GameCentral reviews the new Meta Quest 3 VR headset, with its greatly improved graphics, resolution, and AR features.
Gaming is not a cheap hobby and it’s clear that the cost of living crisis is hitting everyone hard, on both sides of the industry, with constant reports of job cuts and studio closures. And yet there are already rumours of mid-generation console upgrades, such as the PS5 Pro, and the looming prospect of the Switch 2 – just as people are trying to tighten their belts. No one wants to be spending hundreds on a new piece of hardware right now… and yet the Meta Quest 3 is very, very good.
Considering even the cheapest model is £480, it may seem strange to call the Meta Quest 3 good value for money but considering what it does, it is. It’s £50 cheaper than the PlayStation VR2 and yet it doesn’t require a console or PC to run – everything is handled internally by the headset itself. But it’s also cheap compared to other wireless headsets, such as the HTC VIVE XR Elite, which is twice the price.
Being self-contained does create an upper limit for the quality of the graphics (after all, you can’t strap something the size and weight of a PlayStation 5 to your head) but for many it’s a price worth paying for a headset that has no cables whatsoever. But not only is the Meta Quest 3 a considerable improvement, in every area, on its predecessors but it also offers a number of unique new features, especially in the realm of AR.
The focus on AR (augmented reality – or mixed reality as companies now seem to call it) is reminiscent of Apple’s bizarrely expensive Vision Pro, which has a price tag of $3,499. So you see what we mean when we say that the Meta Quest 3 is comparatively good value for money.
You’d have to have enviably few money worries to upgrade from the Meta Quest 2 (née Oculus Quest 2), but this is a bigger leap than between the Quest 1 and 2 and feels like a generation improvement if you’re coming from the original.
The tech powering the Meta Quest headset is similar to that used for high-end phones but while the Quest 3 isn’t any lighter than the previous model it is smaller. It sticks out less far from your head, which makes it both more comfortable to wear and less front heavy – and so less prone to slipping during prolonged use.
You can pull the front section out further though, which is important if you wear glasses (although you can splash out for prescription lenses). That means you no longer need a spacer, although it’s a shame that more isn’t done to prevent outside light leaking in, especially around the nose. No headset stops it 100% but the Quest 3 could do with an extra barrier, which surprisingly isn’t yet offered as an optional extra.
That’s the only real physical quibble, as in all other respects the Quest 3 is an improvement, with a wider 110° field of view, support for 120Hz frame rates, and full adjustable IPD (interpupillary distance – the distance between the centre of your pupils) rather than just three stock settings. The latter helps to ensure a much wider sweet spot, where the image is pin sharp, than ever before and means you don’t have to keep readjusting the headset to keep everything in focus.
How much is the Meta Quest 3 in the UK?
There are two models of Meta Quest 3 headset, depending on how much onboard storage there is – otherwise everything is exactly the same. The cheaper 128 GB version is £479.99 and the 512 GB version is £619.99.
If you buy either model before January 27, 2024 (and redeem the download coupon by February 27) you’ll get a free copy of the game Asgard’s Wrath 2 – due out on December 15 and one of the most anticipated on the headset.
The controllers have also changed considerably, and no longer feature the tracking rings that are common to most VR controllers. These were previously used to track the exact position of your hands but that’s all done internally now and if anything seems to be more precise, especially at the extremes of movement and behind your back.
There’s also force feedback haptics in the controllers now, similar to the PlayStation VR2. They’ve all seemed a little underplayed in the games we’ve experienced so far but perhaps they’ll prove more immersive when titles are developed specifically with them in mind.
The controllers are also much smaller than before, so you don’t get that problem where you end up smashing the tracking rings together when holding a double-handed sword or otherwise putting your hands together in-game.
We’re still not convinced by the hand-tracking though. It works better than other headsets we’ve used but it’s still nowhere close to 100% reliable – or even 90%. Sometimes it recognises you trying to interact with the game world using just your hands, rather than the controllers, and sometimes it doesn’t, but even simple things like using the in-headset menu aren’t reliable enough for you to bother with.
Is the Meta Quest 3 more powerful?
The most important upgrade for any headset is always going to be the resolution, which is now 2064 x 2208 per eye – a 30% improvement on the Quest 2’s 1832 x 1920. That might not seem like that big a jump on paper, but the difference is obvious if you quickly go between the two and it’s night and day compared to the original Oculus Quest.
The visuals use a Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2, which is still nowhere near the graphical horsepower of a PlayStation 5 but, again, the improvement over the Quest 2 is very clear. Graphics are now much sharper and less blurry, while games that support it sport more detailed 4K textures and high-end lighting and graphical effects, like dynamic shadows and anisotropic filtering.
It’s still can’t beat what the PlayStation VR2 is able to achieve, via the PlayStation 5, but the fact that it comes anywhere close is very impressive. The only disappointment is the surprising lack of launch titles with which to show it off. There are over 500 games available via backwards compatibility but it’s probably going to take until Asgard’s Wrath 2 or Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR before the Quest 3 can really be put through its paces.
A VR version of Samba De Amigo is all very good, and does show off the controllers well, but that’s about it. Not that the new games we got to try out aren’t fun, but there’s no way simplistic city builder Islanders or turn-based strategy Demeo Battles could be construed as killer apps.
How does Meta Quest 3 AR work?
Unlike PlayStation VR2, the Meta Quest 3 is fully backwards compatible with all games for the previous models, which means a catalogue of hundreds of existing titles. So even if it takes a few months for brand new games that take advantage of the new model there’s plenty to play before that, with many titles planning to offer Quest 3 updates.
Beyond traditional games, what the Meta Quest 3 is also able to offer, that the other models can’t do, is AR. Technically the older versions could, because they had outwards facing cameras, but the room set-up in the Quest 2 was in a grainy black and while, whereas on the Quest 3 it’s in full colour and almost like viewing the world for real (there’s a bit of light distortion but it’s still much better than we’ve seen with any other headset).
The set-up – which no longer requires a Facebook account – allows you to be very precise about the area you’re comfortable to move about in, so it doesn’t just have to be a rectangular space and you can get the headset to warn you if you’re about to stumble into a coffee table or wall (or you can just choose to use the headset sitting down).
That’s all very necessary but it also enables the use of some clever AR features, starting with free pack-in game First Encounters. Once the headset knows where your walls and furniture are the game has them being smashed apart by cute, invading aliens, as they break through your walls and ceilings for you to shoot them.
As long as you’ve identified them correctly, the aliens will interact with sofas and tables, rather than passing through them as if they’re not there, and while the visuals are very cartoony it’s a startlingly realistic and immersive experience, that’s a very good hint at things to come from the technology.
Is the Meta Quest 3 worth it?
There’s no question that the Meta Quest 3 is one of the best VR headsets available in its price range, with its complete lack of wires being a major advantage before you even consider anything else. It’s better than the Quest 2 in every way and the only question over whether you should upgrade revolves around the price.
If you’re looking to buy a VR headset for the first time, and you’ve decided against the PlayStation VR2, the Quest 3 becomes an even easier recommendation. Especially as you can connect and use it with a PC, if you buy an additional cable.
Beyond the price, the only real problem is the battery life, which barely lasts over two hours, depending on what you’re playing. There’re all sorts of good reasons not to be playing a VR game for longer than that, but if you insist on doing so the only option is buying an extra battery pack.
The problem with VR headsets is not just the initial cost but the fact that there’ll always be another one along later, that Is even better. So far Meta are spacing their upgrades out by about three years and while you’d still have to be a major fan to buy each one this new model is entirely justified in terms of its new features and improved specifications.
If you’re interested in getting a VR headset and don’t have a PlayStation 5 then nothing else comes close to the Meta Quest 3 in terms of its features, quality, and value for money. And there’s enough unique abilities that it could still be considered superior to Sony’s device. The Meta Quest 3 is easily the best in its class: a perfect introduction to virtual reality and an entirely justified upgrade.
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