One of the Oculus Quest taglines used in advertising reads “No PC. No Wires. No Limits.” and we’re about to find out if these statements ring true.
No PC. No Wires.
VR has been on the uprise over the past years, but it’s never quite made it to mainstream gamers yet for some reason. Requiring a decent PC to run your game on has been one limiter, not liking to be attached to wires is another commonly quoted reason for people to hesitate on their purchase. And the Oculus Quest is here to remove those restraints: A single all-in-one device to get your VR fix on.
I’m not going to lie: these are the very aspects that sold me on the Quest. Removing the tether to your gaming PC brings the experience into a whole new level of immersion. I’ve played a few VR games at VR centres (Check my reviews for Skyfront, Elven Assassin, Sairento & After-H) and I was always very aware of the space I was in and the length of the wire attached to the back of my skull. Especially in shooters, it quickly became an annoyance that I had to pivot back a few times just to untangle myself.
The latter third of the phrase does require some further delving into, however. There are still a few limitations to the Quest that may not be apparent from the get-go but which should be taken into account before you purchase. The library of games that you can play on the Quest isn’t exactly extensive yet, as is the case with most new consoles, but will all existing VR games make it over to the store soon?
That’s where the hardware limits come into play. The Oculus Quest runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which is basically mobile phone technology. As such, not all games will easily run on the device and they require a lot of optimisation. From what I’ve been told by a few developers who’ve successfully managed to port their game to the quest, it was no easy feat. Oculus is on top of things though: they’re actively supporting gamedevs and giving them the tools needed to get their game running on this shiny new headgear.
When you open your box you’ll find this inside:
It’s a really easy device to set up: The only step that requires a bit of work is creating an Oculus account (if you don’t have one yet) and connecting the app on your phone to the Quest. This is only needed to pair your account to it, after this initial pairing your phone will no longer be needed: you can buy apps from the device itself. Sadly you can only pair a single account to it, so you’ll have to share one within your household. (and changing the account can only be done via a complete factory reset, which seems a bit convoluted to me)
Obviously, you’ll need to connect it to your wi-fi as well, but you’ll be happy to hear that most apps are rather small in size. The 64Gb model should cover most people’s needs.
Charging happens via a 6m USB-C to USB-C cable (with adapter included). You can also use the very same cable to connect to your PC in case you want to move videos/images from one location to another. A full battery is rather shortlived: You’ll get about 2 hours of gaming in or 3 hours of watching Youtube/Netflix. You could always charge the Quest via a battery pack though, same as you would with your phone.
The controllers are probably the best I’ve ever had the joy of using in VR, with regular analog sticks, 2 face buttons on each and a trigger + grip button. They pair instantly to your Quest, so no hassle there.
The main device is easy to put on and adjust to your personal preference too: A velcro strap on top of your head to adjust the height, two straps on the side to adjust how tight it fits and a slider on the bottom to adjust the spacing between your eyes. It really only takes seconds to pass the headset around and adjust to the next person in line (my family and friends were quite interested in trying it out and practically queued up for it).
One personal point that bears mentioning: After about 10 minutes of use I got a chemical burning sensation and when taking off the device noticed a red, swollen outline on my forehead and cheekbones. After a bit of googling this appears to be what’s commonly called “Rift Rash” and it’s a phenomenon that happens to a few people. Some are helped by loosening the straps but that didn’t provide any relief for me. I’ll be forced to get an extra cover with a different type of fabric. Luckily the rash always disappeared after just 2 minutes so it’s nothing too bad. Playing with the Quest was definitely worth the minor discomfort!
There were a few built-in features I could really appreciate.
The first such feature is how you can easily set up a Guardian zone customized to your current surroundings. You can create a small circular zone to play standing still, but you can also “paint” a guardian zone that avoids nearby objects and maximizes your play space. You have to confirm if the proposed ground level is correct, then you can use the trigger to paint a rough outline of your playable zone. Next, you can even nudge this zone down to the centimetre. It’s amazing how this “setting up” is actually a fun experience in and of itself.
The next feature I really liked ties into this guardian zone: the second you step out of the zone, your view changes to that of the real world. That’s right: no more taking off the headset just to see your surroundings. You could be playing Beat Saber at one point, and getting yourself a much-needed refreshment from the fridge the next, all without taking off the Quest. I’m not fully aware which pre-existing VR sets already had this feature, but the ones I tested before sure didn’t and it was one of my major annoyances with them.
Lastly, as a smalltime youtuber, I could really appreciate the built-in recording features. You can easily take a picture at any point in the game or start a recording so you can share it with your friends & followers after your play session. The only improvement I see here is if you could bind a certain key combination to start the recording within a game. Now you have to press the oculus button on your Right Controller and then select the option from a menu.
The Oculus Quest also comes equipped with a set of directional audio speakers. While not of the highest quality, it helps the immersion that you are completely free of wires, including one from a headset or earbuds. It’s also configured in such a way that it’s only slightly hearable by the people in your surroundings on lower volume settings, but sufficiently loud for yourself to enjoy a music-based game like Beat Saber. You can control the volume from the Quest itself with a simple +/- button on the underside.
Should you want to plug in a headset, that’s still possible too; there’s a 35mm audio jack on the side. I’ve used it mostly to connect my SUBPAC for a completely immersive experience, with bass coming from the subwoofer backpack. (An experience I would wholeheartedly recommend!)
The Oculus Quest really is the all-in-one package they’re marketing it to be. I’ve had a blast discovering what it can do and it singlehandedly sold me on the VR platform. If you’ve been on the fence for the same reasons I have, wires bothering you and you didn’t want to be dependant on a powerful gaming PC, then the Quest really is the solution you’ve been waiting for all this time!