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Oculus Quest 2 review: Facebook's $299 VR headset is still one of my favorite game consoles

The Quest 2 gets a bump-up in storage, and continues to get software upgrades. But: you need a Facebook account to use it.

Editors' note: A new version of the Quest 2 doubles the storage of the $299 model to 128GB, and includes a silicone cover for the foam face piece after a voluntary recall of the foam covers earlier this year due to facial irritation concerns with a small subset of customers. Existing Quest 2 owners can order a free silicone cover.

There's a pair of magic goggles I've gone back to again and again over the last two years, opening up worlds of games, theater, conversations, art and experiences that are tough to even describe. The Oculus Quest 2 is an improved, less expensive sequel to the Oculus Quest, a self-contained VR game console that was my absolute favorite thing in 2019. It's already been my portable holodeck, my little magic fitness room, my escape space

I've used the Quest 2 for a year so far, sometimes an hour straight or more at a time. It keeps impressing me, and the fit and comfort have actually improved. The more compact head strap feels like it's broken in a bit, and the eye padding now feels less restrictive. I feel like I've found a sweet spot for adjusting it to my face. And the controllers can last for a month or more on a set of batteries.

Facebook just updated the base storage on the entry-level Quest 2, doubling it from 64GB to 128GB. This is helpful, since I've found games and apps increasing in storage size. 128GB should be more than enough for most, but serious VR gamers will appreciate the 256GB storage tier step-up (there's no way to expand storage otherwise). Just keep in mind: The Quest 2 isn't designed for kids and has no kid-friendly account or safety settings, even though lots of parents I know have kids that use it.

The Quest 2 keeps improving its software: it can get phone notifications now, pair with keyboards and connect with virtual meeting apps, do basic fitness tracking, and wirelessly stream to PCs. It's still the best self-contained VR headset right now, and the most affordable for its features. But yeah, you have to accept that this is Facebook's world (and that involves possibilities for future ads, too).

8.7

Oculus Quest 2

Like

  • $100 less than before
  • Better, faster processor
  • Higher-res display
  • Great self-contained gaming experience
  • Doubles as PC VR headset
  • Lighter and a bit smaller

Don't Like

  • Store still lacks some higher-end games
  • Only 2-3 hours of battery life
  • You have to use Facebook to log in

The Quest 2 adds a faster, VR-optimized Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor, a higher-resolution display, and yet is $100 less expensive at $299. (In the UK the starting price is £299, and in Australia it's AU$479.) In a year defined by quarantine and remote communications, Facebook looks more intent than ever on getting as many people to use VR as fast as possible.

Lots of Quest games have received updates to take advantage of the Quest 2's better graphics power. Red Matter, an alternate-future Soviet space adventure/horror game, looked good before but looks stunning now. Others, such as Trover Saves the Universe (by Justin Roiland, creator of Rick & Morty) and Arizona Sunshine, look even closer to PC VR experiences now. That's also meant an increase in the amount of storage needed on-headset. Apps tend to range from as little as a few hundred MBs to 10GBs in size.

After Year One of the Quest, it feels like the future for this headset is still sky-high. Facebook is continuing to channel lots of high-quality games into the app store, and the headset's expansion into more home work and connectivity apps is turning it into a deeper tool. It also works surprisingly well as a PC VR headset, in case you need it to.

Oculus Quest 2

The original Quest in black and the Quest 2 in white.

Scott Stein/CNET

The Quest 2 requires you to connect or merge with a Facebook account, even if you're a long-standing Oculus user. Facebook's policies for the Oculus VR have changed, requiring a Facebook login which wasn't necessary before. Existing Oculus ID owners still have to merge accounts immediately when using the Quest 2. Facebook's social media ambitions are clearly aligned where VR and AR are heading, and guess what? The Oculus Quest 2 is a Facebook product. This isn't surprising to me, but it's something to consider if you want a VR headset that's more open and flexible, or doesn't live under Facebook's umbrella.

That's concerning in the longer-range scope of how Facebook handles data on its VR headset, but in the short term it doesn't affect much at all. The Quest 2 is a game console, for the most part, and it's a fantastic one. It might even be my second-favorite game console right now next to the Nintendo Switch.

The Quest 2 replaces the original Quest. But it will also, eventually, replace Facebook's PC headset, too: The Oculus Rift S will no longer be sold as of next spring, so the compact Quest 2 headset will now be Facebook's only VR product. It can connect with PCs or stand on its own, and with a new Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor it could be capable of running much more advanced software. It might even be Facebook's little affordable Trojan horse that lets you explore mixed reality and AR before full-fledged AR smart glasses arrive years from now.

Even if the Quest 2 were the same price as before, it would be easy to recommend. It's lighter and faster and has revised controllers with better battery life. The display resolution is notably crisper and remarkably easy to read text on. If you bought an Oculus Quest recently, I'm sorry. But if you already own a Quest, right now you don't need to upgrade. It's just that new would-be buyers are getting a much better deal, except for the mandatory Facebook login requirement.

Read moreWhy you should buy a Nintendo Switch Lite and Oculus Quest 2, instead of PS5 or Xbox Series X

More game console than work device

If you treat the Quest 2 as a motion-enabled game console for your face and hands, or a way to socialize with friends in magic worlds where you can run around as invented avatars, it's fantastic. It's also a great little machine for playing Beat Saber. The Oculus Quest was already the best self-contained VR headset on the planet, and the Quest 2 is even better. 

The experiences I've had in Oculus Quest have been surprising and strange, magical and active. The Quest 2 looks to be walking that same path with its curated app store and self-contained ecosystem. The full-motion six degrees of freedom (6DoF) tracking, using four in-headset cameras, is all the same right now. The controllers are complex but well-designed. It's more of a VR mini game console than anything, but its other tools -- virtual big-screen computer monitors, fitness training software, immersive theater portals -- could add dimensions you may not even have considered. 

There are work tools in the Quest ecosystem, and ways to have virtual meetings: Spatial's app brings people into shared spaces with workflows and cloud storage tools. Virtual monitor apps like Immerse can turn the Quest into a virtual series of monitors for your real computer. Plug in a USB cable, and the Quest 2 can be a PC VR headset (Oculus Link, which was in beta before, is coming out of beta alongside Quest 2), and work with a lot of Steam apps as well.

Still, the Quest doesn't interface with Apple iOS or Google's Android OS, although it pairs with a phone app like a smartwatch for some basic syncing and screen casting. You can't just hop into a Zoom call or share a doc, and the flow between my virtual computer work life and the VR virtual flow isn't there yet. I hope it can arrive because in my opinion, VR headsets should be more like immersive visual headphones. Right now they're more like customized and different toolkits with positives (physical immersion) and negatives (no face-to-face camera conversation, and no easy work tools like a mouse and keyboard).  

Facebook's trying to solve working in VR with some of its recent efforts in 2021, but while apps such as Horizon Workrooms are impressive, they feel more experimental than essential.

A great example of VR's limits is the Quest 2's still-evolving hand tracking. I can use my hands to reach out and touch things, controller-free, which is wild. But I can't get physical feedback, and mastering the specific gestures needed to open an app, drag an object somewhere or type a response to a message feels extremely difficult.

Oculus Quest 2
Scott Stein/CNET

What's excellent

The price: The $299 all-in cost is still not trivial. But it's low compared to most gadgets, and the recent bump-up in the included storage is a welcome add. 

The display resolution: The new 1,832x1,920-per-eye pixel resolution is improved from the 1,400x1,600 on the older Quest, and it makes everything smoother, removing a lot of the "screen door" pixelation. The newer XR2 processor also cuts down on the lower-res halo on the edges of the display that happened previously due to fixed foveated rendering (which only made the center of the display look ultrasharp to help the older processor). It's more universally clean and crisp now, even at the edges.

Oculus Quest 2

Built-in audio pumps up from right behind those straps, but there's also a headphone jack.

Scott Stein/CNET

Built-in audio doesn't need headphones: The ambient spatial audio that comes out of the side straps is pretty good, and I prefer it to using headphones. It sounds a bit better to me than the first Quest. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The new XR2 chip could create far more advanced graphics and be used for improved room tracking and mixed reality: Right now, the Quest 2 runs the same Quest apps and has the same hand-tracking capabilities. The system should be able to run more advanced apps and evolve its room awareness and tracking skills. Qualcomm's chip is several generations beyond what the previous Snapdragon 835 could offer, and has specialized computer vision AI. But that's all theoretical; right now it's running nicer-looking Quest games. A bunch of Quest games are already getting graphics upgrades, which make games look closer to approaching console or PC-level experiences.

Oculus Quest 2
Scott Stein/CNET

The refresh rate is better, up to 90Hz: The first Quest could run at 72Hz, a bit less than PC VR headsets that can go to 90Hz. The faster the refresh rate, the smoother the experience. The Quest 2 can even do 120Hz for some games and apps.

The size and weight: Facebook says the new Quest is 10% lighter (17.7 ounces, or 503 grams) and it's also smaller. It's still a pair of goggles, but it's easier to carry around and wear. The basic flex straps are easier to pack down, too -- the older Quest's harder strap made it bulkier for travel.

Oculus Quest 2

The new Quest 2 controller (left) versus the original Quest (right). Same layout, but there's more finger-rest room, and the controller's a bit bigger now.

Scott Stein/CNET

The new controllers and their battery life: The revamped Oculus Touch controllers have the same buttons and analog sticks and triggers, like a split-apart PlayStation controller. But the new controllers are bigger and sturdier-feeling, and have a bigger button area with a thumb rest. The controllers still use AA batteries as opposed to being rechargeable, but last a lot longer on a single battery: they lasted on the included AA batteries for months. Also, the battery cover doesn't randomly slide off like it sometimes does on the older Quest controllers.

The game library: Right now, the Quest 2 runs exactly the same games and apps as the Quest. That collection of apps is already pretty large and full of great VR game options. There are also a bunch of new upcoming games, many of them ports of existing PC or console VR games. I've played early versions of the upcoming Rez Infinite, the survival battle royale Population One, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners and first-person shooter Warhammer 40,000 Battle Sister. So far, all of these are backward-compatible with the Quest, so owners of the first Quest definitely don't need to upgrade. (Update: A year since the Quest 2 launched, the game library has continued to push out excellent titles.)

Oculus Quest 2

The elastic straps are more compact now, but sometimes not as comfy.

Scott Stein/CNET

What's a bit of a letdown

You need to use a Facebook account: As I said above.

It's not as friendly to my larger glasses: The eye area on the new Quest is a bit smaller, and the included foam padding feels firmer and cushier. But my glasses now seem a bit more jammed in than on the older Quest. Facebook is selling a fit pack ($39) with a few different snap-out foam frames for different face types, so maybe I need one of those. But after a month, the foam has broken in a bit and felt better.

The new head straps aren't quite as comfy, either: Going with simpler elastic straps instead of the more rigid array on the first Quest means the headset feels a little less comfortable for me. These straps have felt a lot better after a few weeks of breaking in, but a separately-sold Elite Strap feels even more comfortable on my head.

Same headset battery life, takes a long time to recharge: The headset lasts 2 to 3 hours, which is like the last Quest. I find battery life can run down in just one evening, and then I need to recharge. And recharging takes a long time -- an hour or more, which means you'll need to take a VR break whether you like it or not. Facebook does sell an Elite Strap with an extra battery pack, plus a helpful case, which helped my longer-term play sessions a lot.

Oculus Quest 2

You need a longer USB-C cable to connect to a PC for VR.

Scott Stein/CNET

The included USB-C cable is a lot shorter now: The original Quest included a super long USB-C cable that could be used to charge while playing, or tether via USB-C to a PC. The shorter charge cable with the Quest 2 makes that impossible, but guess what? Facebook sells a longer cable (or you could buy your own for PC tethering via Oculus Link).

No expandable storage: The 128GB on the $299 Quest will hold enough games and apps, I think (the 64GB previous model held a few dozen app downloads, but 128GB should be enough). Still, no expandable storage means that you need to choose carefully. Hardcore VR users should consider the 256GB option.

The LCD display's blacks aren't as black as the original Quest OLED: The fast-switch LCD on the Quest 2 is generally better, but the black levels are clearly less black. In a darkened virtual movie theater or with a dark game like The Room VR, I'm a lot more aware of the display's light. (On the up side, bright images and text like web pages seem more vivid.)

Oculus Quest 2

IPD adjustment is one of three fixed settings.

Scott Stein/CNET

IPD adjustment for my eyes was a bit of a learning process: The older Quest fit my eyes perfectly, and also had an interpupillary distance slider to fit eye distances for nearly anyone. The Quest 2 replaces the slider with three preset eye distance settings (53mm, 63mm, 68mm) that are meant to fit most people, but at first my vision didn't feel 100% with any of them. Over time, I readjusted the straps to my head and started to get better results. I also have thick prescription glasses, FYI.

You can't really use it in sunlight: The Oculus Quest 2 is like a vampire -- keep it indoors. Direct sunlight can cause permanent damage to the displays if beams go through the inner lenses, and when I played outside, the headset tracking had some trouble finding the controllers. It's a reminder that VR headsets still aren't everyday take-absolutely-anywhere things quite yet, though I've done some outdoorsy experiments from time to time.

A possible magic doorway to more, but what about Facebook?

Facebook's road to the future is set toward augmented-reality smart glasses that can blend the virtual and real, but that could still be years off. In the meantime, the Oculus Quest 2 could have enough onboard power to evolve new ideas for Facebook's immersive work. The first Quest changed a lot in its first year, adding hand tracking, PC connectivity and other experimental features. As more compact and mobile-connected VR headsets start arriving in the next year or two, the Quest 2 could be ready for even more. The only question is how far Facebook will take it.

Besides whatever concerns about Facebook and data you may have, there's also the question of how open Facebook allows its VR universe to be. While the Quest connects easily with PCs, what about the future of phones? How will the Quest dovetail with the apps we use every day? Right now, it doesn't. But the future ahead will be about phones and tablets that plug into VR and AR, and the Oculus Quest needs to be part of that future, too.

Update, Nov. 24: Add's CNET Editors' Choice award.
First published Sept. 16.