VR headsets are still in their infancy, but there are already plenty of manufacturers that are content to copy the industry leaders. It's especially true on the mobile front where we have far too many clones of the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. But Pico, a Chinese device maker, is marching to the beat of its own drum with its new Neo VR system.
Available for preorder for $550 (whole system) or $300 (headset only) with a June ship date, the VR headset comes in black with bright orange accents or vice versa, which already bucks the boring white and black design of the competition. But according to Liliputing, what really sets the Neo VR apart from the pack is how it powers your virtual reality experience.
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Instead of relying on your smartphone's processor and RAM, the components, a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC storage, have been crammed into the bundled gamepad controllers. If necessary, you can expand the storage to 128GB via a microSD slot located on the controllers. Other key specs for the gamepad include two USB-Type-C ports, a gyroscope and accelerometer.
Relocating the CPU and RAM has a few benefits, such as eliminating the possibility of an overheating smartphone and headset. You also have the ability to just purchase the headset at about half the price and use it with a PC or a smartphone.
To deliver a room-tracking experience similar to the HTC Vive, the system also ships with a tracking kit. Comprised of two handheld tracking controllers, a pair of cameras, a TrackingKit Station and an attachable tracking beacon, the kit allows wearers to walk around their designated play spaces without running into inanimate objects, people or pets.
In terms of the headset, there's a pair of 3.8-inch AMOLED displays with 1200 x 1080 resolution each and a 102-degree field of vision. You also get a Micro-USB port, a built-in mic and a 3.5mm audio jack. Speaking of audio, the headset features both DiveSound 3D sound effect software and Unity 3D, so there's a reasonable expectation of some form of three-dimensional spatial audio.
The Neo VR uses Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) as its operating system. However the headset's main interface will be the company's open-source PicoVR app. Sporting a visually appealing reddish-purple background, the app is where you'll access all your content including games, Amazon Video and Netflix.
Pico claims that the Neo VR will get up to three hours of battery life with its 5,000 mAh battery. The device supports Qualcomm QuickCharge, which should translate into relatively short charging times.
Overall, the Pico Neo VR looks to be a promising headset that could successfully bridge the gap between mobile and PC virtual reality platforms. However, every VR system is going to live and die by its content, so we're eager to see what Pico has in store.