From www.zdnet.com

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David Gewirtz/ZDNET

The thing about a 100-inch TV is that it’s big. And it’s heavy. The 98-inch TCL Class S5 that ZDNET’s Max Buondonno reviewed in March is 124 pounds and ships in a box roughly the size of a full sheet of plywood and as thick as a dozen sheets of plywood stacked.

This is not something you want to lug from your dorm room to home every semester. It’s probably not something you want to try to load into your building’s elevator to get up into your apartment. It’s not something you can watch from the bottom bunk of your bunk bed. It’s definitely not something you can take with you on your next business trip and watch in the hotel room.

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It’s also not cheap. I mean, sure, as I write this, Best Buy is offering the thing for $1,999. Amazon sells it for $2,999, and when Max wrote his article it was $2,499.

Now, look. I know that if you have the space, the budget, and are in the market for a full-size TV, you probably want a full-size TV. But what if you want a full-size TV, but don’t have the space, need it to be portable, or would prefer to spend a fraction of what that 98-inch plywood-sized behemoth costs?

Enter the Meta Quest 3. It fits on your face, which means it’s the size of something that fits on your face. You can pack it in your suitcase. The entire thing weighs a little over a pound, compared to something that needs at least two people working in concert to merely lift off the floor. And it costs $500, 1/4 to 1/6 (depending on sale prices) of the cost of the giant TV.

Also: Who’s afraid of VR? I was – until I tried Meta Quest 3

The box the Quest ships in takes up 569 cubic inches. By comparison, the box the TV comes in takes up 50,751 cubic inches. The TV takes up 89 times more cubic inchery, and by now most of you know me well enough that if I find a way to cram cubic inch calculations into an article, it’s going into an article.

The point of all this is that the Quest 3 could have been a great substitute for a giant TV in situations where a giant TV wouldn’t fit. Could have been. Unfortunately, Netflix on the Quest 3 was decidedly suboptimal. Was. No longer.

The old Quest 3 Netflix experience 

One of the very first things I tried to do when I got my Meta Quest 3 near the end of last year was watch something on Netflix. The device had a Netflix app, and watching something on a virtual big screen was an obvious use case.

Also: I bought custom lenses for my Meta Quest 3, but not every eyeglass wearer needs them. Do you?

But, at that point, the experience sucked. The Quest 3 of late 2023 was very oriented to stand-up usage. It scanned a room’s boundaries, and if you moved past or near the boundaries, it would display a virtual cage to prevent you from walking into objects.

My family room is a fairly small space, so the boundaries showed up inside everything. In the Netflix app, the boundaries showed between my viewpoint and the screen. It was like trying to watch a movie while in a shark cage.

Worse, the app insisted on planting the Netflix screen relative to the room floor. When standing, you could see the whole screen. But if you were sitting on a couch or a recliner, all you would see is the top two-thirds of the screen. To see the bottom third of the screen, you had to lean forward and look down. It wasn’t even worth leaning back in the recliner to watch. That resulted in watching just the top of the screen.

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This situation was particularly odd because the Netflix app created a virtual environment of a living room in a mountain cabin. The app itself assumed you were sitting in the center seat, right in front of the screen.

living-room.png

Netflix prevents taking screenshots of its app, so this image is from a press release about the app way back when it was first released.

Image: Netflix

But that was then. In the past month or so, Meta has released two features for the Quest devices (I’m using the Quest 3) that transform the Netflix app from awful to the device’s killer app.

Netflix on the Quest 3 now rocks.

This is Netflix on Quest 3 now 

Last March, Meta announced Lying Down Mode was coming to the Quest 3. It had previously been available for the Quest 2 and Quest Pro, but the AR passthrough mode of the Quest 3 made implementing the feature for the Quest 3 somewhat more complex.

To enable Lying Down Mode, go to Settings, select Experimental, and flip on Lying Down Mode.

lying-down-mode-lg
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Lying Down Mode lets you turn off the boundaries without having to go into Developer Mode to do it. It also lets you reposition media by simply pressing and holding the Meta button. This means that if you want to lie down and watch your Netflix on the ceiling, just look where you want the screen to be and press and hold that Meta button for a few seconds.

Also: Meta Quest 3: Is 128GB enough, or should you get the 512GB version?

So that’s the first mode that makes Netflix a killer app. Frankly, this mode alone makes the whole Netflix experience particularly chill.

Travel mode

The second mode is Travel Mode, and this, frankly, is a bit more questionable as a viable Netflix-enabling solution. Travel Mode enables you to use the Quest 3 in a moving vehicle. Normally, the Quest 3 analyzes its location, so it knows where the headset is in physical space. But put the headset on in a car or a train, and the device gets very confused.

Also: How to use your Meta Quest in a moving car (as a passenger!)

With Travel Mode on, the device knows not to worry about reference points changing in physical space and lets you use the device while some of the area around is changing dynamically.

Travel Mode can be toggled on or off from the Quick Settings menu.

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Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

The complicating factor with Travel Mode is that Netflix requires a constant internet connection. There’s no supported or legal way to download Netflix content prior to travel. So if you have a Wi-Fi hotspot that’s able to retain a good signal, and are willing to incur any hotspot fees your carrier wants to slap you with, Travel Mode could work for you.

But if you’re traveling where you can’t get a good signal, or your carrier is particularly nasty about hotspot fees, this mode might not be for you, at least as it pertains to Netflix viewing.

There are some possible hacks. This Reddit thread talks about a couple of different approaches. If you want to go that way, good luck. Let me know how it works out for you.

Two ways to watch Netflix

There are two ways to watch Netflix on the Quest 3. The first is in the Netflix app. This appears to be a years-old app that presents video only in 720p. That’s the one with the nice living room immersive environment.

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To be fair, the 720p resolution is just fine for basic dramas without a lot of flashy visuals or special effects. I watched some old episodes of Madam Secretary and Designated Survivor, and both were really enjoyable in the simulated living room environment, even with the lower-resolution screen.

This month, however, Netflix added browser support. This means you can watch Netflix in the Quest 3 browser at 1080p resolution.

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Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

The browser experience is pretty complete. There’s a menu at the bottom of the screen. It lets you choose screen size and VR mode. I found that screen size worked just fine. I didn’t notice any differences when I toggled through the various VR modes.

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Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

I tried watching Star Trek: Prodigy, which is a gorgeous animated program, in the browser in Jumbo mode. It was quite spectacular. The increase in video resolution in the browser over the older Netflix app is very noticeable with programs like Prodigy.

You can move the screen using either the handle on the window or by click-holding the Meta button. If you resize the browser window itself, you can watch while in an immersive environment. If you hit the Netflix zoom button and resize using one of the menu options shown above, the immersive environment goes away and you’re just watching the screen on a dark background.

Passthrough mode works in either case. Double-tap the side of your headset to be plunged back into the real world. Seeing the jumbo screen projected over my regular TV was… humbling.

Don’t forget that others can hear what’s playing in your headset. If you want real privacy, consider pairing a set of earbuds to your Quest. Here’s how:How to pair AirPods to your Quest 3 (and not annoy people next to you).

As for the Quest 2, you can watch Netflix on the Quest 2, but the video quality isn’t as good. While the Quest 2 will get you there, it’s harder to make the case that it can be a replacement for a large-screen TV.

Why Netflix is Meta Quest 3’s killer app

Netflix on the Quest 3, especially in 1080p in browser mode, is quite something. It is, I believe, a killer app for the Quest 3.

While the term “killer app” can be applied in a variety of ways, it’s commonly accepted that a killer app is a software product that sells its associated hardware. It is, effectively, a system seller. For the longest time, for example, Halo was the killer app for the Xbox.

Killer app also implies that the appeal is across many buyers. There are a number of great special-purpose VR applications that may convince one subgroup or another to buy (like, for example, augmented reality maintenance software). But while those maintenance users might buy the Quest 3 for the software, it’s not broad-appeal enough to be considered a killer app.

The Quest 3 is a surprisingly nice headset, especially for the price. But I don’t see any game on it as a killer app. Fitness apps are great, and some folks might buy a Quest 3 for a particularly engaging fitness app. But again, the appeal isn’t across the entire platform.

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But Netflix on the Quest 3… that I can see selling a lot of headsets. It offers incredible flexibility, provides a solution for large-screen entertainment that might not be attainable otherwise, and the quality is excellent — all for a price reasonably accessible to most consumers.

Yes, the headset is a little uncomfortable to wear. But I have to say that the experience is really quite pleasant. I’ve even used it at home, instead of my big screen TV, just to be able to escape into a quiet environment away from the hustle and bustle of my normally busy household.

Now, if only The Umbrella Academy Season 4 would show up on the streamer, this experience would be complete.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly update newsletter, and follow me on Twitter/X at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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The post Netflix is now Meta Quest 3’s killer app, thanks to these two new modes first appeared on www.zdnet.com

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