Meta last launched a low-cost VR headset, the Quest 2, in 2020. A next-gen headset has been confirmed for 2023, and it’s almost guaranteed to be called the Quest 3.
Plenty of rumors, leaks, and forward-looking statements from Meta have surfaced that paint a good picture of what should be expected from the Quest 3 at the next Meta Connect event this fall.
The Quest 3 name
Meta itself seems to have confirmed the name by reportedly listing the Quest 3 in its app store. I don’t see that reference in my headset or the website or mobile app, however. Instead, it’s the usual “Platforms: Quest 2, Quest Pro.”
Drew Manning shared a screenshot showing a “New Quest” on Twitter as a response to UploadVR’s video showing a “Quest 3” reference. The discrepancy is odd, but something is clearly in the works.
Quest 3 price and availability
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested in a Stratechery interview that the company’s next VR headset will be priced at $300 to $500. The aging Quest 2 has been promised a long life even in 2024, which could result in three Quest headsets in the Meta store.
If the Quest 2 remains at $400, the Quest 3 would have to sell for $500 or more to leave room for the older model to sell. Meta might lower the Quest 2 back to the $300 launch price. A fast, slim Quest 3 for $400 could entice gamers to renew their interest in VR, inspiring the growth that Meta wants and needs.
Meta confirmed a VR headset launch in late 2023 during an earning call. Also, last year’s Meta Connect event that brought the Quest Pro occurred on October 11, 2022. There’s no reason to expect a change this year. That places the Quest 3 announcement in the second week of October. If Meta chooses another Tuesday, Meta Connect might come on October 10, 2023, with the final date confirmed in late August or early September.
By that time, we might already have a handful of other VR headsets to drool over. Apple’s XR headset will reportedly be shown at WWDC on June 5. The Pimax Crystal is supposedly shipping now, offering a premium, 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 $400 easier to accept.
The Quest Pro was available for preorder during Meta Connect 2022 and shipped about two weeks later. That means you could lay hands on a new Meta Quest 3 as early as October 26, 2023, if that pattern is repeated.
Meta Quest 3 design
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.
In late 2022, VR analyst Brad Lynch shared CAD images that purportedly detailed the design plans for a future Meta headset with the code name Stinson. These 3D design files reveal a svelte headset that blends Quest 2 and Quest Pro hardware, which is expected for the Quest 3. The render featured at the top of this article was created and posted on Instagram by Marcus Kane and based on the leaked CAD images.
This could be a preview of the Meta Quest 3 design. If true, the Quest 3 could have a full facial interface instead of the open and airy design of the Quest Pro that lets you see below and to the sides even when wearing the headset.
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 leaked design images show a more modern Quest 2 with rounded edges, a thinner body, and a USB-C port in the head strap instead of the body.
The body of the Quest Pro was slim enough that the USB-C port was placed in the head strap. This detail makes sense as a technical restriction of a smaller Quest 3, even though it is less desirable for accessory manufacturers.
Quest 3 specifications
The specifications of the Quest 3 are well-known, according to leakers. Beyond the improved lenses and color camera, the Quest 3 could 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 that’s three years old. Higher performance unlocks more capabilities.
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 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 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 too expensive for a budget VR headset.
The advanced Touch Pro controllers and charging dock included with the Quest Pro will probably be compatible with the Quest 3. The leaked CAD files show connectors similar to those of the Quest Pro. The Quest 2 is already compatible with the Touch Pro controllers.
Meta probably won’t bundle these costly accessories, instead offering them as an optional upgrade for the Quest 3.
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.