I’VE been secretly testing Mark Zuckerberg’s new virtual reality headset – and I’m blown away.
After a week with the Meta Quest Pro, I’ve never felt more impressed by VR. But there are two enormous downsides I can’t ignore.
Earlier this month, Mark Zuckerberg showed off the Meta Quest Pro.
It’s the latest set of VR goggles to come out of Facebook’s parent company.
This is the most powerful VR headset Meta has made. It’s arguably the best VR headset in the world right now.
But it’s not cheap. This will cost you a frankly crushing $1,499/£1,499.
Thankfully (like the cheaper Meta Quest 2) it runs on its own computing system. No need to buy a high-end gaming PC and plug it in.
Nevertheless this is a seriously premium gadget that will really only appeal to cash-flush geeks or businesses that want to join the VR revolution.
So what does it do?
This is a virtual reality headset, so it immerses you in a computer-generated world.
But the Meta Quest Pro is also a mixed-reality headset.
A new full-colour passthrough mode can let you see what’s going on around you, while still seeing VR imagery.
For instance, it’s possible to work a virtual computer screen inside VR, while being able to see your real desk and room.
It’s a great improvement, especially as the Meta Quest 2 only offered poor-quality greyscale passthrough.
If you’ve used a Meta Quest 2, you’ll be glad to know that you get access to all of the same apps and games.
Do business in a virtual office with Horizon Workrooms, swing lightsabers to dance music in Beat Saber, and go on a robot holiday in Vacation Simulator.
The roster of content available in VR is constantly growing and improving, so there’s plenty to enjoy.
These are the building blocks of the metaverse touted by Mark Zuckerberg – an endless set of connected worlds and experiences inside which you can live, work and play.
The whole experience is extremely immersive, but that was the case with the old Meta Quest 2.
Out with the old
So what’s new with the Meta Quest Pro? There’s a brand new design.
It’s much more visually impressive with a glossy black exterior and a new balanced form factor.
The battery has moved into the back and the lens system in the front has shrunken, so it’s no longer a weighty block strapped to your forehead.
Cushioned pads at the front and the back add to this boosted comfort. It feels far better to wear than the Quest 2.
The sides are more open so you can see the room around you. It’s supposed to help with the VR experience, but you can use accessories to close it off if you like.
I think this is much better. There’s something about not having to completely close off that makes it feel a little easier to put on.
And the new dial system to tighten the head is a much better – and far less fiddly – replacement to the old pull-strap.
Powering the Meta Quest Pro is a Snapdragon XR2+ chip that offers a large performance boost – Meta says expect 50% more power.
The lenses have been greatly improved.
The new optical stack uses thin “pancake optics” that fold light over, massively shrinking the front of the headset.
Colours are richer, contrast is improved, and resolution is boosted too.
It looks great, although we’ll need to see more apps take advantage of the graphical improvements. The metaverse sadly remains very cartoonish.
There’s a new eye-tracking system that knows where you’re looking, allowing the headset to boost resolution in the exact area you’re eyeballing.
That’s in addition to a new face-tracking system.
It uses a series of sensors to monitor the movements of your face, which can then be used to control the face of your virtual metaverse avatar.
It’s eerily impressive, and managed to sync even the most minor of my facial movements to an avatar. I was genuinely shocked by how accurate it was.
Now you’re probably panicking at the idea that Meta might be monitoring your face forevermore.
Thankfully there’s a privacy system built-in that means the face-tracking is off by default, and the data remains on the headset – before being deleted after processing.
It’s not shared with Meta or third-party apps, so you can grin and wink in relative safety.
The controllers have been redesigned – now also in a black finish – and are fully rechargeable.
They feel fantastic: the build quality is a lot better than the Quest 2 controllers.
And the black finish (and silicon straps) should mean they end up less grubby than the regular Quest 2 controllers too.
Both the headset and controllers sit on a dock included in the box to power up.
The headset will get about one to two hours of use, while the controllers will last between two to three hours.
And a full recharge takes about two hours.
One of the big improvements is that the Quest Pro controllers are self-tracking.
That means they don’t rely on optics, and can be tracked even when they’re behind your head.
This worked really well in practice during my demo session, and will come in very handy for games: think archery, swordfighting and dance simulators.
There’s one more perk: included in the box are stylus tips that attach to the bottom of the controllers.
This lets you use them as markers on virtual whiteboards. Very fun!
Meta, getting better
The Meta Quest Pro is generally fantastic.
It feels great to wear for extended periods, it’s less fiddly and claustrophobia-inducing, and it looks pretty cool.
The technical improvements – including eye/face tracking and colour passthrough for mixed reality – are great, and will be very meaningful for loads of different apps.
But the price means most people won’t (and shouldn’t) buy one.
Meta clearly knows that this is a high-end device, which is why the regular Meta Quest 2 will still be on sale.
And we’ll see a Meta Quest 3 and 4, according to the tech giant.
If you’re just a normal human with a casual interest in the metaverse, the Meta Quest 2 is a much safer buy at $399/£399.
It’s about the price of a console, which is right given that there are countless games to enjoy.
As a metaverse device, there’s still a long way to go for the Meta Quest Pro (and Meta Quest 2).
One of the big problems – impossible to solve overnight – is simply the fact that very few people have VR headsets.
So there simply isn’t a massive goggle-wearing population to hang out with yet.
It can feel very lonely when you don a VR headset and you’re given the promise of a limitless virtual society – only to have no friends in there to speak to.
The metaverse will come into its own once it reaches Facebook levels of adoption. Billions of people.
That’s going to take time. Years. Maybe even decades.
The solo experience can be fantastic, especially when gaming.
And there are pockets of real social fun to be had. I love chatting to strangers over a game of ping-pong in Eleven Table Tennis.
But the Meta Quest range is still held back by the fact that all your mates don’t have one. Even the cheaper $399/£399 Meta Quest 2 is still out of reach for many.
One problem is simply that VR is fantastic, but hard to describe to others.
So you don’t really understand how impressive it is until you actually try it.
That means the climb to mass adoption will be slow. Zuckerberg’s metaverse won’t be a hive of activity overnight.
The good news is that by the time that happens, the headsets will be much better.
Many of the Quest Pro features will eventually trick down to the budget Quest series, and the Quest Pro will likely evolve to something truly mind-blowing.
Until then, you have an exceptional VR device with loads of very compelling games – and the ability to make many childhood sci-fi dreams come true.
You can become a lightsaber-wielding Jedi, go on holiday in exotic lands, and climb the world’s most stunning mountains.
If you’re a business, you can get closer than ever to simulating that real-world sense of presence in a meeting – something Zoom or Google Meet simply can’t replicate.
Sadly the two big drawbacks are price and a lack of pals to play with.
But the Meta Quest Pro is the best example yet of the future that’s to come.
It’s not yet perfect and it’s certainly not cheap – but it’s a real thrill, if you can afford it.
The Sun says: For the price, the Meta Quest Pro is unmatched. It’s a powerful and wireless dream machine that will only get better. But can your bank account bear it? 4.5/5
The Meta Quest Pro went on sale on October 25 for $1,499/£1,499.
Inside the box you’ll get the headset, Meta Quest Touch Pro controllers, stylus tips, partial light blockers and a charging dock.
All prices in this article were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed.
Always do your own research before making any purchase.
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