A Decent Quest 2 Alternative

Pico’s first consumer headset released in the West is still an ongoing work, but it does suggest Meta has serious competition in the future. Read on for our Pico Neo 3 Link review.

Note: Keep in mind that Pico Neo 3 Link has been described as a beta product and is still receiving software updates with new features and fixes. What is written below was correct at the time of publication, but that may soon change.


I just go out and say it: unless you’re a diehard VR enthusiast desperately looking for a standalone VR headset not owned by Meta, you probably should not buy a Pico Neo 3 Link. This is not because the headset itself is necessarily bad – it is actually a very decent device that can be compared to Quest 2 in many areas, including price to € 450 – but simply because Neo 3 Link is still an ongoing work and may have less than one year of durability before it is replaced.

Newly acquired by TikTok owner ByteDance, Pico has dropped some big hints that its next-generation VR standalone is around 12 months out. In fact, anyone who buys the Neo 3 Link will get a discount on the hypothetical new device when it’s released. Make no mistake, Neo 3 Link is very much a beta product in search of guinea pigs. This limited release is intended to both test the waters of the consumer VR market and help prove the company’s software and hardware offerings while planning new devices and expansions to the United States.

That said, as we will discuss later, Neo Link 3 actually has some great advantages over Quest 2 if you also want to use the device with a PC.

Design, comfort and specifications

Pico Neo 3 Link Review Back

Whatever angle you look at it from, the Neo 3 Link is very similar to a Quest 2. Literally, yes, it’s a similar design with four cameras for tracking and a bulky front visor that stores all the headset’s data. Charging is via USB-C and Pico even borrows Quest 2’s three-point lens adjustment, which covers a range of eye distances by reaching in and moving them.

A good advantage that Neo 3 Link has over Quest 2 is that it basically comes with Elite Strap already integrated in the device. There is a rear wheel disc that allows you to quickly adjust your fit and gives a slightly better weight distribution than Quest 2 with its basic head strap, although overall it makes it heavier of the two headsets. Combined with the soft fabric lining and the elastic rubber top strap, the headset is quite comfortable to wear for long stretches without getting tired in the face and head.

Even on the inside, though, things are mostly identical to Quest 2: Neo 3 Link running on Qualcomm’s XR2 chipset and offering the same 1832 × 1920 per-eye resolution. There is also a limited 120Hz mode for some less demanding games, but most content runs at 90Hz. In other words, the games and apps that Neo 3 Link 3 can run are exactly the same as the ones you see on Quest 2; Do not expect any significant leaps in graphical reliability and performance.

Two speakers located in the sidebars of the headset provide usable sound, with a headphone jack for those who want it and easily accessible volume buttons.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Neo 3 Link is the second USB-C port it has, hidden under a rubber cap. This is important for the headset’s PC VR offerings, but we’ll get to them in a bit.

Controllers and tracking

Again, if you’ve had a Quest 2 controller, you know what to expect from Neo 3 Links to motion controllers. They are the proven mix of a single trigger, side grip button, two face buttons, each with an analog stick. The tracking ring runs upstairs, and interestingly enough, both controllers have a Home and Menu button each, which is a good inclusion for anyone who ever forgets which one is on the left and right Touch controllers.

The controllers are certainly light and comfortable in the hand, although they do not have quite the same premium feel as the Quest 2 controllers, and they also both run on a pair of AA batteries every.

When it comes to the tracking itself, I’ve been pretty happy with the accuracy and consistency for well over 15 hours of playing time.

The independent experience

As for the content library, Neo 3 Link is currently doing a decent job of bringing Quest 2’s best third-party games to a new ecosystem where they look and play virtually identical. It includes all-timer releases like Superhot VR and Eleven: Table Tennis as well as recent hits like Demeo and After The Fall, with some notable omissions like Job Simulator. However, I expect the list of missing games to narrow over the course of the week as more titles are launched on the device (you can follow a list of all Neo 3 Link support games here).

Neo 3 Link is also not as strictly curated as the Quest store, which means you get front-and-center access to some great indie titles like Crisis VRigade 1 and 2, as well as some not-so-good titles you want to roll straight on the past. That said, you essentially still get a smaller version of the Quest 2 series with the Neo 3 Link, without any of the big exclusives like Beat Saber, Echo VR and Resident Evil 4 VR.

Pico will really have to double the investment to make this library much more compelling; it should not just be parity with third-party Quest releases, but some hits to call its own and help differentiate it from the Quest ecosystem. I will be very interested to see how it goes with achieving this in the coming months.

You’re also missing a host of features that Meta has implemented in Quest 2 during its 18 months on the market. It includes hugely important input options like hand tracking. Neo 3 only supports this with the Pro model at the company level, and it is only with an externally mounted Ultraleap sensor. In addition, there is an ever-increasing number of social and productivity improvements such as. to feel when someone has entered your play area or invite others into your home environment. The list goes on: selecting virtual desktops and sofas, multitasking on 2D windows, tracking bluetooth keyboard recognition and more. There is a lot to catch up on here.

That is, crucial where the word ‘beta’ really comes into play. Pico has basically just embarked on the same journey that Meta began with the release of the first Quest, and we expect many of these features to eventually find their way into the Neo series. The big question is whether the Neo 3 Link will continue to be supported with these new features when its successor arrives, because if not, it’s even harder to recommend the device to more casual VR users.

PC integration

Pico Neo 3 Link Review DisplayPort

But while the Neo 3 Link may lack many of the features you can currently enjoy on a Quest 2, it also boasts a great feature that Meta does not have. Packed inside each box next to the headset is a USB-C to DisplayPort cable. You can use this to connect directly to your PC and experience pure, uncompressed PC VR. Metas USB-C to USB-A Link meanwhile offers a stable connection but compresses the image and it is very noticeable. Pico also has an AirLink option for wireless streaming, but it adds that compression again.

I’ve used the wired connection to try out demos from Steam Next Fest, and after reviewing Green PC VR’s PC version, I found the clarity on offer with the wired connection easy makes the Neo 3 Link my favorite hybrid headset. Until now, I had always had a Rift S on hand because it offered the right mix of ease of use and clarity. Neo 3 Link will allow me to finally put that headset on the shelf.

That said, there are some issues that need to be addressed. To begin with, the Neo 3 Link humorously comes with its own screwdriver to secure the USB-C connection to your headset without the risk of detachment. It certainly works, but it’s not exactly convenient to have a screwdriver around all the time while going between modes.

The actual SteamVR integration has meanwhile worked well for me in terms of performance and controller compatibility, though I have seen some strange issues. For example, the virtual controllers shown in SteamVR have always resembled the Oculus Rift CV1 Touch controllers and not the Picos design. I received an update earlier in the week that said the issue was resolved, but even after that update, it is still there. Button prompts to end streaming do not really seem to work either. Hopefully, Pico can work with Steam to further improve implementation in future updates and products.

Privacy

Presumably many people would be interested in Pico Neo 3 Link as an alternative to Quest 2 because it is not associated with Meta. You do not need a Facebook account to set up your device (though Meta still says it will remove this requirement for Quest in the future), and you will not lose access to games and apps if that account is banned for any reason .

But just because you do not need a social media account does not mean that Neo 3 Link does not raise privacy concerns. TikTok itself has been at the center of this debate for some time, although the company has always claimed that US users’ data does not leave the country, except “backup redundancy in Singapore. “ But this does not have dumb worries; last week, a Buzzfeed News report claimed that ByteDance employees had access to “non-public data on US TikTok users ”.

In my 2020 Quest 2 review, I said that “the ball is in your court when it comes to determining how much these concerns are for you. “You do not need me to tell you that Facebook does not have a good reputation in terms of data protection. You can see the obvious benefits that the company can see in a technology platform that can literally tell where you look at all the time. “

You should also consider this statement as relevant to ByteDance.

Pico Neo 3 Link Review: Final Impressions

Pico Neo 3 Link Review Page

Pico Neo 3 Link marks a decent start for ByteDance’s consumer VR ambitions with a headset comparable to Quest 2 in many important ways – some even positive – though this beta release lacks some vital features and software. It is crucial that being able to offer the headset for € 450 with a DisplayPort cable included suggests that Meta’s iron grip on VR value may be facing serious, much-needed competition.

But it’s hard to recommend the Neo 3 Link to many VR fans, simply because the device so openly tests the waters for what’s next. With a Neo 4 looking more and more likely in the near future, the purpose of the Neo 3 Links is primarily to prove features to the next. A discount on the Neo 3 Links successor is not much of an incentive to dive into now when you can simply save a lot more money by waiting 12 months for the next device. Still, if you are strictly looking to buy a headset now that offers a compression-free PC VR experience and a taste of standalone too, the Pico Neo Link 3 is a decent Quest 2 alternative.

William

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