Pimax 8K VR Headset Not Yet Ready For Primetime, But 4k Model Impresses

by Joe Durbin • January 10th, 2017

Several weeks ago, we published a story about a company called Pimax. The scrappy startup was announcing its CES 2017 lineup and this year that included an 8K (4K per-eye) resolution, 200 degree field of view virtual reality headset. The implications of an HMD that powerful would be highly disruptive to the current VR industry, where resolution and FOV are two of the most difficult problems to solve and scale. We had the chance to try the Pimax headset for ourselves on the show floor at CES and what we found was a device that did have promise, but fell far below the mark of being a Vive or Rift-killer like we were promised.

Form Factor

The Pimax 8K is wide. It’s much wider than any other VR headset on the market today and is reminiscent of the Star VR headset that has moved quietly underground for some time now. The outer limits of the headsets horizontal plane extend a few inches past your head on either side and the overall visor curves in at an angle towards a central point. This makes the entire unit much more curved than either the Rift, Vive, or PSVR. The emphasis here is clearly on prioritizing that big FOV over a sleek or overtly comfortable design.

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Fit

The 8K headset fits fairly well on the face and is surprisingly light for such a large headset. The ergonomics are sacrificed a bit however in favor of a wider FOV. The weight all seems to rest on the bridge of your nose and the end result is a new red mark to rival the infamous Oculus oval. The 8K is still in active development, however, so comfort levels could still be increased.

Performance

This is the big question: does the Pimax 8K deliver on the promise of a revolutionized display with industry changing resolution? The short answer is: no.

The long answer is that the Pimax HMD has a lot of promise but stumbles in a few unforgivable areas. The first is a complete lack of positional tracking. The Pimax representatives on site assured me that positional tracking would be added in by this spring, but for now you’re limited to head tracking only which is a far cry below what it will take to unseat the current kings of the VR hill.

The second problem is brightness. All the pixel density in the world doesn’t amount to much if they can’t be properly illuminated. The Pimax undoubtedly has the largest FOV of any VR headset I’ve ever tried, and there was some extra crispness to the image from what I could tell, but its screen was simply too dark to enjoy any of those innovations. The Pimax team took my findings to heart and said that a brighter backlight is expected to be incorporated into their next prototype.

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Finally, Pimax headsets do not use OLED displays, instead they have chosen to use software algorithms to aggressively optimize more common LCD screens. They call this technique “brainwarp” and it does work. The LCD images moved with my head movements with less latency than one would expect with little to no bloom distortion (pixels that change color too slowly and cause a blurry image) at all.

Conclusion

The Pimax 8K headset was one of my great hopes for CES 2017 but, unfortunately, it’s still a bit too immature for the big leagues. The company will be launching a Kickstarter and raising additional funding soon and perhaps the extra capital can help them overcome some of these issues and create a more fully realized product. Until then, it’s like they say: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Bonus: A New Challenger Appears

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Also at the Pimax CES booth was their older, 4K model. This unit provides 2K resolution to each eye and also employs brainwarp software optimization. Whereas the 8K design was wide and bulky, the 4K edition was lightweight and very similar to the Oculus Rift’s form factor.

The LCD displays inside provided a crisper image than anything I’ve seen in VR personally. This model could have also benefited from a brighter backlight, and there was still no positional tracking, but I felt that the Pimax 4K gave me my best look yet at what a higher resolution future for VR could look like.

Pimax is an innovative and exciting company and while none of their products are ready to come out of the oven just yet, I for one am very excited to see what they can do with just a bit more cooking time.


Image Credits: Pimax, Golem, VRNerds

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  • Sean Lumly

    I would easily spend $2K on a head-mount like this, if it performed flawlessly in areas that mattered (tracking, comfort, usability, etc, etc). I’m really digging Valves “open” VR strategy (vs. Oculus’s walled garden, for example). It seems that Steam will not only have a myriad VR games, but also a variety of compatible hardware.

    • mmorselli

      It simply need late 2018 display and GPU technology… I can wait. Thank you Pimax to show the future…

      • Sean Lumly

        Even with this yester-year’s GPU technology, at these resolutions, the HMD would make an outstanding computer-screen replacement even for traditional 2D applications/media.

  • mmorselli

    No word about lenses? Fresnel?

    • Spstary

      yes, so far, it uses Fresnel lenses^^.

  • russ2387

    I really don’t understand why these companies are not using Valves light house tech. ITS FREE!!? I for SURE dont want 3 different tracking systems in my room. i have the vive, so i want a light house capable headset. and oh guess what? I already have tracked controllers. no light house no purchase.

    • Xron

      Added cost to the Hmd price is your answer.
      Does any1 know abt fov of this 4k headset? and latency?
      I sure hope fov isnt 200… 4k isn’t enough for this kind of fov.
      Checked in google and found its 110 as in vive and oculus, so sde should be almost gone in headset like this.
      But I guess Titan Xp perf is needed to actually get ~90fps in most games, and not even ultra res… 🙁

      • Torchedini

        Well because of the higher resolution you can do less supersampling so it’ll be somewhat easier.

      • Dave Scott

        Without super fast eye tracking 8K is just nuts. The GPU requirement is just nuts, unless there’s a serious drop in render quality.

        With a high FOV. For the most part your just rendering pixels that aren’t even being looked at.

        • Nathan Casey

          So would you rather have 110 degree for because you’re not “looking” at your peripheral? lol

          • Uncle

            The only practical solution to wide or super wide FOV is fovated rendering, this way you dont really waste resources on stuff you dont clearly see in the periphery, its rendered in low res, the farther from your center view the lower the resolution and its just the basic stuff, if game engine is fully fovated than it can render lower resolution objects in the periphery and more.
            But if you want all this to seemsly work without discomfort you need build in eye tracking.

            So as you see we are too far away from realistic high quality VR, we need eye tracking and then we need game engines to use eye tracking for fovated rendering and using both of these we can increase VR display resolution and wider FOV

          • Master E

            I really think a good game engine needs to be developed using the FOV rendering. Eventually, the way games and programs are designed will be so optimized they won’t use tons of resources and 4/8k VR will not be the strain it is now on machines. It would also be good if it was an engine that could translate to both VR and regular display games so that developers would essentially develop for both with their time and resources. Sucks to think we end up with all these short “Experiences” because theres no great $$ market return on a full fledged AAA game. Things are so infant right now aren’t they? Agree the FOV rendering is the best option for resource managment.

        • Riddick

          There using some trickery to get that 8k running at decent FPS. From my understanding is sort of like frame doubling, so if you can run decent FPS at 4k then this headset should be fine. ALSO its worth mentioning this 8k vr headset isn’t the same resolution as a 8k monitor, pretty misleading but I don’t mind, its more like 4k+4k, and they use similar tech that NVIDIA are using with the frame buffer cheat (to get double performance compared to older vid-cards).

          My concern with this screen is A) Brightness issue mentioned above, B) The weight put on the nose is not good, pimax please put it on back of head like PSVR, C) Connectivity, DisplayPort is better for latency pimax! (we are now in a new era of display connection standards for 120hz at 4k or above, USE THEM!)

      • Spstary

        Hi, I copy some words from Pimax forum, it said “As you know, for VR optical system, the left screen with left eye part is entire isolated with the right screen with right eye. VR optical system is much different with normal view system. in the VR system, your left eye can not see the right screen, and right eye can not see the left screen.
        So there is a channce that you can update the data to left screen and right screen alternatively. this is what we call asynchronous mode. in the mode, we can achieve equivalent higher FPS. 90 or even more”.

        As per this statement, I think GTX1070 or higher would be enough. Maybe I misunderstand:)

    • Spstary

      Good suggestion. I have a PiMAX 4K VR, the latest Piplay provide a function of hooking 2560*1440 resolution as a default minimum value for Steam games, which has a good improvement of quality.
      still hope 8K would bring more surprise.

  • wheeler

    So what are they using for tracking? Looks like proprietary in-house stuff again. Why are these companies wasting resources on making their own subpar tracking systems and controllers? They haven’t even figured out positional yet … The market is already small and maybe if they had specialized they could actually get a compelling upgrade out before it’s obsoleted by gen 2.

    • Spstary

      I read some China Media reports, Pimax company has different plans for their postional device, laser technology would be prefered.

  • Good luck to them

  • REP

    Pimax need to use Lighthouses. Stop being an arrogant bunches like them A-hoes at Oculus.

  • Multiplataformgamerz

    well, at least they are trying, hope they nail it

  • DrakeDoesn’tWrite

    Yeaaaaa, no.