PICO 4: REVIEW
On October 18, 2022
PICO 4 REVIEW: QUESTING FOR GREATNESS
For a long time, the Meta Quest 2 was the undisputed king of standalone VR headsets, with none coming close to offering the same performance, practicality and affordability.
Now, though, that seems to have changed, with the introduction of the Pico 4. It boasts better specifications and a lower price point, so it looks to be a very enticing option.
There are more similarities, too, Pico is owned by ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok – so both of the top standalone headsets have ties to social media platforms. The battle of the metaverses has begun.
The question is, what’s the Pico 4 like in the real world? And can it truly compete with Quest 2? We’ve given the new headset a thorough testing, and here’s what we found.
- Weight: 586g
- Rigid head strap with rear battery placement
- Motorised stepless IPD adjustment
The Pico 4 clearly takes some design inspiration from the Quest 2, with its mostly-white finish and smooth curved edges. However, it adds some flair of its own with the unique glossy black front panel, which makes the headset resemble ski goggles.
We like the look, but the black panel is very prone to fingerprint smudges and collecting dust, which somewhat ruins the effect. Most of the time, you’ll be wearing it, rather than looking at it, so it’s not too much of a concern.
What’s more important is comfort, and this is an area where the Pico 4 really shines. The battery is located at the rear of the headset strap, which balances the weight across your head and makes it much more comfortable, especially for long sessions.
Comparatively, the Quest 2 has the battery located in the front, along with all the other hardware, which results in much more pressure on your face. The Pico 4 is actually the heavier of the two headsets, but because of the weight distribution it feels much lighter, it’s an excellent design.
The Pico 4 features a rigid strap design that’s very similar to the Quest 2’s Elite strap, which is sold as an optional accessory. As standard the Quest 2 comes with basic cloth straps, so the Pico 4 feels much more premium and modern by comparison.
The visor can be tilted for easy entry, then the strap can pivot down over the wearer’s head. It tightens using a wheel on the rear, kind of like a construction helmet, or the aforementioned Elite strap.
IPD adjustment is motorised and can be accessed from the menu settings within the headset. You can adjust it from 62-72mm, which should accommodate most people, and is far more flexible than the Quest 2’s system, which only offers three preset IPD positions.
Display and audio
- 2160 x 2160 resolution per eye at 72/90Hz
- Pancake lenses with a 105-degree field of view
- Integrated stereo headband speakers, Bluetooth 5.1 audio support
Moving on to the visuals and it’s more good news. We were immediately impressed with the clarity, particularly towards the edges of the frame. This is thanks to the new pancake lenses, and it’s one of the technology’s main benefits.
Of course, the resolution is higher than the Quest 2, as well, which makes things look much sharper. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the Quest 2 on hand to test side-by-side, but we’ve used Meta’s headset enough in the past to be aware that this is a step up in image fidelity.
The new lenses aren’t perfect, there’s still some susceptibility to flaring, which is particularly noticeable with a white logo on a black background. It’s certainly better than what we’ve experienced with fresnel-lensed headsets, though.
There are stereo speakers found in the headset band and they work well, sounding quite similar to the Quest 2’s speakers. We were told by friends that the headset does quite a good job of localising the sound, too, they were barely able to hear our audio from across the room. Though that’s not the case if you really crank the volume.
The headset supports Bluetooth audio output, so you can easily pair a set of earbuds if you want more immersion or privacy. There’s no 3.5mm headphone socket on the Pico 4, but it works with a USB-C to headphone adapter, if you prefer wired headphones.
Battery and controllers
- 5300 mAh battery – up to 3 hours of playtime per charge
- Qualcomm QC 3.0 20W fast charging
- Dual touch controllers powered by AA batteries (approx 80 hours)
The battery will give you around 2.5 to 3 hours of playtime per charge, which is very serviceable, but a little disappointing considering it’s a larger battery pack than the one in the Quest 2. In any case, both headsets offer around the same battery life. The Pico should charge a bit faster, though, as it supports 20W fast charging.
The battery was more than sufficient for our normal usage, but if you feel the need for more power, it’s very easy to hook up an external battery pack. In fact, because the positioning of the USB-C port and the head strap is very similar to the Quest 2, third-party battery solutions will mostly be compatible with the Pico, too.
The controllers have a button layout that’s almost identical to the Meta controllers, which is great when it comes to control scheme compatibility in games. The most notable difference with the Pico controllers is the positioning of the tracking ring. Rather than being positioned like a halo at the top of the controller, the ring wraps around the back of your hand.
This design allows you to bring your hands closer together without worrying about bashing the tracking rings. It’s perfect for in-game actions like notching an arrow, but the design means that it’s hard to figure out which one’s which at first. Thankfully, when you have the headset on, they’re labelled with “L” and “R” to keep things simple.
The controllers are powered by two AA batteries each and they’re positioned in a neat little sled to stop them from rattling. We were a little disappointed at the lack of a rechargeable solution, but the batteries should last for around 80 hours and come included in the box, so it’s hard to complain too much.
Hardware and performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2
- 8GB LPDDR4X + 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1
- 16MP colour passthrough camera
The Pico 4 uses the same Qualcomm SoC as the Quest 2, but it benefits from 2GB of additional RAM. Despite the chip having to drive a higher-resolution display, the performance was solid throughout our testing.
Navigation is fluid, games load fairly quickly and performance is rocksteady. The headset heats up a bit during extended play sessions, but a fan ramps up to keep things under control and we never found the headset to get uncomfortably warm.
There’s a 16MP colour passthrough camera on the front panel, and you can double-tap on the side of the headset to get a quick view of the room around you without needing to take it off. It’s not the most impressive camera, and it certainly struggles in low-light conditions, but it’s head and shoulders above the monochrome offering on the Quest.
Software, PC VR and accessories
- Pico OS 5.0
- Support for tethered and wireless PC VR
- Pico Motion tracker, PC dongle, case
The Pico 4 runs Pico OS 5.0, which is a specially designed VR interface based on Android. It has all the basic functions you could need and we didn’t run into any glitches while using it, but it’s a little barebones in its current state. Within a couple of weeks of having the headset, there had already been a system update, so we’re pretty confident that its functionality will improve with time.
This is the biggest advantage that the Meta Quest 2 has over the Pico 4. Since it’s been around for so long, its software and content library have had time to mature and be refined, whereas Pico has a longer road ahead of it. Considering it’s so new, it’s impressive that it works as well as it does.
The standalone game library is decent in its current state, with around 150 VR titles available to purchase. This includes some of our favourites like Space Pirate Trainer, Super Hot and Arizona Sunshine. However, there are some notable omissions, like Beat Saber, that are sorely missed.
If you own a gaming PC, you can link up the Pico 4 and enjoy these titles easily. We even found that running games from the Oculus PC app worked flawlessly, along with Steam VR. We used a USB-C cable designed for the Quest 2 to connect up and it was hassle-free using Pico’s Streaming Assistant app.
You can also stream your PC wirelessly over your home network, but our router wasn’t up to the task, if you’ve got some powerful networking gear then you might have better results. Pico is planning to release a USB dongle that will allow for wireless Wi-Fi direct steaming, this should cost around $50/£50/€50, and if it works well, we’d consider it an essential purchase for PC VR players.
Speaking of accessories, Pico also plans to launch wearable motion trackers that will allow for more accurate tracking of your legs. These trackers, combined with fitness apps like Les Mills Body Combat and Pico 4’s built-in calorie tracker, could combine to create a pretty awesome home fitness tool.