Our detailed test
Announced at the start of the school year, the reality headset Virtual pic 4 has finally arrived in our hands. More affordable than the Meta Quest 2, its main competitor, it starts at €429 with 128 GB of internal storage and offers a standalone virtual reality experience – devoid of cables. A market segment in which Meta reigns supreme… Not for long? Let’s see it all in this comprehensive test.
Test carried out on a product lent by the manufacturer.
Design and ergonomics
The Pico 4 is a particularly compact and lightweight headset. With only 295 grams on the scale, it is almost half the weight of the Quest 2 (503 grams). But it is above all the weight distribution that impresses.
Pico’s device adopts a much more modern design, notably illustrated on the recent Meta Quest Pro. Unlike the overwhelming majority of helmets on the market, its battery is placed not at the level of the visor, but at the back of the skull. It therefore acts as a counterweight which relieves the user, who has less weight to bear on the bridge of his nose, for example.
All this makes the Pico 4 very comfortable to put on. The headband is pivotable in order to be able to position the screens correctly in front of his eyes. Then simply fold it behind your head, tighten using the notched wheel and possibly play with the strap located on top to ensure optimal support.
The foam framing the visor of the Pico 4 does not cause any discomfort, even after several hours of use. Its material does not cause perspiration either. In the box, Pico provides a soft nose adapter that allows additional blocking of light that may enter the headset if needed. I personally opted for its installation, which does not lose anything in comfort and reinforces the immersion!
Important detail: it is perfectly possible to use the Pico 4 with glasses. I also preferred to keep mine for the duration of the test and did not feel any particular discomfort; no pressure at the temples or nasal bridges. In short: comfort at all times.
However, we may regret that no cover is provided to protect the large Pancake type lenses when the helmet is not in use. It is better to keep a cloth handy to dust off the glasses before starting a new game.
To wrap up this quick owner tour, let’s talk about sound. There is a small slot on each branch of the helmet which actually houses the speakers. These produce a fairly well-defined sound, even if their volume is quite low. Two buttons on the right edge allow you to adjust their intensity. Rather unfortunate: no 3.5 mm jack is on the program. It will therefore be necessary to go through headphones or headphones Bluetoothat the cost of potential latency on certain content.
Getting started and features
There’s not much to do once the helmet is unboxed and adjusted. Just put it on, take the two (very classic) controllers provided and turn it on.
At the first ignition, it will be a necessary step towards the creation of a Pico account, necessary to access the home screen and download applications.
Once this somewhat tedious step (typing on the keyboard using the joysticks is not the most obvious) has been accomplished, you access a virtual space once again quite classic for anyone who has already put on a VR headset. It is possible to select, among three environments, a glorified “wallpaper” while you walk through the various menus of the helmet.
It is also necessary to specify one essential thing, which distinguishes the Pico 4 from a Meta Quest 2: it runs on Android. We therefore find menus more or less identical to those of an Android smartphone (in particular to connect to a wifi network or pair Bluetooth devices).
But, you may see me coming, one of the biggest benefits of having an Android headset is that it’s very easy to install apps downloaded outside of the (skinny) official Pico store. As on an Android smartphone, all you have to do is go to one of the many online directories and download an .apk file that you are free to install on your machine. This allows you to add an alternative web browser or native versions of video streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and so on. A real asset against the Quest 2 which is a little more closed for the person who does not want to get their hands dirty.
Which brings us to one of the headset’s weak points: the Pico app store is still pretty sparse. There are of course some notable games to practice (Superhot VR, Ragnarock, Walkabout VR Minigolf), but we quickly turn in circles. Same story on the side of creative or entertainment applications. It’s a fact, the Chinese ecosystem is far, very far from being as developed as that of Meta. But things are moving in the right direction, assures the manufacturer.
This poverty of the catalog is in particular what prompted us to prefer to use the headset in “PCVR” mode. Understand: using our gaming computer as a source of content. Thanks to the Streaming Assistant application, nothing could be simpler. Launch the client on your computer (Windows only) and your headset, make sure you are connected to the same wifi network (5 GHz required), accept the link between the two and you’re done.
By operating in this way, the Pico 4 can launch any Steam VR compatible game and even display your computer’s desktop (including the Virtual Desktop application) for some productive tasks or entertainment. Moreover, slight regret on this point: it is impossible to play a video launched from your smartphone on the virtual reality helmet. However, there is a pirouette: thanks to the dedicated Pico VR application, you can send a link to your headset and therefore open it from its interface. We would have done well without this additional step, but it’s always good to take.
The reverse, on the other hand, is very easily doable. You can stream content from the headset to a smartphone, connected TV or even a browser in just a few clicks (provided you have a fast enough internet connection, of course).
How does the Pico 4 hold up in terms of image quality? Rather well, it must be said. This is actually due to several factors. Already, the adoption of very flat lenses, called “Pancake”, drastically reduces the “grid” effect which is so annoying when practicing virtual reality. Here, the image is sharp and the field of vision generous (105°; much higher than the 89° of the Quest 2).
The screens measure 2.56” and display a definition per eye of 2,160×2,160 pixels. Once again, Meta’s solution is largely outdated. And with regard to the refresh rate, Pico allows two modes: 72 Hz or 90 Hz. Logically, the latter will have a major impact on the autonomy of the product.
As is often the case in virtual reality, the correct placement of the headset is a game-changer. Also, do not hesitate to adjust and readjust it regularly to ensure that our eyes are facing the lenses correctly. Another crucial element comes into play: the adjustment of the interpupillary distance (IPD) is done here in software. During the first use, Pico asks us to take a moment to set it, but we can also access it in the quick access menu of the helmet. If it is perhaps more precise (of the order of a millimeter), it is not the most practical. Indeed, we would have preferred to have a small slider under the helmet to be able to do it on the fly or not to get lost in abstruse explanations with people who have been made to try the helmet for the first time.
The Pico 4 has a mode pass-through in color thanks to its four cameras placed on the front. It activates automatically as soon as the headset leaves the defined playing area. Too bad there is no physical switch to activate it manually. Indeed, you have to get lost in the options to activate a shortcut (a double tap on the side) and be able to use it easily.
Autonomy is one of the weak points of these autonomous virtual reality headsets. And for good reason: manufacturers have to make clever calculations between the desired endurance and the maximum weight they want to give to their helmet. Also, let’s not beat around the bush, the Pico 4 does not allow you to play more than two hours in a row. And we are indeed talking about a ceiling.
In fact, if we play a game launched natively on the headset (and therefore not in PCVR), we will most often turn around 1h30. Without being totally shameful, autonomy is well below what the Meta Quest 2 offers, capable of double. All the more surprising since the Pico 4 has a battery with a capacity far superior to its direct competitor (5,300 mAh against around 3,600 mAh).
On the charging side, with the USB-C cable and the 20 W charger provided, it will take a little less than 1h30 to find a full battery.
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