Today I flew from Bangkok to Chiang Rai to test @bubbleball’s 5K+ with top priority being to see whether the “black dots” would bother me and whether I should choose 8K or 5K+.
Actually I am also vacationing in Chiang Rai and am writing this in my hotel room. Sorry for minimal formatting and wall of text. I typed this on my iPhone.
I am a Vive owner since 2016 (OG model). I don’t have the DAS since I am pretty ok with the original straps. Also, I have never tried any other HMD (other than GearVR).
Yesterday I played a few hours of the games and experiences I would be testing in the Pimax 5K+ on my Vive so I had fresh memories to compare.
Putting on 5K+ for the first time and Distortions
Putting on the 5K+ at first was pretty jarring. As the IPD wasn’t set and HMD placement wasn’t optimal, the distortions were everywhere. Both middle and edges. Once IPD was adjusted and I positioned HMD better (remembering to have eyes lower / hmd higher) the distortions were now at just the edges.
But since I was completely new to the edge distortions, they bothered me quite a bit at first. However, the longer I played, the less they bothered me. This was due to me continuing to fine tune IPD and HMD position and also getting used to it. In the end the distortion did not seem to be a major issue, however it could be improved, hopefully by software and maybe adjustable distortion sliders. Also possibly if I had more time I could fine tune ipd and hmd position even better to minimize it.
I also noticed other things such as improved SDE, FOV and things which were worse than in Vive too, which I will detail below.
Since this was the thing I was most worried about, I will talk about it first.
I admit that at first, I could not see them at all. In Lucky Tales which bubbleball captured the dots so clearly, I could not see them at all even on solid red color. The only thing I could notice in terms of the black dots was when looking at bright colors, ex. in the blue sky in some games I could see the faint lines of darker pixels of the blackdots. The feeling is like a TV signal interference where there are spaced out horizontal lines of darker colors. (This in addition to the SDE lines.) They were faint but noticable on white and blue skies and made the image seem a bit lower quality.
Then bubbleball told me that the individual dots can be seen only if the image is correctly in focus. And he also cleaned (wiped) the lenses for me.
After lenses were wiped and I tried to adjust ipd and hmd position even more to get the clearest picture, NOW I could clearly see the dots almost anywhere there was a solid bright color area. For blue skies I could only still see the faint lines. But if the color was anywhere from white down to red and anything in between (eg yellow, bright brown) then all the individual cute little dots could be seen. It was really bad on solid white and especially skin color. (Funny thing is, seeing black dots seems to be a good way to make sure you have image in proper focus)
VR Kanojo was one of the most ruined by black dots. Also any other game (or experience) where you are looking at people with smooth faces and fair skin.
I found it really bad however when you are at a close, but not very close distance. When you are very close to the character’s face, then it isn’t easy to see. However, move back a bit and the character’s face has these black dots all over them and it is hilarious.
Games with red colored menus will also remind you of them.
In most games however, they aren’t a big issue at all other than making the perceived image quality a bit worse when you see the faint horizontal lines. Compared to other issues I had with the 5K+, I felt the black dots were secondary.
In the end I would say, they are a big issue for some games/experiences and a non issue for others. And for most games they are a smaller issue as they just pop up from time to time to remind you that you are wearing an HMD.
So it does, as I expected, be an issue that I hate as it is something that when it pops up, it is very hard to ignore. Unlike normal SDE that is easier to forget about.
When I tested the Vive yesterday, I observed that while it has SDE, the SDE is completely uniform, making it easy for the brain to filter out. On 5K+, these black dots and the horizontal darker lines they can manifest as are like a bigger layer of SDE, which is a lot harder to ignore when they pop up / when you see them.
In any case, as all other points in this review of mine, these are just my own observations and other people may have completely different experiences.
Also, I had bubbleball with me to help guide me to see them, otherwise it might have taken me a lot longer to see them.
lol, I haven’t tried 8K, so I can only compare to “imagined” 8K. Since 8K has no black dots, then in this criteria 8K is better.
Next thing I want to talk about is the SDE. I was very impressed with how small the SDE was. Compared to Vive, it really helped make a lot of games look a lot better because image was able to be a lot cleaner.
Yesterday in the Vive, I felt that looking into the distance in any game the SDE really ruined the image. In 5K+ it is a lot better. More of the colors and details of objects are able to be displayed rather than obscured by the SDE.
However, after 3 hours, I still haven’t gotten used to the 5K+ straight horizontal lines of SDE coming from Vive diagonal SDE.
For me, the SDE is still not easy to ignore so it also pulls me out of immersion. I guess if I used it daily though, then I could get used to it.
So overall, I still hate the SDE and it felt bigger issue than black dots, but I think I could adapt to it, so in the end could be a smaller issue. Not sure.
In any case SDE is a lot better than Vive SDE. I just wanted even less noticable SDE I guess.
Winner: Imagined 8K
Since 8K should have similar SDE pattern to Vive, just a lot smaller, and since many people say 8K has less visible SDE than 5K+, then I think 8K should be better for me in regards to SDE.
Also, while 5K+ clarity may be better, at this point I just feel it makes the SDE clear.
The fov is a definite strong point of the Pimax. It improves the experiences A LOT. Every game and experience I tried was better because of the fov.
Skyrim VR felt so good with the wider view. It was like I used to play SkyrimVR on a 4:3 21 inch crt tv and then got to play it on 42 inch lcd tv. (yup, the colors were like crt -> lcd too … meaning they were worse, but I will talk about that later)
I played Star Rage VR in the Vive yesterday and it felt like a generic uninteresting wave shooter. But in Pimax it felt a lot better due to the wider fov.
bubbleball had me try Gunheart and it felt extremely immersive.
Beat Saber also felt better because I could see the blades in my peripheral vision more. In the Vive when slashing boxes to the side or above I feel that sometimes I have to do it a bit offscreen. But here I could see more of the blades hitting the boxes.
theBlu whale scene felt a whole lot grander… especially at the end where you are looking at the whale’s back and tail against the expanse of the ocean. Very amazing feeling that was totally new and not there in the Vive.
I also tried Large and Small fov. Large was nice and I feel it is really usable. What surprised me the most though was Small fov. When bubbleball set the small fov and gave the headset to me, I put it on and had to ask him to try it to make sure it was really small fov as it still felt massive to me. So that is a big plus that I would even be happy with small fov which would allow for higher supersampling.
Negative though is even at large fov, I could still see the black edges at the far left and far right. Also if you close your left eye, your right eye can see left edge of the right lenses, the black space in between, and the right edge of the left lenses (and vise versa). So the edges of the images are affected by that too, but during normal play all those edges kind of blend in and disappear. Unless you try to look for it. Putting some kind of divider in the middle so at least your eyes can’t see the edges of the other side’s lenses might help.
8K gets a plus though as small fov should allow higher SS which 8K needs. (But 5K also benefits from this, so Tie)
Low FPS and Reprojection?
One thing I haven’t mentioned is bubbleball’s PC is a 1070 with an old AMD cpu (sorry, can’t remember cpu model as I don’t know about AMD cpu models)
The result is FPS was abysmal! Like 30-40 fps in many games. In some games even 25 or less FPS. And as anyone with a Vive would know, such low fps would cause almost immediate sickness / vomitting in a Vive.
However, in Pimax 5K+, even though I could feel the extreme lagginess… it was somehow … smooth!!!
And also, probably related, but maybe i the fov also helps, I felt zero motion sickness in any game… even at 30fps!!
I don’t understand why and I don’t know if Pimax has some kind of reprojection… but whatever it is, it is a lot better than in Vive and probably makes Pimax less demanding?? Not completely sure, but bubbleball said he would get motion sick in a lot of games in the Vive, but in Pimax he doesn’t at all.
In any case I still don’t recommend using Pimax with a 1070 as while it is smoother at same low fps as Vive would be, the experience is still bad.
In some games such as Beat Saber and Onward, the fps was perfectly fine.
I myself have a 1080, so will need to see how well it does.
Winner: 5K+? or Tie
I think 5K+ since it has no motion lag issue, it might have an edge with low fps not causing sickness.
Vertical screen tearing issue
The issue reported here:
Which is seen as vertical seams / screen tears, and causing it to seem like the image is separated into 3 vertical areas was occurring very often in my testing today. It is an issue that is said to have just started with the .95 pitool version. It is completely immersion breaking and I believe it is related to low performance.
So since the framerate was so low in many of the games, this issue was seen a lot.
Hopefully Pimax can fix this soon. Then low fps usage would be very good.
Black Levels, Brightness, Color and Contrast
Unexpectedly, this is actually the thing(s) that bothered me the most about the 5K+. Again, as I had used the Vive for hours the previous day, I could remember all the colors and black levels.
I didn’t think I would be bothered much by the colors or black levels, but I really was. Everything just felt so dull. The brightness was lower than I remembered the Vive was, the colors were less saturated and the contrast of the colors and contrast of light and dark was worse. And the black levels I couldn’t adapt to at all yet.
Anything that should be very dark seems to be a grey/brownish shroud. The darker the experience or game is supposed to be, the worse. I didn’t try elite dangerous as not sure if bubbleball installed it and I don’t think it would run well.
I’m not sure if there is something else wrong with bubbleball’s 5K+ or if this is just the way the 5K+ is, but I hated the black levels a lot.
I tried Big Screen Big Cinema and watch Infinity Wars trailer through youtube. It was tons better than in Vive. Minimal SDE and clear image. Colors were ok in this case. Clarity and details were great. Since there were no solid colors there were no black dots (you can’t see them at all unless solid color or reddish/orange material.) It was almost acceptable for me to feel as if I was watching a movie in a real theater. The only flaw was whenever there was a fade to black transition, it was a grey brown shard. Since it was supposed to be black but it was not, it felt like it was bright. And that was the worst feeling and every time the screen fade to black I wanted to stop watching… it seemed like it hurt my eyes to watch.
In terms of colors… in most games the colors just felt dull. And in many cases the colors were ok, but the brightness felt too low for me. Things weren’t as bright and lively as in the Vive.
The new brightness settings actually help a lot. Low is a lot better for dark experiences. High is great for daytime bright colorful stuff. But I think bright needs to go higher and dark needs to go darker. In the end the contrast is limited so it will help to a certain point.
So for me, actually the loss of brightness, color saturation, contrast and black levels is the biggest negative. Distortion is smallest issue. (Black spot is in the middle)
I think I can get used to it, but it still feels like a big loss … and the dullness makes everything less lifelike for me. I never used Rift, so maybe Rift users might not feel it as much as I do in terms of brightness.
Winner: Imagined 8K
Since most people say 8K has the edge on these items. Though maybe not much, but if black levels for example are noticed to be better then that is already big plus for me.
And hopefully Pimax adds color and more brightness adjustments to software.
There was no motion lag that I could see.
8K is reported to have the wobble issue.
Added for completeness.
I wished the pixels were smaller, but it was a massive improvement to Vive.
As I said, I hated the horizontal lines of SDE though (and I had no idea I would).
Really wished I could compare to 8K to see the tradeoffs.
Everyone says so.
I bought a 8mm and a thick VR Cover (not sure how thick) to try, but ran out of time to properly test them. Just got a quick view with each.
These are Vive VR Covers. First tried the 8mm one and immediately felt better comfort as I like the material better (leather like material). It got eyes closer to lenses but didn’t have time to adjust.
Then tried thick VR Cover. This one I really liked. It seemed to reduce distortions for me, but also reduce fov. Also felt very very comfortable. Didn’t have time to test properly though, but bubbleball will. I think face shape and ipd will be very important factor that affects best face foam thickness. Some will find thin better, others will find thick better. It also seems to have direct impact to distortion. So I would recommend people to try changing face foams. VR Cover for Vive ones work very well.
With 5K+ I felt there were some clear advantages to Vive, but the clear disadvantages were the dullness of colors and black levels. If Pimax could get a better screen into this same design it would be really huge. Maybe 8K X?
At this point I will be sticking to 8K in hopes that all the things I didn’t like in 5K+ will be better.
**A big thank you to @bubbleball again for being so kind to let me visit his home to try the 5K+. **