While there were many perhaps questionable Chinese VR headsets shown off at CES this year, Pimax’s new 8K, 200 degree prototype actually stood out from the crowd. Moreover, Pimax perhaps even showed both some of the potential that high spec headsets might provide along with the challenges associated with getting the details right. Not only was I able to give the new headset a try, I was also able to learn more about how exactly they intend to address the significant challenges behind powering a headset that boasts a 3840 x 2160 per eye resolution.
The exterior of Pimax’s new prototype bears some resemblance to Starbreeze’s 210 degree StarVR headset (and the InfinitEye before it) but uses a PlayStation VR (PSVR) style mounting mechanism. Each of the headset’s displays (one per eye), are placed at a canted angle, just like StarVR’s. In terms of heft, the Pimax unit didn’t seem that much heavier than the PSVR upon use, although as ever, it’s hard to judge this accurately given that it was just a short demo. One thing’s for sure though, the bulky shell makes it look heavier than it actually feels.
The headset’s resolution was probably the best thing about the headset. Whilst inside, I couldn’t discern individual sub-pixels no matter how hard I looked – whereas with the Rift or Vive I can. It took some effort to even discern individual pixels. The result was that it felt like I was looking at a slightly textured surface or film, similar to the current headsets, but much sharper and transparent. I can imagine I wouldn’t be distracted by the resolution.
The FOV (Field of View) was also impressive, feeling close to the aforementioned StarVR’s. Of course, the ultra-wide FOV was beneficial to peripheral awareness, but in terms of actual added immersion, I’m not sure if there was much of a real benefit. However, there were a few issues which perhaps hindered this. Issues include low brightness from the displays, weird inconsistent warping or geometric distortion when getting farther away from the center of the lenses, an inaccurate distortion profile in general, a low binocular overlap (the volume of FOV that overlaps between both eyes), and a very little bit of ghosting and/or smearing in motion. All of these issues unfortunately formed a barrier against proper immersion in the game. The low binocular overlap seemed to be the biggest immersion killer alongside the warping/distortion, whilst the low brightness and smearing were slight – far beyond that found in the Oculus Rift DK1 of course. It’s uncertain whether more time to play around with the IPD adjustment and time to get used to the distortion would have improved the experience.