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Are Quest Pro’s virtual screens actually better than real monitors?

Meta’s Quest Pro is a $1,500 headset that promises to bring productivity to VR, something that has proven to be difficult due to display technology limitations.

This new high-end solution from the world’s most popular VR headset manufacturer incorporates two major changes to help with visual clarity, pancake lenses, and mini-LED backlighting, but will that really be enough to replace your physical monitors? Here’s what we know so far.

What the early Quest Pro previews reveal

This is the view from within a Meta Quest Pro when using a physical keyboard.

The Meta Quest Pro hasn’t started shipping to consumers, but some have gotten early previews of the headset. A lucky few developers have been using early development units for quite some time to get apps ready, and a limited group of tech journalists was given a brief time to experience Meta’s most expensive headset as well. In select Best Buy stores, there have even been some demo units on display with restricted use, mostly limited to mixed reality apps.

These glimpses of what to expect won’t be as revealing as going hands-on with the Quest Pro that ships next week and certainly not as thorough as long-term reviews will be. That said, you need to know what to expect before shelling out $1,500, which could go a long way toward some high-quality monitors.

Joshua Kurikeshu, the Head of Content at Immersed, tweeted about his experience with the Quest Pro, describing the text clarity as incredible and sharing the view from the headset via a smartphone. Kurikeshu went on to say that he often reached for the Meta headset when needing to use multiple monitors.

My #mixedreality 4 screen setup using @ImmersedVR. 🔥 The #Meta #QuestPro has incredible text clarity. Mind you, this is through a phone camera lens (it doesn’t do it justice). #MetaQuestPro #vr #ar #mr pic.twitter.com/VvgaEsJN9r

— joshkuri.eth (@jkurikeshu) October 17, 2022

Andre Elijah is a Creative Director that works for a variety of big corporations, including Meta. He’s been using the Quest Pro on the road as a virtual monitor and expressed on Twitter that reading text with this headset is a joy.

Reading text on the Quest Pro is a joy, whether using Immersed or Guy’s app. Been using mine as a virtual monitor on the road while my team has been developing for it.

— ANDRÉ ΞLIJAH (@AndreElijah) October 16, 2022

Developer Noah Rayburn feels good enough about the Quest Pro that he tweeted that he was taking it on a trip as a laptop replacement.

Taking Quest Pro as a laptop replacement on my trip to LA. Turns out Quest Pro fits in a quest 2 carry case (a bit tight, but seems fine)

— Noah Rayburn (@FileCorruptedGM) October 20, 2022

Some journalists that went hands-on with the Quest Pro agree. CNN said that it’s “possible to read even small type with ease.” The Verge wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, describing the screens as admirably clear; however, small text in a Google Search appeared “a little fuzzy.”

Consumers that have gone hands on at either a Meta Store or Best Buy are impressed with what they’ve seen. Reddit user Mountain_Bar_4823 said the screen had the best colors and contrast they’d ever experienced in VR. This is significant, since they own a Quest 2, HP G2, Valve Index, and Pico 4. They also described the sharpness of the Quest Pro, saying it was as sharp or even sharper than their HP G2, which has a resolution of 2160×2160 pixels per eye, which is greater than that of the Quest Pro.

Reddit user Logical007 praised the incredibly crisp display that didn’t require head movement to see clearly, even at the edges of the screen.

How can an 1800×1920 screen be sharp enough for text?

Meta gave an example of what you can see when wearing a Quest Pro.

It’s surprisingly difficult to understand how good readability might be possible when the Quest Pro’s resolution per eye is 1800×1920. It’s well known that a 4K monitor is better than a 2K monitor, so wouldn’t the Quest Pro be half as sharp? We’re so used to looking at screens at a distance that it’s easy to forget we’re talking about a display that’s a little over an inch from your eyes in an enclosure largely shielded from light. That makes a difference.

The Quest Pro Display has been described as clear and easy to read by technology experts. The density of the screen might be part of why this is possible. An iPhone 14 Pro’s screen resolution is only 2556×1179 pixels, which equates to 460 pixels per inch, but it’s so densely packed that the pixels can’t be distinguished with the naked eye.

Meta presented a graphic showing visual resolution in VR at Display Week 2022.

The chart above from Meta’s Display Week 2022 presentation shows where the VR industry stood earlier this year regarding visual resolution. Most VR headsets average about 600 pixels per inch (PPI). At 773 PPI (given at Display Week 2022) Meta’s two-year-old Quest 2 should appear sharper than an iPhone 14 Pro’s 460 PPI, however, the display is magnified and brought much closer to the eye.

If you could focus on the iPhone when it was within 8 cm, which is about 2.5 inches from your eye, it would have similar visual sharpness, assuming everything else was the same, which it isn’t. You’d need a magnifying glass to expand the view to allow you to focus that closely, but it would give you a good idea of how sharp even the Quest 2’s display is.

The Quest 2’s screen doesn’t look as sharp as it could, because it uses Fresnel lenses, which distort and blur the edges as a magnifying glass does. The Quest Pro is much better, according to Meta, having 37% greater pixel density, a 25% improvement in clarity in the center, and 50% better edge sharpness thanks to the use of pancake lenses. This should add up to a very impressive screen density and clarity. The question is whether that holds up in reality; the early reports suggest it does.

With several large virtual displays expanding the available space, you can increase text size without the loss you’d experience on a laptop. It seems like it might be an ideal multi-monitor arrangement at a desk but portable enough to take from room to room or even on the road. We’ll reserve the final judgment until we’ve had enough time with a Quest Pro to give a full review.

Quest Pro’s mixed reality view isn’t as sharp

The Figmin app provides a great example of Meta Quest Pro's mixed-reality capabilities.

The Quest Pro’s color pass-through camera, which is, by all accounts, much better than that of the Quest 2, still isn’t as crisp and clear as the graphics generated within the headset. Having color is nice, but the consensus is that it’s entirely obvious that you’re looking through a camera, even with the great alignment and tracking. That doesn’t matter when you bring up text on the display or connect your laptop to expand the view to virtual screens.

When using virtual monitors, you don’t need to look at your actual laptop or computer display using the pass-through feature. Instead, up to three virtual screens are displayed.

These appear to be positioned a few feet away, but the images are quite close to your eye and focused sharply by the pancake lenses without any smudges, glare from windows, backlighting problems, or off-center dimming that you might experience with an actual monitor.

Do you need a Quest Pro or another monitor?

Three Omen 27C monitors side by side.

As good as the Quest Pro display might be, it sounds like the primary advantage is having more screens when and where you want them without the hassle of setting up two or three large monitors. If you do most of your work in one place, it might not be worth the extra expense compared to just getting one or two more physical displays. The Quest Pro is locked at 90Hz and might not suit your needs for a fast-paced game when compared to a high refresh rate gaming display.

However, if you like the idea of traveling around with a multiscreen device that packs into a small space and is good for productivity while offering some compelling VR gaming opportunities, the Meta Quest Pro might be nearly ideal.

It has good potential as a stand-alone device, and paired with a laptop, it might be a way to get the best of both worlds — a three-monitor setup that’s also remarkably portable.

We’ll know for sure once we’ve reviewed the headset ourselves, but for now, these Quest Pro virtual screens certainly seem closer to replicating real monitors than we thought possible.

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