By Loz Blain September 16, 2020
Facebook’s extraordinary Oculus Quest completely changed the VR game. No wires, no PC, no external sensors, this was the first proper all-in-one headset that you could take to a friend’s place, throw straight on their head and dive into a virtual reality experience with zero learning curve and zero barriers to entry. It instantly took VR out of the realm of geek tech and made it something anyone could enjoy.
For all its accessibility, its power was limited compared to what you could do when you plugged a headset into a PC. That put the brakes on content somewhat, but it was an acceptable tradeoff for the convenience factor. Still, we’ve been eager to learn how a second-gen device could raise the bar, and today, after a series of embarrassing leaks over the last few days, we know. Facebook has revealed the Oculus Quest 2 at its Facebook Connect live stream.
The Quest 2 does indeed offer significantly more power. It gets a solid brain upgrade with the Snapdragon XR2 processor, which is some 46 percent more powerful than the original, while its graphics processing units deliver 33 percent more power, and it gets a RAM bump from 4 GB up to 6 GB.
There’s also an improvement in screen resolution, from 1,440 x 1,600 pixels per eye up to 1,832 x 1,920, which Facebook says should eliminate the “screen door” effect that was noticeable but not a dealbreaker in the Quest. The extra grunt in the processor will enable refresh rates up to 90 Hz, where the original ran at a standard 72 Hz – although this capability will arrive in a software update later.
In terms of comfort, it’s smaller and some 10 percent lighter than the original at 503 g (17.7 oz), which will make a difference during longer sessions. You can now change and customize the head strap and “facial interface accessories” to adjust the fit, the controllers have been changed “for better ergonomics” and battery life, the eye-position adjustment system has been simplified, and importantly the built-in sound system has been upgraded to include cinematic positional audio that’ll let you locate sounds better in 3D space.
Another significant improvement is the price tag; the first Quest was impressively affordable at US$399 (64 GB) and $499 (128 GB), and the Quest 2 is a heck of a lot cheaper, at $299 (64 GB) and $399 (256 GB). Pre-orders are open now, and they’ll become available from October 13. https://www.youtube.com/embed/B-ra5gfr4Gs?enablejsapi=1 Sniper Elite | Announce Trailer | Oculus Quest Platform
In terms of content, it’s cool to see Ubisoft getting involved, promising new Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed VR games. There’s also more Star Wars coming as well as Jurassic World Aftermath and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, which will drop you into World War 2. Population: One will bring battle-royale-style multiplayer shooting to the platform, Beat Saber is going multiplayer, and The Climb 2 will be a sequel to the original scary rock climbing experience – so it’s fair to say development money is getting on board the Oculus platform, and that’ll be key.
Facebook is pushing the Quest 2 as a social device. Messenger will be integrated, and the Oculus Avatar system is getting an upgrade, so you’ll be able to build yourself a custom appearance for telepresence in things like the Venues system, which handles VR meetings as well as things like concerts and whatnot.
The company also wants you to consider the Quest 2 for work and productivity, announcing an Infinite Office virtual office space that can put multiple huge virtual screens in front of you to work with. You’ll be able to use a physical keyboard and trackpad, too, using the Quest’s pass-through vision to make your keyboard visible when you look down. That’s a neat touch, it’ll be interesting to see how well it works.
So all in all, a big announcement and a pretty neat-looking device. Early reviews have been mixed, with some saying the unit seems to be built down to a price, but we’d argue much of the Quest 2’s capability is yet to be demonstrated at this stage and we’ll form our own opinions when we get a chance to play with it.
The decision to make the Quest 2 so much cheaper is certainly a curious one given that the original Quest sold much faster than Oculus could make them; price was clearly not a barrier to entry, so making it even lower might cause an even greater squeeze in availability, and it does raise the question of what sort of beast the Quest 2 could have been with a higher unit price.
And there’s also the unavoidable issue of Facebook itself. Using the Quest 2 – or indeed the original Quest – will now require you to have a Facebook account, which you’ll need to verify by uploading ID, so you can’t separate your Oculus account from your real identity, even though you can still choose your own name for any Quest-related activities.
Still, you’re forced to participate to some degree in a social media platform many view as invasive, toxic and an overall net negative in the world. To say people are angry about this is an understatement; it’s a total deal-breaker for some folks, and will give others the sneaking sense that somebody’s watching over their shoulder every time they put the headset on. Some suspect that Facebook is heavily subsidizing the Quest 2 in order to smash any competition and establish a monopolistic lead in apps and content, with a view to getting its cash back by monetizing user data.
You’ll have your own opinion on this, but as yet the Oculus Quest stands unchallenged in the all-in-one VR space, and the Quest 2 appears to move the goalposts even further forward before the competition has managed to get its boots on. And whatever you think of Facebook, it’s sure got the resources to take VR to the next level.
Check out a short video below.
Loz Blain Loz has been one of our most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he’s branched out into photography, video and audio production.