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    Meta Quest 3 review : The best standalone VR headset for most people

    Quest 3 !!! If you missed Apple’s Vision Pro launch earlier this year, you may be unaware of the push toward mixed reality. For the uninformed, it’s simply another name for augmented reality, which is adding virtual objects to your regular environment.

    That might be anything from a film on a virtual screen to a pot plant in the corner of the room. It doesn’t really matter: what matters is that you can view both your actual surroundings and aspects of a virtual one at the same time.

    It’s hilarious since muddled reality isn’t anything new. Microsoft released Windows Mixed Reality six years ago, and there had been a slew of mixed reality VR headsets that could be connected to a sufficiently powerful PC or laptop.

    The Meta Quest 3 may appear to be a simple progression of the Quest and Quest 2, but it is not. Because it supports mixed reality, it is a true game changer.

    Whereas the Quest 2 and original Quest had low-resolution monochrome cameras that provided a grainy, monochrome representation of your room, the Quest 3’s much higher-resolution color cameras provide an almost lifelike representation in which you can walk around and interact with things as if you weren’t wearing the headset.

    Almost. It isn’t perfect: there is too much video wobbling until you remain motionless, which might cause nausea. Furthermore, when the room isn’t light enough, the quality immediately degrades. For video passthrough to appear its best, a lot of light is required.

    And, while the Quest 3’s core components are thinner, they’re still somewhat hefty, and the headgear becomes unpleasant after a while. The tightness of the headband is required to keep the lenses from sliding about on your head, and I loathed the strain on my cheeks. I’d recommend getting both the extra silicone facial interface and the Elite strap if you find the regular Quest 3 unpleasant.

    Fortunately, the improved graphics quality and mixed reality more than compensate for the Quest 3’s flaws, and they go a long way toward justifying the price increase over the Quest 2.

    Features & Design

    • Adjustable depth
    • IPD wheel
    • Optional Elite strap

    The three pill-shaped protrusions on the front of the Quest 3 are the most noticeable difference between it and the Quest 2. These contain the cameras and a depth sensor used in mixed reality.

    Meta Quest 3

    However, the front of the gadget is 40% thinner, which Meta claims improves weight balancing on your head. The fabric strap has also been altered somewhat, with a Y-shape piece in the rear.

    It’s still too big for folks with small heads, and the center strap doesn’t adjust far enough to accommodate those with petite statures.

    However, if you have a regular or big head, it’s alright, and you can change the strap with either Meta’s own Elite strap or an aftermarket one if you truly can’t stand it.

    My biggest gripe is that it’s too difficult to fine-tune the perfect fit once it’s on, which the Elite strap solves with its dial.

    As an aside, the orange and blue straps and ‘facial interfaces’ seen in some of the photographs are optional extras that you cannot select when purchasing a Quest 3.

    The good news is that the IPD wheel has returned. That is, while wearing the Quest 3, you may change the inter-pupillary distance, which ranges from 53 to 75mm. That is, formally. The real range, as seen on the screen, is 58-70mm.

    Quest 3

    According to Meta, the 58mm option is appropriate for persons with IPD ranging from 53 to 63mm, while the 70mm setting is appropriate for those with pupils ranging from 65 to 75mm apart. The range seems to be enough for everyone who tried out the Quest 3 that Meta supplied for evaluation.

    As a glasses wearer, I loved the option to vary the distance of the lenses from your face without having to put a specific insert and then remove it when another person is using the headset. Buttons on either side allow for four distinct settings, which are cumbersome to modify and must be done one at a time.

    Meta Quest 3

    The speakers are embedded into the strap and work perfectly. Not spectacular, but adequate. Because they aren’t true headphones, you can hear what’s going on around you, which is excellent in some settings but undermines immersion in others. There’s also not much bass, but spatial audio works great.

    If you want higher quality and absolute immersion, there is still a 3.5mm output for attaching your own headphones.

    You may also use Bluetooth headphones, but be sure to buy VR-specific ones to minimize audio delays, which can potentially impair the experience.

    The last physical control is a volume rocker on the front underside of the headset.

    Quest 3

    Because there are no tracking rings at the top of the Quest 3 controllers, they are more compact than previously. Of course, the headset can still monitor the controllers, but the major benefit is that they don’t collide when you cross your hands or bring them close together.

    They’re each powered by a single AA battery, which is unfortunate because Meta hasn’t made them rechargeable. You may upgrade to the Quest Touch Pro controllers, which are rechargeable and have additional advantages, but the battery life is significantly lower than that of the standard Quest 3 controllers.

    You may also forego the controls completely and let the Quest 3 track your hands. This works best in a well-lit area with a lot of contrast between your hands and the walls/floor.

    With Quest 3, hand tracking has been enhanced, allowing you to interact with objects with your fingers. Of course, the software, game, or whatever you’re working on must support this. It takes some getting used to manipulating things with your hands, but it soon becomes second nature.

    The Quest 3 makes a massive leap in terms of graphics quality

    After enabling hand tracking in the settings, gently touch the controllers together twice to enter hand tracking mode. Using just your hands, you can bring up a quick-action menu by touching your thumb and forefinger, swipe lists of icons around and select objects by poking them or by squeezing your thumb and finger together for controls too far away to ‘touch’.

    Meta is speeding up hand tracking so that it doesn’t lag behind the controllers, allowing you to play faster-paced games without latency. Unfortunately, many games do not support hand tracking, so you must still utilize controllers for classics like Beat Saber and newer titles like Les Mills Body Combat.

    Some titles, like Xponential+, are entirely manually tracked. This training program uses mixed reality, so you can view your living room and position the teacher anywhere you want in it.

    Another useful feature is the option to switch between full virtual reality and passthrough by double tapping on the side of the headband. This implies you don’t have to exit the Quest 3 if you need a break or someone demands your attention for a short period of time.

    Room scanning

    Another feature offered by the depth sensor on the Quest 3 is the ability to scan your area and detect the walls and furniture. You merely glance around until the scan says “ready to go,” at which time mixed reality applications understand where everything is, allowing zombies to crawl through your windows in The Cabin and creatures to lurk behind your sofa.

    This takes less than a minute, however it’s annoying because the Quest can’t hold many rooms. When you switch to a new one, the old one gets removed. If you go the additional mile and physically sketch around each table, sofa, and shelf unit to obtain the most accurate mixed reality, that’s a tremendous headache. Hopefully, Meta will solve this in a future release.

    Another issue is that it is only effective in rectangular areas with flat ceilings. Many are, but if yours isn’t, as some of mine are, then creatures burst in through a non-existent ceiling or wall, ruining the immersion.

    Performance

    The graphical quality of The Quest 3 improves dramatically. If this is your first VR headset, you won’t realize how much better it is. Although the resolution isn’t precisely 30% higher than that of the Quest 2, everything is much clearer and text is much easier to read.

    And it’s an entirely different league if you’re coming from the old Quest. Details that were previously hazy and imprecise are now sharp and accurate in Quest 3. Again, developers must optimize their applications and games for the new headset, but for the most part, this is an automatic upgrade, so titles you may already own, such as Beat Saber, just appear better on a Quest 3.

    The resolution of each eye is 20642208, up from 18321900 in Quest 2. The original Quest featured a per-eye resolution of 14401600 and a refresh rate of 72Hz. The Quest 3 supports 120Hz, which, like the Quest 2, is still in the ‘experimental’ phase and requires apps to support it.

    Resolution and refresh rate are also only a small portion of the narrative. With a 15% broader field of view than the Quest 2, Meta’s newest headset allows you to see more of your surroundings. It seems more natural, and I scarcely noticed that my peripheral vision was restricted, which was a problem with the original Quest (and early Oculus Rift).

    The second big change in the Quest 3 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 CPU, which is perhaps more crucial. It includes a new GPU that outperforms the Quest 2’s GPU. greater resolution panels and greater refresh rates, it should go without saying, need more processing power, but that isn’t the only application for the increased horsepower.

    It is also required for the full-color, high-resolution passthrough video that delivers mixed reality, but more importantly, it allows for far higher-quality graphics.

    I was able to flip between the aesthetics of Quest 3 and an emulation of Quest 2 by pressing a button on the controller in specially designed demos. The contrast was night and day, dear reader.

    Simply told, the graphical quality of Quest 3 makes everything in Quest 2 appear flat and unnatural. They’re far more detailed, with dynamic lighting and shadows, significantly better texture quality, and other enhancements. These enhancements make a significant impact in ‘enhanced’ titles like Red Matter 2.

    Quest 3’s graphics quality makes objects on the Quest 2 look flat and unrealistic

    Developers don’t need to do anything to get their applications to render at the higher resolution of the Quest 3, but they do need to update them to take use of things like dynamic lighting.

    Although the Quest 3 has just 2GB more RAM than the Quest 2, this does not appear to be a hindrance in the games and apps I tested. Loading times were typically satisfactory, with the great majority taking only a few seconds.

    Quest 3

    There aren’t many mixed reality games available right now. Meta promised 50 at launch, but that sounds optimistic: there weren’t even 50 in the store the day before the headset went on sale. Some of these are Quest Pro programs designed for corporate usage and will not appeal to consumers.

    Right now, there aren’t very many mixed reality games

    It’s possible that developers will wait until the technology is in people’s hands before investing money adapting existing titles for mixed reality or producing new ones. Either that, or they’re simply running late. It doesn’t really matter because there are just a few games that support MR (including demos like First Encounters).

    Comfort & battery life

    It’s important addressing one of VR’s most serious issues: comfort. I’ve previously mentioned the physical element, but there’s also the fact that VR makes some people nauseous.

    The Quest 3 doesn’t make much of a difference here: the problem is the gap between what your eyes see and what your body feels. That’s why picking a rollercoaster app or movie for your first encounter is a bad idea.

    Apps and games are labeled in the store to indicate whether they are ‘comfortable’ or not. The comfort level is often considerably higher with mixed reality apps since you can see the space you’re in, which does not change or alter position.

    You can move around in it without feeling nauseated, as seen in the First Encounters demo above. The issue, as previously stated, is the poor quality of passthrough video. Everything is in the ‘correct’ place: you can pick up your coffee and sip it while avoiding furniture as if you weren’t wearing a headset.

    The issue is that the video occasionally jerks and stutters, as well as bends, warps, and wobbles. It’s more worse if there are items in your line of sight that are both close and far away from the cameras. For example, if you’re in a room with a door open and can look into another room, distant things might wobble and bend.

    It may just be for a second or a fraction of a second, but it is enough to make you feel sick. Avoid going around your house and instead stay in one area, preferably in a room with the doors closed.

    Quest 3

    If you want to watch videos in mixed reality, you’ll need either an app or to utilize the built-in browser to navigate to a website like YouTube. I discovered that the Netflix app had not been updated for the Quest 3, and was still showing the Quest 2 controllers, despite the fact that it was pre-launch. Netflix should update it to support MR.

    The higher quality makes watching videos much more enjoyable: in ‘full screen’ mode, they appear as a giant curved display in front of you. I wouldn’t watch a movie since the Quest 3 is not comfy.

    The battery life, at roughly 2.5 hours, should be sufficient for most movies. Exact battery life will vary depending on how you use the headset, but I found it to be consistent with Meta’s promises.

    An 18W USB-C charger is supplied in the package, although charging takes around two hours from empty to 100%.

    Price & availability

    As you are probably aware, the Quest 3 costs $499 / £479. If history is any guide, don’t expect any major discounts even a year from now. It is available through Meta as well as other merchants.

    This means it’s $200 / £179 more than a Quest 2. That’s a big difference, but it’s certainly worth it.

    Most users should be OK with the default 128GB model because it is large enough to install many games at once. Most VR games are only a few GB in size, thus paying $649 / £619 for 512GB is definitely not worth it.

    Should I buy the Meta Quest 3?

    Yes. Even if you already own a Quest 2, the Quest 3 is one of the easiest products to suggest. I believe there is at least the same quality difference between Quest 2 and Quest 3 as there was between Quest 1 and Quest 2.

    There is, of course, still opportunity for development. In an ideal world, the Quest 3 would be lighter, more pleasant to wear for extended periods of time, and even last longer between charges. The resolution and clarity of passthrough video is another concern that Meta will almost probably address in Quest 4. It’s decent, but not very lifelike.

    Similarly, and I’ve purposefully left this till the end, there is no eye tracking. That may be found on the Quest Pro, Apple’s Vision Pro, and the PSVR2. It isn’t in Quest 3 for a variety of reasons, but the actual issue is: does it matter? It is, in my opinion, a non-issue.

    The Vision Pro employs eye tracking for control and interaction, whereas the more cheaper Quest 3 depends on controllers and hand tracking instead.

    The other important application is foveated rendering, which makes only the piece of the image you’re looking at seem great while rendering less information in other regions. However, as previously said, I have no issues regarding the graphical quality of Quest 3.

    Finally, VR and mixed reality are still in their infancy, and even the Quest 3 is a long way from reaching their full potential. With current technology, the Quest 3 is still rather impressive for the money right now. You should get one right now if you can afford it.

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