Home Metaverse A Hands-On Review of Meta’s Latest Wireless Virtual Reality Headset – Ryan Schultz

A Hands-On Review of Meta’s Latest Wireless Virtual Reality Headset – Ryan Schultz

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: I first started writing this blogpost in November 2023, but I haven’t had a chance to finish it until now! It is one of a huge backlog (over thirty) of half-finished blog posts, which I hope to complete and publish soon. So please stay tuned!

Also, with this blogpost, I have created a new blog post category called Review, which I will now be using to mark any hardware and software reviews I write from now on, here on the RyanSchultz.com blog.

As a librarian at my university, I am a member of the faculty union, along with the professors and instructors. One of the benefits we receive is a certain sum of money every year, travel and expense (T&E) funds, to be used to pay for our professional memberships, registration for and travel to and from conferences, books and journal subscriptions—and computer equipment! And so it was, that I used part of my T&E funds this year to purchase Meta’s latest wireless VR headset, the Meta Quest 3, which was just announced Sept. 27th, 2023 at the Meta Connect event (which I wrote about on my blog here).

Now, while I absolutely reserve the right to snark about some aspects of the Meta Connect event itself (Snoop Dogg and Paris Hilton as AI chatbots? Really?!??), I still do believe that Meta makes great virtual reality hardware! And so I ordered a Meta Quest 3 (512 GB model), plus an Elite Strap with Battery, and a carrying case to lug it all around in.

This will be a test unit, which I will evaluate to see how well it would fit into the selection of hardware which will form part of a virtual reality lab for my university library system (more info here), of which I am a member of the committee helping to steer the project.

As I unpack and set up the Meta Quest 3, I will be comparing it with my previous experience with the Meta Quest 2. You can read my review of the Quest 2 here: A Hands-On Review of the Meta Quest 2 (256 GB Model, Elite Strap with Battery)

These boxes are getting smaller all the time!

My first impression: Wow, these boxes are getting smaller and lighter every time! And: Wow, those hand controllers look tiny. Anyway, wasting no time, I started unboxing.

Inside the Meta Quest 3 box (with the default strap)

I scanned the QR code on the inside of the Meta Quest 2 box, and this is the first thing it showed me on my iPhone:

Regular readers of my blog will remember my distaste for Meta’s level of consumer surveillance, so I immediately hit the Don’t Share button! I think Meta is already vacuuming up an alarming amount of my personal data as it is!

Since I already had the Oculus app installed on my work iPhone from when I set up my Meta Quest 2, the QR code didn’t really do much of anything. I was somewhat irritated that there wasn’t a paper set of step-by-step instructions to set up the Quest 3, so I did a little searching and found this webpage, which gave me a helpful video and some tips on how to get started.

The head strap that comes with the Meta Quest 3, while serviceable, really doesn’t help to redistribute the front-heavy headset (the Quest 3 weighs about the same as the Quest 2, although it is noticeably thinner). So one of the first things I did was unpack the Elite Strap with Battery, and replace the default strap. In addition to prolonging the use of the Quest 3 for another couple of hours, the rigid strap design reduces pressure on the face, and evenly distributes the total weight for a more comfortable fit (which also contributes to longer use).

The Elite Strap has a knob at the back to adjust to fit your head, and you can also use it to make it more compact to fit into the solid-feeling carrying case:

You can use the knob at the back of the Elite Strap with Battery to make the Meta Quest 3 headset small enough to fit into the carrying case, which makes it easier to take it with you!

One thing I was less than happy with is the charging cable, which is incredibly short! Meta, would it have killed you to include a longer charging cable? Don’t be so cheap!

The charging cable is waaay too short!

While at first I thought the hand controllers on the Quest 3 were much smaller than its predecessor, in fact they are approximately the same size. They’re only missing the “loop” at the top, which has been replaced by improvements to the tracking system overall. (I have enabled, but not yet tested out, hand tracking, that is, using hand gestures instead of the hand controllers.)

The hand controllers on the Meta Quest 3 (right) seem smaller than the Meta Quest 2, but that’s only because the top “loop” has been removed.

UPDATE March 2nd, 2024: I must confess that I haven’t had as much of an opportunity recently to put the Meta Quest 3 through its paces, but I did pack it into my carry-on bag when I flew to Alberta to spend last Christmas with the rest of my family, and I did give several family members a taste of virtual reality using this device, putting them into a loft apartment world in VRChat. (My usual go-to for giving people their first VR experience, a favourite tropical beach world in VRChat, called Deep Blue, unfortunately only works with a high-end tethered PVCR headset like the Valve Index of Vive Pro 2.) The Meta Quest 3 is, in my opinion, the perfect portable device for giving people an introduction to the world of virtual reality!

Also, you can use a fibre-optic Quest Link Cable (available for purchase through the Meta website for CA$109.99) to turn the standalone Meta Quest 3 into a PCVR headset, by attaching it to a high-end Windows PC with a good graphics card.

I did want to comment on what an improvement the visuals are in the Meta Quest 3 compared to its predecessor, the Meta Quest 2. The so-called “screendoor” effect (where it’s possible to determine the gaps between pixels in your headset view) has been greatly reduced, and it really improves graphics, and makes things like reading text much easier. But where there’s really a noticeable improvement between the Quest 2 and 3 is in the full-colour pass-through! According to Meta:

With full-color Passthrough, Quest 3 and Quest Pro provide you with a more perceptually comfortable, high-fidelity, real-time representation of the physical world around you. These advancements in Passthrough aren’t just to improve the VR experience you currently know, but is also fundamental to new and upcoming features that allow you to interact directly with the physical world while in-VR. Activities supported by full-color Passthrough include:

  • Using mixed reality apps that combine and use items from both your physical and virtual world.
  • Using a physical keyboard and other objects on your physical desk.
  • Interacting with other people in the same room as a part of a collaborative experience, like having a meeting in [Meta Horizon] Workrooms.

I look forward to spending more time in my Meta Quest 3 over the next few months, exploring various apps and platforms, and I will report back more often on how things are going!

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