Oculus Quest - A Headset of Trade-Offs
Here at The VR Club we splashed out and got two new Oculus Quest headsets to round out our offering to 8 total headsets for large parties, with the two Quests doubling for off-site events.
These headsets are designed for home use, making them a challenge to streamline in an arcade setting for first time VR players. For example being able to easily stream to a TV and remotely launch content. There are 3rd party companies working on solutions to help with issues like this, coming “soon”.
The biggest and most obvious positive of the headset is that it is wireless. The feeling of being free of the cable is liberating, but only really shows its worth if you have the space to move. VR still requires a lot of empty space and always will. If you’re playing in a small space then the only advantage to being wireless is that you won’t get twisted and have to come out to unwind the cable.
At The VR Club we’ve implemented an app to monitor how many times you’ve spun around when using the HTC Vive to keep players from getting too twisted up in the cable.
The next best aspect of the Quest is that it has the computing power built into the headset. This keeps the cost down (no need to buy an expensive gaming PC or PS4), however it adds weight to the headset, requires a lot of battery power, and is unable to process complex scenes. It also means you can’t upgrade the internals, unlike a PC where you can easily swap out the graphics card for a newer one to get better visuals and performance. If you want a more powerful Quest you’re out of luck.
Another excellent feature of the Quest is the actual display in the headset. It features a 2880x1600 panel (or 1440x1600 per eye) which is a modest bump up from the HTC Vive’s 2160x1200 panels (or 1080x1200 per eye).
However even this comes at a cost, the panel in the Quest is fixed at 72Hz refresh rate, compared to the Vive’s smooth 90Hz (or the Valve Index’s 120-144Hz), which leads to a more juddery image on the Quest and is more likely to cause motion sickness in a wider range of people.
The final positive note on the Quest is it’s tracking system, which uses four cameras positioned around the headset to track itself and the controllers. This system is incredibly simple to setup following the in-headset prompts and does a good enough job of tracking in various lighting conditions, especially after the most recent update in late July 2019.
The ease of use here is exceptional, and yet this too has drawbacks. The controllers will lose tracking if you reach behind your body or over your head, and the headset often forgets where it is in between sessions if the furniture or room lighting changes. One of the most frustrating things is how it seems to rotate the “front” of the virtual room every single time the headset is taken off, particularly frustrating in an arcade environment when this happens often.
Now for the negatives not already mentioned. The audio on the Quest is abysmal. Even at full volume it’s hard to hear. Plugging in your own headphones helps, though the audio quality is still worse even using the same pair of headphones from a different device.
The field of view is just barely adequate at 95deg. It’s smaller than the Vive at 110deg, and so I found myself having to turn a lot in a game like Fruit Ninja VR to see all the fruit coming at me, which made me lose far quicker than usual. Coming from the Pimax 5K+ smallest FOV setting of 130deg is night and day (and it can achieve 170deg which is pure bliss).
The headstrap is not the worst I’ve used (that award goes to the Pimax 5K+), since it is fairly soft plastic which can sit comfortably if you spend the time adjusting it for your head. But it is difficult to adjust on the fly for sharing the headset, and even when you’re wearing it it can be difficult to adjust. It also lets a lot of the weight sit on the front of your face which can quickly lead to a tired neck.
Finally, the game library for Quest is even smaller than the already limited options there are with VR gaming in general. The industry is still young, and player base is much smaller than traditional video games. I have no doubt it will continue to grow, for how long remains to be seen. But the Quest is a low powered device with only a limited selection of games deemed fit for their curated store by Facebook. There are indie gems which won’t come to the platform for whatever reason they couldn’t get through the gate (such as Loco Dojo), or games which require a lot of processing power which simply can’t run on the headset (like Fallout 4 VR), or games which require a lot of processing power but have had all the pretty graphical fidelity stripped away to make it run no matter the cost (like Arizona Sunshine), making it an objectively lesser experience despite the convenience.
There is a lot to consider with the Quest, even my thoughts above barely scratch the surface. It is the best “low-end” VR headset (compared to the Go, Daydream, Google Cardboard and GearVR which aren’t really in the same category as the Quest), and it is constantly improving with software updates too.
It’s an easy way to get into true roomscale VR if you’re starting from scratch (and don’t mind buying products from Facebook!) and even has several key points over high end headsets like the Vive/Rift/Pimax/Index such as being natively wireless, but when the goal of VR is to feel immersed to the point where you forget you’re playing a video game, the Quest comes up short due to a long list of compromises made in order to achieve a convenient all-in-one solution.