I got to demo the Pimax 5k and 8k headsets, here’s my initial impressions

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First a little bit of background info from me to give my "review" some context. I owned the DK1, DK2 and currently run the Oculus (with touch) in my office for seated experiences (mostly driving & virtual desktop / big screen) and the Vive in my 8’x6′ living room for room scale. I’ve upgraded my Vive with the audio strap and new slimmer cable

I have backed the kickstarter, ordering the 8k headset, and plan to use my vive controllers and base stations. I feel it’s important to mention this due to a cognitive bias we humans have called "Post-purchase rationalization". It is possible that my backing could have influenced my experience, but I will do my best to be fair to both the Pimax headsets as well as the Oculus and Vive I currently own

The Setup

The Pimax demo took place in an office in San Francisco and consisted of two of their base stations, one controller, the Pimax 5k with their hands on module (think leap motion), and the Pimax 8k headset without the hand module. They were both running via a laptop with a GTX1080, no details on CPU or RAM but given the GPU I imagine they are "decent". About 15 people attended the 2 hour demo

Pimax are using Valve’s tech, which means you can use existing lighthouse and controllers with the Pimax headset. You could opt to get their lighthouses and controllers bundled with it if you currently don’t own any

The term "8K"

In some past posts about this headset people have gotten their knickers in a twist when it comes to the naming of the 8K. The "8k" refers to the horizontal resolution of the combined displays which are 2*3840×2160 (7680×2160 combined). An 8K TV or Monitor would most typically be 7680×4320, so the "8" in this case refers to the horizontal resolution matching that of a 8k 16:9 display. Personally I think this is the correct way to report VR resolutions given the unique aspect ratio. For comparison this would make the Oculus and the Vive "2k" headsets

Both the 5k and 8k are fed a 4k (wide) signal from the laptop which they upscale to their respective displays. This was via HDMI but the final version will use Displayport. This lower input resolution combined with fast switching between left and right eye rendering is how they can run an "8K" headset with a min spec of a GTX980/1070.

They do have a version of the headset in development called the "8K X" that (via two displayport connections) accepts the display’s native resolution of 7680×2160 with no scaling… but that is shipping later and would require SLI 1080ti (or next gen) to run!

The 5k with hand tracking

First up was the Pimax 5k with their hand tracking module installed under the headset and Magic Mirror "game" running on the laptop (note the video I linked is just to show the game, it was not captured from the event). The module attaches to the underside of the headset via its USB-C port and 2 screws (no cables). It’s very slim and blends in well with the headset design. I was told he FOV of the Pimax hand sensor is 180° wide, compared to 150° on the leap. I had no data on vertical FOV

The 5k features an OLED screen which is why they probably picked a demo with a lot of black in it, and the blacks were VERY black. It was hard to make out sharpness given the motion blur on the particles and the trippy nature of the demo but the hand tracking was amazing. I’ve not used the leap myself, but one guy who attended the demo who has said it was "quite a bit better"

There was never any 100% white on 100% black in the Mirror demo, but the particles were quite bright and I can report that I noticed no god rays or halo/bloom, something I notice instantly in both the Vive and Oculus in any high contrast scenes

The 8k

Switching to the 8k headset they fired up fruit ninja and handed us their prototype controller. The 8k uses the same lenses and is otherwise identical in appearance to the 5k but instead of a 5K OLED it features their custom 8K LED screens. As fruit ninja is quite a bright and colorful game I was able to get a better look at both the 200°FOV of the headset as well as the performance of the screen. First up, I’m happy to report they have solved the edge stretching that the Tested guys commented on in their review. There was still some lens distortion around the edges, but I was told that will be fixed with the next iteration of the lens and a tweak to the software prior to shipping. After a bit of play I started to ignore the distortion and focused on the resolution

I could not see ANY screen door, chromatic aberration, or sub pixels while looking around the Fruit Ninja space and holding the sword close to my face. I could look far to the left and right using my eyes and even at the extreme of my eye-turning ability the image was pin sharp, which was unexpected. Like the 5k I noticed no rays or bloom but it was a bright scene so I wasn’t expecting to see much of that anyway

As the fruit flew and my sword chopped I noticed no ghosting or smearing of the motion

After the demos were over I asked if we could jump into Big Screen to check out a web page. For the first time I could read the clock in the corner of the windows taskbar and the text in the browser URL bar clearly with Big Screen’s default screen size. On Oculus I need to scale it up some or lean in to easily read text that small. I don’t think it’s a viable monitor replacement yet, but I think it’s totally usable for some light web browsing, IMing, and reading and responding to emails. Though we didn’t get to test any, I imagine movies look amazing in it and look forward to kicking back in a Big Screen movie theater

The controller

I don’t feel it’s fair to comment on their controller for a few reasons: 1) The controller we used was a prototype, it was even held together in part by some tape 2) They plan to ship with a new design that features some of the tech from the upcoming Valve ‘Knuckles’ controllers, so any review would be invalid 3) Fruit ninja didn’t use any buttons so I pressed nothing. I can say the tracking was as good as the Vive, which is to be expected given it uses the same tech and looks the same as the Vive controllers

Conclusion / TL;DR

PROS

  • The screen/lens combo is so far ahead of the current Oculus and Vive it’s ridiculous. No screen door, little to no rays or ghosting. Deep blacks on the 5k OLED, no chromatic aberration or "ripples" from a fresnel lens, no visible sub pixels, no noticeable smearing
  • Despite looking bulky, the headset is light, lighter than the Vive apparently, and didn’t slosh around as my head turned quickly
  • The 200° FOV is something you won’t be able to go back from, using my Oculus now feels like i’m viewing the world through a scuba mask!
  • The hand tracking module works well and integrates well with the headset
  • Is launching with optional modules including hand tracking, prescription inserts, fans for face cooling, and replacement pads.. more modules including eye tracking and inside-out tracking planned

CONS

  • Some (though not I) people who attended the demo said the display on the 8k seemed a little dim. Given they are alternating left and right and inserting black frames to remove ghosting (I assume) this makes sense, but then the demos were short and the room was bright, I think after 5 minutes your eyes would adjust. I personally found the brightness perfectly acceptable and only bring it up because others mentioned it
  • v2 of their lens still has some distortion, apparently will be fixed in v3, but only have their word for that

I’m looking forward to receiving my headset and swapping out the headset on my Vive setup, happy to answer any questions you have. You can view the FAQ and more detail about the 5K, 8K and 8K-X on their Kickstarter Page

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October 6, 2017 at 10:36AM

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