Oculus new Quest 2 VR headset starts at $299 and ships October 13th

 theverge.com  09/16/2020 17:23:23   Adi Robertson

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 its 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 todays 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 its primarily white instead of black, but its 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 Quests internals have been refreshed. The new headset uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset instead of a Snapdragon 835, and its 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 Quests equivalent. The screens resolution is much higher: 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye instead of the Quests 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.

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. Weve 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 dont 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 isnt 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 theyre 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 well have more to share as we get closer to launch.

Parthasarathy also explained a few other design decisions for the Quest 2. He says the headsets Oculus Touch controllers still use AA batteries instead of built-in rechargeable ones because Oculus hasnt 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 Apples notoriously problematic rechargeable Magic Mouse. Theres 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 dont 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 theres no new information on that front.

Facebook Reality Labs, the new name for Facebooks 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 were all going to find out.

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