I wrote an impressions post on the Pimax subreddit a few hours ago, thought I should post here too since I know many of you don’t go there too often.
I attended the Pimax backer meetup yesterday in Venice, CA and thought I should share my experience with the rest of you. I originally wasn’t going to post, but I saw some misinformation about tracking and incomplete experiences with the Pimax 5K BE. Luckily, I was able to try each headset with one of my all-time favorite’s (Skyrim), so I might be able more directly compare each of them than most of the other testers. To best understand my perspective, I’ll share some of my prior experience and biases involving VR.
Headsets I previously owned/extensively used:
- HTC Vive (since launch)
- Oculus Rift (>1 year)
- Samsung Odyssey - 2880*1600 Pentile OLED (~1 month)
- Dell WMR (~1 month)
- Pico G2 – (~1 week, made sure to use it immediately before the meetup to compare SDE. King of current gen resolution/SDE with a 2880*1600 RGB LCD screen, better than the Oculus Go)
- Pimax M1 (last LA backer meetup)
Biases and background information:
Current VR resolution and FOV is nowhere near enough nor acceptable. I still own the HTC Vive, but barely use it compared to when I first got it. After the initial wow factor wore off I couldn’t ignore the massive flaws anymore. The SDE was too apparent, FOV too restrictive, and resolution too low. I backed the full 8k package and up until this meetup I was set on not switching to the 5k+.
Mini rant on current gen VR (100 FOV headsets and below):
I honestly cannot disagree more with some opinions people have on current gen VR (usually outside this forum). I’ve seen some comments like “the resolution is good enough” and “we don’t need more FOV”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still incredibly fun to use but I view it more as a stop-gap until we can really experience VR the way it’s meant to be. VR is supposed to replicate reality, last I checked I don’t walk around looking through smudged binoculars with a screen door strapped to it.
The FOV is a game changer. It finally feels less like binoculars strapped to your face and more akin to wearing a ski mask. What used to be a constant hindrance is now an afterthought. Yes I still think we need 210° FOV in the future for perfect VR, but this is such a huge step up that it will do for now. All three headsets on full 170° FOV had some blur at the outer edges (maybe like 10° per side), it wasn’t horrible but could get annoying in most games with a lot of movement or quick turning. I believe the distortion wouldn’t be very noticeable in darker games, also it’s been massively improved over the M1 like others have said.
At normal 150° FOV you lose a bit of peripheral vision but nothing to worry about as it completely got rid of the distortions for me. It’s much more of a pro than a con and overall creates a better experience than the full 170° FOV in the games I tried. When you consider the sizable performance boost at normal 150° FOV it makes even more sense to almost always leave it on that option.
Surprisingly, the small 120° FOV is noticeably larger than the Vive’s. While I wouldn’t normally choose the option unless I had to, for games which won’t run smoothly at 150° FOV it won’t be the worst thing playing it on the small 120° FOV. It’s still a decent step up form current headsets.
The comparisons below are all based on my time with each headset in similar Skyrim scenes. When I’m talking about the text on 8K it was specifically during Elite Dangerous when I really noticed it.
8K, 5K+, & 5K BE - Colors
First thing I noticed before even thinking to evaluate the resolution was WOW! …these colors are bad. I couldn’t help but think that everything looked so dull. If the only thing holding you back from switching to the 5k+ and 8k is the color, don’t worry because it’s like choosing between bad and slightly less bad. You won’t be missing out on much. Now did it get better as the headset was on longer and my eyes adjusted? Yes a bit. I can imagine if I was at home and not taking it off every few minutes to try the next headset like I did at the meetup my eyes would have enough time to adjust to the brightness and colors more. Is this a deal breaker for me? No not at all, the pros simply outway the cons. I can safely say once I get the Pimax I will never touch the Vive again.
That being said about the 8K and 5k+, when I put on the 5K BE it immediately blew the other two LCD displays out of the water. The colors, saturation, black levels were amazing, everything seemed to pop and came alive. As you might have expected, the 5K BE clearly wins in colors over the other two Pimax headsets and is on par with other OLED headsets when it comes to these properties.
8K, 5K+, 5K BE – SDE (Screen Door Effect)
The SDE on both were far better than the Odyssey and Vive Pro, not just by a small amount. They seem to be on par with my Pico G2 just at a much larger FOV which is very impressive (so yes a bit better than the Oculus Go even). To my surprise the SDE was not less on the 8K than 5K+, it seemed to be about the same. On the 5k+ it’s only noticeable when looking for it on isolated light/bright colors (like the sky). The same applies for the 8K except the SDE also becomes very apparent when looking at text, I did not notice this on the 5K+. Text just like everything else on the 8K is smoother/blurrier than the 5K+ due to the upscaling so it’s harder to read. Although the biggest drawback of the 8K is it’s diagonal pixel structure, the way it renders text makes the diagonal SDE become oddly visible.
The SDE on the 5K BE is surprisingly not as bad as one might think given its pentile display. It was still noticeably better than that of the Odyssey’s SDE. I’d put it somewhere between the Odyssey and Pimax 5k+ in terms of SDE.
8K, 5K+, & 5K BE - Clarity, Latency, Ghosting, Refresh Rate, Tracking
5K+ and 5K BE beat the 8K in clarity due to the native/non-upscaled signal. We know the 8K runs at 80HZ, 5K+ at 90HZ, but I didn’t know what the 5K BE was running at and I couldn’t notice a difference between them. I asked the engineer who was there, he said it was running at 83HZ and thought they could get it to 85hz before release. I didn’t notice any ghosting or latency issues on any of them, but I can’t be certain the 5K BE doesn’t since I didn’t try a fast-paced game or shake the HMD around to check. They only had 2 base stations and not all the headsets were in view, the 8K was even only running at 3DOF since it was way out of view. You can ignore people who said there were problems with the headset as they might not have noticed this fact. They all seem like they’d operate flawlessly with 2 base stations setup correctly at home, at this point it’s not a concern at all.
This is how VR is supposed to be, very wide field of view and minimal screen door effect. Is it perfect? No, but it sure is a hell of a lot better than what we have now. Going in I thought I’d come out preferring the 8k, boy was I wrong. I wanted the lowest SDE no matter what, even if it meant less “clarity”. Better colors would have just been a plus. I came out of it thinking why the 8k exists after having tried the 5k+ and being most impressed with the 5K BE. If it was only between 8K and 5K+ I’d choose to go with the 5k+ over 8k because: the advantage in clarity is more apparent than I originally thought, same SDE but more pleasant to look at and shows up less, full 90hz, colors aren’t a disadvantage, and the icing on the cake is I get $100 back perhaps for the hand tracking.
Although, the sudden appearance of the 5K BE is now making me question if I should go for that or the 5K+. I’ll be eagerly waiting for @mixedrealityTV @SweViver @VoodooDE to receive the 5K BE and thoroughly review it. I can’t decide on the 5K BE yet with Pimax advertising it as “business only” and having flaws that the consumer wouldn’t want. With my limited time on the 5K BE I didn’t notice any real flaws besides having slightly worse SDE. I think it’s close enough that it just might be worth it for the far better colors. I’m backer number ~5,000 so I have time to wait for the reviews to see what Pimax really means by “business only” before I decide. Let’s just say if there isn’t some hidden problem with the 5K BE, it might just be the one I go for…