Quest Pro is here and brings with it some welcome hardware improvements, but a dubious value proposition that’s highly dependent on someone else building the right apps.
There are two ways to watch Quest Pro:
- A better and more expensive Quest 2
- A headset with new features that wants to transform the way you work
The first is quite simple. If you plan on playing the way you do on Quest 2, Quest Pro is in many ways the superior device. But when you factor in the $1,500 price tag, there’s simply no way the upgrades are worth the cost of admission. And that’s fine, Meta really isn’t selling Quest Pro as an upgrade from Quest 2.
Instead, the company markets a vague value proposition that Quest Pro will “transform the way you work.” Officially, the company says Quest Pro is designed for “builders, designers, and inventors.” Architects, product designers, prototypers, game developers, engineers, and researchers have always designed 3D products and experiences on 2D displays. We give these builders the ability to view their creations in 3D while getting a sense of scale and proportions in the context of the environment.
In theory, this makes a lot of sense. In practice, the whole premise is plagued by a host of usability issues and a lack of high-quality proprietary software that offers clear value. Meta seems to be banking entirely on someone else building the core enterprise functionality of the headset, at launch, making Quest Pro more of an experience than a product.
Find the value proposition
So there seem to be two main ways Meta expects customers to take advantage of this $1,500 headset. The first is to use it as a portable workspace, either by exploiting the built-in browser or by using some sort of virtual desktop software. The second is that you might get lucky and someone creates a third-party “killer app” for your specific workflow.
Oddly enough, none of these use cases really require the hardware that Quest Pro brings to the table. While some apps are enhanced by what Quest Pro uniquely does (better passthrough and expression tracking), I’ve yet to see an app that really uses them in a much-needed way, making a big part of the headset feels like new hardware looking for a problem to solve rather than an answer to a critical need.
Usability debt rises to the surface
The thing is, if you think of Quest 2 as a VR game console, it’s quite an attractive product because it does one thing really well: it plays VR games. And when you’re using it to play games, many of the headset’s serious usage issues are masked, because you’re typically just booting into a single app and then spending almost your entire session inside.
Productivity, on the other hand, usually means jumping between many different apps and workflows…something Quest 2 (and Quest Pro, with its identical interface) is really bad at.
The problems start at a fundamental level with the Quest interface. Although it started out as a simple menu, over time Meta tried to turn it into a sort of operating system interface. The result? A truly clunky nightmare of usability issues.
And a sense of productivity isn’t lost just because the system interface is problematic and hopping between apps is slow, but also because the entire platform architecture treats each app as his own experience in silos. So jumping from app to app trying to get things done means dealing with a mess of different interfaces, different avatars, different friend/invite systems, different abilities, etc. .
Meta somehow tried to solve this problem with Horizon work rooms, a single application that works both as your personal office (via remote work on your PC or Mac) and as a place where you meet your colleagues in an immersive way. In theory, that sounds great, but there are a few key issues.
For a, Work rooms is not even pre-installed. You could easily end up with a Quest Pro and never know that what’s supposed to be basic functionality (remote PC and immersive meetings) is actually hiding inside an app you have to find and download from the store.
And what’s more… Work rooms just doesn’t come close to achieving the ease of use it needs to make people actually favorite to use it on other options that don’t involve being in a helmet. Just like the Quest system interface, Work rooms is extremely clumsy and really unintuitive.
I’ve worked professionally in the VR space for over a decade now, and while I’m able to relate to it, I can only imagine an employee (with minimal or no VR experience) getting a Quest Pro headset and trying to figure out how to use Work rooms.
I can already hear the poor support person trying to help on the other end of a call:
Did you click the bottom bar button? No, the other bottom bar. You must close the first bottom bar with the right button on your controller. Not using controllers? Ok, pinch your fingers together then move your fingers down over the Oculus logo – I mean the Quest logo – while still pinching, then release your pinch. Did the first bar close? Ok now on the other bar you see in front of you click on the button with the computer icon. Don’t see your pointer? Try bringing your hands closer to the small screen. Not too close, you can’t just press the button with your finger, you have to pinch to select. Ok now click on that computer icon. Do you see anything in the list? Nope? Ok, make sure you have launched the remote software on your computer. Yes, remove your headset and go to the website, download it and install it. Then put your headset back on and click that computer icon again.
Everything Quest Pro wants to accomplish makes meaning; the execution is seriously lacking for any “professional” who expects to use the device for general productivity work. The intended use cases are simply not sufficiently supported by high-quality proprietary apps and features.
Third parties to the rescue (hopefully)
A lack of high-quality productivity features leaves the headset entirely dependent on third parties to pick up the slack…something Meta seems to be seriously praying for.
To that end, the only place Quest Pro might really come in handy is if there’s a Single third-party application that directly benefits your workflow. And maybe there’s… maybe you do 3D design and you’d really benefit from using an app like Gravity Sketch to brainstorm and sketch patterns and ideas. Maybe you are an architect and would really benefit from using an app like Solve to visualize large 3D models for construction projects.
But that’s the kicker… Quest 2 can run these applications efficiently just as well as Quest Pro. So what does Quest Pro bring to the table?
What about the new helmet capabilities? Higher quality AR passthrough and phrase tracking are nice to have…but today Meta doesn’t have an out-of-the-box app for them, either first-party or third-party. So why not just get 2 quest?
In its current state, using Quest Pro for the things Meta markets is a bit like trying to use your Xbox as a productivity PC. Like…yes, you can actually browse the web on an Xbox, but an Xbox is much better at playing games than browsing the web. And right now, Quest Pro is better for playing games than anything else.
Mixed Reality Marketing
Perhaps Quest Pro’s most marketed feature, mixed reality, is still very undercooked. You can manually set your room to make the headset aware of your surroundings, allowing certain apps to interact with the (exclusively rectangular) surfaces you tell it about. But it’s a tedious process that currently offers minimal benefits. And like many other system-level features of Quest, there are tons of usability issues; things as obvious as the instruction window blocking your view when trying to draw outlines.
But let’s say you don’t care that the headset is aware of the shape of the room around you. Passthrough could have yet another huge benefit: allowing you to easily interact with the outside world without removing your headset. Things like checking your phone or reading from a sheet of paper are the kind of practical use you’d want for this, but Quest Pro falls short with insufficient resolution and still quite “bumpy” depth estimation for near-field objects.
Even just wanting to feel like you’re not fully immersed by leaving the walkthrough background on while you work, it’s not quite there yet. After using Quest Pro as a browser-based workstation with keyboard and mouse for at least an hour, I got a little dizzy and opted to disable Relay.
Not everything is bad, just expensive
Well, there are several reasons why you might actually want Quest Pro today. The form factor is a little nicer, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it obviously more comfortable (unless you measure by the terrible soft strap that comes with Quest 2 out of the box). The clarity benefit, thanks to the new lenses, is definitely a noticeable improvement, but you end up seeing the same number of pixels… but sharper. The Touch Pro controllers are probably the headset’s clearest win…but they’re also compatible with Quest 2.
Does it justify paying $1,100 more than a Quest 2? It doesn’t look like me.