The next generation of Meta’s standalone VR headset is here with the new Meta Quest 3. I was excited to get my hands on it and put it through some initial testing. As a long-time VR enthusiast and Quest 2 user, I was eager to see how much of an upgrade this new model represents.

In this detailed first impressions review, I’ll unpack the Quest 3, evaluate the design and comfort, test out the visuals and tracking, share performance impressions on some games, and ultimately give my initial thoughts on whether this headset lives up to the hype. There are some notable improvements but also a few concerning drawbacks that emerged in my first days of use.

Unboxing the Sleek New Design

Unboxing new tech is always a thrill, and the Quest 3 packaging keeps things simple. Inside the box you get the headset itself, two redesigned controllers, a power brick, and some basic quick-start guides – no big surprises.

Immediately it’s apparent this new model sports a slimmed-down, more compact design compared to the Quest 2. They shaved off some of the bulk while still keeping that signature Quest look. The smooth white plastic has an appealing minimalist look that gives it a modern feel.

The first thing I noticed is the new pancake lenses used instead of the standard spherical lenses. These are designed to reduce glare and reflections while also improving clarity across the field of view. Meta claims they help reduce the infamous “screen door effect” seen on earlier models.

New Button Release and Redesigned Controllers

The redesigned controllers look slick, getting rid of the large tracking rings used on the Quest 2. They retained the same overall shape and button layout but with a cleaner aesthetic.

Putting them on, I immediately noticed the new button release mechanism. Rather than sliding the controller battery compartment in and out, there is now a button you press that allows it to pop on and off. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it but easy enough after that. The ergonomics feel identical to the previous Touch controllers.

Initial Comfort and Fit Feels Like a Downgrade

Here’s where I started to encounter some issues with the Quest 3. While the setup was easy enough, getting the headset on and adjusted was less comfortable than I expected.

The padding and materials used on the head strap feel decent but a little less breathable than the Quest 2. I was sweating pretty quickly from the cloth. The rear strap uses a similar stretchy design as the Quest 2 but the fit just didn’t feel as dialed in for my head shape.

Most glaringly, the front forehead pad feels like a big downgrade in comfort and stability. It’s just a thin piece of cloth that doesn’t conform to the forehead well. I could quickly tell this would cause issues for long-term wear.

Adjusting the IPD and angle helped a bit but couldn’t make up for the forehead pad design. For a headset geared towards gaming and media, comfort should be priority number one. Unfortunately, the Quest 3 seems to take a step back here.

Cameras Show Potential But Image Quality Isn’t There Yet

The Quest 3 comes equipped with four cameras compared to the Quest 2’s four. On paper, this allows for mixed reality and passthrough video at a higher resolution.

Checking out the cameras, the potential is apparent. Tracking your actual environment in VR unlocks some cool possibilities for AR applications. However, in my testing, the video feed still looked quite grainy and low resolution.

I could make out basic shapes and some colors but text and fine details were lost. With the amazing cameras on our phones these days, I really expected sharper image quality here. It’s still early for this tech but feels a bit underwhelming for 2023.

Testing out the Display and Visuals

Enough about the exterior – it was time to dive in and see how those pancake lenses look in action. I fired up the headset and went through the quick setup. Right away the improved clarity and reduced glare are noticeable.

The default interface looks crisp and colors pop nicely. I did a few visual tests moving around and looking at objects from various angles. The reduction in glare and “god rays” is significant and helps improve immersion. VR is all about visuals so this is a clear win.

I did still notice some blurring around the very edges of the display likely due to the optics limitations. The sweet spot in the center is great but the periphery gets fuzzy. A worthy trade-off but something to be aware of.

Pushing the Limits with VR Games

With the basics covered, it was time for the real test: VR gameplay. I fired up a few titles like Beat Saber, Pistol Whip, and SUPERHOT to evaluate performance. These games really push the graphics and motion tracking to the limits.

Overall, the visuals were on par with my expectations. The pancake lenses made games look sharper and helped pull me into the experience. Lag and stuttering were minimal which is impressive given the onboard graphics.

However, I did notice some occasional issues with the controller tracking. In faster songs on Beat Saber, my sabers seemed to lose position momentarily. Similarly in Pistol Whip, the guns jittered at times during hectic action.

While minor, these tracking hiccups definitely impacted gameplay at times. It seems the redesigned controllers may still need some work when things get speedy. I didn’t have these issues on the Quest 2 so I hope software updates can improve stability over time.

My Overall First Impressions

Stepping back after a few days of testing, I have mixed feelings about the Meta Quest 3. It excels in some areas like visual clarity and sleek design while taking a step back in comfort and controller tracking.

The pancake lenses are absolutely the star of the show here – they unlock crisper and more immersive VR experiences. However, the downgraded comfort from the head strap and forehead pad is disappointing. I also expected better camera visuals and controller tracking from a next-generation headset.

For people new to VR, I think the Quest 3 presents a compelling package with room to grow. But as a Quest 2 owner, I don’t see this as a necessary upgrade yet based on my first impressions. We’ll have to see how much Meta can further enhance the experience with software updates over time.

I plan to continue testing out the Quest 3 further over the next week. Stay tuned for my full, in-depth review video coming soon! I’ll be evaluating battery life, expanded game testing, comfort over longer play sessions, and everything else this new headset has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key new features of the Meta Quest 3?

The main upgrades are the pancake lenses for better visual clarity, a slimmer overall design, higher resolution outward-facing cameras for mixed reality, and redesigned controllers without the tracking rings.

How does the comfort and fit compare to the Quest 2?

The Quest 3 uses a very similar overall head strap design as the Quest 2. However, the material feels less breathable and can cause more sweating. More worryingly, the forehead pad is a major downgrade in comfort.

Are the new controllers an improvement over the previous Touch controllers?

The redesigned controllers have a cleaner look without the large tracking rings. However, in my testing, the tracking seemed to lose accuracy during fast movements compared to the excellent Quest 2 controllers.

Is the Meta Quest 3 worth upgrading to from the Quest 2?

For new VR users, the Quest 3 offers some compelling upgrades. But for existing Quest 2 owners, it’s likely not worth upgrading based on my initial impressions. The visual boost doesn’t outweigh the downgrades in other areas so far.

When will your full review of the Quest 3 be available?

I plan to have my full review video completed within 1 week of testing out the headset. This will allow me to evaluate battery life, comfort over longer sessions, and performance across a wider variety of VR games.