With the arrival of the Meta Quest 3, Meta has aimed to once again push forward VR technology. The third in a series of HMDs, the Meta Quest 3 puts a strong emphasis on mixed reality, blending games and social apps with your real environment. With massive improvements to passthrough, the controllers, and the headset’s physical design, the Meta Quest 3 is one of the best VR devices on the market, even if it doesn’t make the most of its flashy new mixed reality tech.
The ultimate all-in-one
Unboxing my Meta Quest 3, I was instantly taken aback by how small the packaging was, particularly compared to the Oculus/Meta Quest 2, which I still had sitting in the corner of my office. After momentarily fearing that I had only received the controllers or headset independently, I realized that no, this device and its peripherals are simply far more compact than its predecessor. The headset itself is smaller and far more comfortable to wear. It made it enjoyable to play fitness games, or anything that required me to hop around or move frequently.
The Touch Plus Controllers have arguably received the largest upgrade, completely scrapping the tracking rings that made the controllers on Quest 2 clunky and difficult to store. It also knocked a couple ounces off of them, empowering me to swing them around and move my arms more freely when playing games and navigating menus.
It’s impossible to overstate the luxury that is an untethered VR headset, though there is a considerable drawback in the limited battery life. It was an issue on Quest 2, and it remains a hindrance on Quest 3. A full battery lasts roughly a few hours, but that number can change significantly depending on what you’re doing. Playing games like NFL Pro Era 2 or Blade & Sorcery: Nomad, I was getting low battery warnings before hitting 2 hours of playtime. In many cases, my play sessions ended because it was time to charge the battery, not because I wanted to stop playing. It’s a reasonable tradeoff for being wireless, but something that could put off VR enthusiasts.
Mixing up your reality
Meta has touted mixed reality as the grand new feature on the Meta Quest 3, and understandably so. Added cameras and sensors have vastly improved passthrough. While there’s still some fuzz, it’s far more clear that on the Meta Quest 2. I felt comfortable enough to walk across my living room and flick a light switch and drag a chair out of my play area while using passthrough. Don’t expect to be able to read a phone or computer screen, but better passthrough means fewer instances of having to partially remove my headset to safely move around in the real world.
Meta puts this passthrough to use in games and other applications, offering a unique way to blend digital experiences with the world around you. While it’s quite fun to tinker around with, I still found myself gravitating toward traditional VR experiences. This is mainly because there just isn’t much to do in mixed reality. There are some games that have received updates that add mixed reality support—Espire 2 and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes are excellent examples—but most of them haven’t. It’s clear that a lot of developers haven’t had enough time with the technology to craft unique experiences for it, so the offerings feel sparse. There’s a great foundation here, so I expect the library of experiences to grow over time.
On the spec side of things, the Meta Quest 3 is snappier and faster than its predecessor in just about every way. Moving between apps, opening menus, and launching games all take less time than it did on the Quest 2. I also noticed some decent bumps in visual quality for some games from my Quest 2 library that I re-downloaded on the Quest 3.
Another fancy new feature on the Quest 3 is the ability to ditch the controllers and use your hands for navigation. You can use your hands and fingers to swipe through menus, browse the store, and dig through the settings. It’s called Direct Touch, and while I quite like the Quest 3’s controllers, it was cool to go hands-free from time to time. It’s another feature that feels great, but isn’t implemented into enough games or experiences to feel like a game-changer.
The Meta Quest 3 is a solid step up from the Meta Quest 2. Improvements to visual quality, faster loading, and a refinement of the physical design make it one of the best VR headsets to date. That said, the available software doesn’t take full advantage of the device’s big new features, making it tough to reckon with the sharp price increase.
This review is based on a physical product provided by Meta. The Meta Quest 3 is available now in 128GB ($499 USD) and 512GB ($649.99 USD) models.
Meta Quest 3
- Passthrough quality has grown significantly
- Refined ergonomic headset and controller design
- Improved visual quality
- Mixed reality is a niche but neat addition
- Faster loading and navigation
- Small handful of games and apps take advantage of mixed reality
- Battery life continues to be an obstacle
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Meta Quest 3 review: Step into the future
With the Quest 2 being temporarily under $200 in the USA, it sounds worth picking up that one rather than the Quest 3. From the review it doesn't seem to have enough of a visual/tech upgrade, despite the lower weight.
interesting, i heard the opposite! my friends keep saying the updated optics in teh quest 3 are a *huge* improvement over the 2, plus the lower weight and more comfortable headband makes the 3 be a much more enjoyable experience and one that you'll use much more often.
i haven't used either though, i'm just relaying what friends have said!
That’s absolutely and completely not true.
Everything is much sharper and text is actually readable now, resolution and/or frame rate get quite a boost (if devs use the new headspace).
The mixed reality feature is the most exciting thing about it and there is still content coming out for it.
The 2-hour (and sometimes below) battery life is the only downside but they are going to keep optimizing the firmware like they did for Quest 2.
Oh and the lense sweet spot is ginormous now. Seriously, the upgrade is worth it for the pancake lenses alone.
Also, if you were one of those who couldn’t find the right IPD setting out of the three presets on the Quest 2, you won’t have a problem like that with the IPD wheel on the 3.
agreed across the board, i can never go back to q2. even though I do have a normally arranged head and I'm not one of those mid-IPD mutants.
If anything, I would wait for the Quest 3 Lite coming out next year if you don’t want to spend the additional 300 bucks.
You are going to be kicking yourself if you buy a Quest 2 now.
I've used both. It's a huge difference!
For the price increase and 3 years development i expected more, but if i didn't already have a Quest 2 i'd definitely just get the 3 now.