Pimax Shipping Analyzed: When Will Backers Get Their 8K VR Headsets?
Pimax is a China-based company making VR headsets with significantly higher field of view than those available on the consumer market today.
In late 2017, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign for the ‘Pimax 8K’ and ‘Pimax 5K’ headsets. Each boasted a diagonal field of view of 200 degrees (roughly 170 horizontal) and horizontal pixel counts of 8000 and 5000, respectively. The Kickstarter campaign exceeded its goal in a matter of hours and Pimax added stretch ones like a wireless add-on and eye tracking.
Around 5700 people pledged enough to receive a Pimax headset. The campaign ended in November 2017 with backers originally given a shipping expectation of January 2018.
A year later, when will backers receive their headset?
We reached out to Pimax for clarity about its status and a company representative claimed in an email, through Dec. 27, 2018, “we have already produced 3900 units and shipped 1515 units to Kickstarter backers.”
Asked for an explanation of the large gap between shipped headsets and units produced, the Pimax representative wrote “to ensure every headset in a good quality, every product needs to pass additional QA testing eg. sanity testing to double check before shipping.”
The claims from Pimax came after we dug deep into the previous explanations and production targets produced by the organization. Here’s a brief rundown of the last 16 months:
Pimax conducts the Kickstarter campaign. 5946 backers pledge, of which 5663 backers pledge enough for a headset. The company states headsets will ship in January 2018 and controllers & base stations in February 2018. The company also states: “We will not move on to launch 8K outside of Kickstarter until ALL of our Kickstarter backers have received their rewards on June, 2018.“
December 27 2017
Pimax announces the headset is delayed to ‘Q2 2018‘. When a backer asks if this means they’ll have to wait until after an issue with the refresh rate is solved (which Pimax stated would be “in March“), Pimax responds “We can still provide the option to ship the headset earlier“. Additionally, they claim “We will update the shipping plan on Jan“.
Pimax repeats “we are now looking at a delivery window of Q2” estimate from December.
Pimax announce they will ship around 8 pre-production units to “testers“. When asked when the consumer version will ship, the company responds “The purpose of the M1 closed beta is to learn from testers whether the M1 is good enough to ship.”
Pimax claims controllers will ship ‘Q4’.
The last month of Q2, Pimax delivers pre-production headsets (10 in total) to “testers”. Four of these testers are VR YouTubers, which use the headset to produce Pimax related videos throughout 2018.
Pimax fails to meet the Q2 shipping window. In a Kickstarter update, the company claims they are “assembling” ~230 revised pre-production headsets. They further claim that 700 headsets will be produced the next month, providing the following cumulative monthly production plan image:
Pimax hosts “backer meetups” to let backers try the headset. The company promotes “testers” YouTube channels to backers who can’t attend.
YouTube streaming partners share “reviews” of pre-production headsets. Pimax claims “The Kickstarter shipping will start by the end of September.” Pimax send some backers a “shipping soon” email. The CEO of Pimax states there is a 90 percent chance all backers will have their headset by Christmas.
Pimax claims to have fulfilled around 25% of Kickstarter backer orders.
On the front page of the Pimax website is a countdown timer working down to February 1. On this date, Pimax claim, non-backer orders will begin to ship.
“We plan to finish shipping in late January,” a company representative wrote in an email in response to the question of when the last backer will receive their headset.
Also stated on this page is when an order placed today will ship — currently listed as the third week of February. Clicking ‘More Info’ brings us to the company’s public production targets. The infographic was first posted just over four weeks ago:
The chart shows the planned headset production rate on a weekly basis, as well as how they plan to ramp up production across 3 lines to fulfill their backer orders.
If the claims are true, Pimax currently has enough headsets to fulfill nearly 70 percent of Kickstarter rewards. But based on Pimax’ claimed figures, roughly half of the rewards are held in a quality assurance process the same month they are supposed to ship.
Meanwhile, pre-orders continue.
Since early November, after pressure from backers, Pimax started disclosing its production and shipping figures. The data is not directly on the website, or the Kickstarter page, but buried in the Pimax website’s forums. The information is spread across multiple spreadsheets and fairly difficult to read, so we converted it into a bar chart:
What immediately stands out is that shipping seems to be far lower than the production figures being claimed. The data indicates the company goes days or weeks without shipping a single headset.
So how does this production and shipping data compare to Pimax’s targets stated on the front page of their website? Here’s a graph showing the cumulative target production, claimed production, and claimed shipping:
This shows the enormous difference between claimed production and shipping. Some backers speculated that the company was prioritizing enterprise orders. Pimax wrote in an email no more than 100 headsets were shipped to non-backer customers in December.
So if you’re a backer, when will you receive your Pimax headset?
A Pimax representative wrote in an email that they plan to have all backer orders shipped by the end of January. This would require a significant increase in the shipping rate outpacing anything we’ve seen the company accomplish previously.
The biggest problem with the shipping situation seems to be the company’s lack of clear communication. Among the issues is Pimax sending out “shipping soon” style emails to backers who then receive no further communication for many weeks.
Also, despite the company claiming that headsets will be shipped in order of backer number, many early backers with low order numbers are still waiting. When asked for an explanation, Pimax told us this is caused by the length of time certain backers took to respond to the initial shipping emails, as well as production time differences between the 8K and 5K+ models.
Kickstarter backers on Reddit’s /r/Pimax subreddit have been using a public Google Docs spreadsheet to attempt to crowdsource shipping progress. In the Kickstarter comments (the place where Pimax provides the least information) many backers have turned to shock and anger. Despite backing the project over a year ago, many have no clear sign from Pimax of when to expect a shipment.
The launching of pre-orders before clearly communicating the timeline for Kickstarter fulfillment seemed to even further add to this discontent. Pimax stated at the time that this was a necessary decision due to “the lead time of the key components”. When we asked the company about this decision as well, a representative repeated their original statement and told us “pre-order customers are free to cancel their orders any time before shipping starts.”
Pimax sent us a 5K+ headset which we intend to review on its merits later this month. We’ll update this post with a link to that review — likely after CES — along with any updates we get from Pimax or reports from backers. If you’re a backer who has received the headset, please email [email protected] with photos of your unit as verification and let us know what your experience has been like. As of right now, though, the company’s repeated inability to meet self-defined deadlines means that we strongly recommend not ordering a headset until they completely fulfill backer orders, clear their current backlog, and demonstrate the ability to consistently ship at scale.