I’ve had a big of a mixed relationship with virtual reality. I really enjoyed it in the early days with the original PlayStation VR and Meta Quest, but with the Meta Quest 2 and PlayStation VR2, my attention hasn’t often been kept long enough to spend time with either of them following launch.
That’s all changed with the Meta Quest 3 and there’s a number of reasons why that is. Firstly, coming off the PlayStation VR2, I can’t even put into words how good it feels to be wireless again. it just suits the experience so much better and whilst PlayStation VR2 offers a better graphical experience, I’d trade it for a wireless experience any day.
The Meta Quest 3 takes quite a different formfactor to that of the Meta Quest 2, it’s 40% slimmer and this is largely due to the pancake lenses (which we’ll get into a little bit later). This makes for a more comfortable experience, and the included strap is definitely an improvement on that of the Meta Quest 2, but you’ll definitely want something like the Elite Strap or BOBOVR M3 Pro for increased comfort, as the included strap still puts pressure on your face when you’re using it for extended periods.
Thankfully the ability to change your lens distance has returned, so you get complete control over that (within reason), and you can now also go between 3-4 different levels the distance between the facial insert and your face. Unfortunately, once again, the included facial interface is still foam, so you if you like to exercise in VR or just generally get sweaty, I’d recommend upgrading to the official Silicon one.
The Meta Quest 3 controllers look totally different. They’re smaller and have lost the rings the original two sets have, and they now have much better tracking, so it’s a big improvement there. Hand tracking has gotten so good on the Meta Quest 3, thanks to the cameras that you won’t need your controllers when you’re just browsing the menus, surfing the web or playing certain games.
Speaking of those cameras, that’s where the huge improvements begin. There’s two cameras that are used for spatial tracking, two colour pass through cameras that are used to show you a mixed reality view, and two more spatial cameras at the bottom of your headset that are also used for tracking. There’s also a depth sensor which is used to kind of show you real world objects in a mixed reality view to give you a sense of depth.
With the better quality pass through cameras, the headset can now automatically set a boundary based on your space, and it can also remember different rooms based on objects. Just in terms of walking around your house, or looking at your phone quickly or getting a sense of your surroundings, the colour pass through is a huge improvement.
I’ve been super excited about the prospect of mixed reality, especially since Apple announced the Vision Pro, and the Meta Quest 3 delivers a decent experience. It wasn’t as clear as I was expecting, but that’s largely because the recordings that you can perform in the headset are clearer than what you see in your headset, so I put that down to TikTok catfishing me. It’s still a really enjoyable experience, and especially when using Meta Horizon Workrooms, which connects to your computer wirelessly and puts three huge monitors in front of you in a mixed reality world or a virtual office, I can see how mixed reality could be the future of productivity.
When it comes to mixed reality in gaming, there were a few cool examples, but they largely felt gimmicky, and due to quality not being out of this world incredible, it felt like the augmented reality experienced that the Nintendo 3DS provided. It’s cool, and the demo the comes with the Meta Quest 3 is probably the best experience available at the moment. I recognise that we’re still early in the piece and I’d hope to see more compelling games in the near future.
There’s undeniable still something so cool about seeing the world around you with a virtual world overlaid. Being able to intuitively move the menus around using your hands whilst lying on your bed is just unlike any experience that I’ve had before. It’s going to be really exciting to watch this space evolve over the next few years.
The resolution provided by the pancake lenses is fantastic, and there’s a much bigger sweet spot in getting clarity, so it doesn’t feel like you’re constantly adjusting the headset to get the perfect clarity. Because the lenses aren’t OLED, they’re not quite as good as PlayStation VR2, especially in dark scenes, but they’re pretty fantastic. I’ve been using the Zenni lenses in my headset and it makes a huge difference in terms of getting as close to the lens as possible without my glasses getting in the way.
Similarly, the new Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 processor really goes a long way with this headset. The Meta Quest 2 was really clunky at times whilst browsing menus or playing certain games, but zipping around the Meta Quest 3 feels super great. I never experienced a stutter or a slow down whilst going through menus.
The early games that I’ve got to play on the device are fantastic. Again, games that haven’t been updated from the Meta Quest 2 feel very similar, and it’s a little bit behind PlayStation VR2, but games such as Assassin’s Creed Nexus or Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost lord, and no doubt the upcoming Asghard’s Wrath 2, all look phenomenal considering they’re running on a wireless headset.
When it comes to battery life, I did notice it dropping quicker than it did on the Meta Quest 2, but from memory, this got better over time with software updates on the Quest 2, and Meta were super great with updating it frequently, so hopefully we see that improved quickly. I’m not one to spend hours in a headset, so it didn’t bother me.
If you’ve got a Meta Quest 2 or even a PlayStation VR2, it’s tricky to come to a conclusion on whether you should upgrade. At $799, it’s definitely a big jump from the Meta Quest 2’s price at launch. If you’re someone that plays virtual reality games every day or wants to dabble in the world of mixed reality, then you really can’t go wrong with all of the improvements on offer here.
The Meta Quest 3 finds the perfect balance between power and portability. It's a great reminder that there's nothing better than a wireless virtual reality experience and with its mixed reality features and hand tracking, the headset puts Meta ahead of the game, at least for a while longer.
Mixed Reality And Hand Tracking Are Cool
Colour Passthrough Is A Big Improvement
Mixed Reality On The Murkier Side
Need To Spend More Money To Get The Best Experience