The Meta Quest Pro is an excellent showcase of VR tech that doesn’t quite come together as something I’d want to use everyday.
the good bits
Slim form factor
Improved pancake lenses
Pro controllers are a delight all round
Face and hand tracking works well
the not so good bits
New strap is less comfortable and trickle to find the right fit
Short battery life
Meta Quest Pro VR Headset and Pro Touch Controllers
Meta already enjoys the lion’s share of the VR market with the excellent Quest 2 so the Quest Pro joined the scene with high expectations. It’s not surprising of course, when you carve out a strong reputation with a headset that ticked a huge amount of boxes – sticking ‘pro’ on the end of the new version will always raise a few eyebrows.
The Quest Pro does what so few other ‘pro’ grade devices fails to do – it’s actually targeted at professionals and business use. This isn’t an evolution of the gaming focused Quest 2, in fact the Pro even sits below the 2 in the Meta website menu – a small detail but an unusual one to see the marquee jewel in the crowd demoted to bottom of the pile.
Pro names bring Pro prices though and £999/$999 is a lot, particularly compared with the Quest 2’s considerably more modest £299/$299. So is this the future of working? Is this a must have for professionals in 2023 and most of all, is the Meta Quest Pro worth a grand?
It’s not a successor not a competitor to the Quest 2, but it’s hard not to draw comparisons between both of Meta’s VR offerings. You’ll find a fair bit of it through this review, though Meta were quick to confirm the intention of the Pro is that it’s not really designed for the same thing. So while I will put them side by side, this isn’t apples to apples.
Compared to the Meta Quest 2, the Pro is a noticeably sleeker beast. The matte white of the 2 is gone and in its place is a sea of black, matte in some places and glossy in others. The result is a headset that looks considerably more sci-fi and aesthetically it feels like Meta have done everything they can to hammer home that ‘pro’ vibe. They’ve succeeded for the most part too, materials feel higher quality and the all-round experience is just that little bit more premium.
Where the Quest 2 had a certain clunkiness thanks to the oversized front goggles, the Meta Quest Pro looks streamlined and less toylike. The elasticated fabric head strap is gone in favour of a new take on what was the Quest Elite Strap that looks better and feels more high end, but sadly for me is a backwards step in functionality. Part of the reason the front of the Quest Pro can be so much slimmer than its predecessors is the battery has jumped ship into a block at the back of the strap. That’s a good thing in theory, as much like the Elite Strap it helps balance it out and stops the Quest Pro being too front heavy.
The problem however is Meta has ditched the top strap in favour of, nothing. The front of the Quest Pro now features a top pad that does all the heavy lifting with little support from anywhere else. By tightening it enough to feel secure I found it put a load of pressure on my forehead and after a few minutes I could feel a distracting ache starting to creep in. When loosening the stepless adjustment wheel to a point that was comfortable, I lost confidence in the Quest Pro staying safely in place on my head.
The new approach is a confusing choice to me because the Meta Elite Strap was excellent, they’d found the right formula but tried to get too funky in streamlining things. It’s something I’ve seen replicated in third-party strap offerings for the Quest 2, these ‘halo’ straps look cooler but one I tried suffered from exactly the same problems.
It speaks largely to the change in the intended use of the Meta Quest Pro, this isn’t a gaming headset designed for jumping around the room, dodging bullets and smashing musical blocks. This is ultimately a productivity tool, an addition to a workspace rather than a living room so it’s perhaps not surprising the strap design isn’t tailored to large amounts of movement.
There’s another fundamental change between the Quest 2 and Pro too and one that continues that push towards being a work companion. This isn’t an immersive VR experience that sucks you into a digital world and has you forget you’re really standing in the front room, this is some way between virtual reality and augmented reality. The lenses are suspended in front of your eyes noticeably more like screens than a super immersive space, with plenty of the real world still on show in your peripheral vision. Meta does include a pair of silicon light blockers that attach with a satisfying magnetic click, though I found they weren’t particularly effective in a bright room and certainly nowhere near as absorbing as the Quest 2’s scuba mask blackout.
The new Meta Quest Touch Pro controllers however are gorgeous in every way and I don’t have a bad word to say about them. I love them.
The slightly awkward halos of the Quest 2 controllers are gone making them noticeably more compact. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve shuddered at the crunch of the Quest 2 controller halos slamming together accidentally, so losing them in favour of a form factor barely larger than my hands is a huge upgrade. And while the Pro controllers are slightly heavier, they felt more reassuring and sturdy as a result. The rubberised, textured back is a definite step up in build quality too and they’re considerably more comfortable to hold and use for extended sessions than those with the Quest 2.
I’ve used a Meta Quest 2 pretty extensively over the past 12 months so my first few hours of using the Quest Pro felt familiar and alien at the same time. Clamping the Pro on for the first time the improvement in the new pancake lenses is immediately obvious. There’s no doubt this is a sharper and more detailed experience visually. It’s not quite as smooth though, not only is the Pro capped at 90Hz (compared to up to 120Hz on the Quest 2) but I found there were more instances of the UI jittering and struggling to keep up than I ever saw with the Quest 2.
The luxurious mountain home hub gets a refresh here but the general setup and menu experience remains largely the same, which is totally fine – it was already great and it stays that way. The Pro does get a network boost though with the latest WiFi 6E standard and I did find it was quicker and more stable playing over AirLink when connected to my PC via the Amazon Eero Mesh system, no complaints there.
While chilling on one of my many designer outdoor sofas I couldn’t help but get distracted by the new headline features of the Quest Pro and spent longer than I should have making faces in the digital mirror and marvelling at my digital hands. The tracking of both are genuinely impressive, the Meta Quest Pro was able to mirror my expressions well and did a great job at conveying emotion while I was talking – something that always felt off with the avatar on the Quest 2. For virtual meetings this delivered a noticeable improvement to how natural the conversation felt, it was more immersive and I wasn’t distracted by the fact I was speaking to a cartoon. It also means you can now sarcastically raise an eyebrow at another of the marketing departments more rogue content suggestions, a game changing addition.
This isn’t the headset for all day breakout brainstorms however as the Quest Pro’s battery stamina is seriously lacking. Every time I checked the percentage while testing it had dropped by a few more than I was expecting. Meta say the Quest Pro is good for 2-3 hours of battery life, but that assumes you’ve started at 100 and drain it until dead, something you won’t want to be doing too often so the real world juice is more 1-2. Unlike the Quest 2 there’s not really any way to augment this either, the head strap isn’t interchangeable and there’s no logical or comfortable place to mount an external battery. You can use it while plugged in of course, but that rather defeats the point.
It’s great to see a charging dock included this time around and it’s a neat, quality feeling arrangement that handles both the controllers and the headset itself. The Quest Pro controllers now feature integrated, rechargeable batteries and each controller clicks into its spot with a gentle magnetic pull that makes it easy to make sure they’re seated correctly. Strangely though there’s no such alignment help for the Quest Pro headset. This meant on more than one occasion I thought I’d left the unit charging only to come back a few hours later and realise it was quite sitting right and still on 24%. Thankfully if you do line things up properly the charging is reasonably snappy, you’ll see around a 1:1 ratio of charge time to play time.
The hand tracking is effective but throughout it felt more like a tech demo than something I could actually see myself using on a day to day basis. The transition from controller to hand gesture control takes that little bit too long to kick in and once it does it just isn’t intuitive enough yet to be better than controllers. Trying to select small menu items was hit and miss and I often felt like the natural movements and gestures I wanted to make to interact with the UI didn’t align with how Meta wanted me to do it. The result was an experience that left me thinking “yeah ok this is cool, but where did I put the controller down because I’d like to get some work done”.
There is something here though, it’s a great foundation from a tech perspective and as the tracking and UX are refined I can see this having genuine real world use. For now though, I’m sticking with those excellent Quest Pro controllers.
The Quest Pro controllers are hiding a party trick too, one so subtle I didn’t even know it existed until the Meta Horizons Workrooms app told me about it. A little push and twist on the connection of the wrist strap sees it pop off to be replaced by a stylus tip that’s included in the box, turning the controller into a pen for writing on virtual whiteboards. What. Wow. Yes. I was amazed at how natural and comfortable the experience was, the haptic feedback helped create a sensation that was uncannily real and I was happy with the accuracy of results.
Horizons Workrooms is where I spent most of my time testing the Quest Pro, it’s also where I wrote a part of this review. The digital office and meeting app offers the clearest look at Meta’s vision for the Pro and why this is a productivity tool and not a gaming device. I get the concept, it’s largely well executed, but I’m going to stick with my physical office for now. Like the hand tracking it’s a tremendous proof of concept but with one too many little snags that meant it became more of a distraction and a hindrance than a help.
When paired with my gaming PC via AirLink I was presented with my two physical screens and gleefully added a third digital desktop as well. For general office bits it performed pretty well, typing these words did momentarily draw me into my (considerably nicer than real life) digital office and the experience was great. The Meta Quest Pro even did an admirable job streaming video from one of the screens, don’t try to play PC games like this though – the digital version of my screen was a second or so behind the real one and working off a fraction of the frame rate, not nice. Visually everything was crisp however, those new pancake lenses did a great job at rendering even small font sizes just as clearly as using my actual monitors.
If you’d like to blend your real office into your digital workspace then the Quest Pro’s improved, full colour pass-through makes this possible. While the improvement in camera quality from the Quest 2 is huge, I still found the sensation a little unnerving at times. It’s a far better representation than previous iterations but when I could still see glimpses of the real world in glorious full colour and uncapped frame rate out of the corner of my eye, it tends to clash a bit. I imagine the experience would benefit greatly from a full blackout experience, which you can actually achieve, it’ll just cost you extra for an official Meta accessory.
Again, it’s not really designed for it but of course I had to dive into a few of my favourite VR games to see what the experience was like. That experience was middling.
For high movement games like iB Cricket and Beat Saber while the visuals were certainly sharper, I had to ratchet the Quest Pro so tightly to my head to not feel like it was going to fly off that playing for more than 10 or 15 minutes wasn’t an option. The light leak from my peripheral vision was also really distracting and drew me right out of the world.
Things did improve with the slow pace of Walkabout Minigolf however, though here the experience was really no different to the Quest 2. If you’re only looking to game, you’re better off going with the 2 or waiting for the Quest 3 releasing later this year.
It’s hard to sum up the Quest Pro because it’s simultaneously great but also not really something it’s easy to recommend for a majority of users. Neither the device nor this user are quite yet ready for the world of digital working, there’s little snags that make it less practical than the real thing and that tends to spoil the party.
You have to applaud the tech that’s crammed inside this compact unit though and it’s here that I throw a load of my final rating. The face and hand tracking is impressive but without a super smooth UX experience attached to it it goes to waste somewhat. The new pancake lenses are excellent but with disappointing battery life your time to enjoy them is particularly limited. It’s all a case of buts and what ifs.
There’s plenty to be excited about here, even if the Meta Quest Pro isn’t quite the must-have for everyone just yet, it’s a sign of what’s the come. VR is still in its infancy and with each iteration the tech gets refined and that little bit more exciting.