Last year at CES we took a good long look at Pimax’s “8K” headset and saw potential, but identified a number of key issues that would need addressing before the headsets actually hit the market. This year at CES, our hands-on with Pimax’s latest headsets shows that they’ve made big progress and addressed most of the major issues seen last year.

It took a few delays over the course of 2018, but Pimax has made big steps forward with their “8K” headset, and even announced a new variant (the “5K” Plus, which replaces the former “5K” with an improved display). Now the company has begun delivering headsets to Kickstarter backers, taking open orders, and is on the cusp of shipping to its first non-Kickstarter backers.

Pimax “8K” V5 prototype at CES 2018 | Photo by Road to VR

Last year I concluded that, despite the issues, “there doesn’t seem to be any unproven hurdles in their way, but it’s going to take careful execution to get there.”

After going hands-on with the production version of the Pimax “8K” and “5K” Plus this week at CES 2019, I came away impressed with the progress the company has made toward delivering a headset with an ultrawide FOV that can stand as a real option next to contemporary headsets.

It seems prudent to go through each of the issues identified last year and give a brief assessment of where things are today.


Pimax “5K” Plus production version, foam removed | Photo by Road to VR

Last Year: Several distracting visual artifacts are hampering the experience.

Last year the Pimax headset was showing bothersome artifacts at the edges of the wide FOV, including blur, distortions, and distracting reflection-like imagery at the top and bottom. There was also eyestrain that I couldn’t quite place, but felt like the headset was making it challenging for my eyes to maintain stereo fusion, which suggests some sort of projection or alignment issue.

This Year: Most of the prior visual artifacts have been eliminated.

This year when looking into the headset’s ultrawide FOV I saw an image that was impressively wide and mostly consistent across the field of view. The distracting reflection-like imagery at the top and bottom of the image are completely gone, and so is the heavy blur in the periphery. The far left and right periphery still show some distortion of the image, but it’s fairly minimal; how distracting that distortion is will depend on content (and probably also your facial topography), though if it looks to others as it does to my eyes, I think it’s subtle enough that most people will be able to get used to it without much bother.

If you can’t get used to it, Pimax offers three software field of view settings which reigns in the FOV, with the distorted regions mostly not seen at all with the middle ‘Normal’ setting. There’s also other reasons you might want to run at a setting other than the maximum FOV (like less demanding rendering).

The lingering eye strain I felt last year seems to be eliminated. And while previously the IPD adjustment didn’t show you an actual measurement in the headset (which might have contributed to the issue), that information now appears correctly in the view, making it easy to dial in your known IPD.


Pimax “8K” V5 prototype at CES 2018 | Photo by Road to VR

Last Year: Pimax claims total elimination of the screen door effect.

Last year Pimax was advertising for the “8K” that “the graininess and ‘screen door’ will never disturb you again.” That sounds undoubtedly like the screen door has been eliminated on the headset, but it wasn’t the case at CES. While the screen door effect is reduced over other headsets it was by no means eliminated.

This Year: Screen door claims are still not true.

Pimax is still making misleading claims about the “8K” not showing any screen door effect (“Get rid of the SDE”), and even for the lower resolution “5K” Plus (“no more pain about Screen Door Effect”). I’ve seen prototype VR displays which actually have zero visible screen door effect, but this is not true for either Pimax headset. The screen door effect is less visible than first-gen headsets like the Rift or Vive, but certainly doesn’t come close to eliminating it outright. This seems to be mostly a case of exaggerated marketing, but they should really admit their exaggeration and dial it back.


Last Year: Strange green lines across the display.

Last year Pimax was still getting its screens finalized and tuned for its headset. Mura is a ‘cloudy’ effect seen on the display caused by inconsistencies in color accuracy and brightness between pixels. While that’s expected to some extent on all headsets (some worse than others), in the Pimax “8K” last year headset I saw an unmistakable mura-like artifact: faint but unmistakable rows of green lines crossing the displays which hurt the overall clarity of the image. I’m not sure what the exact cause was.

This Year: The lines are totally eliminated.

Checking out both the “8K” and the “5K” Plus, neither had the lines that I had seen previously. The usual mura is still there, perhaps a bit improved, and appears now to be on par with contemporary headsets.


Pimax “8K” V5 prototype at CES 2018 | Photo by Road to VR

Last Year: Unacceptably high rotational latency and choppy positional tracking.

Though the Pimax headsets use SteamVR Tracking, (known to be capable of precise, low latency tracking) I said last year that Pimax’s implementation was “a mess,” and that the company had yet to master the tech. Rotational tracking had far too much latency and positional tracking was jumpy.

This Year: Vastly improved tracking performance, with some lingering latency on the “8K” but not the “5K Plus”.

This year Pimax has shown a massive improvement in tracking performance, consistency, and latency. The company seems to have really wrapped its head around SteamVR Tracking. Positionally, the headsets now feel just as good as you’d expect when wearing a Vive. On the “5K” Plus, rotation also feels great, culminating in a well tracked headset that feels on par with any other out there.

Pimax “8K” V5 prototype at CES 2018 | Photo by Road to VR

The “8K” however clearly has some additional rotational tracking latency compared to the “5K” Plus (it might also be the case with positional latency, but that’s harder to visually identify under a certain threshold). It’s not a huge amount, low enough that those who don’t use VR on a regular basis might not immediately notice, but I think it’s enough that it could lead to issues in comfort over time.

I told Pimax about the latency issue and asked them what it might be—a bug? an inherent issue?—they seemed to not be familiar with the issue, though I confirmed my observations on two separate headsets and with some other folks who have spent a lot of time with the “8K”. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this, but it sounds like it will take some investigation by Pimax.

The company was also showing their headsets used with both Vive wands and the upcoming Pimax controllers. Both seemed to track very well; I’ll talk more about my time with the Pimax controller in a future article.


Pimax “8K” V5 prototype at CES 2018 | Photo by Road to VR

Last Year: The soft strap and size of headset could pose long-term comfort challenges.

The industry has largely moved away from soft straps since development kits and early consumer headsets; rigid straps with some balancing weight have been favored as more comfortable options. Pimax is still relying on a soft strap and a bring-you-own-headphones approach to audio. They promised a hard strap (and a version with headphones built in) but haven’t shown it in action.

This Year: The company is still promising a hard strap but still hasn’t shown a prototype, and is about to begin open-order shipping with the soft strap.

Now a year later, headphones with soft straps and no headphones feel even more dated. The convenience of not needing to fuss with yet another thing to plug in and put on your head (the headphones) actually makes a pretty big difference to the friction of using VR, and it’s something you don’t want to go back to after using a headset with integrated audio.

The Pimax headsets are indeed lighter than they look, and their footprint doesn’t actually feel unreasonably larger than contemporary headsets. The soft strap isn’t ideal for comfort, but after spending even more time in the headsets it doesn’t seem like a dealbreaker by any means (of course this may vary depending upon the shape of your head and face). That said, it’ll be a nice upgrade once Pimax gets their hard strap out the door; it’s a shame that customers won’t have it out of the box.

– – — – –

Pimax “8K” V5 prototype at CES 2018 | Photo by Road to VR

The headsets aren’t without some flaws, but the improvements Pimax has made are elevating it from an ambitious startup making big promises to a company that can put together noteable hardware. It’s taken some delays to get here—and there’s still a few missing pieces for the full headset package—but Pimax is forging ahead.

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  • MW

    Sadly, this company is incapable (for now) of releasing working VR product (like main V market players. A year later: main issues with software (Pi nightmare), no controllers, no basestations, no content for wide fov, and basically – not (even) HMD alone in regular sale.
    So, congrats for improvements, but Pimax 8/5k still not exist on the market. 2020?

    • sikjar

      What do you mean by ‘no content for wide fov’?
      The wide field of view works with almost every Steam VR and Oculus game.
      Check out the Youtube reviews from Sweviver, MRTV and VodooDE.

      As for the products not released yet, please remember that this is a Kickstarter project, even if its delayed by more that a year it’s still a success.

    • TareX

      What are you smoking? There are at least 2000 Pimax 5K+/8k delivered, and there is no such thing as “wide screen content”.

      • MW

        1) im I’m not smoking anything. 2) those 2000 units are NOT full product- if you called HTC basestations, HTC controllers, Pimax HMD, and SteamVR/OculusStore software a product, than allow me ask-what are you smoking? 3) I’m talking about content using properly 180 or wider fov.

        • Content has nothing to do with Pimax, that is down to developers of VR games and software putting a hard limit on FOV and not taking the effort to make the UI adaptive to FOV. This will need to be done by all software developers now and in the future to support wide FOV from any HMD, not just Pimax.

          Pimax have produced a SteamVR compatible HMD so you can use other SteamVR peripherals with it. This is a good move not a bad one. Also the product is shipping right now so no idea why you say 2020.

          Pimax branded peripherals like controllers and Lighthouses are still in development though so you need to use other SteamVR compatible devices and currently only one company sells Valve technology to consumers and that is HTC.

        • Tom Howard

          Pimax base stations and controllers are on their way. Most people who backed the KS are enthusiasts who already had base stations and controllers as they already had a Vive, so actually only want the headset.

          The 5k and 8k work with SteamVR and Oculus Store and contrary to your assertion 99% of VR games run fine on the 5K+ and 8k, even using wide and mid- FOV settings which exceed those of the Vive and Rift – examples include Project Cars, Arizona Sunshine, the Lab, Skyrim etc etc.

          PiTool is admittedly still being developed and improved BUT SO IS STEAMVR! Just because you ship a product doesn’t mean you stop working to improve and optimise the software.

          Oh and non-KS backers can buy pre-order units today but (as you would expect) their focus is on sorting out KS orders first.

    • Raphael

      There is no special ultrawide game content needed for pimax. Any game scales to wide format hence the reason no special games are needed for people who buy ultrawide monitors. It’s great that you’re mostly positive about pimax though.

    • Rob H

      “No content for wide fov”…and with that completely bullshit statement you lost all credibility. The vast majoirty of VR games and software on both SteamVR and Oculus Store support wide FoV, much in the same way most flatscreen games support ultrawide monitors. If you don’t believe that, go look at the extensively long list of games already proven to work on it, of which most of the main games like Skyrim, Elite dangerous, Fallout 4, Onward etc. can all be seen working perfectly on numerous youtube channels.

    • doug

      In a discussion of a bleeding edge headset with best-in-class FOV and pixel density, I find it bizarre to demand bundled peripherals, especially base stations. Why not criticize Pimax for not bundling electricity, too?

  • sikjar

    The Kickstarter project for Pimax 8K was started in October 2017, they initially planned on delivering it in the beginning of 2018, now a year later production of the roughly 5000 units for backers is almost finished. Not too bad compared with other Kickstarter projects such as Oculus.
    I’m sorry if you can’t make the software work, as far as I can see from forums and Youtube reviews it works for most people, although its not yet optimized and the hardware requirements are very high.

    • gothicvillas

      I am not pc hacker.. my knowledge ends with turning the thing on. If it doesn’t work 100% out of the box, it is not finished product in my book. Tinkering with files and softwares is not the way how i describe fun.
      And for that reason, count me out for now.

  • kosmo1982

    i hope it doesnt drift like Pimax 4k ,because it made it unusable and had to sell it

    • benz145

      Doubtful, drift is usually only an issue with IMU-only headsets.

      • kosmo1982

        well i have tragic memories of pimax 4k and its software so i wont be buying this for sure

        • jj

          well thats dumb of you to treat these as if theyre from the same company…

          • Adderstone VR

            Not sure if you’re being sarcastic or just dumb

          • jj

            yupp wrong post!!!!!!! so being dumb :D

          • Tom Howard

            Point of order, but it is from the same company – it’s just that they are a long way down the road from when they launched the Pimax 4K which was based on much more basic technology. The 5k+ and 8k are not fully plug and play consumer products yet as the software and overall user experience are still being worked on, but they are already respectable devices that do represent a genuine step forward in experience vs the OG Vive, the Oculus Rift, WMR headsets and the Vive Pro. Compared to other headsets like the StarVr they even look good value.

          • jj

            i read and commented on the wrong things sorry and thanks for the explanation!

    • There is no drift, at least not using the Lighthouses.

  • Schadows

    Interesting review.
    I ought to receive my 5K+ in the coming months (being backer > 5000 I won’t hold my breath for January n__n), and I’m eager to try it.

  • dk
    • Wrong post?

      • dk

        no I mean why aren’t there articles about the quest being at ces on roadtovr …..and uploadvr for that matter
        I found these by accident …and one was posted on the 7th and the other is from the 8th

        • Kevin White

          I’m sure there will be. CES is a big place.

        • Ian Shook

          There will be. It takes time to write articles and do thorough reviews. I’m sure they could easily post a pic of the quest like you did, but a full write-up is time consuming.

          • dk

            it’s not a review it’s 10 min try on …..there r plenty of articles that consist of basically no content ….just hey check this out

  • Lisa Swenson

    “When/if I will can buy complete Pimax bundle, than we can talk.” – so basically you’re saying that you’re free to make uniformed and incorrect statements and until you actually decide to purchase the Pimax you won’t address anyone calling you out on the incorrect misinformed information you’re passing as fact. LOL!!!

    • Kevin White

      It’s weird that we can downvote posts on Disqus but the displayed score will never show a negative. Same thing on Youtube comments and Amazon reviews. I downvoted MW’s post as a few people must have done, because it’s a willfully ignorant post, but it seems Disqus doesn’t want to hurt any feelings by displaying a negative number.

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    It’s great too see Pimax pushing ahead and creating a market for wide FOV. Hopefully this will incentivise others to start increasing FOV of their headsets as well, even if only to 120 – 140′.

  • Tom Howard

    I call BS… Kickstarters was in Q3 2017 not 2-3 years ago.

  • Tom Howard

    Except it does exist:

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ33TPQYw_-c6itr0ReIu-Q
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2mgZjuHRDW02mx_ok4wfPw

    KS backers are already beginning to receive their units.

  • MosBen

    It’s great that the Pimax hardware has improved. VR hardware continues to plug along, with remarkable improvements considering the first consumer HMDs were released less than three years ago. It’ll be really interesting to see what happens in the next three years. At some point you’d expect the improvements to level off a bit as we reached the limits (or at least “good enough”) of the current HMD design paradigm, but I’m not sure what that will be. As the article points out, there are displays in design phases that eliminate SDE, and in a hardware generation or two it seems reasonable that we’ll be able to get screens in the 160-210 FOV range with no SDE, and probably foveated rendering to reduce the rendering load. Inside out tracking will probably improve enough in the next several years that we’ll move away from tracking systems that use external base stations. And, of course, comfort, weight, and cost will all hopefully see improvements.

    But at some point it seems likely that the industry will move beyond this kind of HMD to something different. It will certainly be interesting to see what that is.

    • MosBen

      In case anyone with a more technical background wants to let me know, when we talk about FOV we by and large talk about horizontal FOV, at least as far as I’m aware. Are current HMDs already hitting the limits of human vertical FOV, or is improvement needed there?

      • Sven Viking

        We do normally talk about horizontal FOV, though manufacturers usually list diagonal FOV.

        Human vertical FOV probably depends a bit on face shape, but iirc at least a couple of the wide-FOV headsets are getting close to covering the human FOV upwards. Most headsets are pretty limited on FOV downwards, though, with a noticeable nose gap or similar — I’m guessing that has a lot to do with the difficulty of supporting many different face shapes and nose sizes etc.

        • MosBen

          Thanks for the info, buddy! It’s interesting that that’s an area that we really don’t ever talk about. Granted, it’s not something that I’ve ever specifically noticed while using my Rift, but it’d be interesting to see a fuller discussion.

          • Sven Viking

            Yeah, being able to see more downwards may actually have quite a big effect on immersion, though not being able to see your body (or seeing an inaccurate body position with a simulated body?) might become more distracting.

          • MosBen

            That reminds me of a Jurassic Park game called Trespasser, a PC game from 1998 which is one of the first games that I can think of that allowed you to look down and see your character’s body. It was a fairly novel experience in a game that was novel in lots of ways, but had just as many or more problems.

    • Sven Viking

      If you check Abrash’s talk in the Connect 5 keynote on YouTube he covers some possible future headset types using pancake lenses etc., by the way.

  • cataflic

    Ben says: “I’ve seen prototype VR displays which actually have zero visible screen door effect, but this is not true for either Pimax headset”
    Which one?
    I mean…prototype, not screens with top ppi…

    • Guygasm

      Varjo

      • cataflic

        Varjo has a little central display with high density ppi, but all around has only a standard ppi display and by now they has not managed how to move that display following eyetracking.
        This is not an actually working device, only a great idea…but time is passing by…and more simple widescreen 4k/8k foveted are coming…
        I mean..in 3d hmd, time is fundamental…what is incredible now, will be normal in 1 year and old in2 year.
        When i read article like this one, talking about little improvement on an hmd after 1 year, I think that…all best wishes, but I know that this companies can be blown away the day after a 8k display will be at reasonable price….I don’t think it requires a nasa engineering to manage a functioning hmd…and I think that ,down in their laboratory, the majors are waiting that day to pop up with a definitive one.

        • brandon9271

          Varjo isn’t going to make it in time. Qualcomm just showed a mobile/PC hybrid with double the resolution of the Vive Pro. Varjos mechanical mirror solution has too many huddles to overcome and high ppi displays are coming fast. I think they know it. They better milk the enterprise market while they can.

  • victor

    What are you talking about? My Pimax5K+ works perfectly with pitool and integrates perfectly smooth with steamVR. Setup took 5 minutes. And as far as complex games, Elite Dangerous, DCS, warthunder, Asetto Corsa, Project cars, work beautifully in FULL 170deg FOV!! I sold my rift a week later after I received my Pimax…nuff said!

  • Hivemind9000

    So much factually wrong with all your posts. Troll much?

  • wcalderini

    Ordered November 1st and playing the waiting game. I’ll probably have it paid off before it ships, via Pay-Pay and a 6 month split. But I’m really looking forward to the experience. My only problem now is trying to decide whether to upgrade my Vid card (1080ti) to a 2080ti. My rig is currently still just using an 17 4790K with 32GB RAM. So I’m torn between upgrading my processor, which would necessitate a New MB and New RAM as well, or spending my “hard earned” on the terribly overpriced RTX experiment.
    What to do, what to do.
    Regardless, 2019 looks like its going to be a great year for VR innovation, and ALL of this will probably be redundant by this time NEXT year.
    Expensive little hobby I decided to have.
    And yeah. The Pimax reputation may be a little shaky at the moment, but from what I can gather it’s a “try it once and you’ll never go back” kind of thing.
    So I may end up having one hell of a yard sale.
    (OG Vive, Vive Pro, PSVR, Odyssey Plus, Rift and Go, and yeah this fool and his money will probably part ways with the Quest as well)
    Bring on the resolution revolution.

    wrc

    • El_MUERkO

      They’ve shipped 1200, last I checked, of the Kickstarter headsets but they’ve made far more, testing is delaying shipments.

      As for upgrades, I have a GTX2080TI, an overclocked 8700k and 32gb of ram, If I crack the detail at 4k on on machine some games are CPU bottle necked, something I’ve not experienced in a years.

      If I were you I’d wait for the new AMD CPU’s and GPU’s, just announced at CEX, to launch in Feb-April, they’ll start a price war with Intel & Nvidia and you can get some beafy upgrades for a lot less than you’d pay now.

      • wcalderini

        Yeah. Thanks. Good thinking. Hell, it may be that long before the things ship. I was not a backer, just an early pre-order. And their website is a mess as far as dates are concerned. They had it posted a few days ago “Order today and it ships in February”, Which can’t be right if they have not even cleared out the kickstarter orders yet. I’ll be looking for a set-up similar to yours, I think. But as of now, there is no hurry.

        • Leon

          Backer 3,500 received their headset yesterday. I am 478 and received mine 2 weeks ago so they really ramped up production and should hit the shipping mid February (it’s from China so can be a month or more from that point).

          I was ready to upgrade my 1080 to a 2080ti. But so far every game I play is fine. Even Fallout 4 so I don’t am not updating my card. Unless you play non VR native flight sims or racing sims you might wait and try it out first.

          • wcalderini

            Thanks for the response. Both of your answers make me feel a bit better. One, that I may not be waiting TOO much longer, and Two, my 1080ti will be fine for awhile. Really waiting to see where the latest and greatest from AMD and INTEL review out before making another major purchase.

    • Ted Joseph

      We seem to both be addicted to VR! I had a Vive, but sold it to buy a Rift. So now I have a Rift, Go, PSVR, Daydream, and in the process of saving for 2X Quest (one for boxing/workouts, and one for gaming/videos/etc.). I use my Rift now mostly for Boxing to stay in shape (Thrill of the Fight is my go to boxing game), play the PSVR with the Aim controller – Farpoint, Firewall, Arizona Sunshine — Cant beat the Aim), and the Go to watch movies in bed at night before I crash. Waiting to see what happens with Pimax before I even consider going back to purchasing a Vive etc. . . Or see if it comes out with inside out tracking soon.. I am excited to be alive during this amazing time! Bring it on!

  • Ian

    My 5K+ arrived about a month ago. I had originally KS’d the 8K, but switched after reviews of the different panels.
    I don’t regret it – the increased FOV is amazing, and the clarity jump from my Rift and Vive makes everything a whole new experience.
    I hadn’t really considered that the old sets were a bit like looking through a misted up set of binoculars, but the improved visuals of the PiMax is light and day.

    The cabling is nicer, too, since they’ve integrated the Vive control box in to the headset, but this means that base stations and controllers (I use the original Vive ones) disappear if the headset losing connection or is rebooted. Hasn’t happened often, and it mostly resolves itself, but there’s improvements to be made there.

    I also have a few compatibility issues where the eye images are swapped, and none of the configuration has solved it yet. It’s a minority of games (it’s been suggested that it affects Unity games), but it’s annoying.
    Other than that, it’s just about tweaking settings to get a decent performance. Steam Home seems to stutter a lot, more so than any game, which is odd.
    I find I’m happy to lower graphic settings from their usual “Max” in order to accommodate the increased FOV demands, without really noticing it.

    My other “complaint” is the fabric headset without headphones, just like the original Vive. This was a huge step back for me.
    I managed the jury-rig the Vive Deluxe Audio strap to the headset, which has been a massive improvement. I doubt PiMax will be far behind with an official equivalent, but I think it’s a mistake to not have announced something already.

    All-in-all, this was an excellent replacement for the Vive headset.

    • wcalderini

      Yeah. I have the original Vive Deluxe Audio strap as well, and was hoping I could recycle it here. I had heard it would work. Wonder if anyone has tried the wireless solution with this yet. Although I’m not 100% sure it is possible.

      • Leon

        At this time wireless is not possible. They are using a custom port.

    • Leon

      You can fix the eye image swap in pitools checking the “Compatible with parallel projection”

    • Thanks for sharing these impressions

  • Kenji Fujimori

    Why are you giving this SHADY Chinese company the limelight for?? its not freaken 8K, its all BS and BS sensors and a black BS company!

    • Leon

      You forgot to mention the best headset in the market.

  • Schadows

    Yes thank you.

    I also follow the production update thread on the official forum. The production has ramped up quite nicely (4997 on January 8th), but the shipping lags a little behing (2395 on same date).
    Thankfully, peoples who decided to postpone their choice counterbalance those who ordered several headsets.

    I know I won’t be satisfied with just receiving mine too. Wireless is definitly high on the waiting list, as is the eyetracking module.

  • mellott124

    Saw this at CES. Much improved like the article mentioned. I looked at the 5k plus and the 5k BE with OLEDs. The 5k plus with lcds looks a lot better than before. No panel smear. Not quite as black or saturated as the BE version but not bad. BE version has noticeable SDE due to Pentile. Tracking was spot on. Their biggest issue now is the distortion at the perpherial edges. It’s distracting. Maybe people will get used to it. Overall very impressed with the progress.

  • impurekind

    All great improvements. This really is turning into one of the best VR headsets on the market from what I can see. And with it properly supporting Oculus Rift games directly, I would get one if I only had some spare cash.

  • Good to see that they are going forward

  • Fabrizio Degni

    Dears. does it is able to provide a full AR experience or it is a kinda of Mixed Reality?

    • jj

      dude…. do some research, thats not even something you should be asking….. its a vr headset so none of what you said applies, but thats obvious if you’d read any article about it, including this one