Pimax to Unveil 4K Per Eye, 200-degree Field of View VR Headset at CES 2017

by Will Mason • December 31st, 2016

Being told that something is impossible often is the best motivation to make it so, and that seems to be exactly what is happening with the VR and AR industry.

Earlier this year at Oculus’ developer conference, Oculus Connect, the company’s Chief Scientist, Michael Abrash, stepped on stage to present his predictions for the near term future of VR and AR. Things like eye tracking, wireless desktop hardware, and more he says are still many months to a number of years away – but that sure isn’t stopping folks from trying hard to prove them wrong. The team at Pimax are some of those folks.

Previously, Pimax released a 4K-mobile based VR headset solution but next week at CES, the company will unveil a headset that it claims has 4k per-eye resolution (2x 3840*2160) and a 200-degree field of view – something that Abrash stated wouldn’t be around until 2021. The headset is said to hit sub 18-millisecond latency, and it appears it will also feature positional tracking and hand tracked controllers with what appears to be an amalgamation of Valve’s light house tracking technology and Oculus’ camera based solution.

Now, stats are great and all, but this is CES – land of the vaporware – so we aren’t planning to hold our breath that this new contender will accomplish this feat in a way that provides an excellent experience.

According to the company the headset will use two 4K LCD screens to achieve this resolution, a possible red flag for those who follow the industry closely. Each of the major VR headsets currently use an OLED screen for a number of reasons, including higher speed pixel switching times which help prevent ghosting in the display, deeper black levels, and low persistence which reduces motion blur. In a lot of ways OLED displays are better optimized for a VR experience, though Pimax claims to have made a “breakthrough” in LCD display tech that will improve its response time. We will be sure to report back on this when we get our hands on with it next week.

Low persistence vs Full persistence (Source: ExtremeTech)

Low persistence vs Full persistence (Source: ExtremeTech)

As for the field of view (FOV), we look forward to seeing how well executed the optics are. Typically there are sacrifices that come in the optics world when you want to achieve clarity and wide field of view in harmony, want to make it extra wide? Be prepared to see some deep circular reflections in the fresnel lens. That is something we saw in early prototypes of another wide field of view headset – Star VR. If Pimax has managed a lens solution that brings wide FOV with clarity and without artifacts – that would be a massive improvement in immersion, bringing more of the peripheral view in which can be very important for the brain’s ability to recognize things like speed.

Finally, running a VR headset at the current resolution at the required 90 frames per second is tough enough on modern hardware as is – 4k per eye? You’re going to need some kind of super computer. The price point on the hardware to run this headset will likely keep it off consumer shelves for a while unless the team has something miraculous up their sleeve.

So, its not to say that we aren’t excited for this product, just that we cautious about letting the hype go too far on this headset, sight unseen.

Last month it was revealed that TPCast will be releasing an accessory that could make VR headsets wireless, and then earlier this month we were able to assuage our own doubts about the product in an impressive hands on test. And TPCast isn’t the only product vying to cut the cord, a small YC-backed startup Rivvr also is planning to show off a solution at CES this year. It appears we are on the cusp of the next stage of technological innovation in the VR and AR field in 2017, potentially leading up to generation two headsets in 2018 – things are about to get (if you can believe it) even more interesting in the VR and AR industry in the next twelve months.

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  • Mane Vr

    Glad the controller has thumbsticks not touchpads vive should switch

    • Tom Daigon

      No thanks. Touch pads work GREAT on the Vive. Games Iike Onward , Doom 3 BFG and others benefit greatly from touchpad locomotion. Get a Rift touch if you dont like it . 😉

      • Mane Vr

        I do have touch for my rift and I love the thumbstick

      • polysix

        I am mostly vive over rift, and owned a vive but I couldn’t stand using touchpads for moving around, there is no resistance and no physical limit to push back against. IF we are using it for that kind of movement, sticks are way better imo.

        That said, Foculus can fuck off and take their shitty lying ways with them.

        • Paulo

          Oh hey Polysix, still trolling eh? Happy new year!

      • Angelo Overmeier

        It’s so weird that a lot of people think that way when I look in to posts. When I talk to people in real life I have never heard that anyone liked the touchpad more then the sticks for locomotion… But I’m happy that others are fine with it. 🙂 Hoping for a lot more locomotion games!

        • Allan

          I prefer games with an option for one or the other. I understand why people like locomotion in VR games, but personally I can’t stand it.

      • herp derperson

        They could fit in a nice joystick offside a bit, why not have the best of both worlds ? 😀

    • delrael_death

      Have you used VR at all? Tumbsticks have innertia, since they are analog. And innertia cause unnatural movement and motion sickness.

      That’s why mouse or steam controller for camera is much better than controller with thumbsticks.

      • Mane Vr

        I own a rift and the touch and thumbstick works great so i’m not sure where you’re getting these bs info from

      • Tommy

        Infact the best solution would be thumbstick on the left controller and touchpad on the right controller

    • Angelo Overmeier

      Yeah I definetly don’t like the touchpads on the Vive controller. For Locomotion sticks are way better. I mean you have no haptic feedback where the middle of the touchpad is. Kind of weird that they didn’t even think about that.

      Well they also just thought about teleportation only at that time and thought vr legs are not existent. -.-

    • nasser

      For runnig content & menus selecting
      thumbsticks absolutly better

  • flavortang

    Get those analog sticks outta here.

  • Joan Villora Jofré

    No wireless, no party. Hahahaha

  • Nathan Casey

    You guys are forgetting asynchronous spacewarp and vives equivalent can greatly reduce the power needed to run vr.

    • Mane Vr

      vive doesn’t have an equivalent to asw just yet but i’m sure they are working on it..

      • adamc

        Asynchronous Re-projection is pretty close, but games have to be optimized for it.

        • Mane Vr

          no that is the equivalent to asynchronous time warp not space warp. but value is working at creating the same thing

  • REP

    Make it cheap and people will buy.

  • Bakkster

    The current PiMax headset has good resolution too, but at very low frame rates. Without the FPS, it’s not with it, and that’s a limitation of the cable technology rather than panels.

    • A B

      No, it doesn’t. The current Pimax only does 1080p upscaled.

      • Bakkster

        Right, the panel has good resolution that it already can’t reach because of the limitation of the cabling supplying video to it. A higher resolution panel won’t change that. The upscaling might be preferable to some people due to smaller subpixels, but you won’t actually be getting 4K of rendered resolution.

  • slo 3D creators

    I reviewed the PiMax VR 4K, and it is a nice HMD once you get everything up and running, and switch out the front padding. They use good quality lenses, but only run the screen at 1920×1080 60Hz since they can’t do this at 3840×2160 (30Hz) due to the limitations of the Toshiba 1.4b HDMI-MIPI interface. The important thing is sub-pixel density almost eliminates the screen door effect. It should also be kept in mind that movies and slow movement VR, like architectual/engineering visualizations don’t need the high framerate, just low eye-to-photon latency. If they can keep this around $500 or below, I will gladly buy one.

    I am concerned though of design patent infringements with StarMax design may prevent this coming to the US.

    • A B

      This is not true (regarding being unable to do 4k).

      1.4b supports [email protected] Their software simply isn’t equipped for it, and there’s zero reason they can’t do 2k (which is actually supported via some tricks in Extended Mode, but this is useless since you can’t get positional tracking this way thus no gaming or anything but 3D SBS videos).

      • slo 3D creators

        A B I think said 1.4b does 4K 30Hz, it can’t do 60hz, which it can if you change color sampling, but the Toshiba chip used cannot do this. And yes it could also do 2560 as others have pushed it to do.

        My point is upscaled 1080 will look better due to the 3860 Pixel density. But I agree with you the software leaves a lot to be desired, but there are ways around that.

  • A B

    I actually own a Pimax 4k as well as a Vive

    I am currently typing this inside of one.

    It is my preferred way to use my PC with Virtual Desktop (over the vive).

    HOWEVER!. They are a chinese company shilling mediocre products as a whole, their software is beyond garbage, and setting it up to work properly is a bigger pain than I could have ever imagined, and the support nonexistent.

    In addition, the Pimax 4k display is 60Hz and has massive ghosting. To top it all off, it is only 1080p upscaled to 4k. The company uses shady marketing and will not deliver fully on its promises or will only “technically” do so, similar to how the “4k” Pimax they sell now can only actually do 1080p upscaled, even though there is no reason they can’t use 4k 30Hz or 2k 60Hz natively (because the display really IS 4k). They also can’t do 4k 60Hz because someone was dumb enough to suggest they use HDMI 1.4 instead of 2.0 on the HMD.

    There are also minor hardware issues (weird flashes/colors, dead pixels, other minor nuisances).

    Don’t hold your breath.

    • sayf

      Thanks for the mini review, sounds like someone just put a bunch of hi tech equipment together without any thought on compatibility or software ecosystem to go with it. The HDMI 1.4 thing shows whoever put this together doesn’t understand the hardware properly. It seems for them the headline 4k display was their main selling point and they didn’t think about anything else beyond that.

    • A B

      As a relatively major update, Pimax actually followed through on a promise and the headset *SEEMS* to support 2k resolution as of yesterday morning’s software update. The other issues still exist, but this technically makes them the highest *real* resolution HMD on the market (GearVR isn’t true 2k because the FoV causes part of the phone’s 2k screen to be obscured).

      I still believe this new HMD will be borderline vaporware or garbage apart from the HMD, and it’s guaranteed that they just slapped two of their existing displays side-by-side (hence 200 FoV and 4k x2 resolution), since it’s 7680×2160 and not 7680×4320 which is actually 8k. I mention the 8k bit because they’ve already begun their shady marketing of referring to it as an “8K” headset elsewhere and on their forums. Go figure.

  • Ugur

    The Vive and Rift/Gear VR are not established much yet as in big in the mass market yet, but they are established enough already that they have some brand and community awareness and developers supporting either or both platforms. Google still has to prove they are actually intending to change their market place so that devs can earn well with products besides free to play enforced gunk model, so daydream is still up in the air regarding that.
    And Sony will have to prove that they will be in this full force for the long haul, not just 1-3 years and then forget about it if it doesn’t become a huge mainstream success with their initial implementation within 3 years.
    And then there’s MS and partners which seem to have various things in the oven, too.

    While all this is going on, it will already now be quite tough for a new unknown and way smaller player to try to compete and gain a high market share.
    Many companies seem to not have realised that yet and are pumping out one VR headset after the other as if none of this was going on and as if we were still at the state before Vive, Rift, PSVR, Gear VR, Daydream etc launched.
    The way i see it other smaller hardware players only have 3 main choices at this point:
    -Get a coop deal going with Oculus or Valve to run as device using/supporting the apps/games from that platform
    (probably easier to get going with SteamVR)
    -Make something so great that Oculus or Valve/HTC would want to buy them/invest into them
    -Become a speciality/high end/pro niche thing not aimed at consumers but rather things like large companies, amusement parks etc

    The thing many instead try to do, which is try to become a competitor alternative option next to the current biggest ones, yeah, that will be very tough at this point besides for very few very large companies who could have the longtime funds needed to get that done.

    A VR headset for consumers is just worth nothing without the game/app store behind it to get lots of content.

    On another note, i’m also not sure what market this device wants to aim at, the specs sound like aiming more towards professionals/enthusiasts on the surface, but at the same time those would also be ones knowing that they’d need even higher specs (for example higher hdmi spec version) to be able to push such resolutions at 90 or even just 60 fps.

    I’m all for the next big breakthroughs, but come on, they also have to do it in a bit reasonable way else it’s just prone to tank.

    • Smanny

      I don’t know where you have been, but Google’s Cardboard was out before any of them arrived on the market. It’s been out for almost 3 years now. Plus with Google’s Daydream VR its actually better than the Gear VR, because Google have standardized a 9 axis controller for their Daydream VR platform. Gear VR has not. Plus there is a ton of VR content for Cardboard and now Daydream. As a matter of fact there is more VR content for Cardboard alone, than all the other platforms combined. Not only is there lots of games, but lots of other related VR content.

      • Iown You

        Daydream has a 90 FOV though? No thanks. I might as well wear binoculars.

        • GP20

          lol

        • Smanny

          The 90° FOV is if you use a 5″ Pixel. If you use the 5.5″, then its close to 95° FOV. The Gear VR is rated at 100° FOV. Sure it’s no 200° FOV like this product, however that number is just for winning the specs war, especially since humans cannot see past 180°.

          • Iown You

            To me that’s a large point, because I think 100 isn’t even that great, so 90 and 95 are just dismissable to me. There has to be a willingness to assert a minimum standard as an experienced VR user. For new users this won’t be a big deal because they don’t know any better but I’m way past the newbie stage and can’t accept something that low on the scale.

      • Ugur

        I agree regarding the higher and higher resolutions not being a great idea until we have ways to get the performance way up on the same graphics hardware (via foveated rendering thanks to eye tracking etc).

        Regarding Google Cardboard and Daydream: I have made things for Google Cardboard (too) pretty much since it came out.

        My point regarding Google Cardboard/daydream VR was specifically about them still having to fix their market place so more devs can actually make a sustainable income in other ways than free to play enforced.

        Basically the google cardboard apps are still living on the google play store where unless Google fixes it free to play is basically enforced.

      • JustNiz

        Yes cardboard has been out the longest, but compared to almost any other VR headset especially Vive/Rift, phone based solutions like cardboard and Samsung GearVR are a crap experience.

  • Nowry85

    At least for now we know the entry level for convincing VR experience: all companies are talking about 4k per eye incuding Oculus and Vive. Although I don’t think the best experience will come from Pimax, it is the company that first set the bar for this new standard of convincing VR experience. The other thing is that 200 FOV is too much, we need less than that, maybe 150 degree for more clarity but that will require smaller 4k panels.

    • GodMk2

      150 isnt enough. Your eyes can see 180 without moving them, 270 if you move your eyeballs left and right. Its not about detail its about motion.

    • GP20

      4K by eye means no sde. If you use a QHD screen you will see an sde.

  • alehandoro

    I have Pimax 4k, in the last beta Firmware and Piplay they have activated 2k resolution for upscale to 4k.

    You can see this in the official forum.

  • Luis Miguel Pinto Gonçalves

    I got my Pimax 4k mid-december and after two weeks testing my verdict is very positive.

    – with latest firmware and piplay software the resolution is way better than the Oculus (for testing Oculus Home I prefer to use Gear VR because it’s more affordable, untethered and resolution is acceptable. Oculus is too expensive and my first use was very deceptive because of the very low resolution provided).
    – Pimax seems very versatile (I’m using it with full acess to steamvr playing all the games and apps provided by steam with ps3 controller or even with psmove controller and pseye cameras for positional tracking);
    – very good quality for viewing 3D movies with kodi (2x2K resolution is a big plus)
    – Unity plugin for testing apps runs out of the box. (there is a plugin for unreal too but I don’t use Unreal)

    I didn’t experience any problem with HDMI 1.4 cable provided. I’m running all my apps (Google earth VR, Virual desktop, bigscreen, etc) and games (EVE Valkyrie, Elite Dangerous,..) in full res on my VR laptop with no lag (even with highest quality on Eve Valkyrie).

    Yes, there is a lot of work to do with piplay software to make it more user-friendly and to provide a positional tracking out of the box but Pimax is very adaptable and the growing pimax forum community is very reactive. (that’s a very big plus).

    I’m waiting for the Next Gen Pimax 8k:)

    • Spstary

      @luismiguelpintogonalves:disqus Before i used samsung gear vr 3 with S7edge and Oculus rift, and actually I was not much shocked when I used Pimax 4K VR at the first time. Through comparison with previous VR products I used, I am still impressed by process of images details in Pimax, although data of output isn’t native 4K 60hz. But it’s not influence me much, because of few 4K contents at the present.

      Just now I viewed Pimax forum, moderator said that their engeers figured out the solution by the support from Nividia and AMD, and then they could manage to unlock the resolution limition in steam VR and oculus HOME.

      Does it mean that Pimax would possibly output native 4K 60hz by their own algorithm with HDMI 1.4B cable? Am I right? Wow I’m so exicted for that, because the screen would look more clearer and sharper, cheers.

      • Wythe

        I also support you, I think it is most important to use clarity, technical things so that engineers to study it

      • Uncle

        Hi,
        Yes, HDMI1.4 can support 4K/60Hz, you need to change chroma subsampling to 4:2:0 from Nvidia control panel, of course the display has to support it, change to your PIMAX display and see which setting it gives you, if it has such option than after you select 4:2:0, it will allow you to choose 60Hz.
        Try it and see if it works, but I guess they have to update it in firmware before (like you mentioned)
        Anyway, after they update the firmware thats how you get 4L/60hz by choosing 4:2:0

    • Wythe

      Support you, I am not interested in these technical terms, with clear enough for me

  • Wythe

    Although not used, but it looks cool. Hope to use it. haha

  • Elliander Eldridge

    They would probably have better luck supporting full 4k if they used eye tracking to render just what’s needed, which could be done easily if it’s integrated with a neural interface, and would have the added benefit of thought controls. I don’t suppose anyone has tried using this in combination with an Emotiv Insight? Can they fit together?

  • Daniel Ryan Mueller

    The 4k per eye is mostly to increase how clear the image is, and get rid of the screen door effect. You do NOT have to run the headset at 8k, you can choose whatever resolution your system is capable of running by tweaking some settings.

  • TrevorAGreen

    Thank you Daniel, the “we can’t have that because supercomputer” thing is really tiring. There is zero good reason to not build out a high res vr headset. Look at games like zombie training simulator. I’m positive you could run that in higher res on a better headset with more comfort and not need a supercomputer. Sure, you will ultimately want to buy more hardware, but we need the devices to exist and set higher expectations.