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Meta’s Quest 3: A Step Forward in VR Innovation with Enhanced Usability and Mixed Reality Experiences

This post is a section of the New Technology article in Bob Cooney’s VR Arcade Game Buyer’s guide (download full guide here). Links to the other sections in this article are at the end of this post.

Meta continues to invest billions of dollars annually to build the technology underpinning the metaverse. Despite the hype dying down as people turned their attention this year to ChatGPT and artificial intelligence, VR keeps chugging along, getting better each year. The new Quest 3 is the best example yet of Meta’s unwavering commitment to building a great VR headset.

Not everything about the Quest is great. It’s still not as comfortable as the HTC Focus 3, which somehow manages to defy the ergonomic challenges many other headsets face. And the hand tracking software is still a bit loose. Trying to hold your hand on the little “X” to close a window can take half a dozen tries. But overall the Quest 3 represents a major leap forward in usability and quality over Meta’s previous attempts.

The most noticeable upgrade is in the optics. Pancake lenses dramatically reduce the headset’s volume, if not the weight. The new full-color pass-through video enables decent mixed-reality experiences. I did much of the writing and editing of this guide using Immersed VR on Quest 3. It enabled me to work on three huge virtual monitors while sitting by the pool on my laptop enjoying the backyard scenery. It’s quite a remarkable experience.

The pass-through uses two color cameras so you can actually sense depth in your environment. I was able to easily grab my coffee mug while wearing the headset and even sip from it with a tilt of my head. The Quest 3 also has a depth sensing camera which can measure the room you’re in and automatically create a guardian. It’s a great concept, but continually failed for me in practice. It kept telling me the room was too small, which sounds like a message from the Meta legal team. So alas I created my boundary by manually drawing like in days of yore.

The Mixed Reality feature makes Quest a great productivity tool

The Quest 3 controllers are much more compact; no more tracking ring. They’re more like the Quest Pro controllers, but without the onboard cameras. Meta moved the infrared emitters onto the controller face and has placed the tracking cameras in the headset so peripheral tracking is better. They’ve also improved their tracking algorithm. I’ve not had any controller tracking issues at all.

New controllers are smaller and have better haptic feedback

The graphics on the Quest 3 are markedly better, not only in resolution and field of view, but in depth, shadows, and pixel counts. The new Qualcomm XR2+ chip is more powerful and has better thermal performance, which means the processor can work harder for longer to generate those amazing images. It also has Wi-Fi 6E built in so you can run wireless PCVR games. But as a Mac user, that’s just not an option for me.

I found the battery life to be pretty crappy. Using mixed reality increases the power drain, but since I use it with my computer it’s easy to power it off my USB-C thunderbolt port. I cannot imagine gaming for more than an hour at a time, so didn’t opt for the Pro Battery Strap. I did get the Pro Strap for comfort, as the stock underwear waistband they ship with is pretty worthless.

Overall, the Quest 3 is, at $499 for the 128 GB version, solid value. You don’t need the 512 GB unless you’re going to be doing some heavy recording, or buy a lot of games. Most Quest games are around 1 GB, some approaching 10 GB, and even the new Asgard’s Wrath, which is a free bonus for early purchasers, is around 25 GB. If you have money to burn, always get the memory. But if you’re on a budget, save the $150 and get some more games.

Other sections of this article you may be interested in

  1. Apple Vision Pro
  2. Markerless Motion Capture

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