EDITOR'S NOTE: The Oculus Quest 2 won "best VR headset" at the Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for gaming.
The Oculus Quest 2 might be the virtual reality headset you're after if you wish to find a way out of the rigours of real life. It provides the ability to pop on a virtual reality headset and go explore Mount Everest, ride a rollercoaster, or take on Sith lord Darth Vader at his fortress on the molten planet of Mustafar, all while avoiding going anywhere mid-coronavirus pandemic. And as it’s a standalone headset, it makes VR an easily accessible route into escapism.
Building upon its predecessor, the $299 Oculus Quest 2 comes with a more intuitive and slicker design, as well as more performance and a boost to its display resolution. I won’t say it's perfect, as there are a few drawbacks to the Oculus Quest 2. But until the Oculus Quest 3 comes along with a promising suite of upgrades, the Oculus Quest 2 is my pick for the best VR headset.
Price: $299 starting
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2
Resolution: 1832 x 1920 per eye
Battery life: 2-3 hours (rated
Size: 7.5 x 4 x 5.2 inches
Weight: 1.1 pounds
Oculus Quest 2: Price and availability
The Oculus Quest 2 is available to buy right now. It starts at $299 in the U.S. and £299 in the U.K. for the 64GB unit. But we'd suggest paying a little more to get the 256GB option; it will set you back $399 or £399, but will hold a lot more games and apps.
You can also pay a little more to get the Quest 2 Elite Strap, which offers a more ergonomic fit. Or the Quest 2 Elite Strap with a battery pack and carrying case to boost the life of your Quest 2 when away from a power source.
For an extra $79 or £89 you can get the Oculus Link cable that allows you to connect the Quest 2 to a Windows PC and thus lets you get stuck into some proper desktop-powered VR gaming. Check out our round up of all the retailers you can peruse to find where to buy the Oculus Quest 2.
Oculus Quest 2: Design
When it comes to design the Oculus Quest 2 is rather sleek for a virtual reality headset. Normally bulky googles ae replaced with light and comfortable headset that's no 10% less heavy than its predecessor. A simple strap and four camera sensors on the headset give it a simple and clean aesthetics that means it looks decent just sitting on a desk as well as mounted one's head. And a light gray color also makes the Quest 2 easy on the eye.
The headset’s sparse, smartly placed button and port layout helps maintain its seamless design. You’ll find a power button on the right side of the headset, a volume rocker on the right underside, and a USB-C port and headphone jack on the left for charging and audio. You can adjust the spacing of the Oculus Quest 2's lenses with three different viewing settings by pinching them or spreading them out manually right within the inside of the headset, eliminating the need for the switch that sat at the bottom of the original Quest.
At a compact 7.5 x 4 x 5.2 inches and 1.1 pounds, the Oculus Quest 2 felt lightweight and comfortable, even when I spent more than an hour at a time in VR. A generous amount of foam padding made it easy to forget I had a hunk of plastic strapped to my face, while the headset’s adjustable elastic bands allowed me to find the right fit for my head. A word of warning: I finished a rather long play session with a comically large red indent on my forehead, so you might want to make sure your Oculus Quest 2 isn’t too tight before you dive in.
Oculus Quest 2: Getting set up
Like the original Quest, the Oculus Quest 2 is an all-in-one VR system that doesn’t require you to set up any external sensors or cameras — everything you need is right in the headset. The setup process only takes a few minutes; you’ll put the headset on, activate your account via the Oculus mobile app, establish your play area, and you’re good to go.
The Oculus Quest 2 once again uses Oculus’ Guardian system, which lets you sketch out a playspace with your Oculus Touch controllers to avoid bumping into walls and furniture. Creating my Guardian space was as simple as virtually painting a rectangle in my living room, which I could clearly see thanks to the headset’s Passthrough+ cameras. The Oculus Quest 2’s Passthrough+ mode is designed to reduce the depth disparity found in other passthrough cameras, and I found it to match up well to my actual surroundings during testing.
The headset will automatically switch to Passthrough mode if you leave your Guardian boundary, allowing you to instantly see any surroundings you might come into contact with. There’s also an optional ability to toggle Passthrough mode with a quick tap on the side of the headset, which is handy for when you want to check in on the real world every now and then.
Oculus recommends having a 6.5 x 6.5-foot space for room-scale VR, which allows you to freely walk around a virtual space for more active experiences. Don’t have a ton of space to play with? You can also establish a stationary boundary for playing with the Oculus Quest 2 while sitting or standing in a single spot.
One important note: You’ll eventually need a Facebook account to use the Oculus Quest 2. According to Oculus’ latest policies, all-new Oculus users will have to log in via Facebook. Existing users have until the start of 2023 to use just their Oculus accounts; after that, they’ll have to merge their Oculus and Facebook accounts. While Oculus announced this change in the name of simplicity and privacy, it’s worth keeping this policy in mind if you choose not to use Facebook for personal or security reasons.
Oculus Quest 2: Upgrades
Rather than leave the Oculus Quest 2 as it is, Facebook has worked to push out updates, with the latest v28 update bringing in some serious upgrades.
You can bring your desk into the Oculus Home VR environment by placing a virtual desk on top of your existing one to mimic its position in the real world. And you can use as use a Bluetooth keyboard with the Quest 2. But there are two significant updates.
The first brings a 120Hz refresh rate option, ramping up from the 90Hz the Quest 2 comes with out of the box. It'll only work with compatible apps, but should make for a smoother experience.
The second major upgrade, is you can connect to an external gaming PC wirelessly via Air Link. Currently, in an “Experimental” beta mode, Air Link can be accessed via the Oculus PC app and used to stream games without needing the optional Oculus Link cable. Just bear in mind in mind that you’ll need a robust Wi-Fi connection to get the most out of it. As such, the Link cable might still be the better option for people with shoddy internet connections.
There's also a rumor that the Oculus Quest 2 could come gain access to Android apps, which could boost the scope of it's use even further. But VR on Android has been a mixed bag, so it's not something to get overly hopeful about.
Oculus Quest 2: Controllers and hand tracking
The Oculus Quest 2 features a redesigned version of the Oculus Touch Controllers built to deliver better gesture tracking. The setup is largely the same as before: each of the scoop-shaped controllers feature two shoulder buttons for doing things like firing weapons and grabbing objects, with clickable analog sticks and a pair of face buttons on each controller. You’ll also want to use the included wrist straps to make sure they don’t go flying in the middle of a tense lightsaber fight.
I found the Oculus Quest 2’s controllers to be comfortable and easy to use across a variety of different games and experiences. The snappy triggers and accurate motion sensing allowed me to snag easy headshots in Pistol Whip, and I had no trouble hacking away at color-coded blocks during the rhythm-action of Beat Saber. The controllers’ haptics are also impressive, as they allowed me to feel the distinct buzz of an ignited lightsaber during Vader Immortal while keeping me on track in Tetris Effect with a subtle pulse that matched the in-game music.
I’m slightly disappointed that the Touch Controllers run on AA batteries, and aren’t rechargeable via USB. Still, each controller uses only a single battery, and both of my controllers are shown as having full battery capacity on my Quest interface after several weeks of use. The controllers are rated to offer around 30 hours of juice on a single battery.
The Oculus Quest 2 also offers hand tracking, allowing you to navigate the headset’s menus and play select games using your hands alone. While I appreciate having the option, I found that hand-tracking wasn’t as intuitive as I’d hoped, and had trouble getting my pinch-to-select gestures to register as I moved around the Oculus home screen.
There are currently only a handful of Quest apps that support hand tracking, and the feature was finicky at best in the ones that I did use. While I eventually got the hang of navigating menus and moving documents around in the Spatial productivity app, I struggled to control hand-supported games such as The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets.
Oculus Quest 2: Performance
The Oculus Quest 2 has been given a performance bump over its predecessor, thanks to the use of a Snapdragon XR2 chip. Matched with 6GB of RAM, the Quest 2 has a notable jump in specs over the original Quest, which was saddled with a Snapdragon 835 CPU, a chipset designed more for smartphones than VR headsets. This means the Oculus Quest 2 runs a lot smoother than the older VR headset and makes for smooth and snappy menu navigation. And thankfully, I didn’t encounter any slowdown when playing games while downloading several other titles in the background.
Games like Beat Saber, Pistol Whip and Vader Immortal, ran smoothly and looked impressively crisp and clear. That being said, I wouldn’t exactly compare them to what you’d get out of an Xbox Series X or PS5, let alone a powerful gaming PC. But the titles I played were flush with color and detail to keep me immersed in the action. And I didn’t experience any crashes or framerate dips to take me out of the VR experience.
Oculus Quest 2: Games
The Oculus Quest platform has amassed an impressively solid game lineup that runs the gamut from new takes on established AAA franchises to exciting indie titles that make full use of the Oculus Quest 2's VR abilities.
Highlights include rhythm-slashing game Beat Saber and the immersive time-bending shooting of Superhot VR, the latter of which made me feel like I was in a trippy sci-fi action movie as I controlled time and threw bullets back at enemies.
As a Star Wars nerd, I completely geeked out on Vader Immortal, a first-person action-adventure game that had me sneaking around imperial strongholds and engaging in tight lightsaber combat. And I absolutely loved Pistol Whip, a neon-drenched arcade shooter that had me popping headshots and dodging enemy fire to the beat of pulsing EDM music.
Tetris Effect is already one of my favorite games of all time, but being able to enjoy its serene visuals in the Oculus Quest 2's completely immersive 3D environment made the experience that much sweeter. And Polyarc's Moss is an excellent fusion of traditional controller-based platforming and deep VR interactivity, allowing you to move obstacles with your hands while guiding an adorable mouse with your joysticks.
The Quest 2 also excels as a multiplayer machine, allowing you to play in virtual spaces with friends at a time when gathering in-person is more difficult than ever. Beating up bad guys in VR brawler Path of the Warrior with a friend is one of the most hilarious and fun multiplayer experiences I’ve had in a long time, and Eleven: Table Tennis VR did an admirable job translating my poor table tennis skills to the virtual world.
You can augment the Oculus Quest 2’s game library even further with the $79 Oculus Link cable, which lets you connect your Quest to a VR-ready PC and play an even larger range of VR titles including Half Life: Alyx, Star Wars Squadrons and Fallout 4 VR. While it’s a bummer that some of the best VR games out there aren’t available on Quest 2 out of the box, the Oculus Link effectively turns your Quest into an Oculus Rift for slightly less than the Rift’s $399 asking price.
Oculus Quest 2: Apps
The Oculus Quest 2 is much more than a gaming device, with a healthy selection of entertainment and productivity apps that let you watch videos and collaborate with others in cool ways. I looked around in awe as I virtually stood at the top of Mount Everest in a 360-degree YouTube VR video, and was surrounded by the mesmerizing percussion of the Blue Man Group when watching their virtual concert in the Oculus TV app.
Oculus’ TV app also let me ride a virtual rollercoaster, which had my adrenaline surging and almost made me wimp out before I remembered I was sitting at my desk. The Spatial app provides an impressively robust virtual workspace for collaborating on documents and 3D models. Meanwhile the Virtual Desktop app allowed me to use my Windows 10 PC in an immersive VR environment.
Oculus Quest 2: Audio
The Oculus Quest 2’s built-in positional audio isn’t new — it also appeared on the Quest and Rift S — but it still blows my mind every time I use it. The headset’s built-in speakers pump out crisp, loud sound without the need for headphones, with some impressive directionality to boot. I could hear where the buzzes of nearby bees and chirps of birds were coming from while hanging out in my home screen oasis, and could easily pinpoint enemy fire while blasting away in Pistol Whip.
If you want even more immersive sound, the Oculus Quest 2 has a handy 3.5mm jack for connecting any headphones you like. But the headset’s built-in audio feels like magic, and adds to its pick-up-and-play allure even more.
The Oculus Quest 2’s built-in microphone proved dependable as well. I had no problem coordinating with a friend as we tossed around bad guys in Path of the Warrior, and his voice sounded crisp and clear coming from his own Quest 2.
Oculus Quest 2: Battery life
The Oculus Quest 2 is rated for 2 to 3 hours of battery life: 2 if you’re playing games, and around 3 if you’re mostly watching videos. I found this to be largely in my line with my testing, as I only had to plug the Quest 2 in every few days while using it in small chunks. After several sessions playing games on a fully charged Oculus Quest 2 for more than an hour, I found that the battery was around 50% drained by the time I finished.
Oculus Quest 2: Verdict
The Oculus Quest 2 has a joyously simple “it just works” magic to it that reminds me of the first time I picked up a Nintendo Switch or an iPhone. Like its predecessor, the Oculus Quest 2 eliminates the previous hurdles of getting into virtual reality — namely the need to have a powerful PC and tons of wires and sensors — and packs a ton of great experiences into a sleek device that you can pop on at a moment’s notice.
If you already own an Oculus Quest, the Oculus Quest 2's improved design and performance alone might not sway you to plunk down another $299. And the new headset can get costly if you factor in the price of an Oculus Link cable or the optional 256GB model. But if you’ve yet to dive into VR or want to finally go untethered, the Oculus Quest 2’s price, game library and overall ease of use make it the best entry point into virtual reality yet.