Pico Neo 3 Pro review: a solid VR headset to compete with the Oculus Quest 2

While Meta (ex-Facebook, for those who missed the latest episode in the crazy metaverse series) recently announced that its VR headset would be rebranded to reflect the parent company’s name (becoming the Meta Quest 2), Pico released the third iteration of its Neo range in early October. The Pico Neo 3 Pro is now available to professionals in two versions (with and without integrated eye tracking).

Charles, one of Immersion’s experts, gives us a feedback on the latter.

Promising technical performances

First point, and not the least: the visual quality of the rendering is impressive. With a field of view of about 98°, a resolution of 1832 x 1920 per eye (4K display) and a refresh rate of 72 to 90Hz, the images are flattering. Precision, brightness and good contrast ensure a comfortable visual immersion. Admittedly, a few artefacts linked to optical distortion are sometimes visible when turning the head and areas in peripheral vision are slightly blurred. Such disturbances are nevertheless common with this kind of technology and represent only a minor inconvenience compared to the overall visual quality of a stand-alone headset.

Pico Neo 3 Pro | Crédits : Pico Interactive

The second important point for any self-respecting Virtual Reality headset is the quality of the tracking, in other words the tracking of the controllers and the head. On this topic, it is clear that the Pico Neo 3 hits hard. In fact, it is difficult to mislead the controllers! They manage the 6 degrees of freedom with precision, are comfortable in the hand and have a fairly impressive battery lifespan. A welcome bonus about interaction is that the headset also has three side buttons to access basic controls if you ever need to keep both hands free.

However, forget about using the video-see-through mode for too long. The headset does have the required cameras and uses them to allow the user to calibrate the area of use, an essential step in VR to avoid any unexpected encounter with a fragile object. Nevertheless, the video return of the cameras is far from perfect and even quickly causes a headache. It is difficult to envisage using this mode outside of the calibration phase: the headset is designed for VR only. Therefore, no mixed reality is possible with this iteration.

Software side

Charles Bailly used the Pico Neo 3 Pro | Crédits : Sandrine Ferry

The Neo 3 offers two options for streaming content from a PC: one wireless option via a Wifi network (Wifi6 is supported according to Pico but we haven’t tested it yet) and a wired option. The latter is via a proprietary USB-C/DisplayPort cable. Support for Nvidia’s CloudXR is also a real plus.

Another positive point: an SDK for Unity is also available via the manufacturer’s website. Although the documentation needs to be expanded and refined, this is a welcome addition for developers. Interesting point: the SDK includes functionalities to recover camera images. In the absence of video-see-through, it may be possible to detect and insert elements from the real environment into the ‘classic’ virtual environment. For instance, a VR user could see their own arms and hands rather than just 3D models floating in the air. This is the principle behind one of the lesser-known subsets of Mixed Reality: Augmented Virtuality. To learn more about these concepts, we invite you to read our article on Mixed Reality.

The inevitable comparison with Meta Quest 2

There is a reason why we started this article on this topic: : the Pico Neo 3 is immediately reminiscent of the Meta Quest 2. Whether it’s design or specifications, the two headsetshave many things in common. For example, they both have the same processor (a Snapdragon XR2) and a battery life of between two and three hours depending on usage.

The first main difference is the price: the classic Neo 3 costs around 600 euros, which is 200 euros less than the pro version of the Quest 2. The Neo 3 with integrated eye tracking (and 8GB of RAM instead of 6) is currently priced at around 750 euros. It’s hard to find a cheaper VR headset for professionals at the moment.

Pico Neo 3 Pro | Crédits : Charles Bailly

In addition, the Neo 3 does not require any Facebook account to be used, which may have put off many users of the Quest 2. However, Pico was recently acquired by ByteDance, which already owns TikTok. The company is known to be fond of user data analysis. Only time will tell how Pico’s privacy policy will evolve in relation to the GDPR.

Finally, Pico’s catalogue of applications is not insignificant but is nowhere near as complete as Meta’s. The entertainment offer can be considered secondary for a headset tailored for professionals,sure. However, in terms of the overall catalogue, the Quest is the clear winner.

Our expert’s recommendations

Pico Neo 3 Pro | Crédits : Pico Interactive

In summary, Charles believes that thePico Neo 3 may be of interest to you if:

  • You are a professional looking for a Virtual Reality headset offering a solid compromise between performance and accessibility
  • You don’t want to create or use a Facebook account to use a VR headset