Pico Neo 3 Link Review: A good start for Bytedance in the consumer market


Today I finally review for you the Pico Neo 3 Link! I had a lot of delays in writing this article (sorry Pico, sorry VR community), but I promise you that it will be deep and detailed… as you like the posts on my website

Pico Neo 3 Link Video Review

For the ones of you that don’t like walls of text, I have prepared an extensive video review of the unit, where I talk about all its features, and I compare them with the ones of the Quest 2 and the Pico Neo 3 Pro.

If you prefer reading instead, well, go on!

Pico Neo 3 Link

People playing with Pico Neo 3 Link headsets (Image by Pico)

Pico Neo 3 Link is the consumer-oriented version of the Pico Neo 3 Pro, which was sold in the West as an enterprise headset. Bytedance acquired Pico one year ago, and of course, the owner of TikTok doesn’t want to just stay in the enterprise niche, but it wants to expand to the consumer sector and directly compete with Meta and Quest 2.

The first step in this direction is the Pico Neo 3 Link, which was announced at Laval Virtual, and which basically is the way Bytedance is going to test the waters of consumer VR. It is the same hardware as the Pico Neo 3 Pro, but with a different consumer-oriented runtime, which is being sold in limited quantities in selected European countries. If this limited test proves to be successful, Pico will release soon a new headset dedicated to worldwide VR consumers.

Considering the rumors and the leaks about the Pico 4 and Pico 4 Pro, I bet that the test has already been successful and Bytedance is preparing to launch in these days two new headsets that should be able to compete both with Quest 2 (Pico 4) and Quest Pro (Pico 4 Pro). It is so interesting to analyze the Pico Neo 3 Link to understand what led to the success of this “beta” phase.

Side view of Pico 4 controllers

A note on this article

Thanks to Pico who sent me a unit, I’m going to review for you the Pico Neo 3 Link. I’m in a quite weird situation because hardware-wise, Pico Neo 3 Link is the same as Pico Neo 3 Pro, which I have already reviewed in detail in another article. I was in doubt about what to do, if updating the previous post or writing a new one, then I went for this route, also because I noticed that this year there has been also some serious updates of the runtime, so there are a few new interesting things to write. I will highlight in this post what are the differences I have found with respect to my previous review. For the things that have not changed (like the design of the headset)… well, I will resort to the old good copy-paste of text and images (sorry for my laziness)

Specifications

Qualcomm XR2 chipset

4K low-persistence 90/120 Hz Curved Display
3664 x 1920 resolution, 773 PPI
90Hz with support for 120Hz

98° FOV

6GB RAM (2133 Mhz)
256GB storage
Wi-Fi 6 connectivity
USB-C 3.0 connector with OTG
3 Physical IPD adjustments
Optical Positional tracking, with 4 tracking cameras
Cameras have 400×400 resolution and run at 120Hz
Maximum 10m x 10m tracking area and mm-precision accuracy

Optical Tracked Controllers, with 32 tracking points
5300 mAh battery, for around 2.5-3h of usage
Integrated audio, with 3.5mm jack to connect external headphones
Wi-fi streaming or tethered streaming via DisplayPort to SteamVR integrated in the runtime
Android 10 operating system
Pico SDK for development

Unboxing

Me unboxing the Pico Neo 3 Link

The box of the Pico Neo 3 Link is completely different from the one of the Pico Neo 3 Pro. It looks inspired by the one of the Quest 2, with white and purple being its prominent colors, and a list of the most important games printed on it. It is just bigger than the Quest 2 one.

Inside the box, the headset, controllers, and accessories are stored in a tidy way. I haven’t found this unboxing experience special, but I found it anyway more elegant than all my previous unboxings with Pico’s headsets. This sensation of improvement is something you will find throughout my review, and it poses well for the future of Pico.

The box includes the headset, controllers, power adapter, a USB-C cable, and an instricutions manual, exactly like for the Pro. But in this consumer headset, you also find a glass spacer, and a nose adapter to reduce light leaks, which shows the attention that Pico is trying to have to guarantee maximum comfort to its users. The big happy news from the unboxing is that the 5m DisplayPort cable for tethered streaming of the headset is included in the box for free. Considering that its cost was €55, it is a very happy surprise!

Design

Visually speaking, Pico Neo 3 Link looks like a less-refined Quest 2. While Oculus cares a lot about the design of its units and polishes all the details of the external aspect, Pico is more practical, because it comes from the enterprise world, so it offers a design that is nice, but that bends to the needs of what can be functional. For instance, the front metal vent is very important to make the internals of the headset not get too warm, but it ruins a bit the aesthetics of the headset. The same holds for the too many buttons around the device: they are useful but are not beautiful. All in all, it’s a nice and elegant headset, but it looks like it could have been better. What I like a lot, instead, is that Pico is keeping its flagship dual-color design, and the headset is white and black. This is something original in a VR world where all the headsets are usually just monochrome.

Front view

Looking at the headset from the front, we can see the 4 tracking cameras, that are arranged in a way similar to the ones of the Quest 2, and the air vent.

Left view

From the left, we can start appreciating the headband that goes around the head of the user, and which is made in plastic and is far more elegant than the solution offered by Oculus with the standard Quest 2 strap.

Right View

The vision from the right is similar, but we can also find here the usual 3-buttons setup of all Pico’s headsets. These buttons can be used in place of the ones of the controllers, to make you use the device without having to hold anything in hand.

Top view

From the top, you can appreciate the whole fitting mechanism, with the top elastic band and the plastic crown that goes all around the head of the user. On top of the headset, there is the power button, the status led, the USB-C port, the USB-C connector for DisplayPort, a hole to screw the DP cable, and one of the microphones (the one for noise suppression).

Bottom view

On the bottom, instead, there are the volume buttons, the 3.5mm jack for connecting external headphones, and the main microphone of the device.

Back view

On the back, you can see the battery of the device, and the knob to close the headband around your head.

Internal view

Inside there is the facemask, the light sensor, and two lenses that can be moved left-right in 3 preset positions within the IPD adjustment mechanism.

This is the only part where there is a physical difference with the Pico Neo 3 Pro hardware: the internal facemask is not made in leatherette, but it is quite soft and covered with fabric. We will discuss about this in the comfort section of this post, but for now you can enjoy in the image below the difference between the facemaks of the two devices.

Look at the difference in the facemask of the Pico Neo 3 Pro (right) and Pico Neo 3 Link (left)

Visuals

The visuals of the Pico Neo 3 are very good. The 4K display offers very crisp visuals, with almost no screen door effect: as I said for Quest 2 and Focus 3, the pixels are so little that become like noise or aliasing that you can notice sometimes, but it is impossible to see the pixels grid. Colors have a different balancing than on Quest 2, and appear more contrasted, with the result of looking a bit unnatural in some scenes, but of giving you brighter and more colorful visuals. As with all LCD displays, blacks are washed out. 90Hz offers a good refresh rate, but you can activate a 120Hz mode that can give you smoother action in games like Eleven Table Tennis.

Through the lens image of the Pico Neo 3 Link. The quality of the image is very good

The FOV of 98° appears slightly smaller than the one of Quest and surely smaller than the one of Focus 3. This is clearly noticeable, and gives more the impression of looking through binoculars, but it also contributes to giving this headset a higher pixel density (773 PPI) that can improve the sense of realism. There have been some moments in which, looking in front of me, especially in PCVR games like Half-Life: Alyx, I had the impression that what I saw was real, and I lost totally myself in virtual reality for some seconds: this tells you how much the visuals of Pico Neo 3 are good because of its pixel density.

At this point, in my previous review, I highlighted all the problems of pupil swim and aberrations present in the Pico Neo 3 Pro. These are problems that haunt all Pico headsets for years. With pupil swim, I mean the lens distortions that create a weird effect when you rotate your head: basically, you see all the visuals around you slightly distort following your head rotation, because the same object seen from the center of the lens appears slightly different in the periphery of the vision, so rotating your head you can see the reality around you to slowly bend and this is a bit annoying. Then there are the chromatic and spheric aberrations: the more you look through the periphery of the lenses, the more the visuals become blurred and colors start to decompose in their red, green, and blue components. 

A Fresnel lens of the Pico Neo 3 Link

These two problems are still present, and show why the visuals of Quest 2 look more polished. But, compared to one year ago, they have improved a lot. Especially the pupil swim, it is still there, but it has become much more subtle, and to notice it in games I have to really focus on it. My brain notices it because our brains are good at detecting every possible problem in our perception, but it is a really slight sensation now. And as for the aberrations, now they are visible only in the periphery of the vision, and the sweet spot when they are not noticeable is much larger than before. I can say without any doubt that these have been the best visuals I have seen on a Pico headset until now. There is still a step to do to arrive at Quest levels, but Pico is on the right path.

Audio

Integreatd speaker on the headband of the Pico Neo 3 Link

The integrated speakers are not the best headphones you have ever had, but they do their job pretty well: the audio is crisp and loud, and I was able to play every experience without the need of wearing external headphones. I also played Oh Shape, a Web XR clone of Beat Saber, Ragnarock, and other music games and I found the integrated speakers good for the task. As usual with integrated speakers, they are not great with bass frequences, but if you are not an audiophile, you should be ok with that.

Again, Valve Index and Vive Focus 3 have better audio solutions, but this one does its job, and if you are an audio purist, you can always wear some Sennheiser headphones using the 3.5mm jack and live VR as you like.

Comfort

Pico has kept in this Neo 3 series more or less the same design choices as the Pico Neo 2, and since the Pico Neo 2 was comfortable, the Pico Neo 3 is comfortable too. I am used to Quest 2, and when I wear Pico Neo 3 on my head, the first impression that I have is the one of increased comfort, with the weight distributing quite well all over my head. The battery on the back is the winning choice by Pico: since it counterweights the weight of the headset on the front, it can make the device feel balanced.

The crown that goes around your head, plus the top rubber headband in the Pico Neo 3 series (photo shot with the Pro)

The fitting mechanism is comprised of a top couple of elastic rubber headbands that are fixed in position and a lateral plastic crown that can loosen/tighten around your head with the usual knob in the back. The top fitting mechanism just lets you choose between two measures: small and big, with a quite unique mechanism that is typical of Pico’s headsets. You have two top headbands, with one being smaller than the other: if your head is small, you leave things as they are, so your head fits on the smaller internal band, otherwise, you remove the small headband to use only the big one. I am not a big fan of the top headbands because they can’t be adjusted, so I can’t totally adapt them to fit the exact shape of my head.

Removing the internal headband to make the device fit better with my big head

While this is a bit frustrating, it is also true that it makes the fitting mechanism faster because every new user has just to put the headset on and close the back knob: this operation just needs a few seconds and is fantastic in exhibitions where the users must be onboarded very fast. The lateral plastic crown looks solid, even more resistant than the Focus 3 one… and it has not broken yet, so it is better than Quest 2 Elite Strap (ouch).

Overall, the headset feels more balanced than the Quest, but it is still a bit front-heavy, and during long VR sessions, I started feeling discomfort on my forehead and I had to take a break. The headset is more balanced than the Quest 2, but it is not perfectly balanced as the Focus 3, so in the long run, you feel the weight on your forehead… and when you remove the headset, you find red marks on your face.

Red signs after one hour of use of the Pico Neo 3 Pro. With the Link, I had the exact same effect

During my first sessions with the Link, I had a lot of discomfort, but then I noticed that I was wearing it the wrong way: my advice for you is to adjust it so that you can feel that the weight is being lifted first of all by the top headband, and then close it with the knob. If you wear it on your forehead first (like the Quest), you will apply too much pressure on your face, and the discomfort will be too much. If you wear it the right way, the device feels better than the Quest 2.

What I find weird is that for my face, the Neo 3 Link less comfortable than the Neo 3 Pro. While I could feel the facemask of the Pro embracing completely my face, the one of the Link had a shape not perfectly compatible with it, and I also had a visible light leak next to my nose. Luckily there is a rubber accessory to reduce the light leak, but trying it I had a very little positive effect.

Pico Neo 3 Link with nose adapter installed

Furthermore, the facemask covered in fabric has a material that is more comfortable than the leatherette of the Pro, but playing games like Superhot or Oh Shape, it started soaking in sweat. The fabric facemask is soft, but not completely fluffy, so it has good comfort, but not an amazing one. At the end of the day, instead of having a moderate increase in material comfort, I would have preferred less sweat and less light leaking, so I would still go for the Neo 3 Pro facemask.

The user can change its IPD parameter in the same way it is possible to do on Quest 2: there are 3 possible positions of the lenses, and you can put them closer or farther away by moving them with your fingers. It works, but it is not ideal, especially if your eyes do not fit in one of those 3 preset positions.

Me adjusting the lenses on my Pico Neo 3 Pro. With the Neo 3 Link, the mechanism is identical

In my previous review of the Pro, I highlighted how I could perceive some fresh air blowing on my eyes while I was playing. I had not the same sensation with the Link.

Controllers

The controllers of the Pico Neo 3 Link

Pico Controllers look like elongated Quest 2 controllers. The input mechanism is the same already available on all the most recent headsets: two triggers, two buttons, and a thumbstick for the input and one system button, with the addition of another back button that is not standard on other headsets, but can be handy in some contexts.

Front view

Back view

From the promotional videos, the controllers looked cheap to me, but actually, I can tell you that they are pretty good and the material feels solid, with the exception of the connection between the ring and the controller body, which looks a bit fragile. Smashing it two or three times during my play sessions has not broken it, though, so it’s more resistant than it seems. The grip is also very good.

The controllers need two AA batteries, double of what Quest 2 requires. Pico tried to make the controllers’ plastic lighter to counteract this, but they result anyway 15g heavier than the ones of the completion, and I feel them being slightly more tiring to use in the long run. Anyway, they are very balanced, so during normal use, they feel very well in the hand.

Pico Neo 3 Link controller and batteries

If I analyze their comfort carefully, I have to say that the position that my hand assumes when wearing them can never be ideal to be able to operate all the buttons comfortably at the same time, so I have to micro-adjust my hand depending on if I have to use more the triggers or the top buttons and the thumbstick for instance. So, the comfort could be improved, but it is actually already good.

Pico Neo 3 controller in my hand

What is amazing is the battery management: exactly like Facebook, also Pico has managed to optimize the battery consumption of the controllers, and according to the runtime, they still sit at 100% charge after my usage sessions to write this review. This is amazing.

A final detail is about how it’s always cool that you can use Pico headsets even without controllers: there are three buttons on the right side of the HMD (trigger, back button, home button), that you can use the operate the headset in point-and-click mode even if you don’t have the controllers in hands. This is super handy if you want to provide some simple inputs (e.g. to launch a movie), because you can do that while remaining hands-free.

Tracking

Tracking of Pico Neo 3 is surely good, both for what concerns the headset and the controllers. And I mean, really good.

The tracking is solid, reliable, and accurate. I tried to move fast my head and my hands and the tracking almost never failed and never drifted.

I found tracking to be good, but it is not as amazing as Oculus Insight, though. For instance, if you put one controller in front of the other, the one in the back has little tracking issues and you can see it drifting a bit. Or if the controllers get too close to the headset, they lose tracking and then they snap when they getstracked again; or they snap also sometimes when they enter fast into your field of view from the bottom. But these are all tiny problems that I have actively searched for… the average user will never have problems for them, because they never ruin the user experience. I also have to say that Pico has improved in this sense, too: the headset tracking seems more fluid than one year ago, and also the virtual counterparts of the controllers don’t wobble anymore when you keep them still.

There is a Guardian system, that tracks you up to 10m x 10m, and it works pretty well. Its only problem is that it rarely recognizes your room, so many times you turn the headset on, you have to re-set your play area. Luckily, there is a fast configuration mode that lets you configure a cylindrical area with a few presets, so you can do this operation pretty fast.

Battery

Pico claims a battery duration of around 2-3 hours, and this is what I have also verified with my personal tests. The problem of battery duration is present in all the standalone headsets around here, and if you want to use them for many hours, you had better buy some power banks. I noticed an improvement with regard to the Pro review also on this topic, though: I have the impression the battery duration is now more towards the 3 hours mark than the 2 hours one. Even when playing Superhot or Eleven Tennis, the battery didn’t drain as fast as I was expecting, and this is a very good sign.

As I’ve said before, instead the controllers have very good power management, and their batteries last for very long.

Computational power

All the main features of the Qualcomm XR2 chipset (Image by Qualcomm)

Pico Neo 3 Pro features Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 and so it has more or less the same capabilities as Quest 2. This is a standalone headset, and as such, it can’t give you the same amazing graphical quality of a PC with an RTX card, and all applications running on it should be simplified and optimized. I guess Neo 3 has not the same super active cooling mechanism as Vive Focus 3, so the XR2 on it is probably underclocked.

Production Quality

In my previous review of the Neo 3 Pro, I complained about some little imperfections in the manufacturing, like the face gasket having visible glueing or the controller triggers squeaking. I had zero of these issues with the Neo 3 Link, so I guess that the manufacturing quality has improved a lot.

Runtime and User Interface

I have made a video to give you a tour of how is the runtime of this headset.

Discover the Pico runtime with me!

There’s not much to say here: the UI is similar to the first-iteration UI of Quest: there is the Guardian system that you can draw on the floor, or you can set it up fast using some pre-set static cylindrical shapes. After you set it up, you arrive at your home environment, with a menu where you can buy games from the store or play them from your library, you can browse the files on your device, and you can also change the settings. A new feature for the Link is the addition of a fitness tracker, which is “heavily inspired” by Oculus Move. The fitness tracker tracks whatever movement you do with the headset and tries to understand how many calories you are burning. It lets also set you some daily goals to stay fit while using VR.

Fitness tracker of the Pico Neo 3 Link

This is a headset that stems from the enterprise world, so the visual interface is not that fancy: the menus are a bit rougher than the ones of Quest 2, and also the colors less exciting. For instance, when you trigger the Wi-Fi advanced settings, it still opens up the crude Android settings. There are also some small problems with the interactions: sometimes a click from my controllers gets interpreted as a drag operation because I slightly moved my hand while pressing the trigger button, so I have to keep my controllers very steady if I want to click on a button. Anyway, I have found the UX to be overall ok.

I have found no way of using the UI with just my hands: Pico mentioned it was working on hand tracking, and I think that it should implement that pretty fast because the ability to use your hands is great so people do not have to mess with controllers to perform simple tasks.

It is cool that you can now select among three home environments, perform some slight customizations on them, and you can freely move through teleporting inside them, even if the teleporting mechanic is a bit rough. They are not interactive and the home environment is not social, so this becomes boring after a while, but it is good that there is this possibility.

I also liked the integrated menu to take photos and screenshots directly from inside the runtime. If you double press the Pico button, video recording starts automatically, and this shortcut is very handy for us content creators.

It is possible to activate a shortcut for passthrough vision like on Quest 2. The visuals of the passthrough look like the ones the Quest had in a previous iteration: they look a bit distorted, with the elements appearing a bit smaller than they actually are.

Talking about settings, enterprise-greade features like Kiosk mode or VPN setup have been removed.

When you are playing an experience, you can press the Home button on your controllers to summon a small menu that lets you close the application, or start a recording, or start a screencast operation. It is similar in functionality to what happens on the Quest, but it is flatter and put at a bigger distance, so it usually causes a bit of depth mismatch with the 3D objects of the game you are playing and that are in its same position.

Content

Content is where Pico made its biggest jump forward. When I reviewed the Neo 3 Pro, there were already some good games that had been ported to it, but now the amount of quality games has increased a lot. On the Neo 3 Link you can find popular titles like Demeo, Contractors, Eleven Table Tennis, Superhot VR, Puzzling Places, Cubism, Walkabout Minigolf, After The Fall, together with good indie titles like Crisis Vrigade 2. There are still a few weird Chinese games, but their amount is very small if compared to the quality titles.

There are enough games to have many hours of high-quality VR in this headset. The catalog is not as rich as Quest 2’s one, and especially it lacks Meta’s exclusive titles like Beat Saber or Population One. But it is already a very good collection of games… and the good news is that it is improving day by day. Bytedance is investing a lot in funding developers to port present or future games to Pico, so now it’s common to see that the release of upcoming games is both for Quest and Pico headsets. It looks like Pico is becoming as enticing as Steam for VR developers, especially indie ones. We too of New Technology Walkers made a porting of HitMotion: Reloaded for Pico Neo 3 Link, even if it is not available in the store, yet.

It is thanks to these present great games and the positive outlook for the future that I’m very confident about Pico/Bytedance being the first credible competitor to Meta. Content is the king, and Pico is the first brand that is able to offer a headset that has a price comparable to the one of Quest, and with a high-quality content library. I have a personal love for Vive Focus, but it has never been able to compete on these two points (especially the price). Pico is instead doing that, and it is remarkable.

And it is even more remarkable that Pico is not betting only on games, but it is investing in different kinds of content. As you will discover when I will publish my interview with my friend Nikk Mitchell, Pico in China is funding a lot of VR concerts, for instance. And in the store, you can try non-gaming content like Gravity Sketch, too.

I had fun playing with content on Pico Store. With my previous review I had to try some weird enterprise applications, which included a toilet filled with puke (seriously!), while with this one, I relaxed with Walkabout Minigolf, sweated with Superhot, and discovered the amazing ping pong offered by Eleven Table Tennis.

Me playing Eleven Table Tennis

The only problem is that exactly like for the interface of the runtime, I had some bugs here and there: for instance, Eleven Table Tennis was not working the first time I executed it, and I had a crash when running another game.

Final notice on WebXR. Pico Neo 3 link comes with the Pico Browser, which is WebXR compliant. On its home page, they already shortlisted a few cool WebXR websites you can try, and for instance, I played a web-based rhythm game. This is another way through which will be possible to enjoy content on the device.

Login and Privacy

Pico Neo 3 Link requires a Pico account to work and access the store. You can easily create it in a few minutes. Currently, I saw no connections with TikTok inside the headset, but I’m sure they are going to create some bridges in the future.

Privacy-wise, now Pico consumer headsets adhere to the Bytedance privacy policies and terms of service, which are more or less the same set up for TikTok. I honestly preferred the situation that was before, with Pico being a startup and not part of a big brand which bases its revenues on advertisement.

Companion app

Exactly like Meta, also Pico created its companion app for smartphones. It is “heavily inspired” by the Meta Quest app, but it has not all its features, yet. You can see its interface here:

In the app you can navigate the store and buy content: the content will then appear automatically in the library of your headset. You can perform some simple configurations on your device (like setting up the wifi), you can modify some data on your account, you can redeem the code of a gifted game, and do some special operations like sending an URL to your headset so that to open it automatically on the Pico Browser.

Sending a link to the Pico Browser

You can use it with all your Pico devices, not only the Pico Neo 3 Link. It is anyway not mandatory to use it, and I did all my first part of the review without even knowing about its existence. It is anyway a handy tool that can be useful to buy content on the go, for instance.

Streaming

Pico Neo 3 natively supports tethered and Wi-fi streaming from a nearby PC to let you play SteamVR games on your standalone headset. To perform it, you have to install a streaming app on your PC and a driver for SteamVR. The app is ironically called Pico Link (because its name is “heavily inspired” by the Oculus Link), so… you must use the Pico Link for the Pico Neo 3 Link. Yo dawg. The app is an evolution of the Streaming assistant available before, and it has become much more user friendly, including the removal to all the parts that were still written in Chinese before.

Wi-fi streaming is a bit sub-par. I have tried it on the same PC and the same network where I launched also Virtual Desktop, and while Virtual Desktop streaming on Quest 2 was great, on Pico Neo I could see either visible visual artifacts or a huge lag in case I raised the quality settings. I think that the Chinese company has still to work a lot on its wireless streaming solution. I found with wi-fi streaming exactly the same issues I found one year ago, and this is very disappointing.

Wired streaming is instead the feature that I loved the most about this headset. Pico doesn’t use USB streaming like Oculus Quest or Vive Focus 3 but uses DisplayPort streaming: using a special proprietary cable, you can connect the headset (via a USB-C port) to your graphics card (via DisplayPort). This means that your standalone device de facto becomes a PC VR headset connected with your graphics card. The visual quality and the fluidity of such a connection are superior to the ones of Oculus Link, and with the 4K display, you can have amazing clarity for your PCVR experiences. I totally loved this feature and I think every headset should implement it. If you want to read more about it, you can head to my full review about it.

When trying Half-Life: Alyx with this streaming mode, I always remain stunned, because thanks to the 4K resolution of the screen, and the very high pixel density, the realism of the scene becomes impressive. It’s probably the best way I have ever enjoyed Half-Life: Alyx with a consumer-oriented headset. If you read (or watch) the review (from 2021) I linked above, you will find that I complain about the pupil swim when using DisplayPort streaming. But now that pupil swim is almost gone, DisplayPort streaming with Pico Neo is literally amazing. I can’t even describe it, you must try it: zero lag, super-high resolution… it is incredible. The only nuisance is that you have to screw the DP cable onto the headset, so if you want to use the headset in hybrid mode you have to continuously screw and unscrew it… but for all the rest, it is fantastic. This is a super-power that the Quest 2 doesn’t have at all.

Through the lens of Half-Life: Alyx when used on my Pico Neo 3 Link via DisplayPort streaming

SDK and developer opportunities

Pico SDK has improved a lot lately, and finally, it has embraced Unity.XR. This means that if you have developed your application using Unity XR and Unity XR Interaction Toolkit, you can port your application that already runs on Quest to Pico Neo in just a few hours. This is great news for us developers, because it means we can develop a VR app for Quest, Pico, and Focus using exactly the same SDK provided by Unity! I am the proof of this process, because in the occasion of Pico Neo 3 Link announcement in Laval, I did the porting of our fitness game HitMotion: Reloaded myself from Quest 2 to Pico 3… and it just took me a few hours! For my ability of porting content fast, I was even featured in a slide for the official launch of Pico Neo 3 Link! I felt honored.

Hey mom, it’s me!

Pico is also already working in integrating OpenXR. It is already available in the native SDK, and according to the company, it is coming to the Unity SDK soon. This means that soon we will be able to build an APK for Quest and use it on Pico, too!

Given all these facitilities, I would suggest developers that are building content for Quest to evaluate a porting to Pico, also because the Pico Store is open and Bytedance is actively funding content. This is a great opportunity for all indie VR developers.

The documentation of the SDK needs some polish, though. I tried to access the camera frames as it was suggested in the docs, and it didn’t work for me. Also sometimes there are some clear orthographic errors in the docs.

I have also found found that passthrough AR is finally availble in the SDK documentation. It is also possible to access camera images for further analysis (e.g. object detection), something that on Quest is not available.

Miscellanea

Me and my two Pico Neo 3 devices

Some sparse information I did not know where to write:

Pico Neo 3 Link features passthrough vision, but it looks darker and much noisier than the one of Quest 2
Pico Neo 3 offers an open ecosystem, and compatibility with external accessories and software
I noticed that 2D images on the store or on the browser got a “3D effect”. I can’t even describe it, but for instance in the footer of my blog there is the drawing of ghost on a blue background and it is a standard PNG. If I look at it inside the Pico Browser, it appears as if the ghost is on a layer that is closer to me than the band, as that image had depth. I don’t know how this is possible, not even if it is a feature, or something happening by chance… but it intrigues me.

Price and availability

Pico Neo 3 Link and controllers

Pico Neo 3 Link costs €449/£399. Its price is very competitive, because after Meta raised its prices, it has the same price of the base Quest 2, but offering improved comfort with a rigid strap, 256 GB storage, and an included 5m Display Port cable for DP streaming. That is, for the same price, it offers much more. It is the first time I see Meta not being competitive on price anymore.

Pico Neo 3 Link is currently a test that Bytedance is performing to see if the VR community is interested in its devices. It is so only available in selected market in Europe, like Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, France, Italy and UK and only through selected resellers (you can find the list at the end of this article). This beta program, which is meant to sell 25,000 units, will run until the end of September. Whoever has taken part in it will receive a 35% discount on the upcoming Pico 4.

Final considerations

This is a good device

I think the Pico Neo 3 Link is a good device. The visuals are crisp, the audio is good, the tracking is accurate, the content catalog is rich, and the price is affordable. And it also has the superpower of tethered streaming which is impressive and unique in the market. I can only praise this headset for what it offers.

And I’m also positively impressed by its growth. We all praise Meta for how fast it evolves the Quest 2, but also Pico made a good job. I was almost sure this review could have been a copy-paste of last year’s one, while actually, I discovered the headset is evolved a lot in these 12 months and I had to rewrite a lot of paragraphs. The SDK, the features in the runtime, the content catalog, and the visual quality, all have improved considerably. This constant growth makes me think very well of the upcoming Pico 4 and its related ecosystem.

The price is also a very strong point, and at €449, it competes incredibly well with the Quest, which costs exactly the same amount here in Europe, but has fewer features than the Pico Neo 3 Link.

Its Achille’s heels are in my opinion the polish and the ecosystem. Quest 2 is very polished, and has a big community. Pico Neo 3 has just entered the consumer market, so it has to build its community. And as for the polish, there is a huge work to do, because the headset is full of things to improve, like for instance: the distortion of the visuals, the comfort of the face mask, the UI, the wireless streaming, etc…

If Pico manages to improve also on those two points, while keeping growing its content library… well, it becomes a real danger for Meta. For now, Meta Quest 2 has in my opinion still an edge over the Pico Neo 3, but if Pico plays its cards well with Pico 4, the situation may become very interesting in the market…

Should you buy it?

Pico Neo 3 Link commercial image (Image by Pico)

Get this device if:

You want a solid device
You don’t want a headset made by Meta
You want to do a bet for the future
You don’t care about Beat Saber
You want a headset that is cost-effective
You want a headset to use mostly for PCVR

Don’t get it if:

You want a headset with the biggest content catalog
You love Mark Zuckerberg
You want a headset mostly for standalone usage
You want something polished and user-friendly
You want to be part of the biggest community

Compliments to have survived this long review! Of course, I’m curious to hear what you think about this headset, so please comment this post in the section here below or on my social media channels. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to get these detailed articles of mine straight in your inbox!

The post Pico Neo 3 Link Review: A good start for Bytedance in the consumer market appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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