Pico 4 reviewon November 16, 2022 at 12:01 Tech Advisor

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At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Slim, compact designNext-gen pancake optics and boosted resolutionSolid VR gaming experienceMore affordable than the Quest 2

Cons

No hand trackingLimited game library

Our Verdict

The Pico 4 could be a true competitor to the Quest 2 with more advanced hardware and a cheaper entry-level price tag, though it’s lacking some of the big VR titles that make Meta’s VR headset shine.

Price When Reviewed

From £379.99

Best Prices Today: Pico 4

Retailer
Price
£369.72
very.co.uk
£379.99
£485.99

It’s safe to say that the Pico 4 is the entry-level VR headset nobody saw coming. Developed as a true competitor to Meta’s popular Quest 2, the Pico 4 boasts significant advancements in hardware including next-gen pancake optics, a higher resolution and a premium design, and thanks to a heavy subsidy from owner Bytedance, it’s actually cheaper than the Quest 2 at just £380/€429 (around $380).

The big question is, is better hardware and a tempting price enough for the Pico 4 to compete with the hugely popular Meta Quest 2? Well…

Design & build

More compact than Quest 2Great weight distributionPremium motorised IPD adjustment

The Pico 4 represents the next step forward in standalone VR headset hardware, offering a much more compact design than the Quest 2 thanks to the use of next-gen pancake lenses. A bulky headset, this is not, with a HMD (head-mounted display) width of just 35.8mm that helps the Pico 4 look slimmer and more futuristic than the comparatively bulky Quest 2.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The two do share some similarities in design – both offer a mostly white finish with smooth curved edges – but Pico adds a glossy black front panel to differentiate itself from the competition. It certainly adds to the premium look, bringing them closer in look to futuristic ski goggles than a VR headset, but it’s also a bit of a fingerprint magnet that’ll need wiping down fairly regularly.   

Importantly, while measuring in at slightly heavier than the Quest 2 at 586g, Pico has shifted the battery from the HMD to the back of the headset strap to help balance the weight across your head. Combined with soft foam padding around your face and grippy faux leather back padding, the result is a much more comfortable experience, especially over longer periods of play.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The Pico 4’s headset’s rigid strap and crank adjustment system is similar to that of the Quest 2’s optional £109 Elite strap, though it comes as standard, helping it look more premium than the Quest 2’s standard fabric strap. The strap also allows for the visor to be tilted independently for easy entry and lifting mid-game.

Another benefit compared to the Quest 2 is the IPD (inter-pupillary distance, aka the distance between your eyes) adjustment. While the Quest 2 offers three preset IPD positions that you have to physically move between yourself, the Pico 4 offers a much more premium motorised IPD adjustment tool that allows you to adjust the IPD from between 58-72mm from within the headset. It’s much better than Meta’s option and, crucially, allows you to see the changes in real-time to dial in your perfect distance.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The accompanying controllers are fairly standard in design, with the same button, trigger and analogue stick setup as those from the Quest 2, though with a few key differences. These range from smaller changes like the addition of a dedicated screenshot button alongside standard Home and Pause/menu buttons to bigger changes like tracking rings that go over your hand rather than at the top of the controller.

The latter is particularly important as, unlike with the front-mounted tracking rings of the Quest 2, you can bring your hands closer together without clashing controllers. That’s ideal for more finicky motions like reloading a weapon or using a bow and arrow, though it can also mean your fingers can take the full impact if you accidentally hit a wall or something while playing. Ouch.

Display & audio

Premium pancake optics provide much-improved clarityHigh-resolution displayStereo speakers with support for Bluetooth headphones

The new pancake lens system employed by the Pico 4 doesn’t just allow the HMD to be more compact – it also provides much-improved visual quality, with impressive clarity even towards the edges of the lenses compared to the Fresnel-based Quest 2.

In fact, it’s the same system used by the $1500/£1500 Quest Pro, signalling just how impressive the tech is, and it’s one of the key selling points of the entry-level Pico 4.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

It’s not just advanced lenses that help improve the visual experience, with a higher resolution also on offer from Pico’s headset at 2160 x 2160 per eye. With that said, it should come as no surprise that there’s a real step up in sharpness and overall image clarity compared to the Quest 2, with very little in the way of noticeable SDE (screen door effect).

The headset is set at 72Hz out of the box, but this can be ramped up to a much smoother 90Hz in the headset’s settings menu – though at a cost to battery life. That’s on par with the Quest 2, with the caveat that Meta’s headset also offers an experimental 120Hz mode for an even smoother experience in fast-paced titles. Whether the jump from 90- to 120Hz is noticeable is very much up for debate, and it certainly wasn’t a dealbreaker in my experience.

The side-mounted speakers are very similar in design and performance to those on the Quest 2, providing a great spatial audio experience without the need for dedicated headphones. The audio quality is perfectly fine for the majority of titles, though unlike Meta’s alternative, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack for wired headphones.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Instead, Pico provides wireless headphone support via Bluetooth 5.1, which is great for convenience but can cause a bit of an audio delay depending on your buds of choice. You could always opt for a 3.5mm to USB-C dongle to use the headset with wired cans if you want the most responsive audio experience possible, it’s just a little annoying that it isn’t included with the headset.

Features & performance

Powered by the popular Snapdragon XR2No stutter or lag during gameplayNo hand tracking available

Like other VR headset launching in 2022, the Pico 4 provides an all-in-one system that doesn’t need a PC or smartphone to power the experience.

You’ll find the same Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform as the Quest 2 within the Pico 4, though with an additional 2GB of RAM at 8GB and 128GB of storage as standard. There’s also a 256GB combo available at a slightly higher cost.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Even with the Snapdragon XR2 powering a higher resolution display on the Pico 4, I didn’t experience any issues in performance during my rigorous testing, even in more demanding titles like Blade & Sorcery: Nomad and Into the Fall. The navigation is fluid, tracking is accurate and responsive, games load at about the same rate as the Quest 2 and there were never any significant slowdowns over longer periods of play thanks to a (slightly audible) fan that keeps things running smoothly.

There’s a single front-facing 16Mp passthrough camera embedded within the glossy front panel, allowing you to quickly see the environment around you – in full colour – without having to take the headset off. Though it’s much clearer than the low-res, monochrome passthrough of the Quest 2, it doesn’t provide the stereo camera support to properly convey depth, which can make it difficult to do things like reach for your phone with the headset on.

One area where Meta’s standalone headset has the advantage is in the hand-tracking department, with the Pico 4 offering no kind of built-in hand-tracking support. Considering just how immersive it is on the Quest 2, particularly in hand-tracked titles like Hand Physics Lab and Unplugged, its omission is a little disappointing.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Pico’s alternative is trackers for accurate leg tracking, which could be a real boon for fitness titles like Les Mills Body Combat, though there’s no word on when they’ll be available or how much they’ll cost.

Battery life comes in at a respectable at around 2.5 – 3 hours per charge, though this will vary depending on just how graphically intensive the game in question is, the brightness of the display and more. You might’ve been expecting longer considering there’s a larger 5,300mAh battery on offer, but it’s worth remembering that the Pico 4 is powering more pixels than the Quest 2.

Still, I never found myself running out of charge mid-way through my VR sessions, and the improved 20W fast charging means it’ll charge quicker than the Quest 2. In my experience, it’d go from flat to full via USB-C in around an hour and 45 minutes, compared to the Quest 2’s two-and-a-half hours.

The controllers aren’t rechargeable, instead opting for AA batteries for power. Though not as convenient as a rechargeable option, the batteries should provide around 80 hours of use before needing to be swapped out. Besides, you could always invest in rechargeable AA batteries if you want to cut down on battery waste.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Software & VR content

Pico OS 5.0 UI is very similar to Quest 2Handful of popular VR titles availableVR library isn’t as vast as Quest 2

If you’re familiar with the Quest 2 software, you’ll be able to navigate the Android-based Pico OS 5.0 with ease as there are, ahem, a lot of similarities in design and the functions available. There’s a main navigation bar to browse the Pico Store, scroll through your library of apps and games and even a social tab to connect and play with other Pico headset users.

It’s not quite as advanced as the Quest software, especially with newer Meta features that let you invite others to your virtual home space for chats between games, but it’s likely that these will come down the road. During the time I’ve had the headset it has already had two updates with new features, so it looks like development is very much still in progress.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Similarities in UI aside, the software runs well on the standalone headset with no glitches or freezes during testing.

The biggest problem with the Pico 4 isn’t the hardware or the OS – it’s the library of content available at the time of writing. This is undoubtedly where Meta’s headset has a huge advantage with impressive VR titles like Among Us, Beat Saber, Resident Evil 4 and Medal of Honor, none of which are available on the Pico 4.

There are a few big-name games available in the Pico Store including Beyond the Fall, Space Pirate Trainer and Super Hot, with around 150 in total at the time of writing, but Pico does have a long battle ahead to get good high-quality VR titles on its platform – especially considering Meta funded many of the biggest titles on Quest and is unlikely to share them with the competition.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

The good news is that you can play popular PC VR games if you’ve got a PC powerful enough, with support for both SteamVR and Oculus app games. It’s easy enough to connect using a USB-C cable and Pico’s Streaming Assistant app, but you’ve also got the option of wireless gameplay if you’ve got a Wi-Fi 6 router with fast enough data transfer speeds. It’s here that the pancake lenses and high resolution really stand out compared to the Quest 2, especially with higher quality graphics than standalone alternatives.

Price & availability

The price is what really makes the Pico 4 standout as a viable entry-level VR headset in the UK and Europe, coming in £20/€21 cheaper than Meta’s Quest 2 at just £379.99/€429, with the 256GB variant available for £449.99/€499. That’s an impressive price for the advanced hardware on offer, and it do/es provide a solid VR experience, it’s just the lack of big-name VR games that might tempt you to pay a little more for the Quest 2.

That said, it’s currently unavailable in the US with no word yet on if or when it could make an appearance in the States.

If you are tempted by the Pico 4, it’s available from retailers like Amazon and Very in the UK and Amazon in Europe.

Lewis Painter / Foundry

Verdict

The Pico 4 is undoubtedly the most capable entry-level VR headset on the market in terms of hardware, sporting next-gen pancake optics that allow the headset to be much smaller than the competing Quest 2, as well as a boosted resolution. It’s comfortable to use over long periods, the controllers are intuitive and the operating system has no major issues.

The only real catch is the library of VR content available on the Pico Store. Though it boasts a few popular VR titles like Superhot, Into the Fall and Blade & Sorcery: Nomad, it’s missing big-hitters available on the Quest 2 like Among Us, Beat Saber and Resident Evil 4, and given that these were all Meta-funded, it’s unlikely they’ll appear on the Pico 4 anytime soon.

Pico 4 specs

Qualcomm XR2 chipset8GB RAM128/256GB of storageWi-Fi 6Bluetooth 5.14320 x 2160 (2160 x 2160 per eye)72/90HzPancake lens with 105-degree FOV58-72mm IPD adjustment6DoF positioning systemIntegrated speakersDual microphones5,300mAh battery20W fast chargingPico OS 5.0
Gaming, Virtual Reality

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