Meta last launched a low-cost VR headset, the Quest 2, in 2020. The next generation is arriving soon, and we already know plenty of the details about the Meta Quest 3 from leaks, rumors, and even previews from Meta itself.
The next Meta Connect event is scheduled for September 27, 2023, and the Quest 3 will launch there for $500. Here’s what we know and what we suspect about the improvements that Meta’s Quest 3 VR headset will bring.
Price matters in a developing marketplace, and many people still consider VR to be a fringe technology. Meta understands this and has kept the cost of the Quest 2 remarkably low despite the fact that it’s the most popular VR headset on the market. The Quest Pro was priced for businesses and enthusiasts. The Quest 3 will most likely land in a low-to-middle price tier, providing a third option for shoppers.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested in a Stratechery interview that the company’s next VR headset will be priced at $300 to $500. However, the aging Quest 2 costs $300 and has been promised a long life, as confirmed by Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s chief technology officer, in June.
Keeping the older headset on the market would be pointless if the Quest 3 sold for less than $400. Meta has confirmed the price will start at $500, likely for the lowest level of storage. The Meta Quest Pro flopped at $1,500, and even after taking one-third off, sales must not have been inspiring because Meta is stopping production later this year.
The Meta Connect event will take place on September 27, 2023, and the Quest 3 will definitely be featured. Meta owns several leading social networking apps, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Threads. It’s also very active in artificial intelligence research and development.
However, Meta is a metaverse company. It’s right there in the name, so the Quest 3 will take center stage at the event. Landing three years after the Quest 2, it should be a significant upgrade.
Meta isn’t the only company launching new VR headsets. Apple’s Vision Pro, a spatial computer with ultra-premium specifications, is coming in 2024. The Pimax Crystal is shipping now, offering a high-end, standalone headset with PC VR connectivity. The Bigscreen Beyond VR headset, a dedicated PC VR headset, should ship in the fall.
Something all of these 2023 VR headsets have in common is a price tag of $1,000 or more. That might make a Quest 3 priced at over $500 easier to accept.
The Quest Pro was available for preorder during Meta’s last Connect event and shipped about two weeks later. That means you could lay hands on a new Meta Quest 3 as early as October 11, 2023, if that pattern is repeated.
Among the innovations Meta introduced with the Quest Pro last year, pancake lenses and the color passthrough camera stand out as having the most impact on the experience.
Pancake lenses allow you to focus on screens about an inch from your eyes without distorting the image. The Quest 3 is expected to get rid of the Quest 2’s old Fresnel lenses, which suffer from “god rays” that make it difficult to see the virtual world and can ruin your sense of immersion.
Pancake lenses are also thinner and lighter than Fresnel lenses, suggesting the Quest 3 will be less bulky than the Quest 2.
Meta has repeatedly stated that mixed reality is integral to its plans. Viewing your surroundings as a pixelated, grayscale image in the Quest 2’s passthrough doesn’t align with that goal. That suggests a color passthrough camera is likely for the Quest 3. Simulated images from Meta seem to confirm this.
In late 2022, VR analyst Brad Lynch shared CAD images that purportedly detailed the design plans for a future Meta headset. The 3D design files reveal a svelte headset that blends Quest 2 and Quest Pro hardware and matches what we know so far about the Quest 3.
The Quest Pro’s open sides provide more safety when moving around, but can detract from immersion while gaming. Meta includes partial light blockers, and a full light shield is available separately. That approach might work better for its productivity headset than as a gaming-first solution.
The Quest 3 images show a more modern Quest 2 with rounded edges, a thinner body, and a full facial interface to completely block exterior light.
The specifications of the Quest 3 are well-known, according to leakers. Beyond the improved lenses and color camera, the Quest 3 will have much higher performance than the Quest 2, even outpacing the Quest Pro.
The Qualcomm processor used in the Quest Pro is the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 1, a slightly faster version of the Quest 2’s XR2 chip. That complicated name implies a Gen 2 is coming next, and indeed, the consensus is that the Quest 3 will be powered by a much-improved Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip based on Qualcomm’s powerful smartphone chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 architecture.
It’s no surprise that the current generation of chips is significantly faster. The Quest 3 could have as much as twice the performance across the board compared to the Quest 2 technology, which is three years old. And higher performance unlocks more capabilities.
Meta has confirmed that the Quest 3 GPU will have twice the performance of the Quest 2 and has stated it will be the highest-resolution VR headset it’s ever made. It won’t eclipse the display quality of the $3,500 Apple Vision Pro, but it might unlock quality that previously required a VR-ready computer or a gaming console.
The 2023 Meta gaming lineup is exciting as well. Meta claims its upcoming AAA VR game Asgard’s Wrath 2 will offer 60 hours of gameplay in a massive world. Arizona Sunshine 2, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice, and Assassin’s Creed: Nexus VR are all also coming soon.
The Quest 3 might support features such as automatically sensing objects within a room to mark out safe game boundaries, which eliminates the need to draw a virtual guardian. Hand tracking is already very good, but there’s always room for improvement. Avatars might also finally get legs, as Meta implied in 2022.
Qualcomm’s latest chips are more energy efficient, which could mean a longer battery life for the Quest 3, something that has been a sticking point for some gamers who want to play for more than two hours at a time. Compared to the Quest 2, the Quest 3 might last longer without needing an external battery pack.
The Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 should exceed the Quest Pro’s XR2+ Gen 1. It’s safe to assume Wi-Fi 6E will be supported and, possibly, Wi-Fi 7. That will allow better Air Link connections for crisp PC VR gaming at high frame rates.
App downloads and syncing should be quicker as well. Meta is a powerful force in AI research, but thus far, it hasn’t leveraged that technology in VR. Perhaps that will change with a headset that contains a high-performance AI processor. Qualcomm recently demonstrated the speed of its Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. The XR2 Gen 2 could have similar, but less potent neural processing.
The Quest Pro’s most expensive hardware features are unlikely to be integrated into the Quest 3. Eye- and face-tracking technology are essential to Meta’s long-term realistic avatar plans, but are too expensive for a budget VR headset.
The Quest 3 will come with Touch Plus controllers that don’t require the large ring that many standalone VR headsets need. They aren’t as advanced as the Quest Pro’s Touch Pro controllers, but you’ll be less likely to need replacements due to a cracked ring. The Quest 3 will support the Touch Pro controllers, which are available separately.
A recent rumor based on an Federal Communications Commission (FCC) document, shared by Brad Lynch, suggests Meta will sell a charging dock for the Quest 3, somewhat similar to the Quest Pro’s design. Touch Plus controllers use the same alkaline batteries as the Quest 2, so the dock would only work for the headset.
More advanced display technology, such as mini-LED and OLED, are available, but would push the Quest 3 into premium headset territory. It’s safest to assume minimal changes in the electronics. However, pancake lenses should result in a much-improved picture quality.
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