point than the PS VR2 for the 128GB model and, with a huge backwards compatible library of native Quest 2 games, plus the option to easily play hundreds more PC VR titles, I’d say that the Quest 3 is definitely looking like one of the best options for consumer-grade VR gaming going forward.
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