The Oculus Quest 2 is a great VR headset for anyone looking to dip their toes into virtual reality, but if I had one complaint about Oculus’ standalone headset (apart from the mandatory Facebook account requirement), it would be the uncomfortable little knobbly bits on its elasticated head strap. They’re just too painful to use the Quest 2 for any significant length of time, and they always give me a nasty headache for the rest of the day. Happily, I’ve since discovered that the Quest 2’s Elite Strap accessory eliminates this problem entirely, and is well worth getting if, like me, you want to be able to play Half-Life: Alyx without feeling like you’ve got a real-life head crab hugging your skull.
The Elite Strap is one of the many extra accessories available for the Quest 2, and must be bought separately to the main headset. On its own, it costs another £49 / $49, but it’s also available as part of an additional battery and carry case bundle for £119 / $119. I’ve only tested the former, so I can’t say how the extra weight of the battery affects the overall ergonomics of the headset, but unless you constantly find yourself running out of power during a typical play session, I’d recommend sticking with the regular Elite Strap if you want to dramatically improve your overall VR experience.
Admittedly, the act of physically attaching the Elite Strap to the Quest 2 has a lot of room for improvement. The quick start manual does its best to make it all look nice and simple in practice, but in reality the heart-stopping procedure of twisting and peeling back the basic strap’s hard, plastic arms is anything but. Similarly, hooking and snapping the Elite Strap into place is a lot more fiddly than it needs to be, and I was surprised by just how brittle and fragile the attachment arms felt when I got it out of the box. The whole process feels very much at odds with the simple, put-on-and-play nature of the headset itself, and it’s easy to see why so many people have ended up snapping their Elite Straps by accident.
To their credit, Oculus have since acknowledged this issue and have currently paused sales of both the Elite Strap and the more expensive Elite Strap and Battery Pack bundle while they sort it out. We don’t know when either one will go back on sale just yet, but when they do, I can heartily recommend it for fellow headache sufferers.
Indeed, as terrifying as it was to attach the Elite Strap to the Quest 2, I managed to do so without any unintended breakages and once it was on, I was away. While the rigid arms don’t offer quite as much vertical adjustment as the basic strap, the smooth, rubbery head support sat snuggly against the back of my head and the firm, tactile halo dial (much like the one on the Rift S) let me tighten it as much as I needed to get a good fit. Most importantly, the halo dial stayed put even on its tightest setting, which is something I can’t say is true of the one on the Rift S. That dial was constantly slipping and jolting out of place when I had it in for testing it earlier in the year, but the Quest 2’s Elite Strap has held firm throughout the time I’ve been using it.
And man alive, the effect is transformative. Whereas the basic strap often had me ripping off the headset after about an hour (90 minutes absolute maximum), the Elite Strap let me carry on Questing for as long as my feeble muscles allowed. After my first Elite Strap session of Beat Saber, for example, it wasn’t through pain that I had to sit down and have a rest. It was through actual fatigue, as I’d been merrily swinging my arms about for at least a couple of hours without even the slightest hint of discomfort.
I was elated, and not just because my terribly unfit limbs had survived that much exertion after months of lockdown-induced laziness. I was happy because it instantly fixed the one big problem I had with the Quest 2, and made it exponentially more pleasant to use on a regular basis. I no longer looked at it with dread thinking, “I’m going to get a terrible headache if I put this on.” Instead, I actually started looking forward to using it at the end of a long day. I didn’t consider the Quest 2 to be a viable fitness device before I tried the Elite Strap, for example, but now I’ve actually got some incentive to get up and shake my old bones every now and again to do some actual (albeit light) exercise. I don’t think I’ve ever been more overjoyed by 50 quids worth of plastic before, and it makes the Quest 2 the proper Rift S successor I’d always hoped it would be from the start.
I said as much in my initial review of the Quest 2, but I’m now even more firmly of the opinion that the Elite Strap should have just been part of the Quest 2’s design as standard. I’d have happily paid more for the headset as a whole, rather than being made to feel like I’m being diddled out of another £50 after the fact, and it would also negate the fiddly process of putting it on, too. Yes, knocking £100 / $100 off the price of the original Quest is a much sexier marketing line than simply dropping the price by £50 / $50, but given the number of other improvements the Quest 2 brings to the table over its predecessor – from its higher refresh rate, superior lenses and higher resolution display – I’d say any reduction in price as practically a bonus at this point. Heck, even if the base 64GB Quest 2 cost as much as the first one did, I’d still heartily recommend it as my VR headset of choice if it meant we got the Elite Strap from the off instead of the naff, knobbly fabric one.
Alas, I doubt we’ll see any change on this front in the foreseeable future, and especially not until Oculus sort out whatever manufacturing fault is causing some straps to break. Maybe we’ll finally get a proper halo dial with the inevitable Quest 3? I live in hope.