Hands-On Review: Oculus Quest 2

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Recently, I was asked how the Oculus Quest 2 compares to the original. My answer was fairly straightforward: It’s better. Pressed for specifics on how and in what ways was it better, my reply was equally succinct: In every way.

For anyone who’s familiar with the original Oculus Quest, hearing that its successor, the Oculus Quest 2, is superior in every way is noteworthy. After all, the Oculus Quest was both wildly popular and a major step forward for virtual reality (VR), a point we covered at length in our hands-on review.

Back then, we described the Oculus Quest as a transformative experience, one that could bring powerful, immersive, and affordable VR to the masses. The Oculus Quest 2 achieves that same transformative experience, only it does it better, with improved hardware, a bolstered ecosystem, and more promising future. Here’s my review.

Oculus Quest 2
Oculus Quest 2

Design

One of the reasons the original Oculus Quest was so successful was its wireless design. Before the Oculus Quest, you couldn’t get high-quality VR without a tethered headset. You had to be hooked up to a computer via a connection cable. The Oculus Quest changed that and, in doing so, changed the game.

The design of the Oculus Quest 2 follows that same footpath, only it does so with more style and comfort. For starters, it’s more aesthetically pleasing. Gone is the all-black, sci-fi chic color tone. In its place is a uniform white body with a black foam mask underneath that’s nicer to look at. The hand controllers, too, are also now all white.

The headset has also been upgraded in terms of comfort. It is now smaller and lighter than the original, and the new model replaces the semi-hard head strap with an adjustable fabric strap. Personally, I never had any comfort issues with the original, though I know some who did—those of the “pencil-neck” variety or anyone overly sensitive to pressure being applied to their face. The lighter build and softer strap do help reduce the strain, though to what degree depends on the individual.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Oculus Quest 2 allows you to swap the soft head strap out for a rigid band known as the Elite Strap, which looks more like the original. At the time of this testing, I hadn’t yet tried the Elite Strap, although, as someone who enjoys the secure fit of my own Oculus Quest, I am likely to buy one.

Hardware

By and large, what makes the Oculus Quest 2 so superior to the original is the power of its improved hardware. Its screen resolution, for example, is now 1832 x 1920 per eye, which is up from the original’s 1440 x 1600 offering. The improved resolution definitely has a noticeable effect on in-game graininess, as well as the overall picture quality.

Along with the improved screen resolution, the Oculus Quest 2’s refresh rate is also significantly better—thanks to a recent update. Like its predecessor, the Oculus Quest 2 originally shipped with a moderate 72 Hz refresh rate. However, just last week, Oculus rolled out a firmware update that boosts the Oculus Quest 2’s refresh rate up to 90 Hz, meaning visuals will improve even further and the supported game catalogue will continue to grow.

One of the most interesting things about the Oculus Quest 2’s hardware is its new chipset. Whereas the original Oculus Quest does just fine with its general-use Snapdragon 835 processor (the same chip used in flagship smartphones three years ago), the Oculus Quest 2 comes with its own VR-specific chip, the Snapdragon XR2 from Qualcomm.

Now, according to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon XR2 blows the Snapdragon 835 completely out of the water—in a manner of speaking. It doubles CPU and GPU performance. It facilitates AI processing that’s 11x as fast and supports 6x the video resolution. We’re talking about a chip that can allegedly handle two displays (one for each eye) running at 3K resolution with a 90 Hz refresh rate. Technically speaking, that is insane.

But didn’t you just say the Oculus Quest 2 has a per-eye display resolution of 1832 x 1920?

Yes, and that’s the interesting part about the XR2. While it is unquestionably a much more powerful chipset than the Snapdragon 835, much of that power is yet untapped. That’s because, right now, a large part of the Oculus Quest 2’s content catalogue was optimized for the original Oculus Quest and its Snapdragon 835 chip. What that means is that, right now, the noticeable benefits of the new processor are mainly how well it allows the Oculus Quest 2 to outperform the original. But the promise of the XR2 is that, down the road, we’re going to see much better-looking games with a greater sense of total immersion. In other words, future VR worlds will look even better on the Oculus Quest 2 and we’ll be able to interact with them like never before.

Ecosystem

In terms of launch-day titles, the Oculus Quest 2 has the obvious edge. Depending on what you consider a “game,” the Oculus Quest 2 had somewhere between two to four as many titles available at launch than did the original. But those numbers are a little misleading because they don’t reflect current game libraries that are, for the most part, identical. In other words: Every game available on the Oculus Quest 2 is also currently available on the original Oculus Quest—including PC VR games you can only access through your home computer using the Oculus Link Cable.

Of course, all that is just quantity, and even though it’s basically a tie in terms of volume, if you’re talking quality, there’s no comparison. Thanks to its higher display resolution and superior processor, everything on the Oculus Quest 2 looks and feels better. Graphics are smoother. There’s significantly less blurring, especially along the edges, and the response times, in general, just feel snappier. The improvement varies from game to game, but it’s always there.

Which brings us to the final piece of Oculus Quest 2 ecosystem and only area where the original might prove better: Facebook.

Oculus is owned by Facebook, and thus the Oculus Quest 2 is also owned by Facebook. Unlike the original Oculus Quest, to use the Oculus Quest 2, you must have a Facebook account. I do not have a Facebook account. Having to sign up for one in order to play games I already purchased and can play on my Oculus Quest was annoying.

How annoying? Honestly, not very. I just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to play Beat Saber, not set up a whole thing with names and friends and people I might know or want to connect with—I don’t want any of that. But you might feel differently. You might already have a Facebook account, so setting it up is a non-issue. Or you might not have a Facebook account because you have legitimate privacy concerns and it’s not something you want. It’s such a subjective issue, I don’t include it in my side-by-side comparison, because there’s no one right answer. If your biggest concern is not being on Facebook, then the fact the Oculus Quest 2 is better than the original in every single way doesn’t matter.

Verdict

We kind of gave away the ending early on, but in case you missed it: the Oculus Quest 2 is better than the original. How much better? Well, depending on how you feel about Facebook and the outlook of VR in general, the answer is either a little or a whole lot. Backed by better displays and a chipset that’s generations beyond its predecessor, the Oculus Quest 2 outshines the original in every performance category and lays the groundwork for the next generation of VR games that only it can support. Oh, and just in case all that isn’t enough to convince you the Oculus Quest 2 is superior, allow me to mention the price: it’s a hundred dollars cheaper than original.

How’s that for better? Share your thoughts or ask us any questions you have in the Comments section, below.

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