Quest: Media Resolution — What’s The Best Bang for the Buck?

I’ve seen this asked a few times on r/OculusQuest. What resolution offers the best picture with the best file size on the Quest? What is the best bang for the buck? It isn’t a simple answer; but we’re going to try to find the answer here together.

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Why is she smiling?

How much is too much?

Everyone knows that media encoded in resolutions that are higher than the target display often result in a waste of storage space and could even impact the quality of the picture. If you have a 1080p TV, it makes very little sense to purchase 4k content, right?

Likewise, if you’re watching video on your phone — even if you can display 2k or 4k video, would 1080p or even 720p look just as good (or good enough) to save you a bunch of data on your mobile plan? Valuable storage space on your SD card?

Analysis of Video

The Oculus Quest — our target display in question — has a resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye. Let’s compare that with common video resolutions.

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Hmmm…. The Oculus Quest doesn’t match any of these. From a horizontal number, we’re talking less than 1080p but higher than 720p.

From a vertical point of view, you’re talking about 1600p; lower than 4k, but higher than 1440p.

Logic says we should be more concerned with the bigger number; which in most cases is the horizontal value — but not on the Quest.

If you wanted to encode “standard” widescreen video to fit the Quest — it would be 1600p; which is far less than 4k and not much more than 1440p. So 1440p makes sense as a good “best of” number to get as close to Quest without overshooting like crazy with 4k.

For the purposes of this testing, we’ll take 4k, 1440p, 1080p and 720p of the same source material, using DVDFab — a paid tool that I have always found produces excellent quality rips and gives us full control over the process.

We will play each file with the two leading players on Quest; SkyboxVR and Pigasus VR.

Establishing the Parameters

I ripped chapter 11 of the new movie Shazam! I picked this film because it was recently shot (on digital; so it isn’t a “restored” catalog title), features high action scenes and special effects. The chapter has a good mix of lights, darks and motion as well as distinct camera changes.

Plus, it is my favorite Shazam transformation in the film. :)

I used the 4k disc as the source for the 4k rip and the included Blu-ray for the 1080p and 720p versions. For the 1440p file, I re-coded the 4k rip with DVDFab; I figured that was better than upscaling the 1080p and DVDFab wouldn’t let me rip the 4k video down to 1440p by default. It could be argued that a “second encoding” could adversely affect video quality.

I picked the modern codec H265 as my video compressor. I suspect that bit rate will impact Quest playback quality more than resolution — and that is a hypothesis I can test.

I also allowed DVDFab to use CUDA GPU acceleration (which can definitely take a hit on video quality) — but I used it consistently for the test and this is the setting I would use to rip my own media anyway.

I did not change any audio settings — we could definitely reduce file size by choosing something more Quest-friendly but that isn’t the point of this article.

Test 1 — Default Bit Rate

I allowed DVDFab to select the bit rate for this first test. It determined that the bit rate should be lower based on the resolution reduction. I allowed this “default” behavior for Test 1.

Here are the settings for 4k, 1440p, 1080p and 720p. Notice the variations in resolution, Bit Rate and Output size.

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4k Settings
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4k rip converted to 1440p
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1080p Settings
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720p Settings

For those interested, with these settings each rip took anywhere from 8 to 2.5 minutes on my mid-gen i7 with RTX 2060 GPU.

To ensure network cleanliness/congestion wasn’t a consideration, I copied all 4 files to the Quest’s internal memory. My neighbor’s porn habits on their 5ghz wifi shouldn’t be a consideration here :D

I’ve never watched Shazam! on my Quest — and first impressions can do a lot to sway one’s opinion on something like playback quality. Should I watch the 4k version first (presumably “the best”) and go down from there? Or should I start low and see what I would be “happy with” and go up from there?

I chose to start low and work my way up.

Disclaimer: “Quality” is subjective. Hardcore video aficionados may not agree with my assessment; meanwhile, “casual movie watchers” my find my rulings to be too aggressive.

I wrote these testing results DURING the watching of each video as to not be swayed by the experience as a whole.

720p

Wow, it looked great! I carefully scrutinized the video. I’m glad I chose a clip with bright lights and dark darks.

Things you would absolutely notice would be shadows on solid colors (most notable on Billy’s red hoodie as he talks to his mom) — the paint on the walls of the mom’s doorway. Things like that.

Small details were not lost; such as the text on Billy’s phone. The imperfections of Billy’s face, his mom’s cracked lips. All just fine here.

The dark rooftop of Billy’s transformation of course took a hit. It loses definition quite a bit — although the focus character still looks great. The lightning strike was dramatic and satisfying.

The smoke and snow particles don’t turn into goo like you might expect. Details of the demon’s face looked good.

The medium lighting in the house revealed a drop in quality for sure — but to be fair, I need to see the higher resolution ones to know if that was intended or not.

Patterns in darkness are really where the 720p shows its vulnerabilities — but honestly, the encoder on DVDFab really tries to hide these well and only under close scrutiny will you see them. Look at the floor of the lair as the kids are leaving and you’ll see it.

Overall, I find this TOTALLY watchable and the 9.5 minute clip only required 183mb of storage.

1080p

Moving on up to the HD standard …

Watching Billy talk to his mom, I noticed slightly better definition on the strands of her hair. The facial details didn’t seem considerably more defined but there were tiny things under great scrutiny that were visible.

The paint on the walls looked better, but Billy’s red hoodie continued to show compression artifacting like on the 720p version.

The balloons at the carnival game showed improvement on their light reflections — enough that I noticed; but what I didn’t realize was that they didn’t look as good at 720p. Worth noting.

Crowds in the background of Billy’s mom’s flashback had slightly better definition (and they should) but I wouldn’t consider it a reason to go 1080p.

The rooftop blacks got a noticeable upgrade here — mostly the light spots on the rooftop lost the compression artifacting that was visible in the 720p. Again, a good testament to the quality of the 720p encode; I had to look carefully to see this.

As Shazam stood outside talking to the villain, the snowflakes falling were definitely more visible. Inside, background elements in focus with the characters has a visible upgrade in clarity. Smoke around the demon, much like Billy’s mom’s hair, got a small boost.

I noticed compression artifacting in the darkness behind the villain as he walks toward Shazam in the lair. I do not recall seeing that in 720p. Need to go back and look.

The floor artifacting on the way out of the lair was improved.

This was an incremental boost, but coming from 720p? I wasn’t blown away.

1440p

Oddly, this copy (converted from the 4k) has the HDR applied; colors are flatter, more muted (even though we know HDR is more realistic, it was jarring).

I’ll ignore the colors and merely go with the resolution related quality.

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HDR on the right…

The artifacting seen on Billy’s hoodie is gone. Same with the paint on the walls. Mom’s name tag is much more clear.

There are small details on the background that are now more visible. Scratches on the door frame, etc. You would expect these to be more visible.

The dark rooftop looks better with the HDR changes (but that isn’t related to resolution). All the artifacting is gone that I saw before.

Once we’re at Billy’s, the higher resolution — in the mid-lights — show marked improvement. Everything took a nice little bump.

I’ve been using Skybox this whole time. At 1440p, I’ve seen a couple of playback hiccups. Worth nothing. Have to compare vs. Pigasus later.

Artifacting in the lair .. behind the villain? Gone. Same with the floor artifacting.

While the boost in resolution can be clearly seen, I’m even more sure now that a lower resolution, higher bit rate copy would produce very satisfying results.

4k

From 1440p, there isn’t a dramatic upgrade here. I’m noticing some texture improvements (like the frog plushies at the carnival booth).

The sky colors on the rooftop stand out more prominently.

The lair looked great. No issues here.

4k looks good; better slightly than 1440p. Duh, right? Is it OMG L@@K difference from the 1440p? I would say not.

I flipped back to 720p to compare right after watching the 4k version. Oh yeah, you can see the difference. A big difference. Sharpness and artfacting.

Test 1 Conclusion

For some people, the question is “Can you see the difference between 4k and 1080p on the Quest?” The answer is yes.

The better your copy, the better it looks … all the way up to 4k.

720p looked okay and 1080p was pretty good — aside from the artifacting. Let’s take 1080p and see if we can make it look better.

Test 2 — Upping the Bit Rate

To me, the 1440p was the sweet version in Test 1. The bit rate on that copy was 8839. Let’s do a 1080p with that bit rate.

After conversion, the file size was slightly bigger (6mb) than the 1440p (how … how does THAT happen?). I had ripped from the Blu ray again. What if I did a 1080p from the 4k rip, like I did the 1440p? 8mb bigger. Strange.

Alright, those are still HALF the size of 4k — how do they stand up?

I watched BOTH copies (I’m so damn sick of this clip) and here is what I found.

The Blu ray rip at 1080p with 8839 bit rate removed almost all the artifacting (yes, there is a tiny bit there — but you have to like, stare at it with your eyes partially crossed like you’re looking for the sailboat in a 3D picture from the 1990s). This happened in the light and dark scenes. Some of the details I saw in the 1440p and 4k version were visible here; the snowflakes, for example. The frog plushie textures. Was it as good as the 1440p and the 4k version? Not quite.

The 4k rip converted to 1080p was even BETTER. The compression artifacts? Gone. Using the 4k source proved the winner here. The original 1440p version takes the win by a hair — and was actually a couple MB smaller — making it the clear winner; but not by much.

Skybox vs Pigasus

Since so many people are using the free Skybox VR, I made sure that was the focus of my testing. I did go back and sample each resolution inside of Pigasus to see if there was any “wow factor” difference.

The short answer? There wasn’t. Playback seemed identical on each player — even with the 4k clips (I did not find another occurrence of Skybox stutter — so I write that off as an Android-hiccup).

Did find Mary smiling at something she shouldn’t. Watching the same clip a dozen times will help you spot that stuff.

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BTW, the Asian kid with the glasses is NEVER looking in the right spot.

Conclusion

Does 4k make a difference on the Quest? At good, high bit rates? Absolutely. If you’re getting low bit rate 4K from some other source than a disc? Your mileage is going to vary. The artifacting is a compression thing; not a resolution thing. If artifacting makes you crazy? 4K resolution with artifacting will too.

If you’re looking for 100% best quality possible? Use the highest resolution and bit rate you can find. I trust DVDFab’s bit rate of 19887 kbps; especially what I saw in my testing. At 1.3gb per about 10 minutes? It’s going to cost you in storage space and of course, this could translate into streaming issues if your network isn’t capable of delivering it at that rate.

I set out to find the “biggest bang for the buck” and in my opinion, 1440p at 8839 kbps bit rate was the hands down winner in quality, compression artifacting and in overall file size.

The downside is that you’re not going to “find” 1440p videos available for “download” anywhere. If you’re using a streaming service, you’re not going to have that available to you either (if you’re streaming? my advice is bit rate over resolution). If you “acquire” 4K videos from nefarious sources, you could always run it through DVDFab to 1440p and get a lot of storage savings with little quality loss.

However, I rip my own stuff. I typically rip at 1080p because that is what the majority of my sources are (Blu-ray) and the majority of the devices I have available for consumption throughout the house. My Shield TVs will upsample the 1080p to 4k for those displays that need it.

I have been building a nice collection of 4K discs over the last year; and if I was going to be ripping them for my home? I would probably go 1440p now, based on the quality/size comparison.

Bottom line: If you have quality 1080p, good bit rate videos? Quest is going to display them like a champ. I wouldn’t necessarily go out of your way to move to 1440p/4k — even thought you can see the quality differences of better resolution/bit rate videos.

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I write, blog, record and review anything that interests me — including humanity, parenting, gizmos & gadgets, video games and media.

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