The Oculus Quest came out in May and leading up to launch the rumored specs sounded too good to be true: precise inside-out tracking in most light conditions, guardian boundaries traced from within the headset using a passthrough camera, 1440 x 1600 resolution with enough compute power on a standalone device to support Beat Saber while also driving 6DOF tracking, hours of battery life, etc.
Facebook delivered. The Quest launched, and suddenly there was a piece of hardware that, at $399, provided a lightweight, immersive experience out of the box without requiring a cumbersome VR PC. I felt the Oculus Go lacked promise, and Quest was the answer to many of the missing elements of standalone VR.
At Oculus’s annual conference, the product team laid out a compelling roadmap for the Quest, including Oculus for Business (OFB), hand tracking (which we’ll talk about in a future article) and what the team coined “Oculus Link”. Link is currently in beta. Now, because of Oculus Link, Quest has become my daily driver when I’m at my desk in the IrisVR office or on the road. I haven’t used my Rift S (which is also on my desk) once since Link came out. Link is truly the Rift killer.
Before I get into the details, here’s an overview of the headsets I’d currently recommend to a prospective Prospect by IrisVR user:
The Index and Vive Pro (with wireless adapter) are both high-end options for enthusiasts and businesses who have a fixed, dedicated VR space. Those headsets are more expensive, require external sensors, have significant setup/boot-up times, and typically need the most powerful PC to have a compelling experience. For the rest of the VR market, the choice typically comes down to a Rift, Rift S, Quest, Vive Cosmos, Vive Focus, or Windows MR headset.
I’ve found Oculus has consistently beat out the competition on stability/calibration/set up experience for headsets under $1,000, and at IrisVR we've pushed users towards the Rift S and Quest if they’re just getting started or are budget constrained.
What is Oculus Link?
Oculus Link is a software installation ontop of Oculus Home (Oculus’s PC software that installs the headset drivers and lets you browse games and experiences). Once the Link software is installed, you can plug in your Quest to your PC with a standard USB 3 cable, and the computer will act like the Quest is a PC-based headset.
This means that, when plugged in, your Quest can use the graphics card and CPU of your PC and run desktop-grade experiences. For IrisVR, that means you can see huge Navisworks and Revit files on your Quest. Then, when you unplug your Quest it returns to normal standalone operation and you can take it on the road with you and view smaller segments of those files.
Why is this a big deal?
- The tech under the hood is impressively challenging to pull off, but Oculus has built Link in such a way that the complexities are hidden from the user. This means that set up is as simple as plugging the Quest into your PC — that user experience is stellar.
- The visual experience feels on par with the Rift S. Gaming enthusiasts will notice the controllers have slightly more input lag. However, enterprise users will not be able to tell the difference between Quest using Link and a normal PC-based Oculus Rift experience. Experiences run at 8 fps slower (72Hz vs. 80Hz), but in my daily usage I couldn’t tell the difference.
- Almost all VR content can now run on one headset (Quest), thanks to SteamVR. SteamVR allows non-Oculus games to be played on Oculus headsets, and now with Link you can set up a chain of software to view Steam content on the Quest. For example, the Tiltbrush image at the top of this article was made by connecting Quest -> Oculus link -> Oculus Home -> SteamVR -> Tilt Brush.
Let’s get fancy with the setup.
After using Link for a few weeks, I’ve modified the setup to have the best experience.
- The USB cable matters. We’ve ordered this 10 ft cable for folks at the office, but if you want more space to move around (and have $50 to spend on a cable), then this is your best option.
- I use the included velcro cable tie from the USB cable to fix the cable to the back of the headset after plugging it in. This distributes the weight of the cable evenly and makes the experience more comfortable. I’d imagine you’ll see a number of 3rd party products coming out for Quest in the future that offer a more integrated cable management solution.
- My home PC has USB 3.0 inputs on the front of the case — that makes Link much more convenient so you don’t need to reach the back of the case when you’re plugging in the headset. If you’re on the market for a new PC case, I’d recommend the Ncase for small builds or the Fractal Meshify case for larger builds.
Goodbye Rift and Rift S
The biggest difference between Quest and Rift S is the fundamental form factor between standalone and PC— now that the Oculus Link beta is live, that difference is removed. The resolution, tracking, FOV, weight, price, and refresh rate are all comparable, and Link bridges the gap between standalone, lightweight VR and premium VR perfectly.
I believe this means the Rift S is the last of the Rift product line, and we’ll need to wait a few years before the next-gen prototypes of desktop VR from Facebook see the light of day. I think this is a net positive, however, since it simplifies our users’ buying choices and makes Quest a powerful solution for everyone interested in starting their journey into immersive tech.