Pico Neo 3 Pro full review: a very solid device


The time has come! Finally, I can tell you everything you need to know about the Pico Neo 3 Pro in this long and detailed review!

Pico Neo 3 Pro

Pico Neo 3 Pro, and its sibling Pico Neo 3 Pro Eye (featuring eye-tracking), are the latest enterprise headsets by Pico. They are the business counterpart of the Pico Neo 3, the consumer headset that Pico is selling in China for around $400, hoping to kickstart a consumer VR ecosystem there.

Pico has been a very smart company, and all these years it has been able to evolve from the mediocre Pico Neo 1, to the interesting Pico Neo 2, to arrive at the Pico Neo 3, that on paper, looks like a Chinese version of the Oculus Quest 2, and it seems to have all the features to compete properly with this device. But is it really that good? Can it really compete with the Quest? Well, let’s discover the answers to all these questions in today’s review

Pico Neo 3 Pro Video Review

As usual, I have also created a video version of this article, and in it, I describe to you all the main features of this headset, from the visuals to the comfort, not to mention the headset and controllers’ tracking. If you are a video type, you can watch it here below.

Or just keep reading for the usual wall-of-text that you all love

Specifications

Qualcomm XR2 chipset

4K low-persistence 90 Hz Curved Display
3664 x 1920 resolution, 773 PPI
72Hz with support for 90Hz

98° FOV

6GB RAM (2133 Mhz) for the Pro model, 8GB for the Pro Eye Model
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
All-PU materials fabrication, for easier sanitization
5300 mAh battery, for around 2.5-3h of usage
Integrated audio, with 3.5mm jack to connect external headphones
Tobii eye tracking in Pico Pro 3 Eye model
Wi-fi streaming or tethered streaming to SteamVR integrated in the runtime
Android 10 operating system
Pico SDK for development

Unboxing

Pico Neo 3 Pro comes in an elegant white box with Pico branding. Opening it, I had no sensation of delight and wonder, but I found the content well packaged in an elegant way. I also found the solution to store the cables and the instructions pamphlet interesting, with a bridge-shaped plastic piece that contained a little box with all the various accessories inside. Interesting, but with not a beautiful shape, honestly.

Full unboxing video!

The box contains exactly what you would expect: the headset, the controllers, a power adapter, a USB-C cable, an instruction manual. Since my unit has been sent directly from Pico, I have also found a kind message from the company inside. These are the little things that make me understand that it is a company that cares about its users and its reviewers.

Design

Visually speaking, Pico Neo 3 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 seems to take a more “Chinese” approach and 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.

Visuals

The visuals of the Pico Neo 3 are very good… but they have some little problems. 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. 72-90Hz offers a good refresh rate, while the FOV of 98° appears slightly smaller than the one of Quest and surely smaller than the one of Focus 3. While this is a bit limiting, it actually also contributes to giving this headset a higher pixel density that can improve the sense of realism. There are some moments in which looking in front of me with this device, I have the impression that what I see is real, and I lose totally myself in virtual reality for some seconds: this tells you how much the visuals of Pico Neo 3 are good.

Focus on the lens of the headset

But there are the usual problems that taunt all recent Pico headsets and that ruin a bit the experience on Neo 3 as well. The most disturbing of them are 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 usual 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. In the outer part of the lenses, the visuals are not good anymore.

I have to say in Pico’s defense that all these bad effects have been partially solved in Pico Neo 3 and visuals appear better than on Neo 2. But they are still there, and if you don’t look exactly in front of you in the sweet spot, you risk to start seeing these unpleasant effects happening to your visuals. I hope that a future software update can make the Pico Neo 3 Pro improve in this sense.

Anyway, when you see the scene in front of you, and you have no distortions, everything looks very good.

Comfort

Pico has kept 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 great comfort, with the facemask kindly embracing my face, and the weight distributing 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 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. 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. 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).

The crown that goes around your head, plus the top rubber headband

The leatherette back cushion and facemask are comfortable enough, and also easy to be cleaned. The material they are made of sticks slightly to the face, and this, together with the fact that this headset has a rigid fitting mechanism, prevents you from having a fast peek outside of the headset by lifting it up when you want to. The overall comfort feels great, and as I’ve told you, every time I wear this headset, my head loves it… but in the long run, it is not so good as it seems: after one hour of usage, my face is anyway full of red signs. I guess Pico did everything it could, and the comfort is indeed good, but having the weight of the device on the head for a long time of course causes some issues. The only way to solve this problem is to have a lightweight design like the one of Vive Flow, and Pico already showed at CES a similar prototype exploiting pancake lenses… so who knows if it is going to launch it in the future.

After 1 hour with the Pico Neo 3 Pro on, I found these red signs on my face

When wearing the headset, I can sometimes feel some fresh air coming to my face, I guess from the internal fan. On one side this is nice because it keeps your face fresh, but sometimes this is annoying especially if it blows directly into your eyes.

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.

Controllers

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.

Pico Neo 3 Pro Controllers

From the promotional videos, the controllers looked cheap to me, but actually, I can tell you that they are pretty good: the material feels solid, the grip is good, and especially they feel very balanced. I like how they feel in the hand, I think they are more balanced than the Quest 2 Touch.

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 more tiring to use in the long run. Also, 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. The secondary (grip) trigger also feels a bit weird to press, but I can’t explain easily in which sense… it seems that it is a bit too easy to push down. So, the comfort is good, but not the top.

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.

After the launch of the consumer edition, a reviewer in China showed how the controllers and the headset easily lost the tracking, but from my tests, actually, this has never happened, both with daily and artificial light. The tracking is solid, reliable, and accurate. I tried to move fast my head and my hands and the tracking never failed and never drifted.

The tracking of the controllers is rock solid

Tracking is not as amazing as Oculus Insight, though. The controllers can be seen very slightly wobbling in VR if you keep them still, and 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. It has also happened rarely that when I made one controller enter fast the tracking volume of the cameras, I have seen a little glitch in its visual representation. Also, the tracking of the headset seems to be slightly less reactive than Oculus’s one. But these are all tiny problems that I have actively searched for… the average enterprise user will never notice them, because they never ruin the user experience.

There is a Guardian system, that tracks you up to 10m x 10m, and it works pretty well. Its only problem is that it almost never recognizes your room, so every time you turn the headset on, you have to re-set your play area.

Audio

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.

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.

Integrated speaker of Pico Neo 3 Pro

I have also tested the integrated microphone and it works without any noticeable problem.

Battery

Pico claims a battery duration of around 2-3 hours, and this is what I have also verified with my personal tests. I would say that if you use it heavily, probably the time is more around 2 hours. 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.

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

Computational power

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.

Vive Focus 3 has an expensive cooling system that can keep the Snapdragon XR2 cold enough to perform its operations at the best temperatures (Image by HTC Vive)

Production quality

Pico Neo 3 is a solid headset, and notwithstanding the commonplace about Chinese products, it is made well and with good-quality materials. But the devil is in the details, and in this case, you may notice some little issues here and there on the manufacturing process that may slightly hurt your final impression about it. Let me make some examples for you:

The face gasked has visible seams with glueing
The controllers triggers sometimes squeak
Sebastian Ang from MRTV claims that its unit has a very noisy fan (my unit is very silent, instead)
The IPD adjustment on my device works well with 2 positions, while the third one requires to push the lenses harder and sometimes doesn’t “clac” properly when it should snap in its final position

These are all little things, and the impression that I had is that the production processes should be refined a bit to reach manufacturing perfection.

User experience

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

Explore Pico Neo 3 with me!

There’s not much to say here: the UI is very similar to the first-iteration UI of Quest: there is the Guardian system that you can draw on the floor, then you arrive at your home environment, with a menu where you can buy games from the store or play them from your library, and you can also change the settings. This is a headset for enterprise, so all the visual interface is not that fancy: the home environment is the same as Pico Neo 2 and it feels a bit empty. The menus are a bit rougher than the ones of Quest 2, but it’s good that the settings page offers more possibilities, and there is for instance the possibility of running Kiosk mode or setting a VPN. These are all welcome features for business users.

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 in enterprise settings so people do not have to mess with controllers.

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 also amazing that the interface lets us record directly Full HD videos in 1080p without having to use an external tool for that (see, Oculus? It is possible!)

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.

Content

It’s not a secret anymore that Pico for its launch in China has been able to port to its platform amazing titles like Red Matter, Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual (I love S&M), Sairento, and many others. The Chinese startup has done an amazing job in attracting fantastic games, and so it is now also possible to have fun for a good number of hours on this headset.

But the situation still needs to get better: there are amazing titles, but they are still few, and the store also contains low-quality content, and content all in Chinese. I’m not blaming Pico because they have just started to work on their consumer catalog (and Facebook needed years to build a wide catalog), but I just wanted to warn you that the Pico Store has not become like the Quest Store, at least not yet.

I have also been able to find many enterprise-oriented applications with a special login required. I have been provided some codes by Pico and so I have been able to test a training experience, a showcase app, and also an experience to help you in overcoming phobias with the support of a psychologist. Interesting applications, that proved how Pico Neo 3 works well in business settings.

I have also tried Firefox Reality (there is a build from December 2020), and I have verified that the headset is WebXR compatible. This is nice, so you can access all that online content that uses WebXR, like the open-source social VR space Mozilla Hubs.

A final notice goes to the fact that this headset wins the price for the weirdest things I have found while reviewing a piece of hardware. The psychology app showed me a guy puking in front of me in a toilet, and a WebXR Chinese experience made me see some skeletons of dead knights hung on a tree. Weeeeeird stuff.

Privacy

Pico Neo 3 Pro has been built with privacy in mind, and these Western enterprise units are GDPR compliant. I also could use the headset without problems without a Pico account, but of course, I had to log in to access the Pico Store.

It is anyway unknown how will be the future iterations of its headsets: Pico has been recently bought by Bytedance, which is another company that works heavily with data analysis like Facebook, so we don’t know how Pico privacy policies will evolve. For now, we can still consider these headsets as safe.

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.

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.

Wired streaming was instead a big surprise for me, and it has been probably the feature that I loved the most about this headset. Pico doesn’t use USB streaming like Oculus Quest of 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.

SDK

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!

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 found no way to use hand tracking or passthrough AR in the SDK documentation. Passthrough could be achievable by fiddling with the camera images, though, as I did in the past for Vive Focus Plus. It is instead possible to access camera images for further analysis (e.g. object detection).

Quest 2 cloning

It’s worth noting that this headset looks for many things like an improved copy of Quest 2. Pico is a small startup (or at least, it was) and so instead of trying to create impossible innovations for which it has not the resources, it just takes what is best on the market, copies it, and improves it (the Chinese way for many new technologies). It’s fun that some features look really like clones of what is available on Quest 2, like for instance the positions of the tracking cameras, or the IPD mechanism. The SDK has some features (like OVR Overlay or the prefab to show the controllers models) that are almost identical in everything to their Quest 2 counterparts.

Spot the differences between the Overlay script in Pico SDK and Oculus SDK

Anyway, it’s good that Pico hasn’t limited itself to just copy, but it has also improved what it could: the Pico Neo 3 is more balanced to wear than Quest 2, and the DisplayPort streaming feature is nothing short of amazing.

Price and availability

Pico Neo 3 Pro is an enterprise headset, so you can’t buy it on Amazon, but you have to contact Pico so that to buy it from one of its sales agents. You can do that through Pico website, or I can also help you with an introduction if you need it.

Pico Neo 3 Pro costs €600 and Pico Neo 3 Pro Eye (which features Tobii eye-tracking) costs €750. This makes it the cheapest enterprise standalone headset in the market, considering that Oculus Quest 2 For Business costs €800 and Vive Focus 3 BE costs around €1200.

The DisplayPort cable for streaming from PC costs €55, much cheaper than the official Oculus Link cable.

Final considerations

You see in this picture what you want to see

Pico Neo 3 Pro is a very solid headset for enterprise usage, and it means that also its consumer counterpart sold in China is very good for consumer usage. It takes the most important features of the Quest 2, and it also tries to innovate them with special features like DisplayPort streaming.

In all my tests, I have found no clear flaw in it, and is fairly good in all its features. The visuals are crisp, the audio is loud, the comfort is well studied. Probably its Achille’s heel is still the content, which is not rich like the one on Quest 2, but Pico has improved a lot lately attracting external developers to its platform… and anyway, this issue is not relevant for enterprise use, where companies develop the content they need themselves. I have also to say that with the exception of the DP Streaming, Pico Neo 3 is never the best in what it offers: for instance, Quest 2 is more polished in everything and has more content, and Vive Focus 3 is more powerful and has astonishing visuals. It also lacks some fine polish both in the runtime, the SDK documentation, and in the design of the device. Anyway, all its issues are usually not big and relevant, but just details. It is not a headset that makes you go wow, but it is one that does its job and does it pretty well.

Pico has gained in these years a very good reputation in serving companies with its headsets (that can also be bought in big bulk quantities) and the related post-sales services (assistance, etc…) and this is important for its enterprise customers: apart from the technical features described here, this kind of services is what will make many companies interested in this device.

The €600 price is also very compelling, considering that it is 200€ less than Quest 2 For Business, and half of what the other company that excels in the B2B market, that is HTC, is offering. Vive Focus 3 looks like a Pro device for big companies, while this one looks like a good headset for small and medium enterprises, or also for big companies that do not need the super features of Focus 3.

All in all, it’s a very interesting device: when compared to Quest 2, which is the most popular headset of the moment, it can really compete on all its features, being better in some things and worse in other things… and all without the need of having a Facebook login. Here it is not sold as a consumer device, but in China is, and I’m sure that it can make the Chinese VR ecosystem advance a bit.

If you have a company, I would advise you to get one and experiment with it.

Should you buy it?

Pico Neo 3 Pro headset and controllers

Buy it if:

You have a company and you are looking for an enterprise device that is not super expensive
You have a company and you need to partner with a reliable vendor that can give you thousands of headsets in bulk
You need enterprise features on your device, like Kiosk mode
You have not the need of having a device that is super polished or has the top-notch features

Don’t buy it if:

You are a consumer and you just want to play games. In this case, go for an Oculus Quest 2
You need the best tracking system on the market. In this case, go for an Oculus Quest 2
You want the top that is available in the market, and price is not a problem. In this case, buy a Vive Focus 3
You just want to show 3DOF content like videos. In this case, buy a Pico G2 4K
You think that VR is dead, in this case buy a potato.

And that’s it for this detailed review of the Pico Neo 3 Pro! If you have found it useful, please consider subscribing to my newsletter to not miss my next article and donate on Patreon to sustain my hard work in informing the community!

If you have any questions on comments on the device, feel free to write them in the comment section here below or by contacting me on my social media channels!

The post Pico Neo 3 Pro full review: a very solid device appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

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