I pre-ordered the Meta Quest 3, Meta’s latest mixed reality headset, and I came in with little to no expectations because I’ve never owned a Quest 1 or 2 headset.
When it got delivered on launch day and I put it on for the first time, I was pretty shocked.
Hey friends, Andrew here – hope you’re well.
I’ll share an honest review on the Meta Quest 3 from a perspective of someone who hasn’t owned the previous Quest headsets but I’ve been using the Quest 3 every day since launch and this thing is ridiculous.
Unboxing & First Time VR Experience
The Quest 3 comes in a box half the size of the previous Quest 2, which is nice to see.
And unboxing it, it’s clear why the box is so much smaller – the Quest 3 controllers and headset are slimmer and streamlined.
There are now LCD displays that support 120Hz with essentially 2K resolution per eye and putting these on for the first time to set them up, I was really impressed with the sharpness and quality of the displays. The text is really sharp, the colors are great and I can’t see any aliasing.
The first thing I did was manually map out the studio space and set some boundaries, then I booted up the Close Encounters game to put mixed reality and the new cameras to test.
And man! It is good! when the spaceship slammed from the roof right onto my desk, I had to take a second to admire just how impressive it was. Then, when I picked up the ray gun thing from the spaceship, you could immediately tell the new controllers were also noticeably reactive and tracked my hand movements well.
But seriously, this game was one of the coolest little demos straight out of the box – the fuzzballs were jumping around everywhere, hiding behind my furniture and even taking a glimpse out into space in the broken walls was just so impressive.
It’s also pretty comfortable to wear. There was a session where I wore it for like 3 full hours straight until the battery died, and I found it comfortable enough, but I definitely needed a break from the headset afterwards!
The biggest new drawcard of the Meta Quest 3 is the hugely improved Passthrough Mode for that mixed reality experience. Tapping twice on the side of the headband switches the headset into full color Passthrough Mode, where you see your surroundings through the cameras and its overlay with virtual elements.
This is done really well and things like web browsing using Instagram as an overlay and even Xbox Cloud Gaming are so cool when the giant displays and user interface are just levitating in your room.
Using my hands to pinch and interact with the UI feels awesome; going from my real hand in mixed reality to my virtual one in the Meta world is so trippy but really satisfying. Just don’t expect hand tracking to be nearly as responsive as using the new Touch Plus controllers.
But Passthrough mode still has some serious flaws – using passthrough in darker rooms doesn’t work well. Everything becomes super grainy and almost low res.
Even in well-lit rooms, the cameras and displays are good but not good enough to have you question which reality is real, you’ll definitely know you’re still looking through a display. It is called pass-through mode, after all. Like I can see my phone on the desk, for example, but you’re not going to be able to make out the notifications on the phone.
And overall, after using the mode for a week, I have to say it feels more like a tech demo of things to come. It’s great and I’m really enjoying watching YouTube but other than that, there’s just not much to do in passthrough mode, which is disappointing since the Quest 3 is marketed as a mixed reality headset on launch, so I was expecting more.
But I am really excited to see what we’ll get in the future, and one feature I am super excited for is Augments. These are spatially aware interactive objects that are always there when you boot the Quest 3 off and on. It’s sort of like permanent digital decor you can place around your room that does all sorts of crazy things like adding portals to your home, which could be an entry point to a game or app. And you could even turn your entire ceiling into an outer space cosmos with this; it’s incredible.
Moving onto VR gaming on the Meta Quest 3. I have to say it’s really, really good, it runs super well with the new Snapdragon XR2 chip and 8GB of RAM gives it enough punch to run everything I’ve played at 120Hz.
Playing The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, the undead world was really convincing and atmospheric with great texture clarity, field of view, and fantastic lighting bringing the world to life. Visually, I think it’s almost on par with the PSVR2, but let’s remember that the Quest 3 is a completely standalone VR device so it makes it that much more impressive.
But be warned, VR motion sickness is real and with games that require movement, you need to ease in if you’re new to VR. I got pretty dizzy after 15 or 20 minutes of playing The Walking Dead, which really holds back the entire experience.
Pre-launch, there were Quest 2 emulation modes to mimic the difference between the older and newer headsets, and you can see the significant difference in brightness, contrast, and sharpness. Meta claims a 25% improved center sharpness and 50% at the edges of images and honestly, it looks about right.
But of course, the Quest 3 is still not as impressive as other higher-end and more expensive VR headsets like the Valve Index or Pimax 8K X.
Movement tracking feels pretty great in the game, too.
The tracking cameras are now pointing diagonally downwards to pick up movements from the torso, elbows, arms, and wrists. It translates to a really realistic and natural feeling of body tracking in VR like wrapping bandages in The Walking Dead.
Actually, the Quest 3 has the same tracking volume as the Quest 2, but because the camera placement is different, the areas of tracking changed – you can see from picture that there’s more tracking coverage around the torso and shoulders than the head and this actually works quite well because Meta concluded that we don’t often hold our hands above our heads for long periods. Which was probably the right call.
Touch Plus Controllers & HRTF Sound
Also, what makes games and the entire Quest 3 experience so immersive are the in-built speakers.
The audio is really immersive thanks to the updated spatial sound for brilliant 3D audio. It uses something called Universal HRTF based on sound localization and frequency accuracy. It’s actually something that’s used by Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro, too. The speakers are plenty good for all uses from movie watching to gaming.
The included Touch Plus controllers are really, really good.
They’re sleek and ergonomic and the chunky outer rings have been removed. In hand, they feel really natural, almost like an extension of your hand.
The haptic feedback has been upgraded, too, it produces really punchy vibrations and feedback, thanks to VCM Haptics. It’s actually quite similar to the Dualshock 4 controllers, which use VCM too.
There are also now 2 stage triggers, which means you can now pull it once for one action and then pull it extra hard for another action. In some ways, it’s sort of like Apple’s discontinued 3D touch.
Unfortunately, they operate on AA batteries that don’t last very long so have a stack of AA batteries on hand if you’re planning to use the Quest 3 regularly.
$499 now gets you a completely redesigned headset. Inside and out, everything about the headset is miles beyond the Meta Quest 2. It’s a really, really good all-in-one headset.
It’s also convinced me that mixed reality could be a thing in the near future. I can see a lot of people placing augments in their bedrooms or playing the piano in peace out in public, but it’s still some ways off.
The headset still needs to be lighter with longer battery life, plus it needs to become more socially acceptable.
For now, the Quest 3 is a really good VR headset for gaming for most people, especially when Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro headset is a whopping 7x more expensive at $3,499 – only a small niche of people will be able to purchase that headset.
It’s got its flaws for sure, but it doesn’t take away from the incredible experience. Hats off to Meta, this is an innovative product that’s pushing boundaries, and it’s exciting to see how the AR and VR space will continue to grow.