A second-generation Oculus Quest virtual reality headset, the Quest 2, is shipping next month starting at $299. Facebook opened preorders for the Quest 2 today, and it’s launching the headset on October 13th in 22 countries. The Quest 2 will replace both the original Quest and the PC-tethered Rift S, thanks to the Link feature that lets it play PC VR games.
Quest 2 specs and images have circulated widely in the past few months, and today’s announcement confirms most of the leaked details. Primarily, the Quest 2 is a slimmer and lighter version of the Quest. The headset weighs in at 503 grams instead of 571 grams and is slightly shallower than its predecessor. It features a soft cloth head strap instead of a stiff rubber one, and it’s primarily white instead of black, but it’s still a self-contained inside-out headset with four tracking cameras mounted on the front, plus two black-and-white Oculus Touch motion controllers.
The original Quest, which was already out of stock in many places, is being officially retired. Oculus will continue to support the Rift S and the original Quest. For now, all new and existing Quest games will work on both generations of the headset, with no Quest 2-exclusive content.
As earlier leaks mentioned, the Quest’s internals have been refreshed. The new headset uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset instead of a Snapdragon 835, and it’s got 6GB of RAM instead of 4GB. The base model still has 64GB of storage, but the expanded $399 model has 256GB, twice the original Quest’s equivalent. The screen’s resolution is much higher: 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye instead of the Quest’s 1440 x 1600 pixels. The current refresh rate is still a suboptimal 72Hz, but a 90Hz upgrade is coming after launch.
The Quest 2 comes with a series of optional accessories. Some are comfort- and convenience-oriented, including custom Logitech earbuds and a plastic “Elite Strap” that provides more head support, sold with or without an additional battery pack.
The $79 Link USB-C cable, however, enables a major extra feature: it lets you plug the Quest 2 into a PC and play desktop VR games. (You can also use the Link feature with a cheaper Anker cable, but the official option is longer and angled to fit better against the headset.) This feature was added to the Quest last year, but Oculus will be bringing it out of beta and discontinuing the Rift S in the coming months, making the Quest its only PC VR headset option.
“What is the right moment to make our VR headsets more social?”
The Quest 2 is the first headset that will controversially require a Facebook sign-in, rather than allowing users to keep totally separate Oculus accounts. Quest 2 product manager Prabhu Parthasarathy says the motivation for this is “fundamentally social,” especially during the pandemic lockdown. “Every single social experience available on the platform has seen particular engagement in the past few months. We’ve always been thinking: what is the right moment to make our VR headsets more social? And we feel this is the right moment.”
A linked account lets Oculus users find Facebook friends in VR, and the company recently expanded the beta for Horizon, a Facebook social space that runs on Oculus headsets. Features like friends lists can still be kept separate, however, and you don’t have to publicly merge your Oculus and Facebook identities.
As Road to VR has pointed out, though, Facebook account suspensions — including those for using a fake name on Facebook — can also result in temporarily losing access to headset features. This isn’t totally unprecedented; other gaming networks reserve the right to ban people, and Facebook could already seek out and ban the Oculus accounts of major offenders. It could be a particular problem for transgender and Native American users, though, who have had trouble convincing Facebook they’re using “real” names. (Facebook has taken some steps to mitigate this problem.)
Facebook is apparently still working out some important details. “We want to strike a balance between making sure that if somebody did something egregious and if somebody was a bad actor, that we should be able to react strongly,” Parthasarathy says. “But at the same time, we should also understand that people are committing dollars to buy your headset and content. So we want to find a balance here and we’ll have more to share as we get closer to launch.”
Oculus wants to avoid a Magic Mouse charging situation
Parthasarathy also explained a few other design decisions for the Quest 2. He says the headset’s Oculus Touch controllers still use AA batteries instead of built-in rechargeable ones because Oculus hasn’t found a seamless enough charging solution. “There is no really good way of charging this which is not awkward,” he says, comparing the situation to Apple’s notoriously problematic rechargeable Magic Mouse. “There’s definitely some day when we transition to a rechargeable battery setup. Maybe we build a dock or a stand where we can plug this in. But I don’t have something for this product right now.”
The Oculus Quest store is still going to be highly curated, although users can use Link to play desktop Rift games (now simply called “PC VR” games, according to AR / VR product marketing head Meaghan Fitzgerald) for a wider range of experiences. Oculus has discussed an alternative channel to let developers share Quest apps outside the store, but Fitzgerald says there’s no new information on that front.
Facebook Reality Labs, the new name for Facebook’s AR / VR division, has already shared details about prototype mixed reality audio and smaller virtual reality glasses. With the Quest 2, though, Oculus is basically trying to make a better Quest and watch what people do with it. “We are betting heavily on the belief that whatever worked on Quest, with a better product, with more content, with a more affordable price, should truly take this category off,” says Parthasarathy. After that, “we have a bunch of ideas and we are working, as always, on prototypes. But where things go from here, I think we’re all going to find out.”