Virtual Reality headsets took off in a big way in 2019 when Oculus and PlayStation dominated this very niche category. Prior to that, I had the privilege of reviewing Lenovo’s Jedi Challenges, which requires the user to slot in their smartphone to use as the screen. It was terrible for the eyes and came with a warning to stop playing and rest every 15 minutes. It was fun though; it had an actual stick that you pretended was a lightsaber and you could cross swords with Vader. I moved on to the PlayStation 4 VR headset and got hooked on Beat Saber, then discovered Oculus and my obsession skyrocketed (I’m now at Expert mode!).
This past week, the PICO 4 was launched — the latest VR headset to hit the market, and by the brand that’s owned by ByteDance (the owner of TikTok). Is it worth the $499 price tag? Should you get this brand of VR headset for Christmas? How’s the experience? Read on.
Above: Unboxing the pico 4 headset.
DESIGN AND FIT
The PICO 4 has a standard sleek design that one would expect from VR goggles in this day and age; it comes in a matte all-grey finish with matching controllers. I think it looks good, but more importantly, when I pick it up, it feels light (-ish) and very balanced. The weight is distributed among the front and back of the headset, so it doesn’t feel weighty when worn. This smart design means you can wear it for a longer period of time without fatigue kicking in. Also, it really helps that it has a smaller form factor compared to the ones from PlayStation and Oculus.
Above: The weight is nicely distributed among the front and back of the headset.
I really like that the side arms can be lifted to easily place the device on the head, and the mechanism is smooth as well making it easy to operate. Putting it on and adjusting the fit is easy, and the PICO 4 feels comfortable and snug on the head.
Above: Adjusting the fit is a simple turn of the wheel. It’s similar to the one on the playstation vr headset, but this one works so much better — it’s fast to adjust and the mechanism feels smooth.
Something to take note of, is that the PICO 4 doesn’t have an audio port, so you can’t plug in headphones and will have to rely on the in-built speakers. Good thing the speakers are decent.
THE OPERATING SYSTEM
When setting up the PICO 4, you’ll be prompted to adjust the distance between the pancake optical lens for a clear picture. But instead of manually pushing it together or apart like you have to with some other models, the adjustments made here are fully digital. You make the selection while wearing the device, and this makes a huge difference because you can actually see the changes being made, and select the clearest picture for your degree.
Finding your way around the PICO menu is also straightforward and very similar to the one on the Quest store. No issues here. Hey, you even start in your own virtual house.
THE GAME PLAY
With all the VR headsets I’ve tried, there’s always that small gap below the nose that leaks in light. The PICO 4 did a really good job addressing this problem and there’s minimal space that lets in light, providing a truly immersive experience. Note that I don’t wear spectacles, so this could be a very different experience for someone who does.
The controllers offer excellent tracking; they are very responsive and have no noticeable lag, which makes the experience of using this product nice and smooth.
Above: the pico 4 controllers feel natural and intuitive in the hand, and are really light (definitely lighter than the oculus controllers).
But with every device, content is key, and the PICO store loses out just based on not having Beat Saber. That was the first game I searched for, and then realised that Beat Saber is now owned by Meta, who owns Oculus — hence it’s not available on their competitor, in this case, the PICO store (not available at the time of writing). It was a bit of a disappointment for me, but I did appreciate that PICO provides a “Starter Gift Pack” when you activate your account on the PICO 4. The pack includes four free games:
Above: games in the starter gift pack.
I’m pretty excited to try Down the Rabbit Hole, which I saw heavily promoted on the Oculus Quest store but I never got around to paying for it. In the PICO store, I did find several music and dance games that could possibly satisfy my need for Beat Saber (there’s Ubisoft’s Just Dance VR that’s exclusive to PICO), but like all things in life, they’re not free. I’m going to spend some time watching the trailers and reading reviews before purchasing any games. I did also notice that the PICO store has tons of games in the horror genre — all of which I skipped past quickly. Not my cup of tea, but if you’re into that, the PICO 4 will be your new best friend.
Above: The Pico 4 headset.
TO BUY FOR CHRISTMAS?
If you’ve never owned a VR headset before, the PICO 4 is an excellent option to start with. For one, its price tag is reasonable compared to PICO’s predecessor (PICO neo3), anything from Oculus, and the one from PlayStation. Also, it performs very smoothly and will give you an incredible VR experience — especially if you have nothing to compare it to. But if you’re holding out for Beat Saber, you’ll have to wait some more because there’s no news of this game coming to the PICO store. I’ll instead, just leave you here with this: