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The best standalone VR glasses: Three models compared

bytedance pico 4 01
© NextPit

Are you looking for the best standalone VR glasses, or have you heard about the Meta Quest 2, the Meta Quest Pro, or even the Apple Glass or Apple Reality Pro, but don't know where to begin? If so, then you have come to the right place as NextPit dissects this tricky frontier for you. We give you an insight into the world of AR, VR, MR, and XR and introduce the latest standalone VR glasses like the Pico 4 from ByteDance to you.

Three current standalone VR glasses in comparison

  The industry leader The cheapest The newest and most expensive
Device
Image
Meta Quest 2
ByteDance Pico 4
Meta Quest Pro
Dimensions and weight
  • 191.5 x 102 x 142.5 mm
  • 503 g
  • 255 (310) x 163 x 83.5 mm
  • 586 g
  • 265 x 127 x 196 mm
  • 722 g
Display and optics
  • 2x 2.73 inch LCD panel
  • 2x 1,832 x 1,920 (3,664 x 1,920) pixels
  • 60/72/90 Hz refresh rate (120 Hz experimental)
  • 104° horizontal field of view
  • 98° vertical field of view
  • Fresnel Lens
  • 58 - 68 mm (IPD)
  • 2x 2.56 inch LCD panel
  • 2x 2,160 x 2,160 (4,320 x 2,160) pixels
  • 1,200 ppi
  • 72/90 Hz refresh rate
  • 105° field of view
  • Pancake Lens
  • 62-72 mm (IPD) Motor driven
  • 2x 1,800 x 1,920 (3,600 x 1,920) pixels
  • 72/90 Hz refresh rate
  • 106° horizontal field of view
  • 96° vertical field of view
  • Pancake Glass Lens
  • 55 - 75 mm (IPD)
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1
  • 7 nm structure width
  • Octa-Core
  • max. 2.84 GHz
  • Adreno 650 GPU
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1
  • 7 nm structure width
  • Octa-Core
  • max. 2.84 GHz
  • Adreno 650 GPU
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 1
  • 7 nm structure width
  • Octa-Core
  • max. 3.2 GHz
  • Adreno 650 GPU
Memory
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 64/128/256 GB ROM
  • 8 GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • 128/256 GB UFS 3.0 ROM
  • 12 GB LPDDR5
  • 256 GB ROM
Cameras / Tracking
  • 4x 6DoF tracking camera
  • 1x B/W camera
  • 4x 6DoF fisheye camera
  • 1x 16MP RGB camera
  • IR eye tracking
  • 4x 6DoF inside-out tracking camera
  • 1x RGB camera
  • IR eye tracking
  • IR face tracking
Battery and runtime
  • 3,640 mAh
  • 2 hours runtime
  • 5,300 mAh (QC 3.0)
  • 2 hours runtime
  • mAh unknown
  • 1-2 hours runtime
  • Charging Dock (48W)
Connectivity
  • WiFi 6 - 2.4 GHz - 5 GHz
  • Bluetooth 5.0 LE
  • WiFi 6 - 2.4 GHz - 5 GHz
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • WiFi 6E - 2.4 GHz - 5 GHz - 6 GHz
  • Bluetooth 5.2
Sound
  • Stereo speakers
  • 3D sound
  • 2x microphones
  • Stereo speakers
  • 360° Surround Sound
  • 3D Spatial Sound
  • 2x microphones
  • Stereo Speakers
  • 3D Spatial Sound
  • 3x microphones
Other
  • USB Type-C port
  • 1x 3.5 mm jack connection
  • Air Link connection to PC
  • Link cable connection to PC (USB-C to USB-A)
  • Grayscale passthrough
  • USB Type-C connector
  • Wireless as well as cable link connection to PC (USB-C to USB-A)
  • RGB passthrough
  • USB Type-C connector
  • 2x 3.5 mm (R/L) jack connection
  • Air Link connection to PC
  • Link cable connection to PC (USB-C to USB-A)
  • RGB passthrough
Controller
  • Specifications per controller:
  • 2x 6DoF
  • Joystick and buttons
  • 6-axis sensor (gyroscope)
  • HyperSense-Vibration motor
  • 2x 2 AA batteries 1.5 V
  • 30 hours runtime
  • Specifications per controller:
  • 2x 6DoF
  • Joystick and buttons
  • 6-axis sensor (gyroscope)
  • HyperSense-Vibration Motor
  • 2x 2 AA batteries 1.5 V
  • 80 hours runtime
  • Specifications per controller:
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 662
  • 3x 6DoF
  • Joystick and buttons
  • 6-axis sensor (gyroscope)
  • HyperSense-Vibration Motor
  • Rechargeable battery
  • 10 hours runtime
Operating System
  • Android
  • Android / Pico OS
  • Android
Sales launch
  • October 13, 2020 (US)
  • $399.99 dollars (128 GB)
  • $490 (256 GB)
  • September 23, 2022
  • $425 (128 GB)
  • October 25, 2022 (US)
  • $1,499
Pros
  • "Inexpensive" VR entry
  • Up-to-date processor
  • Large VR app offer
  • Access to the Oculus and Steam VR store via link technology
  • Surprisingly good sound quality
  • Not yet reviewed
  • Not yet reviewed
Cons
  • Successor is coming this fall
  • Motion sickness risk
  • Poor battery life
  • Grayscale passthrough
  • Not yet reviewed
  • Not yet reviewed
Review
Not yet reviewed
Not yet reviewed
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Buying advice: What should you look out for?

AR/VR/MR/XR: What's the difference?

Anyone interested in virtual reality has probably been confronted with abbreviations like AR/VR/MR and XR more than a few times. These stand for augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and extended reality.

VR, or virtual reality, is a completely separate world, which has been programmed like a computer game and completely isolates the wearer of the headset from the outside world. The user moves "directly in the game" or the corresponding simulated world. Sensors and cameras recognize the body movements and adjust the optical display accordingly. The first known manufacturers include HTC with their Vive or Oculus with the Oculus Rift from 2016 (Developer Kit 2014).

Google Glass der 1. Generation
The 1st generation Google Glass still had a display in front of the actual lens of the glasses. / © NextPit

Augmented reality, on the other hand, gives users a clear view of the "real" environment. It usually comes with a display, as with Google Glass, additional information is superimposed—hence the term "augmented reality". The latest model in this category is the Oppo Air Glass 2, which is no longer recognizable as a wearable device despite its built-in speaker and microphone. This means it can be used in a practically invisible manner in everyday life for live translations or navigation.

Microsoft HoloLens
The Microsoft HoloLens is often referred to as mixed reality glasses. / © NextPit

With mixed reality, the name already suggests the following: It mixes AR and VR in a certain way. A distinction should be made between the two approaches. On the one hand, there is the very well-known Microsoft HoloLens or simple head-up displays in cars. In my opinion, both of these are incorrectly referred to as "mixed reality". The second approach is the Meta Quest Pro which was recently introduced by Facebook.

Here, the term MR is justified because the users basically see computer-generated images and record the actual reality with an external camera, and this image is also mixed with the VR image. For example, only parts of the "live image" such as a real keyboard or coffee cup on the table can be displayed and the rest consists of virtual reality. In the all-in-one glasses presented by us here, this so-called "passthrough" mode is available in all three headsets.

The only thing missing is the XR, i.e. Extended Reality: here, too, I would speak of a kind of Mixed Reality, although it is rather the overarching term of AR and MR. Apple has now brought this term back into the conversation with its planned Apple Glass and Reality Pro glasses. However, some like to distinguish the terms by the amount of additional virtual elements, graphics, or added "holograms".

In my opinion, over the long or short term, there will only be one form of artificial addition to reality. We are currently in the middle of the development process, so the entire shebang can be a bit confusing.

Wireless or tethered?

While this question doesn't even arise with augmented reality because it focuses on mobile (the most popular example: Pokémon Go for the smartphone), the question does arise with VR. Although this article focuses on standalone VR glasses—i.e. without a cable connection—you would think that the question would be pointless here as well. However, since our three mentioned candidates can also be operated in a wired manner through a high-performance PC, I want to elaborate on it a bit.

HTC Vive Pro
The first VR glasses like the HTC Vive relied on a wired connection to the PC. / © NextPit

The first VR glasses like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive are wired VR glasses, which require a gaming-ready PC. Current models like the HTC Vive 2 Pro, which we are currently reviewing in the NextPit editorial office, also rely on a wired connection. The minimum requirement for the PC's graphics card is currently an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 or AMD Radeon RX 5700 or better.

However, standalone VR glasses like the Meta Quest 2 can also be connected to the gaming computer with a link cable if desired. The advantage? It is not the Snapdragon X2(+) that comes installed in the headset that provides the necessary performance, but the powerful PC. The result is a higher resolution and performance, as well as access to PC-exclusive VR games from the Steam and Oculus VR stores. The downside: With a wired connection, you're locked to a location near the computer - regardless of the fact that, as a rule, the cable is perceived as annoying in the game.

The Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest Pro, and also the Pico 4 offer a connection via WLAN (called "Air Link" at Meta) in addition to the cabled connection to the PC. In that case, only the most powerful PC builds possible can be used to deliver amazing performance, and there is no limit when it comes to accessing the Steam and Oculus VR Store.

Which lenses are available?

Who does not know about them? The Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, are the forerunners of today's VR glasses. Back in 2014, Samsung worked very closely with Oculus (now known as Meta). The basis for VR enjoyment at that time was the smartphone with its processor, sensors, and display. The Gear VR provided the appropriate bay for the smartphone (preferably the Samsung Galaxy S6) and positioned two Fresnel lenses in front of the 5.1-inch AMOLED display (2,560 x 1,440 pixels): and voilà - the VR glasses were ready.

Samsung Gear VR
The Samsung Gear VR was the forerunner of today's VR glasses and equipped with thick so-called Fresnel lenses. / © NextPit

Fresnel lenses are still used today, such as in the Meta Quest 2, but are increasingly being replaced by so-called pancake lenses. Both the Pico 4 from DreamDance and Meta use them in the Quest Pro. Now you are rightly wondering what the differences are between a Fresnel and pancake lens.

Before I make it too complicated by waxing philosophy about the cut, chromatic aberration, and the different light bundling, I'll keep it short and sweet: Pancake lenses offer more advantages than disadvantages compared to Fresnel lenses. They are significantly thinner and thus support the trend towards increasingly lighter and unobtrusive designs of VR glasses. Thus, a pancake lens is increasingly advantageous for eyeglass wearers as well. So far, plastic has been used for manufacturing. However, Meta hints that the pancake lenses will be made of glass or with glass components. An answer is still pending.

Applications: from office to gaming

Our three standalone VR glasses presented here have far more application fields than you might think at first glance. The primary categories are entertainment, fitness, gaming, office, and social. I have deliberately left out the B2B sector, i.e. business applications such as architectural offices, doctors, car design, and training purposes.

Classic examples of entertainment include live TV, YouTube, and Netflix. Fitness is probably self-explanatory and a nice thing for people who want to burn a few calories without having to go to a real gym. Gaming was probably on everyone's mind and also needs no explanation.

The office category is a bit different: With Meta Horizon Workrooms, you can not only hold meetings in large or small teams, but also give presentations or work productively on a whiteboard from anywhere in the world. You can also take many documents with you into the meeting and share them.

But a "home office" setup is also possible with several virtual monitors. This is especially true with the aforementioned passthrough mode, which displays your keyboard or offers one of the compatible keyboards virtually, opening up completely new possibilities. Although other providers such as Immersed Office also offer good alternatives, Meta will probably ultimately prevail in this area as well.

And of course, this is where Mark Zuckerberg's highly praised Metaverse comes into play. With the Meta Quest Pro, eye and face tracking is possible and breathes facial expressions into your virtual avatar, which immediately lends a more life-like conversation.

Sufficient space

All three VR goggles require a so-called "Guardian Line" in addition to the floor height during the initial setup. This is the area that you should use as a VR playground in the future. The minimum size should be 2 x 2 meters and no larger than 5 x 5 meters. If there is a TV or other easily breakable items in the immediate vicinity, move them aside or make the area smaller at this point. I have already managed to hit my Smart TV with a decent swing while playing VR tennis. Everything was all right in the end, but it could have ended differently.

In the so-called "Roomscale", you can also virtually draw in your entire room including couch, table and other VR furniture, doors and windows. In fact, it is also possible to virtually map the entire apartment, but this requires an app that can only be installed via sideload, which would be the wrong place for a tutorial in this overview.

The user interface and the right VR store

Android is used in three of our recommended VR glasses. One packs its own user interface on top, making it similar to a smartphone, but in the end it is Android, with all its advantages such as sideloading that was mentioned.

Every manufacturer like Vive, Oculus, Pico, and Meta have their own VR app store. The price per VR app starts at around $10 and above, although there are exceptional cases that cost a whopping $60. Of course, you have to decide which store to invest your money in for the long term.

However, we already learned that all three standalone glasses also support the Oculus and Steam VR stores via cable or Wi-Fi connection to the PC. Thus, there is virtually no risk of incompatibility when buying from these two stores - unless you don't want to constantly bring your computer to the start in order to quickly play a bit of VR. A classic title here would be Saber Beat, one of the most popular meta VR games (only for meta glasses), which is currently available for free (until 12/31/22) with the purchase of a Meta Quest 2.

To be fair, the app lineup for both Meta VR glasses is significantly larger than it is for Pico (as of December 2022).

What else is out there

Finally, I would like to end this segment of the NextPit buying guide for standalone VR glasses with a couple of points. For example, it would be worth mentioning what else is available for virtual reality glasses, or what we should expect in the near future. On the one hand, Lenovo has been active in this field for quite some time, but only offers its products, such as the Lenovo VR700 and the Lenovo ThinkReality VRX, in its home country China.

Lenovo VR700 VR-Headset.
Lenovo's VR700 offers a resolution of up to 4K and 6DoF sensors. / © Lenovo

Vive XR Elite was unveiled at CES 2023 and proved to be a very real competitor. This, according to its own statement, the "all-in-one flagship" is characterized by a significantly lighter design, as the "Elite Strap" can be replaced with a type of glasses frame. Another unique selling point is the replaceable battery on the back of the headset mount. In terms of price, the Taiwanese manufacturer sorts itself out with the Vive XR Elite and the $1,099 price tag, placing it between the Meta Quest Pro (256 GB for $1,499) and the Meta Quest 2 (256 GB for $490). The Vive XR Elite standalone headset will be shipped globally from March 2023.

HTC Vive XR Elite
HTC presented its Vive XR Elite at CES 2023. / © HTC.

Apple probably also has an Apple Glass or Reality One, known as the Apple Reality Pro, in the works. There are constant patent applications, so the assumption is obvious that they want to slowly get involved in the whole shebang. But Cupertino is known to never be in a hurry.

The best standalone VR glasses from the NextPit editorial team.

Below, you can find more details about the three standalone VR glasses that are currently the most promising models as agreed upon by the NextPit editorial team.

The industry leader: Meta Quest 2 (formerly the Oculus Quest Pro).

MaTT trägt die Meta Quest 2 und spielt in der VR.
The Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2) is now available outside of the USA after 2 years. / © NextPit

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I define the Oculus Quest as the pioneer of standalone VR glasses. The successor is the Oculus Quest 2 presented in September 2020, which was then sold as Meta Quest 2 from October 2021 during the course of the Facebook rebranding exercise. Unfortunately, these VR goggles were unavailable in a lot of places, as Facebook made the use of the VR goggles a Facebook account requirement that did not go down well with certain authorities.

However over time, Facebook VR customers now "only" need a Meta account and can choose to pair it to a Facebook account. The Meta Quest 2 is thus available in more regions since December 9, 2022 with 128 GB of internal storage for $399.99 or with 256 GB of internal storage for $490 on Amazon. It offers a cheap entry point and a good overall package at that price.

The weak point based on our Meta Quest 2 review is the integrated 3,640 mAh battery, which - if at all - is only enough for just under two hours of gaming pleasure. The passthrough camera is also the only one in the trio that delivers a black-and-white picture, which also looks slightly snowy. Consequently, these are rather unsuitable for mixed reality glasses. 

Nevertheless, it is far ahead in the field of virtual reality, since the Meta Quest 2 is far superior to Pico's competition in terms of VR app selection. However, it can also be connected to a PC via the Link cable or an Air Link connection (WiFi) to access the extensive offer of the Oculus and Steam VR stores.

Likewise, the Meta Quest 2 is the only VR goggle in our review that experimentally offers a refresh rate of 120 hertz, albeit based on Fresnel lenses. In the end, it is the best choice due to its durability. It should be noted that a Meta Quest 3 has already appeared in the rumor mill.

The cheapest: Pico 4 from ByteDance

Pico 4 samt Controller
The Pico 4 from DreamDance offers the best price and the best features! / © NextPit

The Pico 4 standalone VR glasses are a real newcomer in Europe (and remains unavailable Stateside). ByteDance is behind the all-in-one headset, which is available for 429 euros (128 GB) or 499 euros (256 GB). That is right, the Chinese software giant is also known for the short video app TikTok.

Pico was only founded as a subsidiary in March 2015, but it already offers a total of three standalone VR glasses, which the target group has been looking for in the business sector so far. The Pico 4 is therefore the fourth model and the first consumer-oriented VR glasses from the Chinese company. It has been available for purchase on Amazon since the end of September 2022.

It is not only particularly inexpensive, but technically outperforms the entire competitive offering. With its two 2.56-inch LCD panels, the headset offers a better resolution of 2,160 x 2,160 pixels than the Meta Quest Pro, which costs $1,500. The displays, including pancake lenses, can be adjusted electrically to optimize the interpupillary distance (IPD). The 5,300 mAh battery also has the largest capacity in our current range. Passthrough also takes place in color, contrary to the Quest 2.

The downside is that the app offering is large, but not as large as Meta's. However, the connection to the PC via cable or WLAN is also possible here, and thus access to the Steam and Oculus VR Store is granted. You can then also play my personal recommendation "Half-Life: Alyx". But be careful - don't underestimate the search factor! Another, albeit negligible drawback is this: the Pico 4 doesn't have a jack to hook up to separate headphones. That's not too tragic, since the headset's sound is quite good, but if you need more bass, a Bluetooth headset or a USB Type-C adapter would certainly help out.

In principle, there is hardly any argument against the Pico 4. At most, the lower number of apps offered, a few rarely occurring bugs in the form of Chinese characters and the company's support, which continues to grow in Europe, are worth mentioning.

The newest and most expensive: Meta Quest Pro

Wir sehen die Meta Quest Pro
The Meta Quest Pro is official - now also outside of the US. / © Meta

Let's move on to our highlight, the Meta Quest Pro, sitting pretty on its perch at least until Apple finally presents its VR/XR glasses. The standalone VR glasses are the only devices in our range equipped with the latest Snapdragon X2+ Gen 1 SoC. The other two glasses do without the "plus" suffix in the processor name. It is also the only pair of glasses that ever comes powered by a Snapdragon 622 from Qualcomm installed in the controller.

One advantage is that tracking behind your back is now theoretically possible. Qualcomm is still keeping the processor and its exact capabilities a secret. The battery capacity has also not been revealed yet, but it is assumed to be 5,000 mAh. Nevertheless, it offers the worst runtime of just one hour. Due to the fact that the Meta Quest Pro lacks the headband at the top and the temple cannot be folded upwards, the wearing comfort was deemed to be very poor by the first batch of reviewers (pressure points on the forehead).

In contrast, there are two displays at 1,800 x 1,920 pixels each and pancake lenses, which seem to be made of glass or parts of glass. We will only be able to review the Meta Quest Pro in January and hopefully receive some answers to our many questions then. The initial setup of the glasses as well as the Pro's own app store and also the menu navigation are completely identical to the Meta Quest 2.

The advantages of the Meta Quest Pro are the eye and face tracking capabilities, which should breathe more life into your avatar, and the RGB passthrough camera as well as the much better lenses, even though they have to be adjusted by hand.

In view of a completely unjustified high price in my eyes, the latest Meta-Glasses do not offer a good price-to-performance ratio compared to the other two VR glasses. On the contrary, the Quest Pro is even outperformed in many points by the significantly cheaper Pico 4. Mark Zuckerberg will have to significantly increase the price again in order to remain competitive.

That's it for the presentation of the three best standalone VR glasses as selected by the NextPit team. Do you have other ideas or questions about this topic? Feel free to ask them in the comments.


This best list was revised in January, 2023. Existing comments were maintained.

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