The Meta Quest Pro is not the big fail it’s made out to be

The Meta Quest Pro is not the big fail it’s made out to be

Meta is at a crisis point.

Critics say the company’s all-in pivot to virtual reality and the metaverse has been misguided, resulting in a loss of $10 billion in 2021, dips in stock price, significant layoffs, and public mockery. Despite all this, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has leaned into the gamble. When it comes to the enterprise-focused Meta Quest Pro headset, unveiled at this year’s Meta Connect conference, that investment may finally be paying off. Both aesthetically beautiful and technically impressive, the Quest Pro is a feather in Meta’s VR cap, which is in dire need of embellishment. But under the hood, the Quest Pro operating system still needs a lot of work.

It should be noted (then underlined and highlighted) that the Meta Quest Pro is meant primarily for use in work environments, and boasts a combination of 10 internal and external cameras for enhanced eye and face tracking. Because the headset wasn’t built for the immersive gaming experiences people often associate with VR, thrillseekers will be better satisfied by its predecessor the Quest 2. But for the creative professionals and businesses who can spring for its hefty $1,499 starting price, the Meta Quest Pro is a gorgeous device that makes good on the promise of mixed and virtual reality.

First impressions

For the high cost of entry, you’ll get the Quest Pro and its half dozen black accessories, including a charging dock, removable magnetic gaskets, protective headset cover, and microfiber square. But don’t be so hasty to chuck that box into the recycling as you may accidentally toss the two teeny stylus tips nestled between the headset’s wall charger and its cords. 

A flat lay of the Quest Pro’s accessories: a protective rubber cover for the headset’s glass panel, a charging doc, cords, and wall charger, two controllers, magnetic gaskets, two stylus tips, a glass cleaning cloth, and a small manual.
Credit: Kyle Cobian

Out of the box, the Quest Pro is sleek and solid, bound in glass and matte black plastic, and padded with lush foam cushions that far outstrip the thrifty plastics, cheap foam, and flimsy elastic strap of the Quest 2. And whereas the Quest 2’s Touch controllers boast the structural integrity of a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, the Quest Pro’s refined Touch controllers are delightfully substantial in your palm and are much less at risk of flying across the room with one rogue wave of your hand.

The underside of the left side of the headset which is matte black. A USB-C port, power button, and headphone jack are visible
The underside of the left side of the headset houses a USB-C port, power button, and headphone jack.
Credit: Kyle Cobian
A close up of the face of the controller which is round and houses two round X and Y buttons, a joystick, a menu button and the tiny lens of a camera.
The face of the left Touch controller houses X and Y buttons, a joystick, a menu button, and the tiny lens of a camera.
Credit: Kyle Cobian

During the initial device setup process, I did have some trouble pairing the Touch controllers, which each house a Snapdragon 662 processor and three sensors for 360-degree motion tracking, to the headset. Despite holding both controllers physically in my hands, the headset persisted in displaying one of them as on the ground near my foot. In order for my physical controller to begin to work, I had to bend down and “pick up” the virtual controller.

That minor hiccup aside, the Pro setup process continued on with the requisite WiFi and Bluetooth pairing stage. After this, I was then prompted to choose a “home experience” that I’d land on every time I turned on the device. The Quest Pro offers users fourteen options by default, including a room of pink and purple ombre bubbles, a Japanese Ryokan at dusk, and an underground cavern themed to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. I first chose something more immersive: a peaceful, warm-wooded yoga studio in the middle of a forest. But once I switched to passthrough — a feature that allows you to see the real world around you while still in your headset — I never went back. It was way more fun to see menus pop up above my bed or on my living room wall. In the end, I made my Quest Pro home environment my actual home.

A ridge overlooking a valley and a waterfall. At the edge of the ridge, a fireplace is surrounded by chairs and pillows for lounging.

One view of the default “home environment” called Cascadia.
Credit: Meta
The inside of an abstract home, with a large sculptural wind chime and a large round skylight.

Another view of the default “home environment,” Cascadia.
Credit: Meta

Battery basics

Meta claims that a two-hour charge of the Quest Pro will result in one to two hours of use and I found that to be accurate. Though Meta hasn’t officially stated the size of the Pro’s battery, insiders estimate it’s somewhere around 4,500 mAh, as compared to the 3,640mAh of the Quest 2. But, apparently, there’s a way to extend that usage. In his talk at Meta Connect 2022, Consulting CTO John Carmack noted that that if you use the Quest Pro like the Quest 2 — that is without turning on Pro-specific features like color passthrough and facial tracking — the battery life should last a bit longer.

It’s worth noting that charging the Quest Pro and its controllers on the included dock is a bit finicky. Both the headset and controllers must be properly positioned on small pins in the dock to properly charge. But the process of accurately placing the devices on the pins is so tedious that it often means I end up moving my face within inches of the setup to make sure everything is properly aligned. And even then, I’m usually still not sure if everything is charging as it should.

That said, the biggest issue I had with charging wasn’t necessarily with the headset, but with the controllers. After a single use on a full charge, one controller somehow drained down to around 15 percent battery, while the other hovered in the 80 percent range. I have no explanation for that except that perhaps I had not properly docked the controllers in the charger. And for this price, proper docking shouldn’t be an issue.

A wearable that’s actually…wearable

The Quest Pro’s biggest improvement over the Quest 2 is in comfort and fit, though it’s still far from comfortable for sessions lasting more than 20 minutes. I had to add $130 worth of accessories to my Quest 2 to make it wearable for that long and to ensure it properly fit my face. The Quest Pro, by contrast, is wearable right out of the box, as it should be given its price.

The Meta Quest Pro’s premium materials pair with its “halo” band design to balance the weight of the facial interface on the forehead with the device’s battery pack at the rear. The brim of the band rests just below my hairline and is the only part of the device that touches my face. The Quest 2, by contrast, lies flat against the skin like a suction cup.

The Quest Pro’s fit is also much more customizable than the Quest 2’s, which adds to its wearability. The Quest Pro’s lenses move smoothly towards and away from each other to adjust for the distance between your eyes, also called interpupillary distance or IPD. And a new depth wheel at the top of the headset moves the lenses towards and away from your face, an adjustment not available on the Quest 2 but native to the PlayStation VR headset. The Quest Pro’s halo band also remains more securely in place than that of the Quest 2, the latter of which often slides around during wear. Additionally, I was able to comfortably slip the Pro on over eyeglasses, something that required the insertion of an additional gasket and was quite uncomfortable in the Quest 2.

All of my main comfort issues with the Quest 2 — its poor fit, expensive accessory upgrades, sweaty sliding, and face marks — are mostly solved by the Quest Pro, save for one: the Quest Pro’s forehead band. It gave me a wretched tension headache within minutes of my first use and always left a red spot on my skin. The pain intensity varied throughout wear, but I imagine I’ll need to add extra padding to that area to make it truly comfortable.

In the background: the torso of a woman in a pink coat behind a macbook. She is dipping a tea bag into a mug. In the foreground is the meta quest pro, see from the side
A side view of the Quest Pro during a snack break.
Credit: Kyle Cobian

The Quest Pro’s other notable upgrade is its display, which is exceptional. It achieves higher clarity through its 1800 x 1920 resolution display and pancake lenses, which are thinner and lighter than the Quest 2’s — it’s tantamount to upgrading from Coke-bottle glasses to contact lenses. Putting on the Quest Pro feels like going to the optometrist and finally finding the right prescription; the display is crisp and clear. In the Quest 2, by comparison, I’ve always experienced minor doubling or distortion around the edges of the lenses and subtle blurring as the device slips around my face, no matter how many adjustments I make.

Thanks to its customizable design and upgraded tech, the Pro makes display distortion, and the distraction and eye fatigue that accompany it, a thing of the past.

The Quest Pro from the front, charging in its dock. It is surrounded by opened Swedish Fish and Haribo packets.
The charging dock is sleek, but requires double checking to ensure it’s actually working.
Credit: Kyle Cobian

WFH: Working from home headset

Meta has promoted an expanded experience in Horizon Workrooms, its virtual co-working app, as a major pull for the Quest Pro. Workrooms pops you — or, rather, your avatar — into the same virtual space as your coworkers, so you can collaborate around a conference room table in, say, a perfectly nice but far-from-convincing Greek villa.

Your Pro headset connects to your laptop and other whitelisted devices via Bluetooth to track and mirror your work there. And when working alone in Workrooms, you can use up to five virtual desktop screens simultaneously. But as someone who works mostly alone or with others over Slack, I found Horizon Workrooms to be of almost no value. It’s mostly useful for people working on highly collaborative visual projects, otherwise a Zoom works just fine.

One novelty of the Quest Pro’s controllers is that they transform into whiteboard markers in Horizon Workrooms and other compatible apps with the addition of the stylus tips included with purchase. The tips work nicely, but they are added in place of each controller’s wrist strap. It’s a strange design choice, considering that the controller makes for a heavy writing utensil and the straps are the one safeguard against dropping them.

A woman sits at a purple booth in front of a laptop. She has short brown hair and a fuchsia sweater. She is wearing the Quest Pro and holding one of its controllers, which has been fitted with a stylus at the bottom, and is drawing in the air.
To use the controller as a stylus, remove the safety strap and replace it with a tiny nub.
Credit: Kyle Cobian

My favorite part of the Quest Pro is working and gaming between the virtual and real worlds, using both passthrough and the headset’s open design. That, to me, feels like the future. 

The Quest Pro’s full-color passthrough, which allows you to see the real world around you while still in your headset, has a ways to go before feeling truly realistic. It distorts some colors and makes everything look a bit fuzzier than it does IRL, like my environment is coated with slightly transparent TV static. But while using passthrough in Workrooms, I truly enjoyed the augmented reality of seeing my physical desk beyond my virtual desktop screens. And when I popped on the headset at a Starbucks, I could see everyone passing by and the expressions on the faces of patrons around me, which was not only highly amusing but made me feel safer using a $1,499 device in public. 

The headset’s open-sided design is a huge change from the more immersive, enclosed Quest 2 and I liked that the Pro headset complimented my reality without obscuring or replacing it. To be honest, I found it easier to pop on the device, see what was going on in my virtual space, then simply cast my gaze downward towards my physical laptop to work rather than set up screens in Horizon Workrooms.

During another session, while I was in the middle of kicking ass on the expert level of Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me” in Beat Saber, I could see through the gap between the headset and my face that I’d received a message on my cell phone, which was sitting on my bed a foot away. I have purposely avoided linking my phone to my headsets so I won’t be hounded by notifications and I often inform loved ones before I don the Quest 2 so that they know I won’t see their calls. The Quest Pro offers a nice in-between here: I can check notifications on my phone at a glance while still wearing the headset.

For those interested in a more immersive experience, the Quest Pro comes with magnetic gaskets that snap onto the sides of the device. They don’t completely block out the world, but they do act like horse blinders, centering you on the task in front of you. And in an office environment, the gaskets could be used to signal to others that you’re busy and don’t want to be disturbed. Consider it the VR equivalent of wearing earbuds on the subway to discourage strangers from talking to you.

A woman sitting in a cafe with a laptop on her lap. She is wearing the Quest Pro and holds a to-go coffee cup in one hand and a controller in the other.
Metaversing in the middle of Starbucks.
Credit: Elizabeth de Luna

Making mini-me

Eight screenshots of the same avatar of a woman with short brown hair, brown eyes, and a mustard colored printed dress.
This is me trying (to emote). In the upper left screenshot, I am sticking my tongue out but you can’t tell. The photo on the lower left is my resting expression without face tracking turned on. The screenshot next to it is my resting expression with face tracking, which you can see includes a more downturned mouth.
Credit: Meta

Setting up your Meta avatar is optional and can be done any time in your Profile, though it is necessary to create one to begin using Horizon Workrooms.

To be honest, I was disappointed by my avatar. It was fun to design her, but I found that the many options for customization were still too limited to make that little gal truly look like me. For example, there were 24 nose options. That sounds like a lot, but considering there are 6 billion people on earth, it’s not nearly enough. I picked one that I felt was closest to my own, but still it wasn’t quite right.

There is also a diverse range of skin tones — 27 in total. Hairstyle options include afros, braids, locs, and bantu knots. While headwear choices ranged from beanies to a Sikh patka and dastār. For clothing, there’s a variety of saris, suits, as well as modest and immodest options, but the majority were some of the ugliest fits I have ever seen in real or virtual life. I finally opted for a long printed dress that I thought could pass as chic, but the pickings were slim.

Overall, the avatar feature is missing the kind of unique customizations that make someone feel truly comfortable showing up as themselves in VR: birth marks, tattoos, makeup looks, hair styling like clips and headbands. Six nose piercings were available, but none for any other part of the face. There were 16 face marking options, including freckles and moles, but users can only pick one. Have two moles on your face? Too bad! Overall, as is, the options cannot accommodate the world of users Meta is hoping to attract.

And even though the Quest Pro has added cameras in the facial interface to accommodate face tracking for more accurate communication, my avatar’s resulting expressions weren’t all that impressive. The headset didn’t track my tongue when I made a silly face. It also lacked the ability to articulate small changes to my mouth and eye areas, which meant I could only express large emotions and not micro-expressions.

No more getting sick in “space”

I get motion sickness in VR pretty often. My body just can’t deal with being stuck in one reality while I move through a virtual reality. I wondered if the Quest Pro’s open design might help with that, so after a few days of Pro use, I hesitantly opened an app that had previously laid me out in a 48-hour dizzy spell back in July: Mission:ISS. In the VR experience, you roam around the International Space Station, floating in 360 degrees and grabbing onto bars around the shuttle to propel yourself forward. In July, I was only able to spend about four minutes in the experience on a Quest 2 before feeling severely ill. But in the Quest Pro, I was able to float around for about 15 minutes and even completed a practice task.

In general, I find that the Pro’s open design does help with my motion sickness. Any time I feel queasy, I simply glance down and ground myself in a true view of my reality, which is usually my feet in house slippers on my bedroom floor. This is an important benefit for the Quest Pro specifically, since it’s purported to be used by creatives, not gamers, for work. Immersion takes a while to get used to and newcomers and casual users will not have the same built up resistance to motion sickness as power users.

The software’s not quite there

As you’ve read, the Meta Quest Pro delivers on some of the promises of newer virtual reality hardware: crystal-clear displays, mixed-reality capabilities, and lighter-weight devices. But I’ve been unable to use it to its full potential as a result of the limitations of the software that gives it life.

Thanks to a bug that, according to a Reddit thread, may be more than three years old, I got locked out of my Meta account on my Quest Pro and was therefore unable to use my headset for a week. I’ll spare you the technical details, but essentially, to get back into the device, I needed to enter a password I never created in the first place. The official directions for resetting that password don’t work and still refer to the headset and its accompanying app as an “Oculus” product, which means they’re likely leftover from the the period before the company’s rebranding.

Meta customer support notes that the only way to fix the issue is to perform a factory reset of your device. But the directions for resetting your device from the Meta Quest app weren’t accurate to the Quest Pro. So I manually reset it by pressing down on the power and volume buttons until a menu appeared.

Another time, the headset stopped working altogether and didn’t respond to a physical factory reset. Eventually, I was able to get it to show me a “No Command” error, which seems to be common on the Quest 2. Then I powered down the device and turned it on again as if nothing had happened.

Both times, I was able to sign back into my Meta account and recover much of what had been saved there, but these experiences were turning points for me. Had I purchased this headset for the more than $1,499 it’s currently going for, I’d probably swear off Meta forever.

And the limitations of the operating system only became more apparent after the reset. I tried the mixed-reality game I Expect You to Die: Home Sweet Home and was prompted to tell the headset where the walls and furniture of my apartment were by drawing them by hand. The only shape available was a rectangle. My bean-shaped couch? A rectangle. My octagonal coffee table? A rectangle.

Then there was an issue playing the game itself; I couldn’t get past the first step no matter how many times I followed the simple direction of pressing a single button. So I gave up and when I was dropped back into my default home environment, the blue lines I had drawn to outline my apartment were still there, floating in the ether. They have yet to go away even after several sessions, so I guess I’m just stuck with them now.

At other times, the operating system felt overly complicated or underdeveloped. A friend who wanted to sign in to her Meta account on my Quest Pro was directed by the headset to take it off and open the Meta Quest mobile app to reset her password, which kind of defeats the point of the headset. As I attempted to complete a guided “fit test” on the device by adjusting its physical elements, the onscreen directions didn’t accurately sync with the changes I was making by hand. And during my very first session in the Quest Pro, I was given zero guidance as to what apps I might want to try, a struggle for first-time users that could easily be fixed with a quick questionnaire that’d procure a curated list of titles.

So, while the Quest Pro itself is promising, the software is a disappointment. Its poor quality is a limitation on the progress of VR and is even apparent to outsiders who have critiqued Meta’s chonky graphics. The unfortunate truth is, as exciting as the Quest Pro is as a device, it will only ever be as good as the software inside it.

A cafe. In the foreground, a woman holds a Meta Quest Pro and has her head turned in profile. She is talking to a white man in the background who is dressed in a business suit.
Discussing the finer points of virtual reality headsets with my new friend, Paul.
Credit: Elizabeth de Luna

A virtual reality beauty with worms for brains

The Meta Quest Pro is a beautiful piece of technology that offers higher material quality, wearability, and flexibility than the Quest 2. But most users will find the operating system frustrating and even dealbreaking. The Quest Pro is best suited for work environments where companies can subsidize or cover the cost of the headset, or where collaboration is so valuable that it’s worth the $1,499 investment. For most consumers, though, the Meta Quest Pro is a gorgeous VR hardware upgrade, but not a necessary one. Curiously, Meta’s comparatively lower-end VR headset, the $399 Quest 2, still remains the best deal on the market.

I wouldn’t exactly say that Meta played itself with the Quest Pro, but it’s come close.

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