We’re just a day away from the launch of the Meta Quest 3 virtual reality headset, upon which many metaverse dreams depend. Here’s our hands-on review.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in particular is betting that this $500 VR headset will attract VR and gaming enthusiasts with its mixed reality technology, which lets you see the outside world through cameras while you’re playing inside the world of the VR headset.
And Meta hopes to head off a similar technology being used in the Apple Vision Pro, a $3,500 headset that is arriving early next year. Sadly, I haven’t yet tried the Vision Pro and so I can’t make a direct comparison between these two products. But I’ll bet the Vision Pro beats Meta on graphics quality while Meta slaughters Apple when it comes price and availability of applications.
We’ll figure that out later. Meanwhile, I’ve sampled some of what this generation of VR has to offer, and the following is my report based on some limited time with the headset.
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In the meantime, it is a distinct advantage that Meta will have more than 500 applications compatible with the Quest lineup available on the Meta Quest 3, either on the first day or by the end of the year.
More than 100 games are coming to the platform, and I think it’s smart of them to focus on entertainment, rather than the admittedly uninspiring work applications for consumers. Over half of the 100 games are brand new titles, and upgrades and MR features are coming to another 50 titles currently on the Meta Quest Store.
I tried out this latest onramp to the metaverse, and I think it has made a lot of leaps forward in a short time with cool VR technology.Yeah, the metaverse still isn’t quite here yet. But I see this headset as a mark of progress toward that goal. In the meantime, it’s a perfectly good headset for the part of the population that doesn’t get sick playing and sees VR as a perfectly fine destination for the time being. Meta said its own ecosystem has generated more than $2 billion in revenues for developers so far.
The VR headset starts at $500 for a 128GB storage model. A 512GB version costs $649. It has double the graphics capability of the prior generation Meta Quest 2, which came out in 2020. And the 4K+ Infinite Display brings a nearly 30% leap in resolution compared to Meta Quest 2.
If you purchase the 128GB version, you will get Asgard’s Wrath 2, a $60 value, included with your purchase. If you buy the 512GB version, you get the game as well as a six-month Meta Quest+ subscription, a $108 value. Preorders start today. The game has 60 hours of gameplay and free roaming through its virtual environment. The game runs natively on the Quest 3, and it’s coming in December.
The headset will be available for purchase in the Meta Store and select retailers in 23 countries. One of the biggest improvements in the Meta Quest 3 — something that Meta showed last year with its more expensive Meta Quest Pro — is color passthrough that turns the VR headset into a mixed reality headset.
With the color passthrough, you can see the physical world around you in color, and you can see 3D-animated overlays on top of the real world. Virtual elements blend with your physical surroundings while the real world stays in clear sight. That leads to all kinds of new applications where you can stay present in the physical environment around you while wearing the headset.
With mixed reality, you can play a virtual piano on your coffee table, work out alongside a virtual trainer or open a portal to a new dimension right from the comfort of your living room. All while high-fidelity, full-color passthrough keeps your room in sight with over 10 times more pixels compared to Quest 2 and three more pixels compared to Quest Pro.
But the Meta Quest 3 is a cheaper version, and so it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the enterprise-oriented Meta Quest Pro. For instance, the Meta Quest Pro has 10 cameras and sensors, while the Meta Quest 3 has six. Yet Meta Quest 3 is half the price of the $1,000 pro version. Those six cameras on the Meta Quest 3 power high-resolution color mixed reality and wireless inside-out SLAM tracking with six degrees of freedom.
The mixed reality is captured via two RGB cameras with 18 ppd delivering full-color, high-fidelity views of your surroundings while you see virtual objects appear in your physical space. It provides over 10 times more pixels in passthrough compared to Quest 2 and three times more pixels compared to Quest Pro.
Redesigned from the inside out, Meta said the Meta Quest 3 features Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 technology, so even the most demanding games feature crisp details. The VR is more realistic than ever, thanks to a new pancake lens design and increased display resolution for dazzling graphics. Yet the lenses are 40% thinner than previous models.
New Touch Plus controllers
The new ring-free Touch Plus controllers enhance haptics for more sensations, bringing you closer to the games or apps you’re using. The thinner and lighter headset has a more customizable fit, which means you can experience more comfortable play for longer. But I found I really needed the optional (extra cost) strong Elite Strap to feel comfortable enough playing.
Meta said your hands move more naturally whether you’re working out or traveling to new realms. I didn’t get a feel for this yet, but Meta promises it’s more accurate and you will feel sensations when holding a bow, scrambling up skyscrapers or blasting through space. You can even explore without controllers, thanks to Direct Touch that follows your gestures, letting you use just your hands.
The 2X graphics capability means load times are faster and images are crisper. Two displays (2064 x 2208 resolution per eye) combined with Meta’s Infinite Display optical stack.
It’s also much faster to set up than prior models, which required you to calibrate the headset to your room whenever you signed in. With this one, configuration for your room is easily set. The updated boundary feature automatically scans your space using computer vision to determine your play space boundary, so you don’t have to define it manually.
Customizable features let you find a better fit, whether you’re wearing over glasses or adjusting for different hairstyles and face shapes. You can get prescription lenses, so you don’t have to wear your glasses while you’re getting sweaty.
Surrounded by sound Feel like you’re surrounded by the action with a new level of spatial sound. Enjoy enhanced sound clarity and bass performance — plus a 40% louder audio range than Quest 2.
It has integrated stereo speakers and microphone. 3D spatial audio places you in your space with improved volume output (40% louder audio range than Quest 2), increased bass range and optimal L/R matching capabilities. Also compatible with 3.5mm headphones via a single headphone jack.
I checked with someone standing nearby, and they could hear what was being played in my ears maybe 10 or 20 feet away, depending on how loud it was.
Applications and games
Meta said it’s like a home theater in your headset. You can watch streaming shows and documentaries, which appear larger than life in your room for a cinema-level experience. Feel even more immersed with an increased field of view, or like you’re right alongside friends with co-watching—wherever they are in the world.
Meta is touting fitness applications, which are already being used by millions of people exercise. There will be titles across cardio, strength training, martial arts and more. Dance, play sports or jump into action games to get your heart and adrenaline pumping.
Next month, Meta Quest for Business is coming. Microsoft Teams is entering public preview, and Adobe has a VR version of its tools. You can access Windows 365 with Excel, Powerpoint and Word.
And Xbox Cloud Stream is coming to the Meta Quest 3 in December. That means you’ll be able to play games like Halo Infinite inside your VR headset, as games that can stream to the device will be playable on it. Xtadium will stream NBA games. And you can see iHeart Radio Live concerts like Red Rock Live.
In a preview event, I played a cute VR tabletop mixed reality game called Bam where you take cute characters and maneuver them around a toy-like battlefield. You can bounce and jump to get to a high platform, and then you punch your rivals and try to knock them out of the play space. All the while, you can see the familiar surroundings of your living room or wherever you’re playing.
Playing mixed reality games
The first game I went to, as I do with most of my Quest VR headsets, was Pistol Whip, a VR shooter by Cloudhead Games. While this title came out in 2019 for the original Meta Quest headset, I found that it’s a fun combination of shooting, music beat and an engaging story.
You move forward through a scene and don’t have to maneuver, as it’s a game on rails. Enemies appear in front of you or on the sides or even above you, and you have to shoot them fast, shake your controller down to reload and then dodge bullets coming at you. I always work up a sweat in this game, and it performed well with the Quest 3 with its better visuals and faster processing.
Of course, this game didn’t have any brand new details that made the experience unique on the Meta Quest 3. But there were brand new experiences like the mixed reality game Lego Bricktales, where you could manipulate Lego pieces in a kind of virtual diorama and play a game with the toy pieces.
Lego Bricktales lets you put together toy objects like sailboats or jungles — using the Meta Quest controllers — and then invites you to go play inside the little worlds. It comes out on December 7 on both the Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest 3.
I also got a workout trying Les Mills Body Combat, where you work up a sweat boxing. It’s kind of like Beatsaber, where objects come flying at you and you have to take them out with jabs or hooks and more. The app features videos of instructors who do a good job motivating you to keep going.
I’m also looking forward to trying out Zumba on FitXR’s app in the comfort of my own home where no one else can see me dancing.
I played Sega’s VR version of Samba de Amigo, where you shake your controllers like sambas. I also played Sony Pictures VR’s Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord title, where you head into a mansion and play detective, looking for signs of ghosts. You have to save the city of San Francisco from the Ghost Lord.
Jake Zim, senior vice president of virtual reality for Sony Pictures Entertainment, told me in an interview that it comes with a mixed reality bonus for the Meta Quest 3: a minigame called Mini-Puft Mayhem. This is a bonus for Meta Quest 3 owners, who can play the minigame in their own homes and live the fantasy of battling creatures in your own home.
In this game from developer nDreams, you pull out a slingshot and have to deal with a giant Puft creature who pulls the roof off of your own house, which you can see through the mixed reality lenses. I had to pull some ammo from my back and load it into the slingshot and aim at the big guy’s eyes. Once I hit them, I had to lob a bunch of the mini guys into his mouth.
This experience was a lot like the mixed reality experience for Stranger Things, where you see cracks in your home’s walls open that lead to the devilish Upside Down alternate reality. The illusion is pretty seamless in terms of overlaying fantasy on top of your surroundings, thanks to the mixed reality tech.
I also played the Assassin’s Creed Nexus title, where I had to physically reach out and grab with my arms in order the climb walls. And putting an arrow into a crossbow was pretty complicated. I got pretty sweaty in that game without accomplishing all that much, and I thought it would be far easier playing this game on a 2D screen with a standard game controller. I think there are some games that shouldn’t be exercise.
Resolution Games’ Demeo Battles should be an interesting addition for fans of multiplayer fantasy combat, and Dungeons of Eternity is a dungeon-crawling game for those who can handle deeper, sweaty experience in VR. These titles might scratch your fantasy itch until Asgard’s Wrath 2 comes in December.
Product details and why they matter
The product weighs 515 grams, including the headset, soft strap and facial interface. It is a slimmer design that balances weigh better on your head. It measures 184 millimeters x 160 millimeters x 98 millimeters.
The Meta Quest 3 has six advanced camera sensors to power high-resolution color mixed reality and wireless inside-out SLAM tracking with six degrees of freedom.
The 8GB of RAM adds 33% more memory compared with Meta Quest 2, giving you more support to play your favorite apps with optimal performance.
Accurate depth projection and room mapping gives you freedom to move throughout your space and interact with virtual characters or objects in the room around you. I found that the roomscale experience worked fine, and the automated guardian saves a lot of time.
The display refresh rate is 72Hz, 80Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz (experimental). and it has a field of view of 110 degrees horizontal and 96 degrees vertical – nearly 15% wider than Quest 2. This extends your peripheral vision to let you see more of virtual worlds, all at once, for the most immersive experiences yet. It’s definitely wide enough so that you can feel like you see what you need to see. And you have to turn your head if you want to get a bit more peripheral vision.
The pancake lens optical profile is 40% slimmer than the Quest 2 and it is sharper by 25%. There’s a lens distance adjustment wheel that lets you more easily position the lens for better viewing and comfort. I haven’t yet tried out the prescription lenses so that I can use the headset without my glasses.
Battery life is about 2.2 hours (2.9 hours with media, 2.4 hours with games, 2.2 hours with social) the same as Quest 2, depending on your device settings and usage. As with most battery powered devices, battery life is dependent on various factors such as device settings, usage, age of battery, Bluetooth usage, and wireless conditions. Productivity apps yield about 1.5 hours of battery life. I can’t say that I’ve worn it that long in a single setting, as I generally get weary faster using fitness apps or games.
The headset is Wi-Fi 6E enabled with full 6 Ghz spectrum support with wider 160 Mhz channels. It uses Bluetooth 5.2. And it supports roomscale, which 6.5 feet x 6.5 feet of obstruction-free floor space. You can link to your PC using Link ($80) and Air Link. I haven’t tried that yet.
One thing I highly recommend is the Elite Strap for the Meta Quest 3. This strap does a better job of balancing the headset on your head and it takes the pressure off your face. It costs an extra $70, but I found it worth that as I couldn’t last very long in the headset without it. It works for people with large or small heads. With just the normal strap, I found a lot of pressure on my face and glasses. You can also get an Elite Strap with battery for $130, and a Meta Quest 3 charging dock for $130 for wireless charging.
When it comes to standalone VR, I would highly recommend the Meta Quest 3 for people who are already sold on VR headsets and want the added realism of the graphics and the crowd-pleasing mixed reality titles for entertaining family and friends. The MR stuff provides the “wow factor” for a broader set of people — a relatively small audience got to try it out on the Magic Leap One headset — and I’m looking forward to mixed reality moving beyond tabletop experiences myself.
If you’re waiting for the metaverse or some other outstanding technology associated with playing in virtual worlds, you might want to hold out still. But as far as VR fun that has a practical price tag, I think the Meta Quest 3 is a big step forward.
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