Just a month before the company expected to begin shipping the first “5K” and “8K” headsets to backers of its Kickstarter campaign, Pimax introduced a new model, the “5K” Plus. Though it has a lower resolution than the higher-end “8K,” those who have previewed the headsets largely agree that the “5K” Plus offers the sharpest image, creating confusion for backers who put their money toward the “8K” with the hopes of getting the headset with the best visual fidelity.
When introducing the Pimax “5K” Plus headset, the company thoughtfully decided to upgrade all existing “5K” backers to the newer headset and have provided backers of the higher resolution (and more expensive) “8K” headset the option to receive a “5K” Plus instead, along with a $100 coupon toward Pimax accessories.
While the company did the right thing as far as giving its backers a chance to switch, the move has turned into something of a marketing debacle, as backers of the “8K” believed they were buying into the headset with the greatest visual fidelity, and many are now torn about whether or not they should exercise their option to choose the “5K” Plus.
Despite the “8K” having a greater resolution of 3,840 × 2,160 per-eye compared to the 2,560 × 1,440 per-eye of the “5K” Plus, select backers who got to preview the headsets in exchange for testing and feedback generally seem to agree that the “5K” Plus offers the sharpest image.
The difference in fidelity seems to stem from different display types used in the “5K” Plus and the “8K”. Detailed macro photos from SweViver, one of the backers who previewed the headsets, shows that the “5K” Plus uses an RGB-stripe pixel layout with rectangular pixels, while the “8K” appears to use a PenTile-like layout with what appear to be round sub-pixels.
Another contributing factor to the difference in fidelity could be that the “8K” doesn’t actually accept video input at its native 3,840 × 2,160 per-eye resolution. Instead it accepts 2,560 × 1,440 per-eye input (same as the “5K” Plus) and then upscales the image in the headset to match the 3,840 × 2,160 per-eye displays. A more expensive version of the headset, the “8K” X, actually does accept video input at its native resolution, according to Pimax, but the “8K” X hasn’t yet been shown publicly, so it isn’t clear whether or not it will surpass the “5K” Plus fidelity as expected.
Since previews of the headsets went live, the Pimax forums have been abuzz with “8K” backers asking for advice on whether or not they should switch to the “5K” Plus. The consensus from the three select backers who have previewed the headsets is that the “5K” Plus is probably the best choice for most.
Some “8K” backers are angry with Pimax for promising a higher resolution headset which now seems to have less sharp visuals than a lower resolution model. Others say that the “5K” Plus just happens to be better than expected, and that doesn’t change how the “8K” would have turned out if the “5K” Plus was never introduced in the first place.
Sebastian Ang, one of the three select backers who previewed the headsets, called the company’s communication surrounding the “5K” Plus introduction “terrible,” and said that the company has present a “tough decision for backers between 8K or 5K Plus” which is not helped by Pimax’s lack of communication about the different displays used in each headset. Ang also pointed out he and the other select backers shouldn’t be the ones sussing out the details of why one headset looks better than the other. “Pimax has great devices but still have a big chance to fail miserably if they don’t up their communication game now,” he said.
Road to VR reached out to Pimax after news broke that the “5K” Plus had been introduced at a backer meetup in Berlin, though the company had very little information to share about the differences between the headsets and why they opted to introduce it when they did.
Indeed, the company itself acknowledged the risk of introducing a new headset model so close to when the Kickstarter campaign’s first production headsets were supposed to begin shipping.
“Before we decided to bring the [‘5K’ Plus] to the testers and backers in Berlin, we had an intensive argument internally, quite a few team members thought it might confuse people, thus against the idea of releasing the new model right away,” the company wrote in its most recent Kickstarter update published last week. “However, the whole purpose of the team is to deliver the best possible VR immersion experience to backers ASAP, and whatever fits in that purpose is the right thing to do. The final decision is not to hide, but to make the new model available for each one of you, our backers.”
Of course, Pimax has done the right thing by not only upgrading all original “5K” backers to the “5K” Plus, but also offering for “8K” backers to switch to the “5K” Plus (with a $100 accessory coupon). The root of the problem seems to be the confusion that the company has created by changing its offerings at the last second and failing to clearly communicate with their community.