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2 Mar, 2024
8 min time to read

When Meta unveiled its latest VR headset, the Quest 3, it positioned it as a revolutionary tool for immersive meta-universe experiences. However, in the context of XR technology development, Mark Zuckerberg's company is far from the only player seeking to have a significant impact in this field.

Various companies are seeking their own path in an attempt to create a product that could be as groundbreaking as the smartphone, but it is still unclear what the target audience and optimal use cases for this technology are — whether it's gaming, work, fitness, social interaction, or a combination of all of these.

Apple, on the other hand, seems to be in a different reality, releasing its Apple Vision Pro headset at an astronomical price of $3499 despite its lack of expertise in this area. At the opposite end of the market, companies like Pico dominate the budget segment, emphasizing affordability.

The Meta Quest 3, meanwhile, is somewhere in the middle. It's not as luxurious as Apple's gadget, but it's also moving away from the budget VR solution that the Quest 2 was. The previous model, Quest 2, earned a reputation as a reliable and affordable device, but the Quest 3 goes further, offering an entirely new mixed reality experience for an additional $200 — a first in this series.

Priced at a modest $499 (compared to Apple's new release), the question arises whether the Quest 3 is a true breakthrough in the mixed reality field that can become a truly mass-market device. Or will the gadget still remain within a niche circle of enthusiasts?

Specifications

Name: Meta Quest 3.
Weight: 515g.
Colors: white.
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2.
Actual screen resolution: 4128 x 2208, 120Hz.
Resolution per eye: 2064 x 2208.
Field of view: 110 degrees.
Memory: 8GB RAM + 128/512GB ROM.
Power: 6000mAh (USB-C), AA batteries (controllers).
Wireless interfaces: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi.
Additional software: Oculus (for PC connection), Meta Quest (for smartphone connection).
Sensors: LiDAR, depth sensor.
Compatibility: SteamVR, PC streaming, smartphone streaming.
Features: mixed reality support, fully wireless connection.
Price: starting from $499.

First Setup

Launching the Meta Quest 3 headset begins with a setup process that may take some time. One of the main issues is the need for initial authorization through Facebook.

Unlike the debates about bulkiness that arose around the Apple Vision Pro, the Quest 3 has no obvious drawbacks in this regard. The headset is surprisingly lightweight and compact, making it comfortable to use even for extended periods.

The fit area of the Quest 3 is made of a special breathable fabric. This helps minimize sweating, which can lead to fogging of the optics inside the headset. The outside of the headset is clearly adjustable by tightening the strap, while the inside has a button that allows you to adjust the position of the lenses for an optimal view.

The weight of the headset is barely noticeable, thanks to a clever strap system that keeps the device securely on your head. Both straps are adjustable, one with Velcro and the other with elastic tension, allowing the headset to be perfectly adjusted to the shape of your face.

The Quest 3 controllers are powered by regular AA batteries and fit perfectly in the hands. However, their use is not mandatory: the interface is fully adapted for gesture control thanks to cameras tracking finger movements. However, gesture control may still seem less convenient than traditional controllers.

Brief Hardware Overview

The Meta Quest 3 runs on the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 processor from Qualcomm with an Adreno graphics processor, which, according to the company's data, outperforms its predecessor, the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1 used in the Quest 2, by 2.5 times in performance. Thus, technically, the Quest 3 surpasses even the Quest Pro, which runs on the Snapdragon XR2+ based on the Gen 1 platform.

The device features 8 GB of RAM, which is more than the Quest 2 with its 6 GB but less than the Quest Pro with 12 GB. The Quest 3 is available in two memory variants: 128 GB for $499 and 512 GB for $649. On the left side of the headset is a USB-C port for charging, alongside the power button and cameras.

A distinctive feature of the Quest 3 is the absence of eye tracking technology (present in the Quest Pro). This means that software control via gaze is not possible. In terms of visualization, the Quest 3 noticeably outperforms both the Quest 2 and the Quest Pro. It provides a resolution of 2064 by 2208 pixels for each eye, which is higher than that of the Quest 2 (1832 by 1920) and the Quest Pro (1920 by 1800). And all this at 120 Hz — a record value for the Meta headset lineup.

First Impressions of Mixed Reality

Moving on to the key feature of the Meta Quest 3 — the mixed reality mode, it must be acknowledged that the impressions of this feature are truly unforgettable... but only for the first time, as this effect quickly fades away.

The Quest 3 offers two modes of use: traditional VR and mixed reality, referred to here as "transparency mode," when elements appear directly in the surrounding space, creating the illusion of their real presence.

Previous Quest models had a transparency feature, but it was very primitive and presented a blurred black and white version of the surrounding environment. With the Quest 3, the front RGB camera ensures clear color reproduction of the space.

My initial skepticism towards mixed reality was replaced by amazement: virtual objects integrate perfectly into real space, and the object tracking system deserves separate praise. Even if an object goes out of sight, it retains its position in space with high accuracy. The headset works smoothly even in low light, but not in total darkness as it is forced to switch to VR mode.

Moving around the room with the headset poses no significant challenges, and the risk of collision with objects is minimal. However, there is a drawback: despite the high resolution, the image still appears grainy and blurry. The world around is displayed in full colors, but with some blurriness, which causes discomfort when looking at details. Although I can see the time on my smartwatch and recognize app icons on my smartphone, small text remains unreadable due to visual distortions, and objects here and there deform, reminiscent of the Alice in Wonderland syndrome.

Interestingly, in videos recorded with the headset, everything looks much better than when viewed with my own eyes. But even then, distortions and lack of detail are noticeable.

The Meta Quest 3 is a fully wireless headset, which undoubtedly adds convenience to its use. However, it is worth noting that the device's autonomy leaves much to be desired: typically, the battery lasts only for about one and a half hours of active use. Moreover, when streaming apps via Steam VR, the headset drains much faster than when playing games on its built-in hardware. Streaming to a computer is done using the Oculus proprietary app on Windows. There is an option to transmit the image via a cable, but a special cable is required, which is not included.

With prolonged use, the Quest 3 may overheat, activating the cooling system with accompanying noise. However, this does not cause significant discomfort and is mostly unnoticeable. The headset's power is sufficient to run popular games like Beat Saber directly on the device without the need for connection to a computer. This is undoubtedly a big plus.

Navigation within the System

The interface of the Meta Quest 3 headset stands out for its intuitive clarity. In mixed reality mode, there's always a convenient control panel next to the user, which can be moved either by hands or with the controllers. This panel includes a function to switch between realities: pressing the corresponding button allows you to immerse yourself into the virtual room.

The panel has two display modes: full-size and compact. In the full-size mode, all open media files are projected onto a large screen, while in the compact mode, all elements fit onto a small virtual "tablet" that can be carried around.

Using the tablet with hands is possible, but initially, it may seem inconvenient, especially due to the need to keep your hands in the camera's field of view to register touches. Over time, I got used to this method of control, but the desire to grab the convenient controllers still arose.

The Quest 3 controllers are equipped with several buttons used to call up the main menu and center it relative to the user's gaze. In controller-less mode, these functions are performed using gestures: for example, a flick of the fingers simulates a click, and an open palm opens a small menu with basic functions, which looks very futuristic.

Before starting any game, it's necessary to scan the room or manually draw boundaries for the workspace. This process involves looking at various parts of the room: the floor, ceiling, furniture, and other objects. After completing the scan, the room space transforms into a zone for games and entertainment both in XR and VR modes.

A key feature of the Quest 3 is that the headset automatically switches to transparent mode when you go outside the set boundaries in VR mode. This prevents accidental collisions with objects. The boundary tracking system works extremely accurately, and in my case I never once encountered any obstacles while immersing myself in the virtual space.

Conclusion

The Meta Quest 3 represents a significant improvement compared to its predecessor, the Quest 2, thanks to enhanced power, ease of use, and display quality. The innovation of mixed reality mode with color reproduction opens up new perspectives.

However, despite its innovative features, the Quest 3 faces a number of limitations. The new mixed reality mode, while unique, has image quality issues that prevent the device from being used in any areas of life other than entertainment. And the pleasure of entertainment quickly fades due to lack of content and the rawness of the technology.

Considering this, the Quest 3 remains a product for enthusiasts but clearly not a mass-market device for everyone. Nevertheless, the headset is still of high quality and versatile — it can work both independently and with a PC or even a smartphone. If you have been considering purchasing a VR headset, then the Quest 3 may be a good choice, but in this case, view the mixed reality feature as a pleasant addition rather than a key aspect.

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