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Oculus Link makes the Quest the best value currently in VR

Oculus pulled off a magic trick with Oculus Link

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a white woman with orange hair wearing an Oculus Quest headset and looking to the right as she holds two Oculus Touch controllers Photo: James Bareham/Polygon

Oculus Link is currently in beta, and it’s in beta; it took me a surprising amount of wrangling updates, plugging in cables, hard reboots, and sacrificing goats to get things running. In the end I’m not sure what I finally did right — or what combination of things finally made the system work — but the end result was near-instant awe.

Oculus Link does what it’s supposed to do: It lets you play Oculus Rift games, through your PC, using the standalone Quest headset connected to that PC via a single UBS C 3.0 cable. It’s like Oculus just decided to throw in a “free” Rift-S with the purchase of every $399.99 Quest.

I’ve been playing a variety of games through this method for the past week, using a 10 foot USB 3 3.0 cable provided to me by Oculus, but the official blog post will let you know exactly what kind of cable you need to buy, and what PC specs you need to match, to be able to play Rift games on your Quest. Getting even a long USB C isn’t very expensive; I’d be surprised if you had trouble finding one for under $20.

But what is the actual experience like, playing a game from my computer on a headset that wasn’t designed to do so? Well, my friends, I have some very good news.

Yes, this works exactly as well as it should

Most people won’t have both headsets available for testing, but jumping between the Rift S and the Quest while playing games on my PC showed that the Quest still can’t quite keep up with its bigger brother. There is a slight decrease in general visual quality, as well as a maximum of 72 frames-per-second, versus the 80 fps available on the Rift S. The tech specs don’t lie, the Quest is just generally a slightly less-capable headset when it comes to visuals.

The other side of this issue is that it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Games look better when played through a strong gaming PC on the Quest than when using Quest in standalone mode, which makes the decrease in quality between the Rift S and Quest less important; it’s just not a yardstick any consumer is going to use.

What they will see, however, is that this option is inexpensive, will hopefully soon be easy to set up, and it gives them much more functionality and choice out of the Quest than they would get out of a Rift S. Oculus basically made one of the pillars of its product line redundant, and it’s a power move. Existing Quest owners are likely thrilled — especially since you’ll be able to play Half-Life: Alyx with a Quest using Oculus Link, as confirmed by Valve — while fans of the Rift S may be a little grumpy. So it goes, I guess.

An Oculus Quest with a USB-C cable connected
The cable does kind of jut out of the headset at a severe angle, but I have yet to have an issue with it. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
Photo: Ben Kuchera/Polygon

I had a blast playing games with Oculus Link. There is absolutely some added latency — I was urged by Oculus to check out some of the newer, adventure-type games, but I went straight for action titles like Beat Saber and Space Pirate Trainer. I was pleasantly surprised to find it slightly changed the feel of the games versus making them unplayable or physically unpleasant. My brain was able to process the small change in reaction time and adjust accordingly; it only took a few minutes before I forgot it was even there.

I’ll be exploring this idea in a future report, but this feature, at this performance level, while still in beta, basically makes the Quest the best value in VR currently on the market, and it’s going to take a miracle for something to unseat it in the next year. If you want to jump into VR, now’s the time.

Oculus has upgraded its standalone solution to also become one of the best tethered headsets on the market, all for $399.99. Unbelievable.

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