Quest 3 Lite: What We Know So Far

Over the last few months, it has been reported that Meta is working on a budget version of the Quest 3. Thus far, dubbed “Quest 3 Lite” or the “Quest 3S”,  the new headset looks set to replace the Quest 2, which appears to be facing upcoming retirement. 

Since last October, when the Quest 3 hit the shelves, Meta has dropped the Quest 2 price several times to its current record low of £200 and sliced the prices of official accessories in half. 

Let’s take a look at the news and speculation surrounding the upcoming launch of the Quest Lite. 

Meta Is Preparing to Say Goodbye to the Quest 2

When the Quest 2 launched, the original Quest was immediately discontinued. This decision made perfect sense because the Quest 2 actually retailed at a lower price than its predecessor. 

But that’s not the case with the Quest 3, which was released at a higher price than the Quest 2. 

A few months ago, we shared the news that Meta is potentially starting to wind down sales of the Quest 2. Outstanding Black Friday promotions meant the Quest 2 sold well over Christmas, but the prices stayed low.

Early this year, retailers started running out of stock of the 256GB model, and eventually, the higher storage was removed from all retailer’s websites. This indicates that this headset is no longer being produced. 

Quest 3-Only Titles Are Coming

Over the last few weeks, the release of several major Quest games has been announced, including Batman: Arkham Shadow and Alien: Rogue Incursion. Unlike previous Quest titles, these will only play on the Quest 3. 

While this could seem like developers hedging their bets by not investing in creating games that play on a device that’s due for phased retirement, the fact that Batman: Arkham Shadow is produced by Camouflaj, a studio owned by Meta, adds more certainty to this notion.

Meta Needs Entry-Level Products to Grow the Market

Although VR has been around for a while, the market is still young and developing. At its current price, the Quest 2 serves as a great entry-level product. Out of the current cohort of devices, its price appeals to a broader demographic.

Quest 3 is currently priced between £480 and £620. While this is a fraction of the price of Apple’s Vision Pro, it’s still a high price point for casual users to dip their toes into VR. Meta needs a lower-priced product that can ideally run Quest 3 content but may not offer all of the same features. 

With the Quest 2 seemingly being “sold through,” Meta will likely seek to replace it.

Meta Has a Budget Headset On the Roadmap

Several months before the launch of the Quest 3, The Verge published a leaked internal VR and AR roadmap from Meta. 

The roadmap shared lots of information about Quest 3. Although no announcements had been made at this time, the descriptions were accurate. The next device on the roadmap was a cheaper headset with an expected release date of 2024. 

At the time, Mark Rabkin, Meta’s VP of VR, said that the more accessible headset should “pack the biggest punch we can at the most attractive price point in the VR consumer market.”

The Quest 3 Lite May Not Have Depth Projector Functionality 

Samulia is a Quest firmware data miner. Around the time of the Quest 3 launch, Samulia found a new headset with the codename “Panther”. In the past, Samulia found key Quest 3 features and specs like 3D room meshing, resolution, and lots of Quest Pro details well ahead of launch. 

On Quest 3, there is a reference to the Panther headset within a debug feature that simulates it on the headset. When this setting is applied, the depth projector stops working. 

This suggests that Meta may be looking to achieve the same effect without this functionality, and if successful, this would be a point of difference between the Quest 3 and Lite. 

The question is, how big is this trade-off? Contrary to beliefs held by many, the depth projector doesn’t affect the headset’s passthrough functions. Its primary benefit is in creating a 3D mesh of the room.

There is a difference between this and the depth map the Quest 3 uses to reproject the passthrough, which is created by an algorithm comparing images from both front-facing greyscale tracking cameras. 

But does this mean there won’t be a 3D scene mesh? Potentially not. Strides are being made in this area, and it may be possible to estimate depths without hardware-level depth sensing. 

If this is the case, there’s a chance that the level of accuracy on a Lite model won’t match the Quest 3, but it would certainly be good enough for an entry-level headset. 

Bloomberg Predicts $300 Price Tag Without Controllers

Mark Gurman from Bloomberg often accurately reports on upcoming VR technology developments before any official mention. In the past, Gurman revealed details about Quest 2 and Apple Vision Pro before any formal acknowledgement from either company that the products were even in the works. 

Just after the Quest 3 hit the shelves last autumn, Gurman reported that Meta would create a mixed-reality headset with less costly components and a similar appearance to Meta’s newest XR device. 

Gurman also predicted that Meta would aim to sell the headset for $300 and could decide to ship without any controllers, meaning they would be sold separately. 

But since the Vision Pro was launched, it seems unlikely that Meta will opt to forgo the inclusion of the controllers as CEO Mark Zuckerberg has noted that the Touch Plus controllers are one of the features that help give the Quest 3 the advantage over the more expensive Apple device. 

It Could Combine Quest 3 GPU and Quest 2 Lenses

Not long after the Bloomberg article about the Quest 3 Lite, a Chinese analyst with a history of sharing Meta-related news said that the Quest 3 Lite would retail between $200-$300. 

The new headset would feature the same Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 processor that gives the Quest 3 its power, but the lenses would be replaced with the same lower cost fresnel lenses found on the Quest 2. 

Could the Quest 3 Lite Launch in China?

Soon after the Chinese analyst made these claims, The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Quest 3 Lite would feature a newer chipset coupled with the older lenses. However, this report differed in a fundamental way— the new lower-priced headset would be made for the Chinese market and shipped through a deal with Tencent. 

A Chinese media outlet called 36Kr also previously reported on the Meta and Tencent link. However, the story then was that the headset destined for China was actually the Quest 2. 

Whether Meta plans to release the older headset or a budget version of the Quest 3, the aim is clear—to enter the Chinese market and compete with Apple when they launch there later this year. 

Since China banned Facebook, Meta hasn’t been able to launch devices, giving TikTok owner ByteDance’s Pico headset range less to compete with.

The Quest 3 Lite Should Have Mixed Reality Capabilities

Based on the fact that the Quest 3 Lite looks set to have cheaper fresnel lenses, it remains to be seen whether it will feature the same type of colour passthrough as the standard Quest. 

With the same processor on both versions, developers should not need to alter content to play on the Lite. However, without the same mixed reality capabilities, studios would need to consider this when producing new games. 

Fortunately, there have been hints that the Quest 3 Lite will have mixed reality capabilities. Meta’s Director of Engineering for XR Tech, Paul Furgale, commented in January that following the launch of the Quest 3, every headset will feature mixed reality and passthrough as standard. 

Since the Lite model will likely include the same chipset as the Quest 3, this is one of the biggest expenses in delivering the mixed reality experience. The cameras used for passthrough are unlikely to push the cost of production to prohibitive levels. 

The Quest 3 Lite: In a Nutshell

There seems to be sufficient evidence between the leaked Meta roadmap and the authoritative predictions indicating that a Quest 3 Lite is coming. This should include the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 of the Quest 3 and the lower-cost fresnel lenses found on the Quest 2. 

While it may not provide the same level of clarity and lack the Quest 3’s accuracy in terms of depth perception, at $200-$300, this has the potential to bring mixed reality to a bigger audience and reach the Chinese market.  

What we don’t really know about the new budget headset is when it will be released. While it may not be the biggest thing at this year’s Meta Connect conference, launching at the start of the autumn would mean it’s available before Christmas. 

Watch this space for further updates.

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