Dialing In

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. While the headset’s overall field-of-view feels just big enough in theory, the small sweet spot gives a kind of ‘tunnel’ effect, making the FoV feel smaller than it is.

However, I got curious about what the image would look like if I got my eyes closer to the lenses. So I took off the facepad and moved the lenses as close to my eyes as I could. Though I can clearly see the edges of the display at that distance, I also got a noticeably larger FoV and larger sweet spot, making the distortion falloff toward the edges of the lens less glaring. As I compared the difference in visuals with the facepad on (which moves my eyes a little further from the lenses) and off, I got the sense that I wouldn’t mind seeing the edges of the headset’s display if it meant I got the added FoV and larger sweet spot.

Photo by Road to VR

Curiously, I also got the sense the headset might actually be more comfortable for me this way. While the facepad certainly feels perfectly formed to my face, I didn’t quite like the pressure it put so close around my eyes. On the other hand, without the facepad the headset essentially just rested on my nose and felt like it might be more comfortable for me that way; but truly understanding a headset’s long term-comfort isn’t something that you can do in 20 minutes.

I’m looking forward to spending more time with Beyond, and experimenting with the facepad, including seeing if a simple nosepad (instead of a full facepad) gives me a superior long-term experience. Shankar says the company will work with customers to dial in their custom facepad if they aren’t happy with it, and perhaps adjustming mine will achieve what I want (slightly larger FOV and sweet spot) without needing to ditch the facepad entirely.

Meta Updates Quest Link with 120Hz on Quest 3 and Big Battery Savings for All

As for tracking, the tiny Beyond headset has a full suite of SteamVR Tracking sensors, and in my short demo I found the tracking worked just as well as one would hope.

Next-gen Form-factor

Aside from what I saw in the headset, it was clear the device itself is very professionally designed and built, including a sleek semi-transparent shell. Its size is an order of magnitude smaller and lighter than contemporary PC VR headsets (just 170g compared to something like Index which clocks in at 807g).

Photo by Road to VR

Shankar says the emphasis on making Beyond as compact and lightweight as possible was driven entirely by a desire to build a headset that fits the use-case of the company’s customers—namely people spending long stretches of time in VR doing things like watching movies and socializing—like they do in the company’s Bigscreen social VR theater app. And that’s the same reason the company made sure it put a top-notch microphone array in the headset.

Photo by Road to VR

At $1,000 for the headset alone (SteamVR Tracking base stations and controllers sold separately) there’s no doubt that Beyond is targeting a base of hardcore PC VR users. Interestingly, it’s a similar strategy that Pimax is taking, though while Bigscreen is aiming for light and compact, Pimax is aiming for an ultra-wide field-of-view and lots of modularity. Despite the big players pivoting toward standalone headsets, it seems that enthusiast PC VR users will continue to see competition among headset makers.

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Bigscreen Beyond is due to start shipping in Q3 2023 and the company recently began accepting pre-orders. You can expect a full review of the final production version of the headset as soon as we can get our hands on it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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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!