YouTube got an 8K upgrade on the Meta Quest

Looking closely at the lenses on the Meta Quest 3
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Update 4/18 7:45am: Made corrections regarding 360-degree video resolution and linked to some examples of 360-degree videos working in 8K on the Meta Quest 3.

What you need to know

  • Version 1.54 of the official YouTube VR app on the Meta Quest now supports 8k (4320p) SDR video.
  • HDR video is still limited to 4K.
  • Google is likely laying the groundwork for the YouTube VR app to run at 8K on higher-resolution Android XR headsets, which will come later this year.

Google has been on a roll with YouTube VR updates lately, and the company's latest update on the Meta Quest platform now supports 8K SDR videos. As long as you're on YouTube VR app version 1.54 or higher, any non-HDR video that's been uploaded in 8K should give you the option to play it at full resolution.

Below is a screenshot of a clip from The Avengers running at 8K in the YouTube VR app on the Meta Quest 3.

Watching The Avengers in 8k in the YouTube VR app on the Meta Quest 3

(Image credit: YouTube VR screenshot by Android Central)

To find content in 8K, you'll just need to search for "8K videos" within the YouTube VR app. When you pull up a video, tap the video settings icon in the bottom left and select 4320p from the list of available options. Keep in mind that HDR videos will still only play at a maximum resolution of 4K for now. Below is a screenshot of what the player looks like when selecting 4320p resolution.

(Image credit: YouTube VR screenshot by Android Central)

Note that YouTube doesn't have a ton of 8K content just yet, but the number of 8K videos on the platform is growing. If you want to see some 360-degree 8k videos, check out Hugh Hou's channel as supported 8k 360-degree content is difficult to find.

This update comes after Google updated YouTube VR for the release of the Meta Quest 3, supporting "tablet" mode so you can watch videos while still seeing the real world around you thanks to the headset's upgraded mixed reality cameras. To switch between immersive and tablet modes, just click the icon at the top of the YouTube player that looks like two arrows pointing at each other.

8K videos but no 8K headset?

But this latest update begs the question: why? The Meta Quest 3's displays look great but they aren't quite 4K resolution, let alone 8K. Regardless, I checked out a handful of videos for myself and saw that there's a notable quality difference between 4K and 8K when viewing them in headset.

Just as with the toggles between 720p, 1080p, and 4K, each resolution increase also comes with a bitrate increase that helps reduce compression artifacts and make videos look crisper. Still, an 8K video viewed through the Meta Quest 3's fairly limited resolution won't blow you away the way a TV of the same size and full 8K resolution would.

The biggest problem right now is finding 360-degree content that also supports 8k resolution. While you'll find plenty of videos that sport these specs, the YouTube player on the Meta Quest is very picky about what 360-degree videos it will let you run at 8k.

But I surmise that this update isn't really for the Meta Quest platform at all. Instead, it's rumored that Google will be showing off Android XR at Google I/O 2024 — that's the company's upcoming special version of Android built for mixed reality headsets — and YouTube VR in 8K could be a centerpiece to the company's plans to launch an Apple Vision Pro competitor with Samsung later this year.

The Samsung XR headset is said to be launching later this year and would utilize extremely high-resolution OLED displays that could potentially take advantage of the newfound resolution boost in YouTube VR. That, alongside the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 that's said to be powering it, could help Samsung differentiate itself from Meta's gaming-focused headsets.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu