Meta Quest 3S: Everything we know about the cheaper VR headset

 Meta Quest 3 review.
Credit: Future

The Meta Quest 3 is an excellent VR headset, but at $499, it’s still prohibitively expensive (even if Apple’s $3,499 Vision Pro makes it look like the budget option).

Thankfully, we’ve heard that Meta is looking into lowering the bar of entry with a cut-price version. Originally nicknamed the Quest 3 Lite by leakers, the headset has appeared under game listings in the Quest Store as the Meta Quest 3S.

Just how will Meta reduce the cost without hitting the experience? Here’s everything we know about the Meta Quest 3S so far.

Meta Quest 3S price and release date

While the Meta Quest 3S has been rumored for some time and could therefore launch at any moment, the clever money is on a late September reveal. Specifically, September 25/26 is the date for your diary, as that’s when Meta Connect 2024 is scheduled.

As for pricing, if it features cut-back hardware, it would make sense for the Quest 3S to be cheaper than the $499 Quest 3, but hoping it’ll directly replace the $299 Quest 2 is probably overly optimistic. We’d assume $349 to $399 at this point, though Meta may yet surprise us.

Meta Quest 3S design

Back in March, one leaker produced a render of a “Quest 3 Lite” headset that looked like a cross between the Quest 3 and Quest 2: the rounded stylings of the former, without any external pass-through cameras like the latter.

However, this always felt a touch dubious, given Meta’s Reality Labs Director of Engineering for XR Tech itself had written about his belief that passthrough and mixed reality should be a “standard feature on all future headsets” on the official blog.

More recently, a now-deleted post on Reddit showed slides from a purported Meta User Research Zoom meeting. It was captured for posterity on X by the leaker @Lunayian — who explained that while they couldn’t verify the images, they could confirm that Meta does carry out research sessions like these, which could easily be captured.

In any case, this image shows passthrough cameras in small triangular clusters on both sides of the headset, as opposed to the three vertical lines on the current model.

But if passthrough isn’t being cut, then what is being pared back to make the Quest 3S more affordable?

Meta Quest 3 specifications

The above leak highlights two main trade-offs, both in the lenses themselves. The first is that Meta is reportedly opting for the same core optical specs seen on the Quest 2, with a resolution of 1,832 x 1,920 per eye with a “fast-switch” LCD panel with a refresh rate of 120Hz.

But perhaps a bigger drawback is that it’s listed as reverting to fresnel lenses. One of the Quest 3’s best upgrades on the Quest 2 was the introduction of “pancake lenses” which help make graphics in your peripheral vision look sharper, making the whole experience more immersive.

Not only that, but the specs sheet lists “3-position IPD/IAD adjustment” for configuring things for your eyes — a downgrade from the IPD wheel that offered a more granular fine-tuned approach on the Quest 3. That’s no issue if you sit fine with one of the three presets, but could be problematic if you don’t.

But it’s also worth reflecting on the improvements the upcoming headset reportedly brings over the Quest 2. As mentioned in the design section, the passthrough lenses seem to be maintained, and @Lunayian believes these will match the Quest 3’s specs of 4MP color cameras for true mixed-reality experiences like those shown below.

It will also apparently match the Quest 3’s graphical grunt, with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 processor. Interestingly, this could actually give the Quest 3S an advantage over its better-specced sibling: with a lower native resolution, more demanding games may end up performing better (albeit with less visual fidelity).

Meta Quest 3S outlook

Even as it closes in on its fourth birthday, the Meta Quest 2 is still one of the best VR headsets you can buy thanks to its (relatively) budget price, generous software library, and its ability to work with a gaming PC for exclusive delights such as Half-Life: Alyx.

For some, the Quest 3 — great as it is — will be expensive overkill. The idea of a cut-back version with a cut-back price is certainly enticing, assuming that MSRP is genuinely competitive.

We’ll likely find out for sure at Meta Connect this September.