Since the debut of its very first Oculus Rift prototype, Oculus VR has been making virtual reality more accessible. Following on from the Gear VR, it released the Oculus Go in mid-2018 and will follow it up with another standalone headset in 2019, called the Oculus Quest. Both require no additional hardware to operate and have much lower price tags than some of the VR competition, but which is better? We pitted the Oculus Quest vs. Oculus Go, to find out.
VR headset development has improved in recent years and both the Oculus Go and Oculus Quest reflect that. They have different color schemes, but both offer a smooth exterior with no obvious sensor bumps or dips like the HTC Vive. We found both to be comfortable to wear over extended periods, with enough space for various face shapes and sizes. However, we did note some light bleed at the base of the Go’s padding, which meant that it was often more immersive to use in a darkened room.
Although the head mounting mechanisms and cushioning of both headsets are pretty comparable, there is a noticeable difference in weight. Where the Oculus Go weighs the same as the Oculus Rift — around 470 grams — the Oculus Quest with its additional sensors and internal hardware, weighs in at 100 grams heavier. Oculus is reportedly still fine-tuning it, and it didn’t cause any difficulties for us in terms of comfort, but it may become more of a factor for longer play sessions.
Both headsets feature the same spatial audio solution built right into the horizontal headstrap which lets you hear everything in game without completely separating you from the real world. That allowed us to hear instructions from demo staff during our testing, and at home, that should make it easier to communicate with real people outside of VR.
Where tethered headsets like the Oculus Rift and smartphone powered headsets like the Gear VR are dependent on processing power from separate hardware, the Oculus Go and Oculus Quest are both entirely self-contained. That means they have their own displays, processors, memory, storage, and batteries.
The Oculus Go sports a single 2,560 x 1,440 LCD panel offering 1,280 x 1,440 pixels per eye and operates at a standard 60Hz refresh rate, though some developers can unlock extra performance for a 72Hz refresh rate if the app isn’t too taxing otherwise. Powering that display is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with its own on board graphics. The headset comes in two guises. A 32GB model which retails for $200, and a 64GB model which costs $250.
In comparison, the Oculus Quest has twin OLED displays which have richer colors and deeper blacks than the Oculus Go’s, but do suffer more from ghosting in high-contrast scenes. They each have a resolution of 1,440 x 1,600, which works out to a total resolution of 2,880 x 1,600 — a slight improvement that smooths out the screen door effect a little more, but is more noticeable an enhancement over the Oculus Rift. It also operates at a stock (and locked) refresh rate of 72Hz, for smoother visuals and what should be a slightly more comfortable viewing experience.
Powering those displays is a newer and more capable, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. It’s still a far cry from what PC-tethered headsets are capable of, but it should give a little more graphical grunt to the Quest over the Go, leading to better visuals once developers get to grips with the hardware.
There is only one planned model for the Quest at the moment, though Oculus is said to be considering others. It will retail for $400 and will have 64GB of storage.
The battery life in both models is said to be roughly the same, lasting around 2-3 hours. With the heftier hardware in the Quest, we would expect it to have a slightly larger battery to make this possible, which may be why it comes in heavier.
Tracking and controllers
The starkest difference between the Oculus Quest and Oculus Go is in their tracking capabilities and input options. While neither require external trackers like the Oculus Rift, the Oculus Go utilizes on board sensors like a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer to deliver only three-degrees-of-freedom. That is tilt and rotation tracking. It cannot do positional tracking so won’t notice if you move side to side, up or down, or forward and backwards. Its controller is also quite limited in that it’s a small, wireless remote control with a few button inputs — though some users have reportedly found success connecting third-party gamepads for greater input options.
In comparison, the Oculus Quest offers much more nuanced and expansive tracking and input options. It uses four corner-mounted sensors on the headset itself to track the wearer in 3D space, giving six-degrees-of-freedom that allows for roomscale experiences that are typically only associated with tethered headset solutions. It also offers boundary and object tracking to make sure users don’t walk into chairs or walls.
Oculus even showed off what it called “arenascale” tracking at Oculus Connect 2018, where it placed several Oculus Quest users in a tennis court sized area, all of whom were tracked by their own headsets.
The Quest’s main form of input is a modified pair of Touch controllers that are similar to those used with the Oculus Rift. They have triggers, face buttons, and a thumbstick each, with a relocated ring-sensor for tracking their location. Due to requiring the headset to “see” them in the virtual world, they may not work correctly if moved behind the user — something that isn’t a problem for external sensor VR setups — but they are far more capable for complicated motion inputs in VR than the Go’s limited controller options.
The Oculus Go has an expansive software library with a number of its own titles and many hundreds that were originally built for the Gear VR headset but are fully compatible with the Go.
The Quest, on the other hand, has a much less established library. We’re still as much as six months away from its release, so Oculus has plenty of time to flesh it out with original content, but at this time it’s hoping that Rift developers port their roomscale experiences over to the Oculus Quest to give users more to play with when it’s released.
The best of both worlds
The Oculus Quest might not be ready for a general release just yet, but its potential has us incredibly excited. It’s a powerful, mid-range virtual reality headset with almost none of the drawbacks of the original tethered solutions that debuted back in 2016. It’s entirely wireless, easy to pick up and use for first-time VR explorers, and its price tag isn’t too monstrous at $400, although if you have a decent gaming PC already, it’s worth considering a Rift — or Vive — instead.
The Oculus Go on the other hand, is a more entry-level headset in every way. It’s less detailed, less powerful, and far less capable when it comes to exploring virtual reality. It might be noticeably cheaper, but with just $150 between the 64GB versions of both headsets, the Quest is easily worth spending that bit extra on. Virtual reality is jarringly unreal when you can’t move from one spot, even to lean in close to something, or reach for it with your tracked hand.
The Oculus Quest makes that leap to tangible virtual reality and does so with all of the portability of a mobile VR solution. It’s the kind of easy to use, borderless VR experience that is likely to help bring the technology to mainstream audiences like never before. When it debuts next Spring, that is.
Winner: Oculus Quest