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Pico Neo3 Link review - is it the one?

Pico Neo3 Link review - is it the one?

We get to to try a lot of different VR headsets here at TheVirtualReport.biz. Some are amazing, but prohibitively expensive. More are just plain disappointing. But every now and again, we encounter something that ticks so many boxes that we feel it our duty to bring it to your attention. The Pico Neo3 Link is just such a proposition.

Pee-who? Pico Interactive, operating out of San Francisco and Beijing, founded in 2015 and the top VR hardware manufacturer in China. The firm now has offices all around the world, including New York, Barcelona and Tokyo. They were acquired by TikTok parent company ByteDance last summer, when we speculated about the prospect of an international consumer release for their VR headsets.

Nine months later, the Pico Neo3 Link went on sale in Europe this May and is now available in the UK.

This is a hardware specific review and not a head-to-head showdown, but let's address the elephant in the room that is the ever-dominant Meta Quest 2. There's a whole section dedicated to that comparison later on, so scroll down if you want to see where we'd put our money in 2022. The result might surprise you...

Headset, controllers and link cable all included

First impressions

Let's look at the Neo3 Link on its own merits covering everything from comfort and displays to tracking and audio. And… packaging?

Nope, we don't really care about packaging either, but first impressions count - see YouTube's predilection for unboxing videos - and the Pico makes a good one with its premium box, sleeve and inserts. It's reassuringly polished in a way that a £399.99 product should make you feel that you made a good decision.

The hardware itself feels of good quality too. Fit and finish is excellent, with no loose parts or rough edges. The buttons and input/output sockets are well placed and logical to use. With its dial-to-fit halo-style headband, the Neo3 is comfortable to wear for a range of head sizes. IPD is manually adjusted across three positions - 58mm, 63.5mm and 69mm - by moving the lenses closer together or further apart. We wish there were more granularity and a wider range of adjustment, but most players should be able to find a suitable setting.

The controllers retain the button layout from more established competitors, which makes them pick-up-and-play for experienced users, with no need to relearn muscle memory. With tracking rings that extend beyond the control shaft, they look and feel reminiscent of Windows Mixed Reality hardware, but they don't share the same tracking woes.

The Neo3 Link is well balanced and comfortable for extended use

Comfort is excellent for extended play sessions, being well-balanced with the rear-mounted battery offsetting the LCD display to the front - plus a good quality facial interface too.

In use

We've tried the Neo3 with a huge range of titles in both PC and standalone modes and have yet to befuddle the controller tracking any more than you might on the market leader. Tracking seems both accurate and solid, whether that's heading for high scores in rhythm action games or racking up the kill count in competitive shooters.

Comfort is excellent for extended play sessions, being well-balanced with the rear-mounted battery offsetting the LCD display to the front - plus a good quality facial interface too. There is some ambient light ingress around the nose, but there's an optional adaptor in the box if you want to blank that out for ultimate immersion. VR headsets can be warm places, but Pico's heat management is excellent, with reduced lens fogging as a result.

This may not be a problem for other users, but the power button located to the upper left of the facemask is exactly where our offhand fingers land whenever we readjust the headset, resulting in unintended mid-game outages. We'd suggest Pico sets that to one side for the next version.

The 3,664 x 1,920 'fast' LCD screen with 773 PPI means that the dreaded screendoor effect is a thing of the past. Okay, it's still not quite relegated to history, but at least you have to go looking for it now. Clarity is generally excellent, with well-defined edges and bright colours that can only be beaten by far more expensive hardware. The 'up to' 120Hz refresh rate keeps things moving at a fast clip, too.

Audio, on the other hand, is… adequate. As in, it makes sounds. Thin, tinny sounds that lack presence. It's just fine for casual or low-impact usage, but anyone looking for the best experience will want to take advantage of the 3.5mm audio output to pair it with some good earphones or headphones.

The Pico store is well stocked with essential titles and a range of genres

An excellent standalone VR system with a well-curated software library from day one without a PC in sight.

Standalone VR

Pico's marketing has quite rightly gone big on the whole '2-in-1 VR' angle, where Meta almost seems to find PC VR an embarrassment. Let's look at the Neo3 in both scenarios, starting with how we expect most consumers to use it; as a standalone headset.

Sign up using the Pico app on a smartphone and we had the Neo3 Link up and running in no time. It's very slick and intuitive. (Make sure you install the latest software update, which fixes some fisheye lens effect we noted in the home environment - we were worried for a moment there!)

Pico has its own store, with hundreds of titles and more being added regularly. There's an excellent offering of essential and diverse games here, including the likes of Superhot VR, Walkabout Mini Golf, A Fisherman's Tale and Smash Drums.

If you've ever used standalone VR, then everything feels familiar and works as you'd expect. If you have yet to use an all-in-one headset, then you should know that you'll get the full six-degrees-of-freedom true VR experience with no compromises. If your only previous experience of VR was one of those smartphone-powered systems such as Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR, then rest assured that this is on a whole different level.

For just shy of £400, Pico's Neo3 Link offers an excellent standalone VR system with a well-curated software library from day one without a PC in sight - unless you want to play the most exacting race/flight sims or AAA PC titles such as Half Life: Alyx. In which case…

The bundled DP cable for PC VR screws into the HMD to avoid accidental disconnects

Steam games had fresh clarity that we'd not experienced on another headset in this price bracket.

PC VR

The Neo3 Link is also fully intended to be used tethered to a PC for the very best VR experiences. There's even a nifty DC power socket on the 5m DisplayPort cable so you don't have to worry about that dreaded low battery warning halfway through a marathon session. There's a neat retention panel to affix it to the strap, but ours is manufactured way too tight to easily fit. The link cable is included, but you'll need to source your own optional mains power supply.

Steam VR works like a champ. Not only do all the PC VR titles in our library just work, they look great too. That's because the DisplayPort cable supports uncompressed image quality at 90Hz at 'near 4K' resolution. Who knew that a video cable carrying video signals presents better images than a USB cable that introduces compression and decompression at either end? It's not rocket science is it, Meta?

With its 'proper' video connection, the Neo3 Link is unparalled for anyone looking to combine premium PC VR with a casual standalone use case. The audio may vary depending on your software update though - initially, we had terrible audio lag using 'phones that was bad enough playing solo, but inexcusable for competitive games. That seems to have been fixed with the most recent update, but it's something we feel we should mention.

We've tried the Neo3 with a bunch of Steam games and all had fresh clarity that we'd not experienced on another headset in this price bracket. For instance, a nighttime race in Assetto Corsa - using mods through content manager - looked subjectively better, with improved sharpness and, well, sparkle.

And keeping it in the family, Assetto Corsa Competizione was objectively better because not only was it actually playable, but thoroughly enjoyable. ACC is so notorious for frame rate issues in VR due to the way it handles post-processing to the point that it's received little runtime in our office - until now…

Meta's Quest 2 still enjoys a huge lead at the top of Steam Hardware surveys

The two trade blows in terms of spec, with this new contender matching the market leader every step of the way.

Neo3 Link Vs Quest 2

And now for that elephant in the room we mentioned earlier, in the form of the chart-topping Quest 2. It's been a bestseller for a while now - and with good reason: it's brilliant! Even its name has become ubiquitous with VR itself for some, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved - and there's nothing like a healthy dose of competition to move things forward.

It's no exaggeration to say that a lot of people hate Facebook/Meta. And we don't just mean 'dislike'.

If you are one of those people that is reluctant - or just plain refuse - to purchase VR hardware that demands a social sign-in, then you can stop reading now. Buy a Neo3 Link safe in the knowledge that you are missing none of the functionality or performance of the market-leading Quest 2, while exercising your right to choose as a consumer.

It makes a pretty compelling case for the rest of us, too.

As you can see from the table below, the two trade blows in terms of spec, with this new contender matching the market leader every step of the way.


Pico Neo3 Link vs Meta Quest 2 specs comparison table

All information taken from official sources.

ParameterNeo3 LinkQuest 2
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2
Storage 256GB 128GB/256GB
RAM 6GB 6GB
Display Fast LCD Fast LCD
Resolution 1832 x 1920 per eye 1832 x 1920 per eye
PPI 773 773
Refresh rate 72/90/120Hz 60/72/90Hz (120Hz beta)
Field of view 98° 97°
Lens Type Fresnel Fresnel
IPD adjustment 3-step (58mm/63.5mm/69mm) 3-step (58mm/63mm/68mm) 
Speakers Integrated stereo Integrated stereo
Headphone out 3.5mm 3.5mm
Microphone Integrated Integrated
6DoF Yes Yes
Battery Life 2.5~3 hours 2~3 hours
Wireless connectivity Wi-Fi 6/Bluetooth 5.1 Wi-Fi 6
OS Android Android
Price £399.99 £299/£399

Not only has Pico managed to release a headset that performs on par with the market leader for the same price, but it also includes some meaningful quality of life upgrades.

The 256GB Meta Quest 2 is £399 and the similarly specced Neo3 Link lands within pennies of the same price. But not only is the Link cable included with the Neo3 - as opposed to a £90 add-on - but it also thoughtfully features that DC power-in socket. It also comes with a well-constructed halo-style strap - saving another £50 on the Quest 2's Elite strap - as well as a comfortable facial interface that doesn't demand an immediate £25 upgrade.

That's £165 you don't need to spend on the Neo3 that we feel would be essential for all but the most casual Quest 2 user. In our world of mad maths, the true cost of the Quest 2 for the sake of a like-for-like comparison should be considered £564.

Not only has Pico managed to release a headset that performs on par with the market leader for the same price, but it also includes some meaningful quality of life upgrades as standard.

Where to buy

The Neo3 is only sold through exclusive partners online. In the UK, that's System Active. Is their aftercare or refund policy up there with big names like Amazon or Argos - just to start at the beginning of the alphabet? We just don't know. And that may put buyers off.

No doubt there's a sound commercial reason behind this distribution method, but we'd like to see Pico build on the success of this launch and put its products into mainstream retail outlets in the future, with all the safeguards and assurances for consumers that come with it.

It's easier to use, more comfortable - and for PC VR - it presents a sharper image while making the most demanding games more playable.

Summary

The Neo3 Link may never outsell Quest 2, but maybe Pico doesn't need it to. Maybe this beta launch of its first international consumer hardware is the opening salvo in a longer war. A war when Oculus is being stepped back to become Meta as a result of its parent company's shift in focus to the metaverse, leaving investors unimpressed.

The Quest 2 has been our office workhorse for some time now and will continue in that role for no other reason than to ensure that we can experience new content from Meta. But if my personal Quest 2 suffered a catastrophic failure for some reason - and I've thought about this long and hard writing this review over the past couple of weeks - then I'd replace it with the Neo3 Link.

It's easier to use, more comfortable - and for PC VR - it presents a sharper image while making the most demanding games more playable.

A lot of people have said for a long time now that nobody other than Meta can sell such high VR specs for such low prices - and Pico has just proven them all wrong. Bravo!


  • Full disclosure: Pico Europe were kind enough to supply a review sample of the Neo3 Link free of charge
  • Frank disclosure: We remain 100% independent. We will always tell you if we think something is good or bad
  • Final disclosure: This review ended up so positive that we can already hear the skeptics on social media. Hopefully the detail above explains just why we rate the Neo3 Link
Managing Editor

Steve is an award-winning editor and copywriter with nearly 25 years’ experience specialising in consumer technology and video games. He was part of a BAFTA nominated developer studio. In addition to editing TheVirtualReport.biz, Steve contributes to BeyondGames.biz, PocketGamer.biz, PCGamesInsider.biz and BlockchainGamer.biz, as well as creating marketing content for a range of SMEs and agencies.

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