Which one works better?
The ultimate showdown of Quest 2 PCVR solutions.
Oculus has now brought us a free solution to play all PCVR games wirelessly with the v28 update of the Quest 2. Before the update, there were only two other ways, but both cost money. One was Oculus Link, where you had to buy a long USB3 cable and connect it to the Quest and PC. And Virtual Desktop, which is available for just under 20 Bucks in the Quest App Store and allows us to play PCVR wirelessly. Today we’re going to test which of these solutions is the best, and for which type of gamer another solution might well be an option. How to set up Oculus Link, Air Link or Virtual Desktop can be found in the tutorials from Nathie below.
Oculus Link Tutorial by Nathie
Oculus Air Link Tutorial by Nathie (soon)
Virtual Desktop Tutorial by Mc in VR
The test setup consists of a desktop PC with a Ryzen 3700X, a 1070ti and 16GB DDR4–3200 RAM. The games are stored on an SSD and the router is a 5GHz capable Connect Box, which is directly connected to the PC via an Ethernet cable. The Connect Box is located about a meter away from my gaming area. Air Link and Virtual Desktop are both running over a 5GHz connection with no other devices connected to get the best possible result. The link cable I use is the 5m one from Kiwi design. Not the original one.
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I’ve picked out a mixed bag of games for you to find out the strengths and weaknesses of each solution. Be it a simple round of Beat Saber or a wild cat and mouse chase in Population One. I’ll also be testing differences between Oculus and Steam versions and how well they stack up against each other.
Let the games begin.
First, I’ll start with a simple round of Beat Saber and tell you how well Expert+ songs work and which of the three ways is the best. Latency and the overall feeling plays a big role here. While the latency was better on Virtual Desktop and Link the overall smoothness was the best on Air Link.
Oculus Link: Smooth but only playable on lower difficulties. Sometimes laggy.
Virtual Desktop: Not as smooth as the other two but it felt more responsive.
Oculus Air Link: Very smooth but highest latency. Expert+is not enjoyable.
Conclusion: As an Expert+ player I will stick to the native Quest Version or just grab my Valve Index. Despite smoothness Virtual Desktop is still the winner here. It just felt snappier overall and would be my choice if I had to pick one of the three above.
Overall the game was playable on all the three choices. It felt the best on Oculus Air Link and was really smooth as butter. Here and there small stutters but nothing major. But the other two solutions were great as well. The sharpness and quality was the best on Virtual Desktop. The other two felt like there was a greyish layer over the screen and they were quite blurry in the distance.
Oculus Link: Smooth and overall great. Slightly blurry and greyish.
Virtual Desktop: Popping colors and really sharp. Still very smooth.
Oculus Air Link: Washed out colors and blurry. But really smooth gameplay.
Conclusion: Due to the sharpness and colors I would always pick the Virtual Desktop version here. The other two are playable as well and they were all really close in smoothness. Nevertheless none of them were bad.
Half Life: Alyx
Half Life: Alyx runs well on all options. Graphically, the virtual desktop version stands out because the colors are crisper and the black levels look a bit better. But it is also fun with Oculus Link and Air Link. All options offer a great gaming experience.
Oculus Link: Sharp picture, good performance and lifelike colors. A bit grayish.
Virtual Desktop: Sharp image, crisp colors, and better black levels.
Oculus Air Link: Also a sharp picture. Also looks a bit grayish, but overall the colors are true to life.
Conclusion: Plays very well with all solutions, but I prefer the Virtual Desktop option because I have the possibility to adjust the colors and contrast values a bit. This generally makes the picture look more harmonious in the headset and many objects look more vivid.
Asgard’s Wrath was a bit blurry for me in Virtual Desktop. I don’t know what the reason is, but I like Oculus Link and Air Link a bit better here. The picture looks coherent in all variants and none of the options has to hide.
Oculus Link: Sharp image, coherent colors and good performance.
Virtual Desktop: Higher contrast values, but looks a bit blurry. Stutters occurs from time to time, perhaps due to Revive.
Oculus Air Link: Looks great and you do not have a cable on your back all the time. Runs almost identically to the Oculus Link variant.
Conclusion: Again, all versions play well no matter which solution you choose. I like Air Link the best because I don’t have to use Revive anymore, I don’t have a cable around me, and the picture seems a little bit sharper than Virtual Desktop.
As already mentioned above, there is unfortunately no such thing as the perfect solution. Each of the tested solutions had its pros and cons. While I consider Oculus Air Link to be the best solution available for Oculus PCVR titles, I had a better experience with Virtual Desktop for Steam VR games. With Oculus Air Link, we don’t have to deal with Revive on Asgard’s Wrath, and Virtual Desktop makes the games look a bit sharper in Steam VR games. Virtual Desktop also offers a 120Hz mode, more settings options, and the ability to watch 3D movies in different virtual environments. Oculus Link alone is unfortunately only interesting for gamers who cannot play near the router or where family members share and use the same internet connection you try to play on. Every use of the Internet during your VR session can drastically affect the game quality.
For now, I will use Oculus Air Link for Oculus native PCVR games, as this runs much smoother. For Steam VR games, however, I’ll remain loyal to Virtual Desktop, as I really appreciate the sharper depth resolution and setting options. For gamers on a budget who just want to try out PCVR, Air Link is still a good solution. My Link cable, on the other hand, will now collect more dust than ever with Oculus Air Link.
Link to Virtual Desktop for the Quest
Link to the Link Cable from Kiwi design I used for the test
While using Air Link, I encountered various problems here and there. Here I will list all the problems I encountered and also give you suggested solutions on how to fix them.
No microphone in multiplayer games like Population One via Air Link
Unfortunately, Oculus still has problems automatically detecting the Quest 2 microphone via Air Link. Therefore, you will need to select your Quest 2’s microphone as your primary input device in Windows Sound Settings. In Population One, you will also need to select the microphone as your “Default System Device” in the in-game settings. After that, the microphone should be recognized and your fellow players should be able to hear you.
Problems with the performance of Air Link
If you have never had problems with Virtual Desktop before or are sure that your home network meets the requirements of Oculus Air Link and still do not get a playable result, open the Oculus Debug Tool. The OculusDebugTool.exe should be located in C:\ProgramFiles\Oculus\Support\oculus-diagnostics. A simple double-click on the exe file and you should see the Oculus Debug Tool window, as in the linked image below. Make sure the “Encode Bitrate (Mbps)” is set to 0. After that, close the tool and open it again to see if the settings have been saved. After that you should have no more performance problems.
Happy gaming everyone.