So recently I got myself a Quest 3, Zuckerberg’s way to get me in the pod and eat the bugs. If the gameplay and immersion are any indication, he may succeed. Before we go too into this, let’s talk about virtual reality in general.
Types Of Virtual Reality
If you want dive into VR, it really depends on how much you plan to get into it. You can spend $3500 for the Apple Vision Pro. That is more suited to productivity and movies, though some games are available for it. The Quest 3 is about $500 for the 128GB version or $700 for the 512GB version – the one I purchased.
Then you can spend anywhere from $500 to $5000 on a PCVR headset, but there is a lot more versatility from being able to use it with various PC games and programs. The downside is that most of them aren’t completely wireless and require you to be close to your PC, which you better have spent a crap-ton of money on if you want it to work at peak performance.
Finally, there’s the PSVR, which is exclusively for the PlayStation 5.
I chose the Quest because it can work on its own, no PC needed. The Quest store is fairly well populated with a lot of different games and applications, mostly because, at the time of this writing, the Quest platform is by far the most popular VR. It also doesn’t require any additional purchases to use it, like a Playstation or a hefty PC.
It also is quite a bit cheaper than something like the Apple Vision, which is a first-generation product and locked into the Apple ecosystem, a hell from which few return. I hate iPhones. Fight me.
The bonus feature with the Quest 3 is that it can double as PCVR. So many Steam games or sideloaded apps can be used, which really opens up its usefulness. So far I have been able to run some great native games on the Quest like Beat Saber and Dungeons of Eternity as well as connecting to my PC and run Star Wars: Squadrons. If you’ve ever wanted to do X-Wing in VR with killer graphics, Quest has you covered.
But you’re not here for games, you’re here for movies! What I wanted to see is if VR movie watching could replace a home theater or even a theater-theater. I’d say yes but with a whole lot of caveats.
First of all, there are only a few native streaming apps to the Quest currently, Netflix and Prime Video. You can also find YouTube in there, which I’ll get to later. I also purchased Skybox so I can watch local videos loaded on the Oculus, or stream from my local network.
While there was no native Plex app I could find so far, it did let me run Plex on a weird file explorer level. It also has a flat file approach to YouTube which is darn near unusable.
Skybox plops you into a virtual theater, rows of seats and all. You can move from the front rows to the middle, to the back. Netflix puts you on a couch in front of a big screen TV that is around 100+ inches wide. The Skybox does look like a giant theater screen. I think some of it is perception. The quality varies. I can say that 1080p movies will look pretty bad on VR. Watchable but not near the quality you’d like. Netflix looked OK but suffered from a slight screen door effect on the picture. The ambient light from the movie affecting your viewing environment is a nice touch. I watched Apollo 13 and it was a reasonably enjoyable experience.
I do have a 4K copy of Dr. Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness on my Plex server on my local network. Yeah, yeah, I got it a while ago and it was the only one I had in 4K. Watching this on Skybox was a real experience. The 4K looks fantastic and I really could fool myself into believing I was watching a large movie screen.
There are other video apps. One is for a different headset called Bigscreen VR. But the app seems more worried about working with various odd services on its own. It does work with YouTube, but for any other streaming services you will need to start on your PC first. It’s a little cumbersome.
It also has a social aspect where you can watch with other people. I personally hate this and the other Quest apps that seem to force social interactions in a multi-user environment. Sure, I’d love to watch movies with a group of friends who all have Quest headsets and are spread out across the world, but since that’s not really an option at the moment, I’d prefer to just be left alone. I certainly don’t want to hear a bunch of randoms commenting in my ear.
I’m old. Go away and get off my lawn ya rotten kids!
YouTube was quite good but if you don’t already own a bunch of movies on VUDU or YouTube directly, you’re limited to what YouTube has to offer. This is extensive, but you really need to find 4K vids and things that are cinematic. This usually relegates you to viewing nice demo videos.
So what about the actual physical experience?
Let’s start with battery life. I did purchase a different head strap that includes a secondary battery which balances out the weight and gives you plenty of time to watch Return of the King: Extended Edition with probably a Happy Gilmore to spare. However, this increases the overall weight.
Secondly, to watch anything, you pretty much have to sit up. Resting your head against your chair is mildly uncomfortable and laying down on your couch as you would a big-screen TV in your living room is simply out of the question.
If you like 3D movies, this will have you covered, there’s plenty of them from the 3D craze of the early 2010s, but that’s always been a fad and not really what I was looking for.
If you live in a small place, can’t afford a giant projector or 100-inch screen, and are just dying to watch that way, plus you can’t stand the actual theater-going experience anymore because of insane prices and obnoxious theatergoers, this might be a way to go. When you add in all the other things you can do with the Quest, you might be able to justify the purchase. I, for one, through my work in hand-to-hand combat with swords, axes, and bows have discovered that if we ever have an actual zombie apocalypse, I’m screwed.
Now there is still a lot for me to discover and more apps to look into. I probably didn’t give the Bigscreen app a fair chance as it was early and I wanted something I could just throw on from the Quest store and start watching. I also have yet to really look at Amazon Prime. I believe I have my digital movies synced with it so I want to see how a 4K movie looks using that app.
But overall, the cinema VR experience is something you have to really want to deal with.
The Apple Vision is terrifying as Apple cultists are wandering around in public with these things, further plunging us into the Matrix. Quest can’t go out in public or at least not very long without Wifi and is too uncomfortable.
As a novelty, it’s fun. As a full gaming experience, there’s a whole lot to get me interested in games again. As a home theater replacement? I don’t think so.
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