The Meta Quest 3 is much better than the Quest 2. It’s more comfortable, more powerful, easier to figure out, more pleasant to use for long stretches, and just flat-out better. If that’s all you’ve been wondering about Meta’s latest headset, there’s your answer. The passthrough improvements alone — the fact that I can now easily find my coffee / safely walk around the room without taking my headset off — makes this a worthwhile upgrade, even if you picked up a Quest 2 just a couple years ago and perhaps haven’t used it as much as you thought you might.
But that’s about the only thing I can say with total confidence about the Quest 3. Because when I really think about it, I’m not entirely sure what the Quest 3 even is. If it’s a VR headset, a direct successor to the Quest 2 from 2020, it’s certainly better but also nearly twice the price. If it’s a state-of-the-art mixed reality headset meant to usher in a future where the digital and real worlds are blended seamlessly together, it has some serious flaws and not nearly enough content. If it’s just a super-immersive game console, it’s great, but its library can’t hang with Sony and Microsoft.
Meta keeps calling the Quest 3 “the first mainstream mixed reality headset.” Strictly speaking, that’s true: at $499.99 for the model with 128GB of storage and $649.99 for 512GB, it’s a steep climb from the $299.99 Quest 2 starting price but still on the right side of the too-expensive line, especially compared to Apple’s forthcoming $3,500 Vision Pro. And unlike the mixed reality devices we’ve seen from Magic Leap, Microsoft, and so many others, an individual consumer can actually buy this one. But what Meta really wants is for this to be more than just the best reasonably priced headset. It wants the Quest 3 to be the one that makes people care about, use, and develop for mixed reality in a big way.
The Quest 3’s two most important upgrades become immediately obvious as soon as you stick your head in the headset. It puts a 2064 x 2208 LCD in front of each eye, which is the best screen in any Quest ever. You can tell: everything from on-screen text to high-res games looks significantly crisper and better, like you’ve upgraded from a standard-def TV to a high-def set. It’s not quite as sharp or as dynamic as what we’ve seen from the Vision Pro’s dual 4K micro-OLED displays, but it’s enough that I can comfortably read small text in the headset for the first time. I could never shake that nagging feeling in the Quest 2 that everything was just a hair out of focus, and the Quest 3 hardly ever feels like that.
The field of view in the Quest 3 is a bit larger than before, too, which is nice, but it still has that “I’m looking through binoculars” rounded black shape around your periphery. The sharpness is the real win here. The screens are so much clearer, in fact, that they show just how low-res some games are: playing NFL Pro Era on the Quest 3 was like playing an N64 game on an HDTV, where I could see every pixel and every stutter with new clarity. But games like Red Matter 2 and the updated Pistol Whip, which are ready for the resolution bump, generally look fantastic. I’ve never had so much fun just wandering around in VR than I have with the Quest 3.
Maybe this is the headset before the headset, the one that helps entice developers to make cool stuff that turn into killer apps for the Quest 4. Heck, maybe none of this matters until the device itself is less “headset” and more “glasses” and until we’ve had a series of societal debates about whether you should make fun of people who wear these things in public. It’s going to take a lot of technical and social change to make mixed reality mainstream, and it’s probably going to take a few years.
Until then, the Quest 3 will remain what it is: an excellent VR headset and nothing else.