For all the frustrations and confusion surrounding Meta (formerly Facebook) and whatever the Metaverse is, a consistent and simpler part of the company’s VR policy is that the hardware was pretty solid to begin with. The headsets weren’t without their growing pains, but the journey from Rift to Quest was generally smooth and the iterations always brought valuable improvements. Meta Quest 3 continues this path and delivers my favorite VR headset by a wide margin, but it doesn’t solve all of the problems the medium continues to face.
Comfort and appearance
Comfort and appearance
Carrying Meta Quest 3 is reasonably comfortable. The straps are easily adjustable and allow you to fit the headset surprisingly snugly to your face. This is good for blocking out light and moving your head quickly without the need for adjustment. However, if you’re not careful, the tension can lead to headaches. I’m grateful for the ability to wear the headset snugly, as targeted positioning over the eyes is crucial. I would rather have the option of wearing the headset too tightly than have it hanging loosely on my head. That would lead to a different and worse type of nausea.
I also found the headset surprisingly comfortable when worn with glasses. PlayStation VR2 is still the most comfortable headset for glasses wearers like me, but I’m happy with the Quest 3’s space for my admittedly large (but undeniably stylish) glasses frames.
The screen inside the headset offers a significant improvement over Quest 2, which in turn was a significant improvement over the original Quest. Quest 3’s screens are comparable to the PlayStation VR2’s impressive in-headset screens. However, in general, VR still struggles with the fact that the screen is just a few centimeters from your eyes. Compared to Meta’s previous headsets, the Quest 3 is undoubtedly the sharpest it’s ever seen. However, it’s still disconcerting to play a game with the headset and then move on to a traditional game on a decent TV and see the improvement in fidelity.
The most worthwhile improvement, aside from the added resolution of the in-headset screens, is Quest 3’s approach to mixed reality. Quest has made a big point from the start of the ability to use pass-through cameras to actually see your surroundings without taking off the headset, but Quest 3’s pass-through cameras are full color and high resolution. It means seeing the outside world is more comfortable than ever. As a compliment to Quest 3, I was surprised that I could look at my phone and mostly see what was on the screen – an especially handy feature when you need to quickly check a text message or other alert.
It remains to be seen how mixed reality will be implemented into video gaming experiences, but the included game that demonstrates it is a fun, if simple, technical showcase. I sat in my office and watched the walls collapse, revealing an alien planet, while cute alien creatures approached me from the distance. Shooting the little creatures to collect them is just plain fun, and the false reality that my office suddenly exists separate from my home on an alien planet is enchanting. I’m excited to see how games will use this in the future.
Controller and interface
Controller and interface
Unlike the headset itself, the controllers don’t represent a significant hardware upgrade, but that’s okay. Quest’s controllers have always been pleased with excellent motion tracking. I thought I’d miss the rounded circles that used to be necessary for tracking and that cover your hands, but their disappearance means you can bring your hands closer together, resulting in a smoother gaming experience.
Hand tracking is also available, allowing you to navigate menus and play some games without a controller. Quest has been experimenting with the use of hands for some time. The feature has been improved for Quest 3 with its higher quality cameras, but hand tracking is still not optimal. Physically pressing the menu buttons with your finger is a nice idea (and feels better thanks to the pass-through cameras), but it’s inconsistent and overcomplicates simply navigating the menus. Using your hands is a neat trick, but I went back to using a controller after just a few moments of tinkering.
Quest 3 is backwards compatible, meaning your library will continue to evolve. Unfortunately, not every game is optimized for the new headset. At the time of writing, Resident Evil 4, one of my favorite VR experiences, looks sharper, but has some slight stuttering and other visual issues that are unfortunately nauseating. Alternatively, my favorite VR game, Beat Saber, plays like a dream on Quest 3. The same goes for another excellent VR game, Pistol Whip. All of my saved data moved without me having to change any settings, which was unexpected and impressive. I also liked newer games like Drop Dead: The Cabin, a wave-based zombie shooter that can be played online, and Runner, a Akira-inspired arcade shooter/racer that I first experienced on PlayStation VR2. Runner plays similarly on PlayStation VR2 and Quest 3, but is more fun on the latter, especially because I really like the smoother usability and wireless nature of the Quest 3. Resist, another previously released Quest game that received a Quest 3 update, also surprised me with its fun Spider-Man-like first-person swinging in a large, open city.
Meta Quest 3 is by far my favorite VR headset. Setting up the headset is smooth and easy, the full-color pass-through cameras are useful and offer potentially interesting future interactive applications, and the screen resolution improves on what was already a great experience on the Quest 2. This continues to be the Quest’s greatest strength. It is completely self-contained and does not require a connection to a PC or console. You don’t have to deal with complicated setups or worry about tripping over cables, you can concentrate on the games you’re playing, and you can openly be fooled by the simulation. If you’re at all interested in VR, the Quest 3 is the primary headset I recommend.
Now, despite all of these nice and positive things that have been said, Quest 3 is not a game-changer. If VR hasn’t won you over in the past, Quest 3 won’t change your mind. If this relatively new medium doesn’t interest you, I doubt Quest 3 will make you a believer. However, if you have even a passing interest in VR and have been holding off on investing or want a better experience than your current headset, Quest 3 is the best option.