Which is the best VR headset you can buy in 2021? Thanks to Covid, it’s a question a lot of people are asking, and as it turns out, your options are pretty limited. This led me to try out the Oculus Quest 2, to see if I could figure out if this standalone VR headset from Facebook could provide enough of an escape into a world that’s still far from normal.
Strap on a headset, controllers are strapped to your palms, and you’re transported into a whole new virtual world, where a play area is defined and games are at your fingertips, or in this case, controller-tips. It’s the promised magic of virtual reality headsets. Much has been said about the potential of VR and how much it still has a long way to go, and Facebook-owned oculus It seems to lead the brigade when it comes to VR gaming.
Oculus follows in Quest 2’s footsteps its predecessor In terms of design. The headset has a pure white body with a black foam face mask, which now has a silicone attachment. As for specifications and power, Oculus has kicked everything up a notch for this headset. The screen is much better, the ecosystem more robust, and the headset itself is lighter and more comfortable than before. I’ve been using the Quest 2 for the past few weeks, and I often strapped it on for over an hour—it was comfortable overall and didn’t give me a headache.
There is a simple head strap that can be adjusted. Oculus offers three manual lens spacing settings for even more clear vision, which feels less restrictive. The Quest 2 doesn’t have a lot of buttons that keep its simple look. There’s a power button on the right, a volume rocker on the bottom right, and a USB Type-C port and an audio port on the left.
launched in 2020Oculus Quest 2 is not officially available in India. It can be found popping up on some e-commerce sites at very high prices, but these are units sold unofficially by third-party sellers. In the US, it offers a bang for your money at $299 (roughly Rs. 22,200) – which is about $100 (roughly Rs. 7,400) less expensive than its predecessor. There is also a silicone cover that can be purchased additionally for $39 (approximately Rs. 3,000).
Setting up the Oculus Quest 2 isn’t as complicated as you might think it would be. No need to put any external wires, cameras or sensors around your room. After taking the headset out of its box, it took me just a few minutes to get it up and running. You’ll need the Oculus mobile app on your phone to connect to the headset, and you’ll need Sign in with Facebook account (This is required to use Quest 2). Then, just put the headset on. Once you get hold of the controllers, you’ll see them virtually through the headset. Then Quest 2 will ask you to create a play space. Download a game and you are good to get gaming. Whether you tilt your head up, down or sideways, you see a clear image all around you. There are many games and videos that you can watch here. Experiences include seeing the New York City skyline, or taking a roller coaster ride
Quest 2 uses the Oculus Guardian system to create a safe play area. It lets you use the controllers to sketch a virtual boundary around your furniture and space, which will keep you from bumping into things. This is possible because of the headset’s passthrough+ mode which uses cameras located outside to show you your surroundings. It is very clear, albeit in black and white. If you let go of your Guardian range while using the headset, it will switch to this mode so you can see your surroundings quickly, and avoid collisions. I found it very useful in super-immersive games, and it prevented me from hitting my TV several times.
Oculus recommends a 6.5′ x 6.5′ (approximately 2m x 2m) space for room-scale VR activities. If you have limited space, you can stand or sit and create a stable range as well.
The controllers have an orbital shape, and sit comfortably in the hands. I had to wrap the straps around my wrist to keep my controllers from falling off. The virtual world has a bunch of buttons, including trigger-like buttons for taking things in, shooting or selecting something. The VR UI takes some time to navigate, but overall, the controllers perform really well and are fast. Motion sensing is super accurate.
The Oculus Quest 2 has been given a serious uptick in performance compared to the previous Quest, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 SoC and 6GB RAM. This processor makes playing games on Quest almost a PC-level experience. Even the main interface of the headset is very intuitive. There’s also a lot of storage, which is useful considering that apps have started taking up more space than before. The base variant now has 128GB, which I found to be sufficient, but serious gamers may appreciate the 256GB variant.
There’s a new 1832×1920 pixels-per-eye resolution that’s absolutely stunning. There is absolutely no pixelation on the edges of the display as well. The Quest 2 runs at a refresh rate of up to 120Hz in some games and apps.
I played Battle-Royal-style Population: One, hit the saber, and eleven table tennis. The graphical detail in these heavy-duty games was impressive. I was immersed in the action and almost felt like I was in a sci-fi movie sometimes. In the Epic Roller Coaster app, I felt butterflies in my stomach as I sat down at my desk and walked down steep slopes. Beat Saber had me whipping cubes coming to the beat of the music, while my controllers were cool virtual lights. There are also several multiplayer games, such as Population: One. I also watched a VR documentary, Surviving 9/11, in 2001 about the deadly attack on Quest 2 in New York, and was taken to the New York skyline, floating above the city.
I could easily shoot in Population: One, and remove the color blocks in Beat Saber. The haptic feedback from the controllers is impressive. They let me feel the pulses with a slight vibration, and it certainly added to the thrill of a rollercoaster going down a steep rail! Different apps have different haptic cues, sometimes even just the slight vibration that goes with the in-game music.
There are a few apps and games in the Oculus VR Store. Most of the ones with higher ratings aren’t free though, and will cost you anywhere from $5 (about Rs.374) to $30 (about Rs.2,246) for each. There are limited free apps and there can be a bit of repetition with their content. Video has little repeat value beyond the early novelty of VR, but that’s not the case for most games.
If you want other people to see what you’re doing in VR, casting is also possible! You can cast using Chromecast to your phone or to the Oculus app on your TV. That way, you can show other people the VR experience you’re immersed in.
You can pair an external Bluetooth keyboard to use the Oculus web browser or Facebook Messenger. The experience isn’t ideal, as you have to sit down, and looking for the keys is a bit daunting, especially if you need to type in long URLs. Oculus recently started supporting some keyboards like the Logitech K830, so it’s much easier to navigate its physical surface in virtual space. The real benefit of using a Bluetooth keyboard is limited on the Quest 2 right now. You can also get phone notifications on the virtual screen, which is probably more useful.
Using the Oculus Quest 2 consistently for over an hour, I finally started to find it a bit uncomfortable. The bandages were tight around my head and I could feel the weight of the device on my nose, so there was some physical discomfort. However, since the virtual screen is so clear, I didn’t feel disoriented even after gaming for an hour. Of course, one may experience eye fatigue using a VR headset continuously for more than 45 minutes.
There are speakers on the sides of the headset. Audio is crisp, though a bit thin. The only issue I had with it was that everyone else in the room could hear the sound as well. Unfortunately, you can’t pair the wireless earphones with a headset to use instead. The headphone jack allows you to connect headphones, but it’s not a good idea to have a wire hanging around in action-heavy games. Audio is a big part of the experience, and the Quest 2 delivers on that front, especially the sound directionality that the speakers allow. The built-in mic is also nice and does its job.
Battery life isn’t the Quest 2’s strongest suit. It lasts about three hours with heavy use, but after that it will need to be charged. I found this to be sufficient for my needs, as gaming for more than an hour gets a bit tiring. One drawback is that the controllers cannot be recharged via USB. Each controller takes one AA battery, and they last several weeks without a charge in my experience, so hopefully that’s not a huge limitation. You can of course get rechargeable AA batteries.
Oculus has stepped up its game with Quest 2. Virtual reality with this headset doesn’t just look like it’s in an iterative phase, but more so that it has finally taken shape. Quest 2 has an entire ecosystem with some really cool Games in the Oculus Quest Store. It works flawlessly, and the visual fidelity, audio, and content all make for a great overall experience. Oculus defines a lower age limit for users as 13+, and since something like this would be pretty picky in their teens, the device could have benefited from parental controls as well. I also wish there was wireless earphone connectivity to make it the ultimate VR experience.