Pico 4 review: outdated before it got good

Pico 4 review: outdated before it got good
It’d be next to impossible for a little guy like the Pico 4 to wage market combat with an industry leader like Meta. Which is a great thing for the Pico, because it’s coming from the east, where it doesn’t need to compete with headsets like the Quest 2 or Valve Index.

Ah, and it’s made by this little company that you might’ve heard of, called ByteDance. Now, where have you heard that name before? Well, of course: it was related to literally any chapter of everlasting TikTok drama, because the app is made by the same company.

But could that have a negative impact on a VR headset which, on paper, sounds like a solid piece of technology? Yes, but not in the way you’d expect. Welcome to my review of the Pico 4, where we’ll talk about how the groundbreaking features of yesteryear mean nothing in a thriving industry.

And if strapping your face to a basically endless TikTok feed is a good idea or not. Ugh… Spoilers?


  • Lightweight
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Has a lot of features
  • Pretty solid picture quality


  • Uncomfortable strap
  • Barren standalone experience
  • All features come with some sort of caveat
  • Is really difficult to recommend in 2023


The Pico 4 unboxing experience

The Pico 4 offers an expected, but straightforward unboxing experience, as it’s pretty easy to find everything. Better yet, it’s easy to put everything back inside the box, which is important because the headset doesn’t come with a carrying case.

Inside the box, however, reside:

  • A charging brick
  • A charging cable
  • Two controllers
  • A pair of controller straps
  • What initially seems like an additional facial interface, but actually isn’t
  • A box of obligatory inserts and instructions

I was so not excited to re-experience one of my most unfavorite things about the VR industry, namely: the part where VR companies love to not include link cables in the box, as the one here is — of course! — reserved for charging only.

So, we take advantage of the PC VR capabilities on a marketing level, but not on a user level? Cheeky devils!


I’ll just say it: I’m about to compare the Pico 4 and the Quest 2 a lot. And I know! The Quest 2 came out almost two years before the Pico 4. But despite that, the two headsets offer a staggeringly similar experience.

For example, the Pico 4 is just ever so slightly heavier than the Quest 2. Both headsets are powered by the Snapdragon XR2, but the Pico 4 compliments it with 8GB of RAM, instead of 6 on the Quest 2.

That being said, I can’t help but highlight that Pico has done a fantastic job with supporting the Pico 4 through software updates. For example, the headset didn’t launch with a 90Hz refresh rate, but now it’s a feature that you can enable in Settings.

Sure, there may exist some specific moments where there is a noticeable difference in performance or capability. But they are very few and far between, to an extent where it becomes difficult to notice them.

Ah, yes! Technically, the Pico 4 supports eye tracking and the Quest 2 doesn’t. Great!

But then again, it doesn’t offer any built-in opportunities for you to take advantage of this feature. I couldn’t even find a calibration setting, to test how well it works. I’m sure that there are third party apps that take advantage of eye tracking out there, but naturally, they are sold separately.

So, there: even despite one very specific difference, the experience remains comparable, one way or another.

Design and Build Quality

You know what kind of sucks? A product that’s just “okay”. But that’s about all I can say about the comfort levels of the Pico 4. And that would’ve been fine if I didn’t need to go on adventuring with it through several long VR sessions.

Because, here’s the deal: I don’t know what the materials of the facial interface and strap are made out of, but I’ve never sweated as much with a headset in my life. What sucks more is that the facial interface appears to be glued to its plastic part, so throwing it in the washer is simply out of the question.

Given the case, I’d certainly be hesitant to bring out the headset during a party.

But I’ve got another reason for that last one up my sleeve, and it’s this: I don’t get the front design. Some headsets, like the Quest Pro, offer a similar design, but that’s only due to their technical capabilities. And the Pico 4? Well, I can just see the one camera out front.

And it just happens to be surrounded by something that feels like glass. And even if I’m not rushing to my local laboratory to have a chip of this mysterious material tested, I’d like to highlight some the features that I suspect that it possesses:

  • I feel like I can scratch it just by looking at it too hard
  • It gathers dust and fingerprints like you can’t even imagine
  • It feels like it’s one mishap away from ruining passthrough for me forever (aka breaking)

So, in summary, I’d rather just have plastic on the front, thanks. And not that I’m certain that this isn’t, but the way it is designed makes me not want to trust it enough to find out through experience.

And — finally! — I’m done with the negatives, so here’s some praise too. The Pico 4 is rather compact and easy to move around. It feels good in the hands — save for its visor — but it also makes me hesitant to want to touch it due to sweat related memories, so there’s that too.

Just in case I didn’t make it clear though: the Pico 4 has more than just one camera, which it uses in order to let you move around more freely. They are positioned in an expected way, so I can’t really say anything outstanding about them in this portion of the review.

But you know me: I’m a touchy-feely kind of person and I love me some good buttons. And while the Volume buttons of the Pico 4 were just where I expected them to be, the power button was moved to the side, which took some getting used to.

The Pico 4 doesn’t feature a headphone jack. Instead, it does allow you to connect a pair of headphones via Bluetooth, but in my experience: the delay was pretty unbearable. Luckily, the sound of the built-in speaker was pretty solid.

Picture quality and IPD adjustment

This is the part where we can actually highlight several important differences between the Pico 4 and the Quest 2. Some of them, however, may be unintentionally subjective due to biology, because I haven’t evolved to a level where I can physically move my nose and eyes yet — apologies for that!

And what I mean is that it may be just me, but the pancake lenses on the Pico 4 have a really narrow focus point. I constantly felt like if I moved my eyes ever so slightly in any direction, the image would lose a significant amount of sharpness and detail.

And that is important, because it turned me into some sort of lizard person that relies more on neck movement than on eye movement. And do you know what doctors say about this type of lizard people? Well, they get a lot of eye and neck strain.

And gosh darn it, they were right.

The IPD (interpupillary distance) range of the Pico 4 is between 62 and 72mm, which isn’t as wide as on the Quest 2. But that doesn’t matter, because the Pico 4 has a motor inside that can adjust the IPD range at the push of a button.

Does it matter? No. Is it cool? Yes, for the first 10 minutes or so.

But despite how cool it is and my lack of any sort of vision impairments, I still failed to notice any difference when the IPD range was set to ~4 of what I’d consider my ideal setting. Which, interestingly enough, didn’t match with what I’d considered to be the ideal setting through other headsets.

Let us, however, enter this imaginary alignment of stars where the IPD range is just right and your eyes are centered just as the Pico 4 wants it. What’s the result? Well, pretty close to what you’d get on a Quest 2 and I mean that in the best possible way.

If you’re looking for imperfections, you’ll find them, but once you’re immersed, you don’t encounter almost any issues. Almost. Save for two. Pretty big ones.

First up: god rays. I can’t stress this enough: I’ve never seen god rays as massive as the ones I experienced on the Pico 4. They were primarily noticeable during high-contrast scenes, but when they happened, it felt like something was reaching out to stab my eyes.

And then, there’s another one which was pretty new to me. If I was in some sort of bright VR environment and I focused my eyes just right, I’d notice a bunch of black dots on the screen. Those, I’ve come to theorize, may actually be the distance between the pixels.

But they came with this unwanted side effect: I don’t know why, but as soon as I would notice them, my brain would latch on to the concept like there was no tomorrow, which literally made me go cross-eyed in order for me to focus on them.

That, in turn, made me avoid sitting still in brighter environments altogether. Really odd one and I haven’t really found any solution or explanation to the phenomenon. That being said, I do have an explanation for something else.

You’ve probably noticed that the Pico 4 has pancake lenses. That, in turn, probably brought you memories of the Quest Pro or Quest 3, which feature the same type of lens. But that’s just it: this is just a type of lens and it doesn’t really represent quality.

It’s really difficult to compare VR technology, due to the very nature of the experience and how easy it is to immerse yourself in it — which is, after all, the main point of a headset — but I felt like the Quest 2 offered a better visual experience, with special regard to lack of unexpected possibly paranormal phenomena.

That being said, I must highlight something unexpected that happened during my review process: Pico released some sort of update to the OS, which noticeably improved picture quality, both in standalone and PC VR conditions. This didn’t outright eliminate my complaints, but I can certainly say that they’d be much less noticeable if I was getting my initial impressions now.


Okay then, let us respond to the most important question: does the TikTok headset require a TikTok account to use? No, it does not. But your experience may not exactly be better off for it. When you first dive in, the headset will demand you set up some sort of account, though.

And I say it like that, because it’s a Pico account and that’s owned by ByteDance and the Pico account is related to PicoVideo which literally feels like TikTok, and then you’re just the one button press away from having it become a proper TikTok account and… You tell me if there’s any difference for real, chief.

Anyway, you know how sometimes Windows will ask something of you, but you don’t really feel like doing it, so you press the “Show Desktop” button to shoo it away, and then just continue on using Alt+Tab to navigate your currently active apps until you can no longer delay the prompt?

Well, that’s the same logic I applied with Pico 4’s UI and it worked every time. The more experienced software nerds among you will know that design like that has massive downsides and this is no exception.

When I first booted up the Pico 4, it needed a WiFi connection. But it kept bringing up the prompt for me to register an account over the UI for connecting to the internet. And, as you can imagine, those two processes have a clear direction that they need to follow.

But the Pico 4 didn’t know that.

Now, I did eventually cave and set up an account, just because I wanted to explore if that would allow me to do something more with the headset. But beyond that, you’ll have to decide for yourself if this is the type of UI experience that you’d be interested in.

With that out of the way, navigation was pretty easy and to some extent, even a bit more natural than on the Quest series of headsets. The home VR environment of the Pico 4 is rather bland, but beyond that, I can primarily list off positives about UI navigation.

Unlike on the Quest, though, the store for the Pico 4 is rather barren, especially in comparison. Pico is working on it, but it’s a work in progress for sure. And if you need an example, I’ll just tell you that you can’t play Beat Saber in standalone mode on the Pico 4.

But do you know what there is a lot of on the Pico 4? A seemingly endless supply of risky content, on the verge of NSFW, which gets recommended to you, account or not. And it doesn’t even stem from TikTok — I think? — as the Pico has its own dedicated video solution, much like on the Quest.

Now, there were some… Normal? — videos on there too, but they were either what you’d expect, like VR tours of notable locations around the world or very cheap knockoff animations with existing characters like Mario or Sonic.

The worst part? You couldn’t really avoid these, because the first screen that you see on the Pico 4 after booting it up is a curation of stuff that it recommends to you. And that always includes videos, some of which made me feel inappropriate every time.

I’d list off a few reasons as to why I say it like that, but that may get my name on some rather negatively attuned FBI lists, so I won’t. And FYI, Agent Carter, I didn’t watch any of those, so you better bring that up with Pico!

In case you’re wondering: no, you don’t have YouTube on the Pico 4. But then, of course, you could always download and install TikTok too, for even more of the above, if that’s your preference.

Mine wasn’t. So let’s talk about headaches instead.

So, the process of getting a headache — which is also known as just using the headset to do stuff and play games — is pretty straightforward. No technical hiccups were found on the headset while on standalone mode, so that was neat.

But then there came the time to take off the headset, and oh boy my neck felt like it had a fever of its own. I touched upon this previously when talking about lizards, so TL;DR: you move your neck a lot more with the Pico 4, and it’s tiring and painful after that for sure.

Which is why I spent a lot of time in the Settings menu, trying to find a cure for that. I couldn’t, but I found other cool stuff, like a 90Hz refresh rate, which I instantly activated forever.

Moreover, I activated all possible options for tracking that the Pico 4 offered, which includes:

  • Eye tracking
  • Hand tracking
  • Face tracking
  • Head tracking

I listed off that last one for the record, but it’s obviously on by default, along with face tracking. The latter works when you’re trying to use your Pico avatar to talk and if I had to judge it solely by that — which I will, because no other free app offered to utilize this feature — I can say this:

According to the Pico 4, I am only capable of making my mouth go either “Ow” or “Uh”. But I did get a laugh out of it for free, if that means anything to you.

So what about eye tracking and hand tracking then? Well, I didn’t have access to a single app that utilized eye-tracking, not even a calibration option like on the Quest Pro for example, so I literally don’t know.

Hand tracking required me to do this weird Naruto jutsu motion before I could use it and I couldn’t get it to work. And I seriously doubt that the issue was on my end, because Naruto is actually one of the few anime I’ve watched, so I’d call myself versed in Naruto jutsu hand motions.

This was also similar to the experience that I had with AR and MR on the Pico 4, which is to say that I didn’t experience any, as there weren’t any built-in means for me to do that. That being said, I was impressed with the quality of passthrough.

It’s in color, it’s fuzzy, but not nearly as much as on the Quest Pro, for example. That being said, there is heavy screen distortion in a fish-eye fashion, but it was acceptable enough that I could freely navigate my home.

Now, don’t get your hopes up: reading text on a screen, be it your PC or phone, is still impossible. But the Pico 4 has this feature where you double tap its side in order to activate passthrough at any time, and you know what? I used it quite often.

Staying hydrated in VR never felt so effortless!

At this point, you should be getting a clear idea of where my subtitle came from. The Pico 4 has yet to offer some of the best VR games and apps. It remains impressive on paper, sure, but does that matter when I can’t do anything with any of these impressive features?

PC VR Capabilities

Like most competitive VR headsets from recent years, the Pico 4 will let you enjoy PC VR games too. Similar to the competition, it will allow you to achieve this aim in one out of two possible ways:

  • Wirelessly
  • With a cable

Now the first one is your only option out of the box, because the cable included with the Pico 4 is for charging only. Once again, the headset requires a USB-C to USB-C connection in order to connect to a computer, so if that is your goal, you’re going to have to order a link cable separately.

Luckily, I’ve got an insanely fast WiFi connection at home and a dedicated network that I’ve set up specifically for wireless VR testing, so I was prepared for the task at hand. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was some app-related confusion.

Here’s the deal: Steam offers the Pico 4 streaming assistant. But after I downloaded it from there, which made all the sense in the world as my existing VR game library was already on Steam, I made a very important discovery:

The app does not work.

And the massive amount of negative ratings for it on Steam should’ve been an indicator. The reason for that is that the app on Steam is outdated. Why isn’t Pico updating it, given that it’s already on the platform? I don’t know.

What I do know is that downloading the standalone version of the Streaming Assistant from Pico’s official website is actually a secret adventure game.

You see, you first need to get through Chrome and convince it that this isn’t some sort of act of self-mutilation. In order to get through the next part, you need to ensure that ad blocker is off, so that you can even view the page. And lastly, in order to defeat the final boss, you need to turn off Windows Defender, so that you can actually download the file.

I can’t make this up. And yes, I’m sure that it was the right website. The good news is that a week later, I still haven’t encountered traces of identity theft, but if you see me acting weird here: be sure to signal the editors!

Anyway, connecting the headset to the PC wirelessly was a far easier task than on the Quest via Meta’s AirLink. The process was straightforward, the connection seemed more reliable and the headset would always connect to my PC without fault.

That being said, the resulting feed was noticeably scaled down and felt like I was viewing it in 360p. But this time, that didn’t bother me as much, because from what I could understand, connecting the Pico 4 to a PC via USB-C would produce the same result anyway.

So, I’m standing in front of my desk, with this thing strapped to my face, going through my library of PC VR games when all of the sudden, things become unbearably laggy. I exit Steam, enter again: it gets worse.

At that point, I hear my PC’s fans audibly start preparing for liftoff.

Fretting for RGB-fueled baby, I take the headset off to inspect my system and what do I see? A bunch of running VR games. And those? Those tend to be pretty hungry for resources. So why was that so?

Well, as it turns out, when I press “Quit” for a game running via Steam through the Pico 4, it would not close entirely. The headset would behave as if I have and Steam would allow me to start up another game. But in reality, it would remain running in the background.


This is the only instance where something like this has ever happened, so I’m rather inclined to blame the Pico 4. I tested the same sessions with the Quest Pro and — despite the issues related to that headset specifically — games would close normally.

So… Pico doesn’t really want you to stream PC games, I guess?

After I made a habit of taking off the headset in order to manually exit a game through my PC before venturing into another adventure, I could finally get a taste of the actual PC VR gaming experience. And it was pretty solid, for the most part.

Games didn’t impress me visually in any notable way, but at a certain point, the Pico 4 received an OS update, which improved image quality in ways that impacted PC VR titles too. It wasn’t a game changer, but the difference was noticeable and I appreciated the upgrade for sure.

Honestly, performance was the best I’ve ever tried through a headset connected to my PC via a wireless connection. And I’d wager that this was the case because the Pico 4 supported faster WiFi speeds than on the Quest 2 and Quest Pro.

There was, however, another annoying thing that I had to deal with. Like all PC VR headsets, the Pico 4 set up its own virtual sound device on my PC. What it didn’t do is actually switch back to my own, actual speakers after I disconnected the Pico 4 from the wireless connection.

This, in turn, left me fumbling around the dozen or so sound devices I have set up at this point, because it’s not like they name themselves “Pico 4” or “Quest Pro”. It’s always random generic ramble and I hate that we haven’t fixed this yet in 2023.


There’s no point in delaying the inevitable: the Pico 4’s controllers are the worst part about the headset, by far. And this isn’t related to how they feel: the layout will be familiar to anyone who has tried a VR headset before and their overall shape is just fine.

It’s their capabilities. For starters, the accelerometer in these things is iffy, at best. In games like Grimlord, where the velocity with which I move my hand impacts the damage I deal to the enemies via the sword that I’m supposedly holding, this issue made for a very bad experience.

Whenever I would swing harder, the Pico 4’s controllers would either diminish the speed with which I’m moving my hands entirely, or one of my hands would get stuck behind my back, leaving me open for damage.

So, as a result, my only option was to gently slap my opponents to death, which made for an unintentionally hilarious gaming experience that I will never forget. Also one that ended at the first boss, as I couldn’t defeat him at all with the Pico 4. Bummer!

The controllers would overall lose their own position pretty often. I thought “Hm, the batteries may be dying” — despite the fact that Pico promises about 80 hours of use on a single pair — so I actually tried swapping them out. Nothing changed, regardless of brand.

Also, yes, this is to say that the controllers utilize two AA batteries per controller. Depending on the type of person you are, you may love or hate it.

Not only that, but one of the interface buttons is dedicated to taking screenshots. Sweet! However, it’s positioned equivalent to the Home button, which makes it very easy to confuse the two. As a result, I have a staggering collection of pointless screenshots that I’m sure all my guests would love.

But hey, at least you can hold the same button down to make a video, which is appreciated! And the footage’s quality is pretty high too, so the resulting footage isn’t useless, which is great for a select group of people out there.

Battery life

The Pico 4’s battery life isn’t impressive in any sort of way, yet the longevity that it offers was just enough for my style of use. On average, I would get about three hours of battery life out of a full charge, typically separated into two sessions of an hour and a half.

Charging time was, luckily, rather quick and I could get the headset fully juiced up for about two hours. And that’s important, because it turns out that I need to do that pretty often.

Because the amount of battery that this headset wastes in standby is insane. The headset went to under 10% from 80% after about 20 hours of just sitting around and I’m sure that it wasn’t updating in that time, because an update prompt is what I was greeted with when I booted it back up.

This, in turn, made me always want to go for the “Power Off” option, but then again I must ask: why offer Standby Mode if that’s the case?

Value for Money

So. The headset made by the TikTok company then, eh? Well, yes. And it certainly felt that way on a number of occasions, primarily thanks to the seemingly endless supply of scandalous video content that the Pico 4 was ready to present me with.

Moreover, a large portion of the overall content that one would have access to through the Pico 4 is certainly of a type and quality that wouldn’t exactly be appreciated by a western audience, or at least that’s how I felt about it.

Do you know that feeling when something is just very Chinese? But in that specific, cliche-level of bad. Well, that’s what I’d label the Pico 4 as.

But not because you would expect. The build quality is solid, the promised features are all here and almost all of them work as intended. It’s even outstanding in several ways, like software support or PC VR streaming.

But it’s the little things. It’s the precise way in which things feel unpolished and untested. It’s a very specific feeling that is difficult to explain, but also one that I’m willing to bet that you’re familiar with.

What does that leave us with then? A headset that can’t offer as much content as is available on the Quest store, yet also one that has performance and capabilities that are very similar to the Quest 2.

Sure, it has some features on top, such as eye-tracking, but what does that matter if you can’t use them on the regular or without spending money on top for some sort of app or game that would let you do that?

For the record, the Pico 4 isn’t commercially available in the United States, but I found it selling online in Europe for prices ranging from €349 (~$368) to €459 (~$485), depending on country, retailer and storage configuration.


It’s tough, but it's a fact: the VR industry picked up a lot more speed post 2022 and it’s a bummer that the Pico 4 came out too early to take advantage of that too.

Now, in 2023, the Quest 2 is cheaper than ever and the Quest 3 is out. Both offer tons of amazing MR and VR experiences and the latter surpases the Pico 4 on every level. As such, it becomes really difficult to recommend the Pico 4 over Meta’s more popular headsets.

The Pico 4 is a great piece of hardware, which just isn’t worth your money in 2023. Unless you find it at some sort of no-brainer bargain and are interested in low-res wireless PC VR more than anything, you’d do better to go for a Quest 2 or Quest 3 instead.

Here’s the good news though: this absolutely verifies that the VR industry is growing at breakneck speeds. And a rather unfortunate side-effect of that growth is that some products will just become outdated before they can ever get the chance to become good.


  • Lightweight
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Has a lot of features
  • Pretty solid picture quality


  • Uncomfortable strap
  • Barren standalone experience
  • All features come with some sort of caveat
  • Is really difficult to recommend in 2023

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