Pimax 8K X VR headset review: Virtual Insanity
(Pocket-lint) - While companies like Oculus are going after the masses with easy-access, low-entry headsets like the Oculus Quest 2, others have realised that the best experience comes from high-end devices.
HTC knows it and showed what was possible with the HTC Vive Pro 2. But while that headset might seem like the best VR headset money can buy, it potentially doesn't hold a candle to this lesser-heard-about Pimax headset on review.
The Pimax Vision 8K X is the most bonkers and power-hungry VR headset we've seen to date - and for good reason too, considering it boasts two 4K displays. That's right, with this headset each eye is getting a dedicated Ultra HD display to gawk at. That's not all either as the lenses are gargantuan.
But presenting the best possible virtual reality experience inevitably comes at cost. So is the Pimax 8K X worthy?
Serious VR for serious gamers
- 60Hz, 75Hz (native), 90Hz (native), 114Hz (upscaled) refresh rate
- Interpupillary Distance (IPD) adjustment from 60 to 70mm
- Customised low persistence liquid (CLPL) screen
- Dual 4K screens (two lots of 3840 x 2160)
- Up to 200-degree field of view
- 15ms (typical) MTP latency
As you can see from the specs above, the Pimax Vision 8K X is pulling no punches. This is a VR headset that means serious business and does so with bold claims that include the promise of "clarity in VR that rivals reality" and "unrivalled clarity and vision". With dual screens sporting 4K resolution each it's easy to imagine what the experience is going to be like even before you don the headset.
But the Pimax Vision 8K X offers much more than just pixels. It also has one of the widest field-of-view displays you're likely to see on a VR headset - at a whopping 200-degrees. To put that into perspective, the FoV on the Vive Pro 2 is just 120-degrees - and that's no slouch anyway. It's built this way to give you masses of peripheral vision, so you can simply get lost in the VR experience. Sure, the resolution is insane and the graphics are amazing - but you can just see so much of the game world.
To enable this the lenses are massive; gargantuan even. Take a look at the photos in this review and compare the Pimax's lenses to those on the Vive Pro 2. Which goes some way to explain why the Pimax Vision 8K X is such a whopper. It's large and wide and one of the heaviest VR headsets around.
This headset also offers multiple refresh rate options all the way up to 114Hz. You can also run games in native mode or upscale the visuals to enhance what you're seeing and when you get those settings right, it's an experience like no other. Of course, all this requires a powerful gaming PC in order to run it - and if you want to make the most of it, you'll need an Nvidia 3000 series graphics card ideally.
Valve tracking and Vive compatibility
- SteamVR tracking system
- 9-axis accelerometer sensors
- Dual 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x USB Type-C, microphone, speakers
- Dimensions 280.1 x 108.2 x 135.9mm (11 x 4.3 x 5.4 inches) / Weight: 997.9g (2.2 pounds)
Externally, on the face of it, the Pimax 8K X is remarkably similar to the Vive Pro 2. That's not just because of the blue styling or accents, but due to the way the tracking works. This headset uses 9-axis accelerometer sensors and requires the SteamVR tracking system in order to run.
That means you need some SteamVR base stations in your setup. Like the HTC, the Pimax 8K X is available to purchase in a number of formats. You can just buy the headset if you already have a Vive system and use your pre-existing setup, or you can purchase the full package including the base stations and controllers.
The Pimax Vision 8K X is also upgradeable and compatible with a number of Vive accessories. That list includes add-ons like the Vive trackers, hand and eye tracking modules, and more. It'll work with the classic Vive controllers or Valve's Knuckle VR controllers. So it's really flexible and customisable, making it even more appealing.
There are also different models available with slightly varied setups in terms of headband design - DMAS, SMAS and KDMAS. The options here essentially change the audio setup on the headset. For this review, we were testing the full system, which includes built-in off-ear speakers that can be converted into on-ears with an included attachment.
The headband on the Pimax Vision 8K X is otherwise really familiar. The design is similar to the Vive Pro 2 with a solid headband that's adjustable via a sizing wheel at the rear and a Velcro strap on top. This makes it really easy to get on and off and to adjust to the right size to fit your head too.
The Pimax is one heavy though. At around a kilogramme (2.2 pounds), it's a fair a bit heavier than the Vive Pro 2's 850g. And that's because of the large lens and screen setup housed within its wide frame. Despite this, the Pimax 8K X is surprisingly well balanced. It has a good facial interface and some large soft padding on the faceplate which makes it comfortable to wear.
We're happy to report that we were able to game for hours while wearing this headset without problem. Yes, we got hot and bothered as we always do with these things, but we didn't find we had unbearable face ache after a short play period. It's clear that Pimax has worked hard to get the balance and the padding of the headset right to negate some of that weight.
The headset connects to your PC using a 4.5m DisplayPort cable along with a USB2.0 and USB 3.0 connection. We managed to get it working nicely on our main gaming desktop, but also with a DisplayPort Mini adapter on the MSI GE76 Raider. So it is pretty flexible and will work on both gaming laptops and desktops, as long as you have enough power under the hood.
What spec PC do I need to run a Pimax Vision 8K X?
As anyone knows, running games at 4K requires some serious power. If you've ever tried to crank out maximum frames-per-second on a 4K gaming monitor while running on the highest graphics settings, you'll know just how taxing that can be.
So trying to run the Pimax Vision 8K X with its dual 4K displays on a lesser machine will just result in misery. At a glance, the minimum recommended specs for your machine aren't all that taxing. We'd suggest, however, that if you want to have a truly great experience, you're going to want to ensure you're running a higher-spec machine than below:
- GPU: Nvidia RTX 2060 or above (upscale mode) / Nvidia RTX 2080 or above (native mode)
- CPU: lntel Core i5-9400 or above / RAM: 8GB or more
- Output: USB2.0/3.0, DP1.2
When connected to your PC, you can run Pimax's Pitool software to start the setup process. This is also used to update the firmware, setup your gameplay boundaries and, more importantly, tweak the settings for the best results.
This is one area the Pimax Vision 8K X falls down in our mind. The software is simple enough to use, but we found we had to do a lot of fiddling to get things running right. Playing Half-Life Alyx on this headset, for example, we were struck how pixelated it looked initially. Odd considering just how gorgeous that game had looked on other headsets we'd tested. So we opened up the Pitool and started tweaking settings to adjust render quality, the field of view and refresh rate. With those settings changed, we were presented with a breath-taking view of the Half-Life universe.
Yes, the Pimax 8K X makes Half-Life Alyx even more impressive, which we didn't think was possible. Head crabs have never looked as intimidating. The wide field of view means you can see much more of what's going on, even without turning your head. The high pixel density also means that the view is crisp and clear and things like screen door effect are firmly a problem of the past.
Then we swapped games and found we were having visual problems again. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners didn't look right at all. Again, tweaking the settings in Pitool and we got it running well and looking really good. Some games were fine, others needed adjustment in the settings before they were properly playable.
This isn't an issue we've seen with other VR headsets we've tried. Usually, it's a much more plug-and-play experience. But then very few headsets offer this level of fidelity or customisation in terms of what you're seeing on the display. This is either frustrating or satisfying, depending on your disposition. If you're technically savvy and don't mind fiddling with software then you won't be fazed - but if you'd rather just be able to pick up the headset and play whatever game you want on a whim, then it might be more annoying.
That said though, the experience is undoubtedly fantastic when you get it setup correctly. The size of the lenses means you can get an unadulterated view and be fully bathed in your gameplay. The peripheral vision makes that more convincing and helps add to the overall immersion. The speakers are nice and loud too, with a good convincing sound that draws you in. The padding on the faceplate and the general fit of the headset also results in very little surrounding light getting into the headset, meaning immersion that's beyond compare.
The Pimax Vision 8K X is, in our opinion, both the most impressive and most frustrating virtual reality headset we've tried. It ticks all the boxes for those who demand a specs-rich and powerful device - and only falls down because of how much faffing you have to do with the software to get it working perfectly.
If you're already invested in the HTC Vive ecosystem then the Pimax 8K X might well be a fantastic upgrade for your VR experience. Because, make no bones about it, this Pimax headset takes you from virtual reality to virtual insanity. Assuming, of course, that you have a gaming PC that's capable of pushing its limits.
HTC Vive Pro 2
A high-end VR experience thanks to impressive visuals, satisfying audio, and superb comfort. You still need a beast of a PC to run it, but it's also much more user-friendly.
HP Reverb G2
Interesting not only for its specs, but also thanks to the convenient inclusion of Windows Mixed Reality elements. This means it's really flexible and easy to use when plugged into a Windows machine.
Writing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on .
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Pimax announced its holding a product event on October 25th that will introduce a next-gen VR headset, something that the company promises will be “several generations ahead of anything currently on the market.”
The event, dubbed Frontier 2021, was originally set to take place on October 20th, however since its general announcement Pimax has moved the event to October 25th, or just three days before Facebook’s yearly Connect VR developer conference.
Pimax says in an email to press that Frontier 2021 will “showcase the Pimax product roadmap, related technologies, the vision of VR3.0, and a sneak peak of code name “Reality”: a new product that’s several generations ahead of anything currently on the market.”
A proper unveiling of ‘Reality’ is said to take place at CES 2022 in January. The name, Pimax says, “should give you an indication of the power of this product.”
You’ll be able to follow along with the announcements in a livestream on YouTube, taking place at 10 AM PT on October 25th (local time here). If the company’s other VR headsets are any indication, ‘Reality’ may be another wide-FOV, high-resolution headset.
Pimax isn’t alone in the Techtober XR product reveals. This month has already seen the unveiling of HTC’s standalone Vive Flow and Magic Leap 2. High-end headset creator Varjo is also holding a product launch event on October 21st.
Notably, Pimax shifted Frontier 2021 to be even closer to Facebook Connect, the latter of which is coming in a single-day event on October 28th. There we may get a peek at the rumored Oculus Quest Pro in addition to hearing more about the company’s recently revealed prototypes, which ought to make for some interesting points of comparison.
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Scott HaydenSours: https://www.roadtovr.com/pimax-next-gen-reality-event/
In September 2017, Pimax launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development of an ultrawide, ultra high resolution VR headset called the Pimax 8K. It ended up offering a 200-degree field of view (FOV) and dual 4K resolution displays for better image clarity and less screen door effect. At the time, these specifications were unheard of and scarcely believable. But it’s 2020 now, and while ultrawide headsets are hardly commonplace, dual 4K resolution is not as shocking a metric.
That's the market in which the Pimax Vision 8K Plus ($899 MSRP) is competing for the title of Best VR Headset. Ultimately, the headset can provide a premium experience, but you’ll need some VR experience of your own in order to manage the amount of calibration needed to get the HMD running at max potential.
Pimax Vision 8K Plus Specs
|Panel||Dual 4K LCD RGB pixel Matrix panels|
|Per-eye Resolution||3840 x 2160|
|Refresh Rate||72 Hz, 90 Hz or 110 Hz beta|
|MTP latency||15ms (typical)|
|Max FOV||Diagonal: 200 degrees|
|Horizontal: 170 degrees|
|Vertical: 115 degrees|
|IPD||Adjustable 2.17-2.98 inches (55-75mm)|
|Optional Modules||Eye tracking, hand tracking|
|Tracking support||6-DoF SteamVR Lighthouse 1.0& 2.0, built-in 3-DoF tracking|
A Little Bit of History
Let’s go back to 2017, when Pimax promised its 8K resolution head-mounted display (HMD). Despite the wild claims and the fact that GPUs of the time were not powerful enough to drive such a headset, the campaign drew in more than $3 million from trusting fans. That's more than Oculus collected for its Kickstarter campaign in 2013. The early-bird deliveries were supposed to ship within a few months of the campaign, but that didn't happen. Pimax endured several setbacks throughout headset development that caused significant release delays.
The company eventually released the headsets it promised and then iterated and created the Vision 8K Plus successor on our test bench.
Meet the Pimax Vision 8K Plus
As with all modern Pimax HMDs, the Vision 8K Plus is ultrawide with an extensive FOV. The headset’s two 4K displays face outward, giving you more peripheral vision than the average VR headset. Pimax advertises a 200-degree diagonal FOV, which puts it near the top of all headsets, including enterprise-class devices. For comparison, the Valve Index’s FOV goes up to 130 degrees.
Our first impressions of the Vision 8K Plus were positive. The new headset features the same sharp-angled shell as the older model. The only difference other than color is that the π logo is no longer embossed on the left-front corner.
Immediately, we noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the HMD’s exterior compared to the original Pimax headsets, the Pimax 8K and Pimax 5K Plus The 5K Plus' fragile shell left a lot to be desired, but the Vision 8K Plus features a soft-touch plastic material that feels much sturdier than the older headset. The old model flexed and creaked when we handled it; this one does not.
Pimax chose a dark blue dye for the plastic that is almost the same shade as the HTC Vive Pro. We found the color gave the Vive Pro a premium look, and it has a similar effect on the Vision 8K Plus. The faceplate of the first Vision 8K Plus that we received featured a bright green chevron that lights up when the HMD is powered on, providing a bold contrast against the blue shell. The replacement headset includes a chrome finish over the chevron, which still lights up green. The chrome used to be reserved for the Pimax Vision 8K X, but Pimax recently revised the 8K Plus to include these shiny accents.
The power button and volume controls are on the top right corner of the headset. When the headset has power but the display is off, the LED next to the power button is red. When the panels are on, the light shines purple. The buttons are chrome like the chevron.
The Vision 8K Plus includes a mechanical IPD (interpupillary distance, the amount of space between the eyes) adjustment, which can set the lenses as close as 60mm apart and as far as 72.5mm. The gigantic lenses have a large sweet spot, so the IPD range should be forgiving for anyone who falls outside the mechanical range.
Bring Your Own Headphones
The Vision 8K Plus headset does not include built-in headphones but does include an embedded microphone to capture your voice. The headset has headphone jacks for connecting a pair of headphones or Pimax's modular audio head strap accessory.
We prefer to use a wireless headset for audio to avoid the hassle of the extra dangling cable, but it’s nice to have options. The headset includes two 3.5mm headphone jacks, but only the left one works for third-party audio devices. The right jack is specifically for Pimax's audio head strap accessory.
A proprietary 3-in-1 tether cable delivers the signal from your computer to the headset. The cable includes USB 3.0 for data, DisplayPort 1.2 for the video signal and 12v power to run the HMD.
The headset also offers two USB Type-C ports to run accessories. The USB-C port on the bottom is reinforced with a thick metal bezel and has a firm click when plugging in an accessory. That port is meant for the Ultra Leap hand tracking accessory (sold separately). Pimax also partnered with 7invision to develop an eyetracking module that you can order from the Pimax website.
The Vision 8K Plus also includes a second USB-C port on the top of the headset, but, unfortunately, it may not be usable. There appear to be two significant flaws in the design. The port is recessed inside the upper edge of the HMD, and the opening around it is too small for some USB cables.
We found a few wires that would fit into the opening but then noticed another problem: The cables that did fit into the opening stick out too far and get in the way of the comfort kit. Pimax would need to develop a custom cable for any accessories that use this port.
What's a Comfort Kit?
The Pimax Comfort Kit is an upgraded foam facial interface meant to improve the headset's fitment. It’s available as an upgrade for older Pimax HMDs, but it's a standard component on the Vision 8K Plus. If you don't need to use the top USB-C port, the Comfort Kit is a worthy upgrade.
In effect, the Comfort Kit is a broader and taller foam cushion and bracket with a rubber nose guard to reduce light bleed. The cushion seals off light quite well. We only noticed light bleeding in when a bright light source, such as photography lights, was directly behind us. If you really try, you can spot the floor through a tiny sliver.
That's a Big Forehead
The cushion on the Comfort Kit is much more comfortable than the foam on the 5K Plus. It may be the most comfortable headset cushion that we've yet tried. The cushion extends above the edge of the visor, which gives it a much larger, more supportive forehead area that helps balance and distributes the weight better than rivals.
Absorption is the comfort kit's biggest downside. The cushion on the Vision 8K Plus is made of foam material that wicks up moisture like nobody's business. If you play games that make you sweat, the cushion will get ugly fast. It's a shame that Pimax didn't opt for a moisture-resistant material like the PU leather found in VR Cover accessories. Unfortunately, VR Cover does not support Pimax headsets at this time.
At CES 2020, Pimax said it would offer multiple cushion options, including a PU leather and an antimicrobial option. To date, those cushion options have never been offered for sale.
No Mechanical Head Strap
Although the Comfort Kit helps make the Vision 8K Plus fit better than the 5K Plus, the headstrap tips the balance in the wrong direction. Unbelievably, the new strap is in some ways worse than the one that came with our pre-production Pimax 5K Plus M2.
Our review unit of the Vision 8K Plus didn’t come with the optional modular audio head strap. Instead, we found a nylon 3-point harness in the box, which we had to install ourselves. Annoyingly, the head strap installation required the removal of the Comfort Kit, which came preinstalled from the factory. It would’ve been nice to have the strap preinstalled at the factory or the Comfort Kit left uninstalled, so you wouldn't have to tear it off as soon as you receive the headset.
The 5K Plus we reviewed in 2019 had some straps to tie down the tether cable so that it exits the headset at the rear. The Vision 8K Plus doesn’t include any guides to direct the tether cable along the side. We routed the cable through an elastic on the rear of the strap, but that’s not an ideal solution.
It wouldn't be fair to say that the new strap is worse in all ways. Pimax did widen the upper strap to help distribute the device's weight, but it's a very subtle difference. For the price that Pimax asks for this headset, a mechanical strap should be standard equipment.
At first glance, the quality of the Vision 8K Plus’ displays seemed very impressive. Image clarity appeared to rival the best HMDs that we’ve tested. However, it soon became apparent that this is somewhat of an illusion.
Details, such as our hands, the items we carried, and nearby walls, were clear, and the screen door effect nearly imperceptible, but objects in the distance seemed somewhat hazy. After playing around with the many calibration settings, including render resolution, FOV and refresh rate, we learned that the image clarity is highly dependent on the way you set up the screens and how powerful your computer is. However, the headset screens have poor color reproduction, so no matter what we do, bright details looked washed out. Black levels could improve too, and that’s not something we’re usually picky about.
The Vision 8K Plus’ ultrawide lenses introduce a type of distortion that we've only experienced with Pimax headsets. The outer extremities of our FOV had a warped look to them. This phenomenon goes back to the original prototype of the Pimax 8K that we tried years ago. As much as Pimax has improved the distortion with software, the problem persists, and we’re not hopeful about a solution.
You have two options, and neither one is a perfect solution. You can either live with the distortion in your peripheral vision or use Pimax's PiTool software to limit the FOV to hide the imperfection, which kind of defeats the purpose of buying an ultrawide headset.
The problem is even worse when you run your display at the fringes of its ability. With the HMD’s refresh rate set to 110 Hz, the extremities of the screen produced a chromatic blue shimmering blue effect.
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