Oculus 2: Virtual Boogaloo

I guess I was blinded by the white.  I got the news about Oculus 2, I read how light it was, I saw that the screen had a higher resolution, I saw that it was $100 less than the prior Oculus Quest…and I just dove in, I just went for it, thinking that I would give my Quest 1 away and all would be well.

tl;dr: I still have both units…. and I am not sure if that will change anytime soon.

First off, let me just say that I am a big fan of the Quest and I use it almost every day, mostly for working out. If anyone was curious about VR at all, I would recommend it in a heartbeat, though in the next heartbeat I would admit that we’re not in the “must have” phase of Quest ownership. While there are more and more games being added to the library, most of them are really similar in their mechanics (lots of bow and arrow games), and if someone was interested in it just for playing games, I would suggest getting a console or saving up for a PC.

So, I got the Quest 2, was all excited about the improvements, even if they were incremental, because as much as I liked the first iteration, the second release had to represent some kind of forward movement, right? 

What I noticed immediately about the Quest 2 is that the unit is just noticeably lighter, some might say flimsy, compared to Q1. Obviously this is mostly due to the all-fabric straps, which work well…if you are not moving around a whole lot. Q1 has a much more structured (hard and soft plastic rubber) setup, which keeps everything in place. Of course, Oculus sells the “Elite Strap” (odd use of “elite” there), which builds a little dome around the back of your head, which I just ordered yesterday. 

Having a Quest really makes you think a lot about your head’s shape, your ear placement, and the space between your eyes. It’s just strange—while the Q2 is more comfortable…it just doesn’t fit me right. The straps ride my ears. It’s a pain to adjust the eye spacing. And, for the first few times, I felt like my eye lashes were touching the screens, so I had to put the spacer that is supposed to be used to provide extra room for eyeglasses to give my apparently ample lashes some room to flutter.  There’s also a “Viewmaster” feeling once in awhile: in some screens (never in-game), I just have this feeling like I am looking into a chamber at some screens—I am aware of the edges for some reason.  I never had that feeling in the Quest 1.

Once you are “in,” however, the Q2 changes are more noticeable. The image is sharper and more defined and the software just zips along—it’s much faster.  Oculus has been quite good about updating the software: over this year, they have provided the option to use your hands instead of controllers to navigate around, there’s cool feature to get in and out of pass-through quickly (just tap the right or left side of the headset and you can see “through” the unit via the camera), and voice command integration, which I have turned off.  Oddly, the Q1 feels more “dark” when I put it on, the image just floats in a sea of darkness. I keep feeling like I need to adjust the contrast and brightness controls on the Quest 2, which is not possible for some reason.  

The Quest 2 controllers are lighter and have a much larger button area than the Q1 controllers, so they do take some getting used to. They also vibrate with every selection while you navigate the OS, which is a little annoying, I need to find a way to turn that off. The buttons feel fine—I wish there was more “click” in them—and the controllers, like the headset, are noticeably lighter than the Q1.  I actually prefer a heavier controller for my workout apps, but I this works great for games where you are not moving around a lot.

I am not sure if it’s the software tweaks they have made or what, but the Quest 2 seems to work more consistently with the Oculus Link feature, which I have been using for No Man’s Sky and Star Wars: Squadrons. Oddly, it is this more classical tethered experience where I see the most benefit from the Quest 2—once I got the straps all figured out, it was just a much more comfortable way to play PC-based VR games. I thought I was going to try out No Man’s Sky in VR for a half hour or so; when I finally took the goggles off, almost 90 minutes had passed, the sun had set and I realized that I still had laundry downstairs in the dryer! The softer straps, lighter controls, sharper screen and, of course, lighter headset just made staying in VR easier.  So, if you have a gaming PC and were curious about getting into VR gaming—the Quest 2 is a really affordable way to do that and does not require anything more than the USB-C 3.0 cable, which are much easier to get than earlier this year.

A word of warning to previous Quest users: like the controllers, the headset is physically different than the Q1, which means that none of your accessories (controller grips, replacement padding) will fit. The headphone jack is now “normal”—unlike the Q1, which required a single left and single right wired headphone, you can now just plug in regular headphones, which is, admittedly much better—larger over the ear headphones not only sound better, they keep the Quest in place more effectively.

In my case, these difference resulted in a major irritation for me. As you can see in the pictures, I had customized by Quest 1 with controller grips and replacement padding, which made working out with the unit a lot better and now none of that stuff works with the new unit! So, until I get replacements, I am in this very strange position of having a “workout” Quest alongside by “gaming” Quest. Never thought I would have use-specific VR equipment!

So, is it worth upgrading from the Quest to the Quest 2? Honestly, no. While there are improvements, they are incremental, and if you’ve already invested in accessories for your Quest 1, not only are you going to have to buy new versions for the Quest 2, but odds are it will be awhile before those accessories are available. 

However, if you have been on the fence about just getting into VR via the Oculus platform, I think the service is quite well-supported, the content is really good, the price is competitive, and the integration with the PC is pretty simple (apparently there are even ways to you can use Virtual Desktop to connect the Quest wirelessly, which I need to try). 

There is one caveat and I think it’s a big one: with the introduction of the Quest 2, Oculus is requiring that you have a Facebook account to use the platform.  While I don’t use it often, I do have an account, but if you have long quit that platform or just never joined, I think it’s lame that this is a requirement, especially since that integration limits the kind of sharing you can do—I can take a picture or record a video, but apparently I can only share the content within Facebook! That’s garbage. So take that possible compromise into consideration as you evaluate it, for sure.

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I have noticed that more and more people are actually using the Quest! I’m “mikeromo” in Oculus-land, send me a message and maybe we can play together!

Published by Rikemomo2020

It's a-me, Mike Romo!

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