We’re borrowing the Oculus Quest 1 from our friend; however, I can’t fully recommend it for everyone. Here’s why.
The Oculus Quest itself is a good product. The display is decent enough, there is little to no tracking issues, and its battery powered / stand-alone. You don’t need an expensive desktop in order to run the headset. However, you won’t be able to play the exact same games. Stand-alone games on the quest have to be much lighter than desktop games as the headset simply doesn’t have the same computing power. This means that if you try to play some games with your friends, you may not always be able to connect because the versions are different. For example: Pavlov VR.
While the Oculus can be used stand-alone, I’ve upgraded my desktop to the point where it can run VR games, and that is the way I prefer to play. The initial setup process is pretty easy and straight forward, it only took me an hour or two to get everything setup. But once everything was setup, the connection was spotty. I got to the point where I had wound and tied the USB cable on the headset to make sure the USB-C plug wasn’t jostled at all as I moved my head. Even when stationary though, it would periodically disconnect.
While the headset itself is good and the fact its standalone is great, the other things the company backing the headset is doing isn’t high on my favourites list. Oculus is owned by Facebook and Facebook has forced all their users to sign in with their Facebook account to use the device. On the surface, this isn’t so bad. However, this is because they’re tracking your preferences and are trying to insert targeted ads into your headset.
Personally, I dislike advertisements. I understand their need – in fact, I’m working on inserting ads into this website, but the way some advertisements are displayed annoys me to no end. Advertisements that are beside the content I’m looking at – fine, I can ignore them while consuming the content I want. But advertisements that are in the way of your content such as Youtube ads – hate them, but I understand that Youtube is also a free service. Advertisements in a product I’ve paid for? Inexcusable.
I’m not 100% sure if there are identical competitors to the Oculus Quest. Firstly, Oculus has the backing of a tycoon so theyre able to offset their costs more than other companies. Therefore, your alternatives are going to be more expensive, or way more expensive. Secondly, I dont think there are any other standalone headsets on the market at the moment. All of your other options require a tether to your desktop in order to run anything.
If I had to pick between spending a lot of cash for a desktop + a tethered VR headset versus a standalone Oculus, I would pick the desktop + tether. I would be able to play other non-VR games on the desktop, the VR titles I would want to play wouldnt be watered down, and I’m further distancing myself from the Facebook data and anti-privacy vacuum.
However; that is a lot of money to simply avoid Facebook, and I understand that not everyone cares about the issue as much as I do. So on the flip side – yes, I would also recommend the Oculus Quest if you’re looking to buy a VR headset and you dont want to sink as much into it.
If you are still unsure about VR, I would highly recommend first playing a few titles at a VR Arcade (if possible). VR initially is really cool, and an awesome experience. You are way more immersed into the game, and you can get a bit of exercise out of it if you’re playing while standing up. However, the novelty factor does wear off pretty quickly.
- It takes a dedicated space for VR – you need to ensure you have plenty of space to move in, without hitting anything.
- It takes time to prepare – that dedicated space will get cluttered if youre not using the headset frequently. If youre tethered, you need to untangle the cables and make sure everything is plugged in. Powering the system on and navigating through the menus takes time. In comparison, starting up a game takes me a few clicks and <5 seconds to start loading a game, while with the Oculus it can take me several minutes.
- There are also a lot more pancake titles (non-VR games) than VR games – 9/10 when you find a new interesting game, its going to be a pancake game. So VR games will tend to get boring as you will have to play the same games over and over again. Luckily, the repetitiveness can be offset by playing online multiplayer games, but not everyone likes playing online.
- VR titles tend to be more washed down than pancake games – In order to have a good experience in a VR game, the graphics quality needs to be turned way down to ensure you have a steady and high framerate. Stuttering in pancake games is annoying, but stuttering in VR can be literally nauseating.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been borrowing an Oculus Quest for 6 months now. Great headset considering its free. But I havent picked it up in a month or two. All the games I’ve been playing now have been pancake games as nothing interesting has been released in VR lately. plus the effort of setting it back up isnt as easy as clicking on a pancake game. After a days work when I want to relax, I’m not interested in tinkering but rather just playing something. Hence why I’ve veered back to playing pancake games.
Would I recommend a VR headset in the firstplace? I would on 2 major conditions:
- You already have a gaming machine that is capable of handling VR titles
- You are a VR enthusiast. You’ve already done the research, youve tried it several times over several months, and you cant get enough of VR.
If youre an enthusiast, youre going to want to play more detailed titles. This will require a more powerful PC to run them. No point in getting a Quest as the stabdalone is a watered down experience.
If you already have a gaming PC, youve probably already sunk a lot of money, time, and effort into your current build. Pancake games are great the way they are now, and there are plenty to choose from. Unless you have a strong desire specifically for several VR titles, the entry cost is very high to make that second leap. You will be able to get the same amount of entertainment from your current gaming rig, as you would with a VR headset. No point in getting a VR headset if you have something that already satiates your video game cravings.
Ultimately, VR is still a very new technology. Getting into VR now is like buying an iPhone in the early 2010’s. The original technology has been around for decades, but Company XYZ (fill in the blank) has taken what was out on the market and threw some money at it. What came out was a new era of technology and a cult-following.
While you can buy the product now, there are still some kinks and obvious areas for improvement. Screen size, weight, and speed. Over the next few years, expect the technology to rapidly develop as more and more people jump aboard the hype-train. More followers, more buyers, more money, more research & development, better product, and the cycle continues.
So would I buy the headset now? No. Wait a few more years and lets see where things endup.