During their Oculus Connect keynote, Facebook was quiet about the specifications for their upcoming Oculus Quest headset. Following the presentation, more details emerged. While the Quest is similar in function to a Rift, it will not be as powerful.
Powered by Snapdragon
The Oculus Rift provides high quality experiences because it is ultimately driven by your Gaming PC. Today we learned that the Oculus Quest will be powered by a mobile Snapdragon processor. In fact, it will be the exact same Snapdragon 835 CPU that shipped with last year’s Galaxy S8 smartphone. This makes it more powerful than an Oculus Go, but less than a Galaxy S9. The Go runs on a Snapdragon 821, and the S9 uses a more modern Snapdragon 845.
Cool, but what does that mean? During his keynote, Oculus CTO John Carmack did a good job of explaining what we can expect from the Oculus Quest.
“Quest is in the neighborhood of the power of a previous-gen console. Like an Xbox 360 or PS3 in terms of CPU, GPU, and what you can expect to do on it”-John Carmack
This may not appear impressive at first glance, but there are a few things to consider. The Xbox 360 ran games at 720p/30 fps with almost no antialiasing. In comparison the Oculus Quest will deliver games at 1280×1280 per eye at 72 fps with 4x MSAA.
Carmack was also quick to point out that the Quest will have significantly more texture memory than older consoles. So the quality of the textures used in games should exceed what we saw on Xbox 360. But in general he believes that it’s not possible to take a game that was done at a high quality level on a previous-gen console and expect it to look that good in VR. There are too many pixels to render in that scenario.
Rather than competing with the Oculus Rift, Carmack believes that the Quest will become a direct competitor to the Nintendo Switch.
Oculus Quest is not a portable Rift
The Oculus Quest shares similarities with both the Rift and the Go. It’s touch controllers and room scale tracking are similar to the Rift, but the power is closer to that of the Go.
“I do stand by the statement that I made that the core magic of the Rift experience can be brought to this (Oculus Quest). But you can’t ignore the amount of processing power differences. There’s almost a factor of 100 difference in total power (when compared to a Gaming PC).”-John Carmack
We’ve established that the Oculus Quest is going to be underpowered when compared to the average Gaming PC. However, Carmack believes that many of the games that were built for Rift can be brought to Quest. Just not at the same quality level. He explained that in Unity, a developer can technically port the PC version of a game to Oculus Quest. Carmack quickly clarified that it’s unlikely that a directly ported game would work well.
“The odds of it actually running well initially are near zero. There’s almost no application that was run on the PC that will run properly on Quest at that point (after directly porting through Unity).”-John Carmack
Any developer that decides to bring their existing PC game to Quest needs to prepare for a significant project.
“Most applications will require surgery. They will require a rethink of the way you handle things, a rethink of what you’re doing in the game.”-John Carmack
Oculus Quest is it’s own thing
The takeaway here is that we need to set our expectations correctly. The Quest is not a portable Rift, but it’s also more than an enhanced Go. It should excel at providing a portable experience that fully utilizes 6dof controllers. The room scale tracking cameras are state-of-the-art. They create the potential for new experiences in VR. For the first time, Gamers can freely move between rooms while playing games. For the first time it will be possible to have full VR experiences outside.
The Oculus Quest is it’s own thing, and it will be exciting to see what it brings when it releases at the beginning of 2019.
Also published on Medium.
Josh is a long-time Gamer and Technology Guru. He is known for his writing and troubleshooting skills. Josh can solve just about any problem, and is especially good at getting to the bottom of technology challenges. He has a background in Networking and holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree. When he’s not gaming, Josh can be found blogging, testing new tech, and interacting with Flickstiq’s social media following. He lives in Ohio with his wife and children.