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Better for PC VR? Oculus Quest 2 vs Rift S (plus Air Link wireless PC VR tutorial updated April 28, 2021)

Oculus Quest 2 vs Rift S for PC VR
Oculus Quest 2 vs Rift S for PC VR

Is the $299 Oculus Quest 2 a good VR headset for PC VR (desktop VR)?  How does it compare to Oculus Rift S?  In this post, I’ll discuss how well Quest 2 works for PC VR.  I’ll also show how to put together a VR-ready PC for the lowest cost, and how to set it up for both wired and wireless VR gameplay, using Oculus Link, Air Link or Virtual Desktop. UPDATE: Oculus has now allowed Virtual Desktop to be used for wireless PC VR gaming with no sideloading needed!

Table of Contents:

Background and Executive Summary
Oculus Quest 2 vs Rift S vs Quest comparison
Minimum PC requirements for Oculus Link, Air Link and Virtual Desktop
Oculus Quest 2 Oculus Link FAQ (updated December 17, 2020)
How to use Oculus Quest 2 Oculus Link to play PC VR
How to use Oculus Quest 2 Air Link or Virtual Desktop to play PC VR wirelessly (updated April 28, 2021)
How to use Sidequest to sideload Air Link Connector and other apps (updated April 28, 2021)

From left to right: Oculus Quest, Quest 2 and Rift S
From left to right: Oculus Quest, Quest 2 and Rift S

BACKGROUND AND EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Oculus Quest 2 is a standalone 6DOF mobile VR headset.  It doesn’t need to be tethered to a PC and doesn’t have any external sensors.  Instead, it uses four cameras on the headset for inside out tracking using computer vision.  Quest 2 is the second 6DOF mobile VR headset from Oculus and improves on the original Quest with a faster processor, higher resolution screen, larger storage options, and a significantly lower price.

Oculus Quest 2 (left) and Rift S (right)
Oculus Quest 2 (left) and Rift S (right)

Rift S is a desktop VR headset.   Unlike its predecessor — the Oculus Rift CV1 — the Rift S has no external sensors, which makes it much more convenient to use.  It has five cameras for inside out tracking.

Although Quest and Quest 2 were designed as mobile VR headsets, they can also be used for PC VR.  But how well do they work compared to a desktop VR headset, such as Oculus Rift S?  It may seem that using Quest for PC VR was only an afterthought and therefore it wouldn’t be that good for desktop VR.  But the truth is that Quest and Quest 2 are pretty good for desktop VR as well.  I have several mobile and desktop VR headsets and I was surprised that Quest 2 can be almost as good as Rift S for PC VR gaming, although it does have drawbacks.

Rift S key advantages and disadvantages over Quest 2 for PC VR:
+ sharper compared to Quest 2 when Quest 2 is being used for PC VR
+ hand tracking has wider range because of extra cameras on the side of the headset.
+ slightly smoother motion in complex scenes on modest PC hardware (GTX 1070), i.e. no dropped frames.
+ halo-style strap is more comfortable than the Quest 2’s fabric strap
+ USB cable is less likely to be accidentally disconnected
– cable reduces immersiveness
– needs USB and Displayport
– IPD adjustment is software only
Available for $399 (may be on sale for less).

Oculus Quest 2’s key advantages over Rift S for PC VR:
+ you can play PC VR games wirelessly (additional setup required)
+ much better audio quality
+ costs less than Rift S
+ can be used as a standalone mobile VR headset
– When using Air Link, Oculus Link or Virtual Desktop, it is less detailed than Rift S unless you have a high end PC
– Less comfortable headstrap (but there are replacement headstraps)
Available for $299 64GB or $399 256GB.

Oculus Quest 1’s key advantages over Rift S for PC VR:
+ you can play PC VR games wirelessly (additional setup required)
+ more comfortable headstrap than either Quest 2 or Rift S, in my opinion
+ better contrast and black levels than either Quest 2 or Rift S due to OLED screen
+ better audio quality than Rift S
+ can be used as a standalone mobile VR headset
+ wider range of interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustments than either Rift S or Quest 2
– When using Air Link, Oculus Link or Virtual Desktop, it is less detailed than Rift S unless you have a high end PC
– When using Virtual Desktop, it has a slight moire pattern (this issue has been addressed in version 1.20.3).
Availability: discontinued.

BOTTOM LINE
For PC VR with the absolute best detail, smoothest motion, lowest latency, and best hand-tracking, I would recommend Rift S ($399).  If you’re ok with slightly less detail for better versatility, wireless gaming, and the ability to use it for mobile VR, go for Quest 2 ($299 64GB or $399 256GB).  I would not seek out the original Quest — get Quest 2 instead (unless you find a huge bargain on the original Quest, or if you need the wider IPD range of the Quest).

OCULUS QUEST 2 VS RIFT S VS QUEST COMPARISON

Quest 2 can also be used for PC VR
Quest 2 can also be used for PC VR

Detail: When using Quest 2 by itself, it has exceptional detail.  It is more detailed than Quest or Rift S, which are themselves among the more detailed VR headsets.  With Quest 2, there is almost no screendoor effect (you won’t see the individual pixels or spaces between them).  However, when Quest 2 is used with Oculus Link, Air Link, or Virtual Desktop to play PC VR games, then it appears a little less detailed than Rift S, as if there was a slight blur, but is still sufficiently detailed.  And on my system,  Air Link and Virtual Desktop are very slightly less detailed than Oculus Link.

Black levels and contrast: Both Quest 2 and Rift S use LCD screens (unlike the Quest which uses OLED) and have similar black levels.   In ordinary scenes, the Quest 2 and Rift S contrast is not noticeably worse than that of the Quest 1.  However, in dark scenes, such as dungeons or caves, you’ll notice the blacks appear dark gray even without comparing it to Quest 1.  With Quest 1, blacks consistently appear black.

Godrays: Quest 2, Quest 1 and Rift S all have some godrays, although it’s not as bad as 1st generation headsets such as the Oculus Rift CV1.  Note: godrays are the glow that you can see around objects when they are in a dark background.

IPD: Quest has full adjustment from 58mm to 72mm.  Quest 2 has limited adjustment of three positions: 58mm, 63mm and 68mm.  Rift S has a fixed IPD of 63.5mm, although its software can simulate IPD adjustment, up to a point.

Comfort: Rift S has a halo-style strap with a pad that allows some of the weight to rest on your forehead.  For a majority of users, it is more comfortable than Quest 2’s fabric strap.  However, Quest 2 does have an optional halo-style Elite Strap that has similar comfort.  All three are front heavy and I experience strain on the back of my neck after using them for around 30 minutes.  However, when I use a counterweight such as a battery, then there’s no issue.

Audio quality: Rift S’ speaker is noticeably weak and tinny (explosions will sound like they come from a toy speaker).  Quest and Quest 2 both have decent audio quality.  You can get even better quality by using headphones (all three have 3.5mm headphone jacks).  Quest and Quest 2 can also use the HTC Deluxe Audio Strap for good quality audio.

Tracking: headset tracking is accurate for all three.  For hand tracking, Rift S is a little more accurate than Quest 1 or Quest 2 for tracking hand movements on the side.  All three do a good job of tracking hand movements near the face.

Rift S has a camera on the side that enables better tracking of hand movements on the side
Rift S has a camera on the side that enables better tracking of hand movements on the side

MINIMUM PC REQUIREMENTS FOR OCULUS LINK, AIR LINK or VIRTUAL DESKTOP (updated April 28, 2021)

When you are using Oculus Quest 2 to play PC VR with Oculus Link, Air Link or Virtual Desktop, your PC has to not only play the VR game, but also has to stream it at the same time to the Quest, therefore it will require a more powerful graphics card.  See the list of compatible cards here.   As of 2021, the most affordable graphics card that can work with Oculus Link or Air Link is GTX 1650 Super (not just a GTX 1650).  Please note that unlike the GTX 1650, a GTX 1650 Super card will require a 6-pin power connector.   Note also that when using Virtual Desktop, the more powerful your CPU and graphics card are, the better the graphics will be.

Here are the minimum requirements for Oculus Link, Air Link or Virtual Desktop:

  • Intel i5-4590 or better
  • 8GB RAM or more
  • GTX 1650 Super or better
  • USB 3.0 port.

The cheapest and probably also the easiest way to get a PC that meets these specs is to get a used PC with i5-4590 or better, 8GB RAM or more, with Windows 10.  I suggest looking for one with a tower case.  A PC with small form factor can use only half-height PCI cards and the fastest low profile graphics card is the GTX 1650, which is not sufficient to run Oculus Link.

UPDATE: due to the rise in prices of cryptocurrency, graphics card prices have now spiked up as well.

Another option for a VR PC is to use cloud computing.  With this option, you use a powerful PC to run VR remotely.  This option is possible for wireless PC VR gaming (see below), but it cannot be used to run Oculus Rift S.  As of February 2021, this option costs $12 per month.  More information and demo, see here.

Can a laptop run Oculus Link?  Yes.  My laptop with GTX 1070 can run Oculus Link or even wireless Air Link or Virtual Desktop.  It is possible for a reasonably-priced laptop to support Oculus Link.  As of October 2020, I’m not aware of a laptop with a GTX 1650 Super.  However, there are several laptops that have GTX 1660, such as this one with i5 10th gen and 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD or this one with 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD.

FAQ (updated January 2, 2021)

Oculus Quest 2 is slightly smaller than Oculus Quest 1
Oculus Quest 2 is slightly smaller than Oculus Quest 1
    1. I’ve never tried VR.  What’s the difference between VR and 3D?  What’s it like?  Is it any different from Google Cardboard?
      With 3D photos and videos, what you see looks like it has a 3D shape.  With VR, an object will look like it is literally right there in front of you.  Not only will it have a 3D shape but you can walk around it or crouch for example.  The sensation is realistic enough to fool your body into experiencing feelings.  For example, if you fall of a cliff in VR, for the initial moment you may feel a little bit of the roller coaster feeling.  That’s why on YouTube, there are several videos of people falling on their faces – they truly believed what they were seeing.   For more info, see this related post, which also describes the difference between Google Cardboard VR headsets and ‘real’ VR headsets such as Oculus Quest or Rift.
    2. What can you do in VR besides playing games?
      Here are some ideas, besides just playing games.
      – You can get exercise (there are games with varying levels of exercise intensity).  The exercise you can get from some games is real.  My favorite one is Thrill of the Fight, a boxing simulation game.  When I play that, it is so intense that my pulse can reach levels above what is supposed to be the maximum for my age.  There are also easier exercise games.
      – You can watch Netflix, YouTube and other videos on a large virtual screen.  Rather than the screen simply floating in front of you, it will seem as if you are in a room with a large screen (as large as you want it to be, even movie theater size).
      – Explore and create artwork.
      – Meet other people in VR to talk to them or play games with them.
    3. I’m prone to motion sickness.  Does VR cause motion sickness?
      The short answer is that with Oculus Quest or Rift, nausea will probably depend on the type of game or app you’re using.  Nausea in VR tends to occur when there is a difference between what you’re seeing versus what you are feeling.  If you are stationary but you are seeing something that looks like you are moving, you can experience nausea.   You can also experience nausea if there is a lag between your head movement and what you see in the headset.
      With low quality VR headsets, there is a high chance of nausea because the mediocre head tracking can create an inconsistency between your head movement and what you see in VR.  However, Oculus Rift and Quest have excellent head tracking, so nausea is far less likely.  As an example, my wife is very prone to motion sickness (even just doing s-turns while skiing downhill gives her a headache).  However, with Quest and Rift, she does not experience any nausea.  I have let many people try my Quest and none said they experienced nausea.
      Having said that, some apps are more likely to make you dizzy, such as flying or racing simulations.  The Oculus store includes ratings for apps from Comfortable to Moderate to Intense.  Stick to Comfortable and you should be fine until you build stronger tolerance for more intense experiences.
    4. Does VR require a lot of space?
      This varies by game, but most games don’t require a lot of space.  You can get by with a space as small as a circle with about 3 foot radius.  But the more space you have, the more fun it will be.  You’ll be able to walk around more instead of teleporting.
    5. How do I know if my PC can use Oculus Quest 2 or Rift S?
      – The minimum processor as of 2020 is Intel i3-6100 (Rift S) or Intel i5-4590 (Quest 2).  Recommended is Intel i5-4590 or better.
      – The minimum RAM is 8GB.
      – The minimum graphics card is GTX 1050 Ti (Rift S) or GTX 1650 Super (Quest 2 Oculus Link). Recommended is GTX 1060 (or AMD RX 480) or better.
      – Both Rift S and Quest 2 need a USB 3.0 port.  In addition, Rift S also requires a Displayport.
    6. I think I have the minimum specs but I want to be really sure my PC can run VR.
      You can try installing the Steam VR Performance test.  Rather than just check your specs, this free app will run a scene from a VR game and show you your PC’s performance.  The disadvantage is that it was designed to test Steam VR compatibility not Oculus compatibility.  But it’s better than nothing.
    7. Is a VR-Ready PC expensive?  How much is a VR-ready PC in 2020?
      No it doesn’t have to be costly.  It is possible to buy a system for $400 or less.  Get a used tower PC with i5-4590 or better, 8GB or more RAM, and Windows 10 installed.  On eBay this should be under $250.  Make sure it has at least one PCI slot available.
      Next, install a compatible graphics card.  If the graphics card needs a power cable, then you’ll need to connect a power cable from the PC’s power supply to the graphics card.  The most powerful graphics card that does not need a power cable as of 2020 is the GTX 1650.  It can run Rift S, but is below the minimum for Oculus Link.
    8. Can a $400 PC really run VR?
      Yes.  In fact, in 2020, it’s possible to get a VR-ready PC for even less.  Here is a demo with an i5-4590, 8GB, and GTX 1050Ti low profile (with Oculus Rift CV1):
    9. Why are graphics cards expensive?  What is the most affordable way to get a VR ready PC?
      In 2021, VR-ready graphics cards have become extremely expensive, selling for more than double or triple their retail price.  This is because VR ready graphics cards are also useful for mining cryptocurrency, and as cryptocurrencies have increased in price, more miners have been purchasing graphics cards, thus raising their prices.  As of 2021, the most affordable way to get a VR ready PC is to get a pre-assembled PC or laptop.
    10. Can a laptop run desktop VR?  Can it use Rift S?  How about Oculus Link?
      Yes it can.  I use VR with my laptop all the time.  The tricky part is that some graphics cards work differently on a laptop.  For example, the GTX 1050 Ti is enough to run desktop VR.  However, on most laptops with GTX 1050 Ti, the HDMI port is not connected to the graphics card.  As a result, Oculus Rift S won’t work on most laptops with GTX 1050 Ti.   Another example is that GTX 1060M (for laptops) is not enough for Oculus Link, while GTX 1060 on desktop is enough for Oculus Link.
      The bottom line is that for laptops, the minimum is GTX 1660 for Oculus Link or GTX 1650 for Rift S.
    11. Can a Mac run Oculus desktop VR?
      Sorry, no.  (Actually, you can use Boot Camp to run Windows, etc. but I don’t know if the necessary drivers will work for the Rift, etc.  Try it at your risk.)
    12. Do you need the Oculus Link cable for Oculus Link to work?
      Not necessarily.  To use Oculus Link, you do need a fast USB cable.  Oculus sells a 16-ft Oculus Link fiber optic USB 3.0 cable for $79.  Please note it is USB Type C to Type C, so you’ll need a USB Type C port or an adapter.  As an alternative, Oculus also recommends this 10-ft Anker cable which is just $18.  The Anker is shorter but it costs much less and it is a USB Type C to Type A cable, so it is easier to find an available port for it.  Moreover, in my tests, I found my Anker USB cable to be faster than my Oculus Link cable (although the Oculus Link cable is longer).  Another advantage of the Anker cable is that it seems to be easier for compatibility.  I tried the Oculus Link cable and it didn’t work on my Quest 2 but worked on my Quest 1.  Meanwhile, the Anker cable worked for both.
    13. Does the Quest 2 battery run down when using it for Oculus Link?
      On my laptop, it does not run down the Quest 2 battery. In fact, the battery charges when connected via Oculus Link.  But please note YMMV, depending on your PC’s motherboard.  One user reported that his Quest 2 ran down after about 3 hours of use.
    14. Can Quest 2 play Oculus Rift desktop VR games?  How about Steam VR games for Vive or Valve Index?
      Yes, Quest and Quest 2 can play Oculus desktop VR games and Steam VR games via Oculus Link or Virtual Desktop.  I’ve tested even graphically demanding games such as Half-Life: Alyx (which is a Steam VR game) and it worked.
    15. Are there games that are not compatible with Virtual Desktop? 
      Some games are compatible with Virtual Desktop only if purchased from Steam store or from Oculus store.  See this list.
    16. New! If I purchase a game, should I purchase for Oculus Quest or Oculus Rift?  
      If you want to use the game for PC VR (powered by your PC, then linked to Quest), then buy it from the Oculus Rift store.  If you want to use the game on your Quest standalone, then buy it from the Oculus Quest app store.
    17. New! If a game or app is available for both Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift, is it cross-buy?
      Some games are cross-buy (buying the Quest version also unlocks Rift version and vice-versa) but others are not.  To determine if a game is cross-buy, check this list.
    18. New! If we have two VR headsets, can we use both at the same time using the same account?  
      For some games, yes it is possible to play with a friend using the same account.  See this list by u/no6969el.
    19. How do you exit Oculus Link and go back to the regular Oculus Quest 2 screen?
      From the Oculus Home settings, select “Disable Link.”
    20. I tried Virtual Desktop but it says “headset not found.”
      Be sure to launch the games from within the Quest’s Virtual Desktop app.  Don’t launch them from Oculus desktop app.  If you’re still getting an error, try to reinstall Steam VR first, then reinstall Virtual Desktop Streamer.
    21. Can other people watch me use Oculus Quest while using Oculus Link or Virtual Desktop?
      Yes.  You can cast to a phone, Google Chromecast device, or your computer running Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge, as long as they are on the same Wi-Fi network as your Oculus Quest.    However, please note that there may be lag in what your viewers see.
    22. How do I make Oculus Quest or Oculus Quest 2 more comfortable?
      Oculus Quest and Quest 2 are both front-heavy.  This can cause discomfort when using them for prolonged periods, such as neck strain, or facial pain.  There are several solutions:
      Attach a battery pack or VR Power (reviewed here) to act as a counterweight
      Elite Strap ($49) or Elite Strap with Battery ($129) for Oculus Quest 2.  Or try this Elite Strap clone.
      Frankenquest (around $115 total), which is the nickname for using the HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap on Oculus Quest or Quest 2.  It’s easy to install and needs no tools.

      Frankenquest is an Oculus Quest with an HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap
      Frankenquest is an Oculus Quest with an HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap

How to Use OCULUS QUEST 2 OCULUS LINK for PC VR via USB

Oculus Link is a feature that lets you use Oculus Quest or Quest 2 to play PC VR with a cable attached to your PC.  You’ll still need a VR-ready PC but you won’t need to get another VR headset to play PC VR apps.  Using Oculus Quest or Quest 2 to play PC VR is very simple as long as you have a PC with the minimum requirements (see FAQ#2 above) and a compatible cable (Oculus Link cable for $79 or Anker cable for $18).

  1. First, launch the Oculus app on your PC.
  2. Next, plug the USB cable to connect your Quest or Quest 2 to your PC’s USB 3.0 port.
  3. On your Quest headset, you should see a message asking if you want to enable Oculus Link.  Confirm that you want to enable it.  Alternatively, you can go to Quest 2’s settings and select Oculus Link.

When you enable Oculus Link, the Oculus Home view in your headset will change to the same Oculus Home that you would see on Rift S.  You can then launch any game and play it as you normally would.  If you want to exit Oculus Link, go to the Settings and click on Disable Link.

Can Oculus Quest 2 play Steam VR games with Oculus Link?  Yes, absolutely.  As long as you’ve installed Steam and SteamVR, you should see Steam VR among your Oculus apps.   From Oculus Home, run the Steam VR app, which will launch the Steam VR Home.  From there, you can launch Steam VR apps.  I’ve run even graphically demanding games such as Half-Life: Alyx.

How to Use OCULUS QUEST 2 for WIRELESS PC VR (updated April 28, 2021)

Quest and Quest 2 can not only be used for PC VR games and apps but it can even do so wirelessly.  As of April 2021, the two primary options for wireless PC VR are Air Link and Virtual Desktop.  Air Link is designed for Quest 2 but can also be used on Quest 1 if you sideload an unofficial app (instructions below).  Alternatively, both Quest 2 and Quest can also use Virtual Desktop for wireless PC VR.

What hardware you need for Air Link or Virtual Desktop

The hardware you need is the same for Air Link or Virtual Desktop.  In addition to a Quest 1 or Quest 2, you’ll need a more powerful PC (see above), a 5ghz wireless router, and an ethernet cable from your PC to your router.   Whether you use Air Link or Virtual Desktop, you need to connect the PC to your 5ghz router via the ethernet cable.

Option 1: Air Link on Oculus Quest 1 or Quest 2

How to install:

Step 0: Make sure you’ve installed Oculus app, Steam, and SteamVR (available on Steam) on your PC if you haven’t done so yet.

Step 1: Update Oculus desktop app to version 28 or later.  If you don’t see the Air Link option, go to Settings, and under Beta click on Restart Oculus.  This will reboot the Oculus app.

Step 2: Update Oculus app on your Quest to version 28 or later.

Step 3 (for Quest 2 only): under Settings, go to Experimental Features and toggle Air Link on.  If you don’t see the Air Link option, reboot your Quest 2.

Step 3 (for Quest 1 only): sideload Air Link Connector.  If you don’t know how to sideload via Sidequest, see below.

How to use:

Step 1: On Oculus desktop app, click on Settings and in the Beta tab, toggle Air Link on.

Step 2: Make sure your Quest or Quest 2 is connected wirelessly to the router to which your PC is connected.  Make sure that the Wi-Fi network is 5Ghz not 2.4ghz.

Step 3 (for Quest 2 only): Click the Oculus button and under Settings go to Quick Actions.  Click on the Air Link button to launch Air Link.

Step 3 (for Quest 1 only): Under Apps, click on the dropdown arrow on the right side and select Unknown Sources.  This will reveal sideloaded apps.  Click on Air Link Connector and click on the button with your PC’s name on it.

Option 2: Virtual Desktop on Quest 1 or Quest 2

An alternative to Air Link is Virtual Desktop.  Compared to Air Link, Virtual Desktop is able to run on lower end PC hardware because it has more settings for decreasing the graphics quality.  Note that as of February 25, 2021, if you use Virtual Desktop 1.20 or later for Oculus Quest, then you will no longer need to sideload the patched version.

How to install:

Step 0: Make sure you’ve installed Oculus app, Steam, and SteamVR (available on Steam) on your PC if you haven’t done so yet.

Step 1: Purchase and install Virtual Desktop 1.20 for Oculus Quest (available on Oculus Store) on your headset.  Do not purchase Virtual Desktop for Oculus Rift.

Step 2: Download and Install Virtual Desktop Streamer on your PC.  Make sure to install Steam VR first before you install virtual desktop streamer.

How to use Virtual Desktop wirelessly:

After following the steps above, you are now ready to use Virtual Desktop wirelessly.

– Connect your PC to your router via ethernet cable.
– Launch Virtual Desktop Streamer on your PC.
– On Oculus Quest, connect to the Wi-Fi network of the 5Ghz router that is connected to the PC.  Make sure you are on a 5Ghz network (not 2.4 Ghz).
– From Oculus Quest, run the Virtual Desktop app.  Under Settings, I suggest using the highest bitrate.
– On the left margin of the Virtual Desktop app, choose Games.  Your Oculus desktop VR and Steam VR games will be listed here.  Just click on the game to launch it.  Please note some games take a long while to load (a few minutes).

If you encounter a “Headset not found” error, try these:
– Reboot your PC.
– Reinstall Steam VR
– Reinstall Virtual Desktop Streamer.

If you have a 5ghz router but your connection is less than 866 mbps, try rebooting your headset and launching again.

How to use Sidequest to sideload Air Link Connector or other apps

Here is how to sideload Air Link Connector, an unofficial app to enable Air Link on Quest 1.  You can also use this same process to sideload other apps that are not on the Oculus store.

You’ll need:
– Sidequest (an app for sideloading apps into Quest or Go). Available here for Windows, Mac or Linux.
– Air Link Connector APK available here

Step 1: Install Sidequest.  See steps below or watch this video by Cas and Chary.

  • Download and install Sidequest on your PC.
    – Create an Oculus developer account.  Go to developer.oculus.com.
    – Download ADB (Android Debug Bridge) driver. Available on Oculus after you create a developer account.
    – Unzip the driver you downloaded and install ADB driver on your PC.
  • Enable Developer mode on your Quest.  From your Oculus phone app, connect to your Quest, tap on the down arrow and choose More Settings… and toggle Developer mode on, then reboot your headset (hold down the power button until it turns off).
    – Connect your Quest to your PC via USB cable.
    – On your Quest, you’ll see a popup asking if you want to allow debugging.  Choose yes.

Step 2: use Sidequest to install Air Link Connector APK on your Quest.  On Sidequest’s menu bar, on the upper right, click the icon with the down arrow to install an APK and select the Air Link Connector APK that you downloaded.  You’ll see a red dot on the menu bar indicating that it’s being installed.  When the dot turns green, that means the installation is complete and you can disconnect your Quest from the PC.

On Sidequest, click this down arrow to install an APK
On Sidequest, click this down arrow to install an APK

Continue with the section above entitled How to Use Wireless PC VR.  Bonus: now that you have Sidequest, you may install other unofficial apps available on Sidequest if you wish.

Conclusion:

For PC VR, Rift S is a little sharper and more crisp than Quest in Oculus Link, Air Link or Virtual Desktop.  However, most users will find that Quest or Quest 2 via Oculus Link is generally about as good as Rift S for desktop VR as long as your PC is powerful enough.  Quest or Quest 2 also makes it possible to play desktop VR games wirelessly if you have a 5Ghz router.   The downside is that the graphics are less detailed unless you have a very powerful PC.

If you’re a PC gamer who wants the best detail, smoothest motion, and lowest latency, I recommend Rift S.  On the other hand, if you want a more versatile headset or if you want a wireless VR experience for greater immersiveness (at the expense of a little detail and motion that is a bit less smooth), then go for Quest 2.

About the author

Mic Ty

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  • Thanks Mic for the detailed tutorial! I’m wondering if you notice a lot of blur/smearing when looking at the menu text on the home screen? And after the headset warms up, do you notice faint horizontal lines in the yellow sky of the dessert terrace environment? I don’t know if I have a defective unit.

    • Thanks Jackie! The text on my screen seems sharp, and I don’t notice horizontal lines in the yellow sky. Have you tried switching environments or changing the direction of the environment (hold down the oculus button)? If there is a defect in a part of your screen, then I would guess you would see it in other environments too, and regardless of direction of the environment.
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Thanks Mic for your reply. I see the faint horizontal lines every where with lighter colors, but it’s just more noticeable in the desert terrace environment. And I see the smearing in high contrast areas like white text on black background when the objects are not in the exact center of the lens. Maybe the lens sweet spot is a lot smaller than the Quest1. I’ll try exchanging the unit to see if I still see the issues.

    • When you say smearing, you mean godrays? Anyway if it looks less sharp than your Quest 1 then yes probably you should exchange it.

      Best regards,
      Mic

      • Yes it’s probably godrays. When comparing my Quest2 with Quest1 back to back Quest2’s godrays look a lot worse 🙁

        • hmmm i’m a bit surprised by that. The Fresnel lenses have almost the same size rings, and I haven’t noticed a difference in godrays between them. Is it possible that your Quest 2 lenses got smeared by fingerprints or facial oil or something?

          • I’m surprised too and I wiped them clean with a microfiber cloth. I checked on reddit and see others mentioning the godrays/smearing issue with text away from center of lenses. Anyways I’ll swap my headset and see if it improves.

    • Thanks Roland. What I did was to load the same scene in both headsets and compare them, and I have not found any difference in godrays between them. But at least one other person said they also thought Quest 2 godrays are worse. I haven’t heard anyone say Quest 2 godrays are better.

  • Great write up. But just wanted to clarify in the FAQ you say “Can a Mac run Oculus desktop VR? – Sorry, no” it’s not 100% true. Macs can under Boot Camp, and like PC’s they just need a decent video card to do so (and meet the min specs).

    • Thanks Roland. Yes you’re right. Originally I was going to say ‘Yes if xxxxxxx” but there were so many conditions for it to work that it’s a bit misleading. I don’t want a Mac user to buy stuff and find out that it actually doesn’t work. So I just wrote, “No.” If they’re hardcore users, they’ll find a way themselves.

  • If no external sensors are used, then why won’t it let you play in the dark? It forces you to burn the room light in order to operate. Annoying.

    • Hi Lino. The cameras need to be able to see the surrounding area. The headset then uses computer vision to analyze these images and reconstruct it in 3D. If it is too dark, then the headset can’t analyze its surroundings.

  • Thanks for the info. I have a question:

    Linus Tech Tips did a review for the Quest (the first one) in Youtube using the Oculus Link ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGScX_8plYw ), and he noted some black bars on the sides when moving the head very fast. I don’t own any Oculus headset so I don’t know if they fixed it, but I want to know if you experienced the same with the Quest 2, and if you did, how fast you had to move your head to experience it.

  • this was soo helpful, i was wondering if a 1660 super was good enough and this article helped me know that it was enough

  • I found that the non-gaming features really sold me on my Quest 2. The bundled browser supports web-based VR content. You can install YouTube VR, Netflix, Prime Video, Google Earth and others directly on the headset. You can kick back in the recliner and watch movies wirelessly without a PC. Add a link cable and a decent gaming PC, and the cheaper 64gb version is more than large enough, if your games are all on the PC. That being said, the cheap head strap is not great!

  • Thanks for the great instruction.

    I’m somewhat afraid that Facebook will block the usage of Virtual Desktop for streaming VR games from PC in the future, because apparently it works, is way better than using a cable (the freedom beats any quality gain), but at the same time it is not supported by Oculus out of the box and apparently can’t be offered by Virtual Desktop in the store because that’s not wanted by Facebook (if it was, then we wouldn’t need to sideload that patch).

    That is because, ever since I created the Developer account for Oculus Go (dabbling a little in my free time) and was rather harshly informed (can’t remember the actual text) that anything that facebook don’t like me to do can result in losing my account all together.

    Any thoughts on this?

    • Virtual Desktop has been around for a very long time and everyone knows how it is being used. There is no chance of Facebook blocking Virtual Desktop.

  • Thank you for this article, it really helped guide me through shopping this year. Should be noted that there is a nice price reduction on the Rift S right now.

  • Can you run virtual desktop on lets say a Q1 and a Q2 on the same account and have each connect to a different pc vr ready rig?

    • I was able to use Virtual Desktop from the same account with 2 different headsets simultaneously. I didn’t connect to a VR ready PC because I only have one active VR ready PC at the moment.

  • Why would Quest 2 Oculus Link PCVR have less detail than Rift S? Quest 2 has higher resolution display, so as long as the PC is capable, it seems it should actually be better. I wonder if the PC has okay specs to fully drive Rift S lower quality display, but not okay to fully drive Quest 2, pegging the PC and resulting in lower Quest 2 graphics. The minimum PC specs won’t be able to run Quest 2 at full resolution.

    • Hi Mark. That is because the video is compressed in order to reduce latency. One user said that with Virtual Desktop (wireless VR) and an i7-10th gen with RTX 3080, he said that the wireless looked “better than” Rift. For my more modest i7-7th gen with GTX 1070, Oculus Link and Virtual Desktop are definitely not as good as native Rift S.

      Best regards,
      Mic

      • I’ve found that people who are not happy with Quest 2 Oculus Link quality typically have less powerful graphics cards. Perhaps your conclusion should include something about older graphics card users would benefit by using Rift S.

        Take for example Karl Gosling, who does VR sim racing related YouTube videos, and he discusses this very topic (he has an RTX 2080). He thinks an RTX 2080TI or better is needed to run Quest 2 at native resolution. For those people, PC VR graphics with Quest 2 will be much better than Rift S.

    • In addition to the increased display resolution, video cannot be fed directly to Quest 2 like Rift S and must be encoded to a compressed stream. Because of the extra encoding to H.264/H.265 required for Quest 2, there is a reduction in image quality. But since the release of Oculus Link, there has been improvements in the Link quality such as a bump up in encode resolution. And when Link went out of beta a couple months ago, many people have reported the image quality to be much closer to Rift S image quality. And with the added latency, timing dependent games like Beat Saber would be less accurate to play on Link compared to Rift S.

  • I don’t know which one to buy. I just want the best quality and resolution possible. Also, no lags it can be on my gaming pc or not. What do you recommend??? (I want to play FNAF Help wanted)

    • Hi Philippe. If you have a very high end PC, something like RTX 3080, then you can get Oculus Quest 2 and the quality will be just as good as Rift S. If your PC is more modest like mine with i7-7th gen and GTX 1070, then Rift S will give you the best quality and resolution.

      • Hi Mic ! I hope you will read my message again. Do you think that with a i7-9th gen and RTX 2080 SUPER I’ll have the same quality as the rift s. And also, considering my internet connection is at 800Mbps, is it better to use oculus link or virtual desktop for best quality and low latency. Personally, I heard that the colors were weird with link and there was lags and less details ?!

        Thank you.

        • Hi Philippe. I don’t have anything like RTX 2080 Super to test, so I personally don’t have experience. But Karl Gosling said he thinks RTX 2080 Ti is necessary if you want to get similar detail as Rift S on Quest 2 wireless. Re internet connection speed, it is not relevant as long as your router is 5 ghz. Re lag, I found that the lag increased over time. Initially, it is low, but as I play more, the lag builds up until after let’s say 1 hour, it is noticeably high and I have to restart virtual desktop.

  • Hi there, a beautiful in-depth review. You really did help me quite a bit in my struggle to decide between the Rift S and the Quest 2.

    However I’m still in a pickle:

    I have the choice between a Quest 2 (for 300 Eur) or a Rift S (second hand but rarely used) for 200 Eur. Of course If I bought the Quest 2 it would be link play. But has it the same issues as on the Quest 1 where you get lags, out of syncs etc.?

    My specs are these :

    XFX RX5700XT
    Ryzen 5 3600x
    32 Gb of Ram

    I mainly want a high resolution mostly so I can appreciate HL Alyx fully (as I’m in love with the HL universe since I was a kid).

    What do you think?

    Thanks in advance.

  • You keep saying hand tracking in regards to the rift s but the rift s does NOT do hand tracking, controllers only.

  • Review very well done, and you know your stuff, so thank-you! I have just ordered a Dell G5 with an i7-10700 and an RX 5700XT, to use with MSFT Flight Sim 2020. The Quest 2 seems to be at least adequate for running FS. You mention the 64GB and 256GB versions; would the 64 be sufficient, i.e. the 256 would be mainly for running non-pc games? I may have missed it, but would you recommend using the headset wirelessly, or with a cable, for FS, or any other PC games?

    • Thanks Neale. Yes, if you’re running the Quest 2 as a PC VR headset, then you’re actually not using the Quest 2’s internal memory, so 64GB is sufficient. For Flight Simulator in particular, you’ll be sitting down and won’t be moving much so you can use it with a cable (via Oculus Link). But you can also run it wirelessly. Your PC is powerful enough that you might not notice a difference between wired Oculus Link or wireless Air Link.

  • Why does my Rift S have better visual clarity than my quest 2 with oculus link enabled for me theres alot of streaming artifacts and with debug tool they are less noticeable but still there? Could it just be that my eyes are sensitive to them like im not sure. I’m Using an RTX 2070 super that’s overclocked so whats going on?

    • Hi Nas. RTX 2070 is quite good by itself but for VR, it’s not super powerful. Re streaming artifacts, are you using the Anker USB cable I recommended or the Oculus cable or some other cable? You could also try Air Link or Virtual Desktop, both of which allow you to control the bitrate, which might result in better quality than Oculus Link (because as of May 2021, Oculus Link doesn’t let you fine tune the streaming iirc).