It’s exceedingly rare to see a VR software startup transition to making hardware, let alone decent hardware. But that’s exactly what Bigscreen—creators of the long-running social VR theater app of the same name—has done with its upcoming Beyond headset.

Bigscreen has clearly targeted PC VR enthusiasts who are willing to pay for the best hardware they can get their hands on. And with major players like Meta and HTC focusing heavily on standalone headsets, Bigscreen Beyond could prove to be the best option they’ll find any time soon.

Photo by Road to VR

The company has set out to make a headset that’s not just better than what’s out there, but one that’s much smaller too. And while it remains to be seen if the headset will hit all the right notes, my initial hands-on shows plainly the company knows what it’s doing when it comes to building a VR headset.

Bigscreen Beyond Specs
Resolution 2,560 × 2,560 (6.5MP) per-eye
microOLED (2x, RGB stripe)
Pixels Per-degree (claimed) 28
Refresh Rate 75Hz, 90Hz
Lenses Tri-element pancake
Field-of-view (claimed) 93°H × 90°V
Optical Adjustments IPD (fixed, customized per customer)
eye-relief (fixed, customized per facepad)
IPD Adjustment Range 58–72mm (fixed, single IPD value per device)
Connectors DisplayPort 1.4, USB 3.0 (2x)
Accessory Ports USB-C (1x)
Cable Length 5m
Tracking SteamVR Tracking 1.0 or 2.0 (external beacons)
On-board Cameras None
Input SteamVR Tracking controllers
On-board Audio None
Optional Audio Audio Strap accessory, USB-C audio output
Microphone Yes (2x)
Pass-through view No
Weight 170–185g
MSRP $1,000
MSRP (with tracking & controllers) $1,580

Custom-made

Bigscreen is building something unique, quite literally—every Beyond headset comes with a custom-made facepad. And this isn’t a ‘choose one of three options’ situation, Bigscreen has a sleek app that walks buyers through the process of capturing a 3D scan of their face so the company can create a completely unique facepad that conforms to each specific customer.

And it really makes a difference. The first thing that Bigscreen CEO Darshan Shankar showed me during a demo of the Beyond headset was the difference between my personal facepad (which the company created for me prior to our meetup) and someone else’s facepad. The difference was instantly obvious; where mine fit against my face practically like two connected puzzle-pieces, the other facepad awkwardly disagreed with my face in various places. While I’ve recognized for a long time that different facial topology from person-to-person is a real consideration for VR headsets, this made me appreciate even more how significant the differences can be.

The facepad may look rough, but it’s actually made of a soft rubber material | Photo by Road to VR

Shankar says the custom-fit facepad is an essential part of making such a small headset. It ensures not only that the headset is as comfortable as it can be, but also the user’s eyes are exactly where they’re supposed to be with regard to the lenses. For a headset like Beyond, which uses high magnification pancake optics with a small sweet spot, this is especially important. And, as Shankar convincingly demonstrated by shining a flashlight all around the headset while I was wearing it, the custom-fit facepad means absolutely no external light can be seen from inside.

And the custom facepad isn’t the only way each headset is dialed in for each specific customer; instead of wasting weight and space with the mechanics for an IPD adjustment, the headset ships with one of 15 fixed IPD distances, ranging from 58–72mm. The company selects the IPD based on the same face scan that allows them to make the custom facepad. And given the size of the Beyond headset, there’s no way that glasses will fit inside; luckily the company will also sell magnetically attached prescription inserts for those who need them, up to −10 diopter.

Diving In

With my custom facepad easily snapped onto the headset with magnets, it was time to dive into VR.

The baseline version of the $1,000 Bigscreen Beyond headset has a simple soft strap, which I threw over the back of my head and tightened to taste. I felt I had to wear the strap very high on the back of my head for a good hold; Shankar says an optional top-strap will be available, which ought to allow me to wear the rear strap in a lower position.

Photo by Road to VR

As I put on the headset I found myself sitting in a dark Bigscreen theater environment, and the very first thing I noticed was the stellar darks and rich colors that are thanks to the headset’s OLED displays. The second thing I noticed was there was no sound! That’s because the baseline version of the headset doesn’t have on-board audio, so I still had to put on a pair of headphones after the headset was donned.

While the baseline headset lacks on-board audio, Bigscreen is offering a $100 ‘Audio Strap‘, which is a rigid headstrap with built-in speakers. As someone who really values rigid straps and on-board audio, I’m glad to see this as an option—for me it would be the obvious choice. Unfortunately the company wasn’t ready to demo the Audio Strap.

Shankar toured me around a handful of VR environments that showed off the headset’s 2,560 × 2,560 (6.5MP) per-eye displays, which offered a level of clarity similar to that of Varjo’s $2,000 Aero headset, but with a smaller notably field-of-view (Bigscreen claims 90°H × 93°V).

On many current-gen headsets like Quest 2 you can’t quite see the individual lines of the screen-door effect, but it’s still clear that it’s there in aggregate. While the Beyond headset isn’t ‘retina resolution’ there’s essentially no evidence of any screen-door effect. Everything looks really sharp. This was best demonstrated when I ran around in Half-Life: Alyx and the game felt like it had instantly upgraded graphics compared to a headset like Valve’s Index.

SEE ALSO
25 Free Games & Apps Quest 3 Owners Should Download First

There is, however, some persistence blurring and glare. Shankar openly demonstrated how the brightness of the display directly relates to the level of persistence. While there’s some noticeable persistence at the default brightness, when overdriving the display’s brightness the persistence becomes entirely unbearable. The reverse is true; turning the brightness down below the default cuts the persistence down noticeably. While it would be nice if the default brightness had less persistence, at least users will be able to trade brightness for lower persistence based on their specific preference.

Continue on Page 2: Dialing In

1
2
Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.


Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • It just really bugs me how the headset it tilted to a weird upward angle on the face. Any good reason for that, because it doesn’t look good?

    • Jistuce

      If I had to guess, it is to make it as small as possible. Angling it out lets it ride very close to the brow, but opens up some more space over the nose.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Lower FOV as already available is really a bad thing, IMHO the FOV of current headsets is already too small, and I’d rather have a headset the same size/weight as the current Quest 2 but a much higher fov the a lighter/smaller headset with even lower fov.
    Also as I’m doing a lot of 360/semi roomscale games, the cable is really a dealbreaker.

    • ViRGiN

      Cable is a deal breaker for everyone who passed humanity test. The rest are bitrate elitists, pulley system nerds, and idiots claiming that cable never bothered them (cause all they do is play automobilista). This is a wannabe product from wannabe company – big screen app was a failure, and idiocy on devs part to believe they can just roll out the most generic app for video streaming and make money off it. Obviously vr cinema will come officially from Meta when the time is right.

    • Yeah, I feel exactly the same. I do want smaller headsets, but not if it means various important specs get cut down in the process. I’d rather stick with bulkier headsets where every important tech spec is actually getting better each time. And FOV is one of the things I really want to see increase in every VR headset.

  • xyzs

    Buying a smartphone without a charger is already annoying, buying a headset with no tracking nor controllers is 10x more annoying.

    That really limits the scope of potential customers.

    • The intended market here is people who already own a SteamVR headset. People pay a lot more for things like the Varjo headsets.

    • dogtato

      they’re not going to go to the extra expense of designing and manufacturing new controllers and tracking when their goal is to make a headset.

      they could pick some existing controllers to bundle with it, but you could also just buy them separately yourself and maybe you already have some

      they could bundle steamvr lighthouses, but maybe you already have some

      a $1k headset is not targeting the same market as quest, that needs everything to come out of one box

    • ViRGiN

      Maybe they can capture 50% of pimax market. In other words, 0.1% of steamvr lol

    • jdprgm

      Couldn’t disagree more, you don’t bundle a keyboard and mouse with a monitor. This effort for all VR ecosystems to be vertical monopolies instead of everyone complying to generic platforms and standards while still in a nascent industry has been a huge limiting factor in growth IMO.

  • There’ll be a top-strap option? OH, I am SO buying one now

  • Kevin Brook

    Great overview. Your facepad thoughts are interesting. One of the strongest quality of life improvements of the Quest Pro imo is ditching the facial interface entirely. I prefer to control light leakage externally, closing curtains,and playing in the dark with an IR illuminator, which means I have no lens fog, no ski mask visual appearance and can get my eyes right up to the lenses for maximal FOV. I find it hard to go back to a facial interface now and these custom ones don’t appeal to me at all as I’d imagine lens fog would be an issues in a rigidly enclosed device like this.

    FOV is too small for me to make the investment as well, especially as I no longer have base stations and Index controllers.

    The premise is promising though, great form factor and pancake lenses plus microOLED is definitely what I want from my next headset.

    • XRC

      Interesting comments! About 2 years ago built a cranial cap with occipital support for Index, felt amazing with no face gasket (always using in dark so no light leakage)

  • mellott124

    It’s interesting that they’re still struggling with blur, something that was figured out years ago. The SeeYa panels they’re using have a PWM feature, but its fixed at a low duty cycle. Maybe the brightness ended up being too low when used with pancake lenses. This surprised me on PSVR2 as well. Blur shouldn’t be something showing up in current HMDs. Varjo Aero has a huge blur problem as well. Ruins those great displays.

    • Cless

      It’s exactly that the issue. Pancake is great, but… This screens are just not bright enough for it, sadly.

  • Interesting hands on. I was surprised that in the end you preferred not having the custom facemask :O

  • XRC

    “While the center of Beyond’s lenses look impressively sharp, the sweet spot is quite small, which means you can start to see reduced visual quality and distortion pretty quickly as the image deviates from the center. ”

    Interested to learn how they accommodate human asymmetry with their custom build process?

    The headset seems to be built in fifteen 1mm increments to suit the IPD range they provide.

    There is no mention of support for difference in left/right monocular PD due to anatomical variations, it’s not uncommon to see lateral and vertical offsets in many human beings.

    With your mention of small sweetspot, this could be deal breaker for some?

  • gothicvillas

    Two things are absolute dealbreaker for me: small FOV (anything below 120 is just dumb for this time and age) and lack of foveated rendering (eye tracking).

  • wheeler

    Do you feel that you’d have enough “nose room” to use a thinner gasket? I mean without the headset resting on your nose? The clarity and distortion at the fringes are the only things that are significant concerns for me, but if I can ask for a slimmer gasket that would give me more confidence.

    • Ben Lang

      I think so. The headset is so small that only the bridge of your nose is really a concern, the larger portion of your nose is essentially outside the headset.

  • Cless

    I’m surprised you didn’t talk about the mura or lack there of with how much people took that SO SERIOUSLY with the PSVR2

  • Octogod

    This looks like a DK1 mixed with a Go, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

  • david vincent

    When we got our DK1 10 years ago, who would have thought that we would still be stuck at 90° fov 10 years later…

    • JanO

      Bonjour David,

      I think the main reason for this is that peripheral vision is known to be one of the biggest cause of discomfort (VR sickness), especially for new users. That’s why the race between big companies is all about size reduction… So they’re all going for the looks and public perception…

      As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, only a few smaller companies have gone for a wide FOV, targetting VR enthousiasts with strong VR legs which is too small a market for the likes of Apple or Meta…

      As for the Big Screen HMD, it’s the low brightness and persistence issue that kills it for me… So while we probably won’t get much more FOV for the next few gens of HMDs, they could advance on other fronts like HDR which would greatly enhance the experience. Sadly, even this will prove challenging, as pancake optics only let about 20% of the light get to your pupils… Displays need to get MUCH brighter, with all the heat dissipation and battery life issues still to be resolved…

  • Tak A Hau

    100% not eye glasses friendly!