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Quest 3 first impressions: A solid Quest 2 successor with impressive mixed reality

Mixing it up

Meta officially unveiled its new Meta Quest 3 headset Wednesday, which will go on sale for $500 next month. I got to spend some time with the Quest 3 at a press event in San Francisco last week, and I have to say that there’s a lot to like about this new headset:

  • The biggest upgrade is highly visible. The Quest 3 uses pancake lenses, which allow it to offer impressive optics with a much smaller and more comfortable body. The headset is equipped with two 2064 x 2208 pixel displays, which according to Meta offer a close to 30% higher resolution than the Quest 2. (The Quest 2 had 1832 x1 920 pixels per eye, while the Quest Pro had 1920 x 1800 pixels per eye.)

    During the press preview event I attended, Meta showed off a demo that let me switch back and forth between the Quest 3’s native resolution, and a simulation of what the same image would look like on the Quest 2. And while that’s clearly not a real side-by-side comparison, it did show off some of the device’s strengths: The display did look neat and crisp, with text being a lot more legible, and edges being a lot smoother than on the Quest 2.

  • Pass-through mixed reality is impressive. Using the cameras of the Quest 3 for a live view of the world around you is not exactly the same as looking at it with your bare eyes, but the image quality is a big improvement even over the Quest Pro. According to Meta, the Quest 3 delivers 10 times more pixels than the Quest 2 in pass-through mode, and three times more pixels than the Quest Pro. In layman’s terms, Quest 2 pass-through looked like “Blair Witch Project,” while the Quest Pro looked more like grainy VHS. With the Quest 3, we’re starting to approach modern-day home video territory.

    But mixed reality isn’t just about visual fidelity alone. The Quest 3 also did some neat occlusion in one demo I saw, with creatures emerging from behind objects in the room. However, when one of the games projected a visual skin on top of the pass-through view of my controller, my thumb suddenly disappeared.

  • Room scanning now happens automatically. Speaking of mixed reality: The Quest 2 and Quest Pro required you to manually scan your room to incorporate walls and other surfaces into mixed reality apps. With the Quest 3, this process is now largely automated, so you have to just look around for a bit while the headset maps your surroundings, aided by its built-in depth sensor.

  • The Quest 3’s built-in speakers are supposed to be 40% louder than those of its predecessor, and I can confirm that they can get pretty loud: I had to turn down the volume during multiple games, because I couldn’t understand what the Meta employee next to me was telling me. There’s still a headphone jack if you prefer to use wired earbuds instead.

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  • A tried-and-true strap design. The Quest Pro departed from the Quest’ 2s fabric head strap with a more rigid band that placed the battery on the back of your head for better weight distribution. The Pro headset was also using a crown fit, meaning it was resting on your forehead as opposed to your nose and cheeks. That design was meant to give users the option to see their hands, or glance at their keyboard or phone – things you might appreciate during a work session.

    The Quest 3 ditches all of that for a tried-and-true fabric head strap with some minor tweaks that are supposed to make it easier to adjust it to different head sizes. To be honest, I much prefer this type of headstrap, and a more solid fit of the headset on your face. Sure, the design is more front-heavy, but the Quest 3’s more compact body made it feel less chunky Plus, there are multiple strap accessories for sale, including some with color accents for customization.

  • Ringless controllers. Much like the Quest Pro, the Quest 3 is ditching its predecessor's tracking rings, which makes the controllers a lot more compact. I didn’t get to try Beat Saber or other super-fast action, but tracking generally seemed to work as promised.

  • All of this will cost you. With a price tag of $500 for the 128GB version and $650 for a 512GB model, the Quest 3 is a good chunk more expensive than its predecessor, which went on sale for $299 when it was first introduced in 2020. However, considering that the Quest 3 cost $1500 when it debuted just last year, and that the Vision Pro will cost you $3500, one could argue that it’s actually a very affordable mixed reality device. And even if you compare it to the price of your typical game console, the Quest 3 is still pretty competitive.

All in all, I could see Meta sell quite a few of these this holiday season. The big question for me is: When will we see some breakthrough mixed reality apps and games? The Quest Pro didn’t stimulate the development of MR as much as it could have, as it was held back both by its price tag as well as its focus on work, or perhaps lack of focus in general. With the Quest 3, it’s likely only a matter of time before we see some really interesting mixed reality use cases appear.

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Photo courtesy of Meta.

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