At CES 2023 Pimax was showing off its latest high-resolution headset, the Pimax Crystal, which uses new lenses and new displays for what the company says is its clearest looking image yet. And while it’s definitely an improvement in many areas over the company’s headsets, there’s a key flaw that I hope the Pimax will be able to address.

Pimax Crystal employs new lenses and promises to be rid of glare and god rays that were apparent in prior Pimax headsets (and many others) which used Fresnel lenses. That, along with high-resolution displays, purported HDR capability, swappable lenses (to trade field-of-view for pixel density), and up to a 160Hz refresh rate. For a full breakdown of the headset’s spec, see our announcement article.

At CES 2023 I got to see the headset myself for the first time. Although the headset is technically capable of running in standalone mode, I saw it running as a PC VR headset with SteamVR Tracking.

Pimax Crystal (pictured without the SteamVR Tracking faceplate) | Photo by Road to VR

Naturally, the demo I was shown was running Half-Life: Alyx—arguably VR’s best looking game—to show off the detail the headset can reproduce with its 2,880 × 2,880 (8.3MP) per-eye displays. From the quick hands-on I got with Pimax Crystal, I could see this was a big step up in clarity over the company’s prior headsets, especially with regards to edge-to-edge clarity. The visual basics were solid too in terms of pupil swim, geometric distortion, and chromatic aberration. There was a little mura visible on this headset but nothing egregious as far as I could tell.

But there was one thing that immediately stood out to my eyes which otherwise foils a good looking image: blur during head movement. While the static image seen through the headset looks quite sharp, as soon as you start moving your head to look around the world you’ll see a lot of blur—that’s a problem for VR considering that your head is very frequently in motion.

Photo by Road to VR

My best guess is this is being caused by persistence blur; a display artifact that’s mostly solved on other headsets and is thus rarely seen anymore. Persistence blurring is is caused by the display staying lit for too long, such that as you turn your head the pixels remain lit even while their position becomes inaccurate (because they are ‘frozen’ in place each frame, until the next frame comes along and updates the position to account for your head movement). Most headsets employ a form of ‘low-persistence’ which counteracts this issue by illuminating the display for only a fraction of the time between frames, such that as you move your head the pixels aren’t ‘frozen’ in place, but are actually unlit, leaving your brain to fill in the gaps without seeing the pixels blur between frames.

The amount of blur I saw through Pimax Crystal I would say notably compromises what is otherwise an impressively clean image, though there’s a chance that Pimax could fix this issue, depending upon exactly what’s causing it.

For one, it’s possible that the headsets being shown at CES 2023 were still not fully tuned and that low-persistence hasn’t been properly tuned (or maybe isn’t even enabled yet). In that case it might be a matter of final tweaks before they get the correct display behavior which could reduce persistence blur.

Another factor could be the headset’s ‘HDR’ capability. While I don’t believe Pimax has shared any information on peak brightness, it’s possible that the display can’t do both low-persistence and HDR brightness at the same time (indeed this is a challenge because HDR needs high brightness while low-persistence needs pixels to be illuminated only for a minimal amount of time).

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Curiously, I also noticed what appeared to be persistence blurring on pre-release versions of PSVR 2… which also purports to have an HDR display. For both PSVR 2 and Pimax Crystal, I’m hoping we’ll see improvements by the time the finished headsets are headed to customers.

And still there’s other possibilities—this might not be persistence blur at all, but simply slow pixel switching time causing some form of ghosting, which could be an inherent limitation of the display or maybe something that could be tweaked.

– – — – –

Ultimately I’m pretty impressed with the clarity and wide field-of-view of the Pimax Crystal, but the blur I’ve seen during head movement compromises the image in my book. My gut says this is probably a persistence blurring issue, though it could be something else. We’ll have to wait to see what Pimax says about this and if they’re able to make improvements by the time Crystal ships.

Photo by Road to VR

Speaking about Crystal shipping; the headset was originally planned for release in Q3 of 2022, but that date has slipped. Although the company hosted a ‘Pimax Crystal Launch Event‘ back in November, at CES 2023 Pimax said the first headsets will start being delivered at the end of this month, though the company also indicates that it won’t reach full production capacity until the middle of the year. Even when the first units do start shipping, key accessories and features, like the headset’s standalone mode—which makes up about half of its value proposition—aren’t expected to be available until unspecified points in the future.

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  • ViRGiN

    waiting for pimax shills to come to the comments and start getting triggered, and mentioning how “bad” meta headsets were at release and were fixed later. if meta can fix it, then so can pimax xD

    pimaxians are just like pcvr elitists, a whole different species.

    • Kev

      Those of us who actually tried it don’t get to say what our results were without being shills? wtf.

      • ViRGiN

        It’s pimax. I don’t care how great your experience was – pimax has horrible reputation, and you have none.

        • Kev

          Ok. Mr. Zuckerberg. Please grace us with more unbias opinions with your vast experience and depth of knowledge. .

          • ViRGiN

            calm down, robin weng, the founder of pimax.

      • Zantetsu

        Just block that loser. I don’t even know who they are, I don’t see their content, I must have blocked them a long time ago.

        Your comment about your experience was a good read, thanks for posting it.

        • Kev

          I blocked him too, good advice. Commenters like that try to shut down any meaningful discussion. Why?

          • Guest

            Even if 80% of what they say is wrong, the other 20% is very helpful. I have great respect for Ben not censoring commentards, and zero respect for UploadVR blacklisting of anyone they don’t agree with!

          • Jonathan Winters III

            He’s a cancer here and everywhere. Blame it on Ben, the owner of Roadtovr, because he does ZERO forum moderation.

        • Jistuce

          It’s either ViRGIN or ViRGIN. He registered a second account that I had to block again at some point, so he’s in my blocklist twice. And that’s basically my entire blocklist.

      • George Moonman

        I tried 2 pimax headsets and had to sell it as despite having ipd 62 and then advertising it as able to do ipd 60, it physically couldn’t and gave me raging headaches

        No chance I’m ever buying another pimax product

        They also advertised the 8K (non X) as being full RGB and it wasn’t, it had a weird sub pixel arrangement meaning it was about 30% less

        • Kev

          The discussion is about the new Crystal headset not the ones from 2018.

          • Arno van Wingerde

            Sure… but since we have no reviews yet of the current model, it is not a bad strategy to check how there past products performed. With Pimax, that means that they have technologically very advanced products, let down by a lack of development funds that firms selling 1000x as many headsets can afford…

        • Brandon Hyde

          I had issues with the ipd early on, but later updates provided ways to make adjustments individually per eye in Pimax Experience. That helped a great deal

          • XRC

            Can you explain more about the software ipd adjustment?

            I’ve heard it caters for offset, which as asymmetrical human beings, is our typical presentation, rather than atypical?

    • Brandon Hyde

      I was anti Pimax for a long time. I would never buy one based on the reviews I had read. On a whim, I decided to see for myself so I bought a Pimax 8kx. At first, I was unimpressed…but that was due to not having it dialed in. Once I tweaked it and learned the ins and outs of the headset, it was like nothing I had ever seen in VR. The wide FOV along with visuals nearly matching a G2 were astonishing. I couldn’t go back to narrow FOV. It was a game changer for me. Is it a perfect headset? No. Is there a bit of a learning curve? Yes…but not near as bad as when Pimax first started. I’ve had less trouble and more enjoyment from this headset than my Rift CV-1, Rift S, Quest 2, Odyssey +, Index, and Vive Pro. A friend of mine bought one based on my experience. He had issues with the 8Kx and the 4090. Everytime he reached out to Pimax, they responded quickly and have been nothing but helpful and got his issue resolved (current firmware not compatible with current nvidia drivers). I genuinely believe Pimax wants to push the envelope of consumer PCVR and they are striving to improve. They have come a long way and I applaud their efforts. I’ve tried a Pimax 8k + and a 5k Super. For me, they are the best headsets I’ve used so far, but I do a lot of sim racing. I’ve tried them with other type applications and have not had any issues. I think what happens with Pimax is the average user tries one and doesn’t quite know how to dial everything in and they get frustrated and give a bad review…or they simply don’t have the equipment to handle it. I’m not saying Pimax haven’t had issues with delivering on promises and technical issues, but again…I do think they are really trying to be the best they can be. All I know is, they won me over. I will be most likely buy a Crystal or Reality 12k when they’re available.

      • ViRGiN

        > I’ve had less trouble and more enjoyment from this headset than my Rift CV-1, Rift S, Quest 2, Odyssey +, Index, and Vive Pro.
        And with this one sentence you have compeltly delegitimized yourself.

        Second giveaway:
        > but I do a lot of sim racing.
        Call in your flight sim boys.

        • Brandon Hyde

          How so? I do VR product development for a Family Entertainment Co., so I have a lot of headsets I test out and own. I do love flight simulator in the Pimax…not going to lie. LOL. But I have tested plenty of other games in the Pimax along with all the other headsets (per my job), so I can weigh in on non sim related applications on that headset. Sim racing is just something I do on the side as a hobby so I probably spend more time in that arena overall. My point is…I’m not a shill for Pimax…hence all the experience I’ve had with other headsets, so I can give honest feedback about my experience with it. You don’t have to like what I say. It is after all, just my opinion, but I believe my previous vr experience gives it some credibility. What I said about having less trouble than the other headsets is the honest truth. Maybe I just got lucky, but it was indeed my experience. I can expound on that if you like. My experience with the Index was right up there though. It’s a great headset. Anyway, thanks for your reply.

          • ViRGiN

            fucking liar! there was zero users in powder vr in the past 24 hours. classic pimax shilll!
            besides, what kind of a test it is to use a game that have zero requirments and zero respect among entire vr community.
            maybe let us known how amazing pimax is in tetris vr.

          • Cless

            To be fair, he could be playing. Remember that any steam tracking site will not count any offline or invisible status people playing the game. He could be playing but just in invisible (I do that aaaaaaall the time for example)

          • Brandon Hyde

            Correct. I was playing offline. I tried it earlier at work with a Vive Pro, but wanted to see how it was in the Pimax. It’s hilarious that he would actually go and check. Proof positive he lives in grandmas basement and has nothing better to do. I doubt if he has any real world expertise with VR.

          • Cless

            No, I can vouch for them. They do own many headsets and has tried many as well. They do like checking data and stuff, but probably didn’t factor in the invisible/offline stuff into their equation.

          • ViRGiN

            Where does it say that invisible mode does not count to the player list?
            I find it hard to believe. The data is not pulled directly from the users.

          • Cless

            To my knowledge, the way they get the numbers is by polling the steam servers for the number of currently playing users.

            That number doesn’t show people that are in invisible status or offline.
            Steam has internal numbers that do track those (mostly for refund purposes and such), but since sites like SteamCharts and such are 3rd party and not related to Valve in any way, their numbers are based on the steam “publicly shown” one, which offline/invisible people aren’t accounted in.

          • ViRGiN

            So there is no official statement on invisiblity vs player count.
            Help section just covers it as invisible to friends and other players checking your profile. That makes sense. But not for games player number.
            It’s not like Steam even has a “streamer” mode where you play under randomly generated username to protect your real identity.

          • Brandon Hyde

            Dude, you have serious problems. You’re either 12 years old or some guy living in grandmas basement. What do you do in the VR industry to have any credibility whatsoever? Provide proof please. I suspect you really don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. I’ve watched your posts for some time. You are combative with most people on here. Why? We’re all here for the same reason, because we’re passionate about VR. Why put people down all the time when they’re just trying to have a open and honest discussions? And why the heck would someone lie about testing some obscure VR game like Powder? Btw, it had issues tracking in the main menu, but did well with a Ryzen 9, 3080, 32 gig rig. Game physics are good, but graphics leave a bit to be desired. Developer should take a page from the Steam Home skiing environment. Those visuals with Powder physics would be a great match.

          • ViRGiN

            What credibility you have? You have proved nothing, not even owning a pimax. And suddenly I’m supposed to legitimize myself with exposing what i do and where? You’re insane. But completly normal for a pimax user. We’re passionate about VR. No need to glorify shit. And you jumping into Powder shows just that. Find more obscure title that less than 100 people know about. I don’t even know the point you are trying to make – you like pimax, cool. Others don’t for variety of reason – and it is YOU trying to supress all that cause YOU had a good experience.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        If you have to do a lot of tinkering to get the headset working properly, then that’s a problem and certainly a good reason to leave a bad review. The problem with Pimax is that they don’t seem to finish the product and just keep coming with newer versions without first having solved the problems with the already existing headsets.

        • Brandon Hyde

          I agree and disagree. For optimal pcvr, you’re going to have to do some tinkering, regardless of the headset. You need to know what you’re doing with res scaling, refresh rate, reprojection, etc , etc. Not to mention the ends and outs of graphic cards and drivers. It’s not for beginners. I do agree Pimax leaves stuff on the table, but they have been improving.

          • ViRGiN

            “for optimal pcvr” hahahah.
            literally every single headset on the market is plug and play – and you can get ‘more’ if you play around but it’s absolutetly unnecesarry. but pimax won’t start anything without “tinkering” lol.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            What’s optimal? I haven’t gone into the advanced settings of SteamVR yet to tinker around with my Vive Pro (using wireless module). And I’m just using a RTX2060super in combination with an i7 from 2013 with just the normal nvidia drivers without having done any advanced settings.

  • Kev

    I tried it myself at their roadshow in NY. Definitely didn’t see any persistence blur. The headset had a lot of rough edges though, like no eye tracking, wireless or stand-alone. The image was really, really good.

  • psuedonymous

    Might be being masked by the blurring, but have Pimax managed to actually calibrate their optics properly yet? I’ve yet to try a headset from them that has even come close to achieving the bare minimum orthostereo.

    • ViRGiN

      They have solved the calibration perfectly, quadrice.
      This time for real – wink wink.

      They eyeballed distortions for years lol.

  • Cooolone

    If you’re going to make something that big just make it into a helmet, that would balance out the weight, you can even make stylistic helmets like iron man, transformer, or motorcycle style

    • Jistuce

      I don’t hate that idea.

  • CyberVR

    Knowing Pimax, they would first put the blame on you, telling “Do you have any problems with your eyes”!?

    • ViRGiN

      You’re wearing it wrong. We had 420 testers today and nobody, i repeat nobody had any issues. Maybe you are used to lowest end VR like Quest 2.

      /s

  • “unspecified points in the future” doesn’t sound well

    • ViRGiN

      it’s pimax. constantly comparing their non-existent specs and features with pricing of about quest pro, to quest 2, an over 2 years old product.

  • I can’t wait!

  • Cburn

    note the “we had” if he works for Pimax he really has been putting in the groundwork on this sites comment section to shit on other headsets xD

    • ViRGiN

      lol, i don’t work for pimax (or meta).
      it’s just a typical response for a pimax employee. for them, everyone is always amazed and had no complaints, ever. or maybe something ‘miniscule’ like fan noise when running 8k per eye or whatever.

      pimax sucks.

    • Ookami

      yeah, he was obviously speaking satirically, like something Pimax would probably say.

  • Ookami

    everytime I see someone wearing a Pimax hmd I can’t help but think how uncomfortable it looks. Something that bulky looks heavy. My G2 is almost as light as a Quest 2 and it can still become mildly uncomfortable over long gaming sessions. idk how heavy pimax headsets are, but it looks like a pain in the nose to wear!

    • Andy

      Definitely heavy. I tried it for 15 min and could already feel it. Trying shortly afterwards the vario I felt so relieved. So definitely for me comfort play a very big part. But that’s my case. The crystal will be best suited for simmer who play comfortably seated.

      • Ookami

        maybe they should’ve opted for a halo strap design

  • xkyw

    Sad to hear about the blur issue. I have the same issue on my Varjo Aero with the image hanging on and creating a blur on head movements. Varjo did some improvements for it in software, but I have had it for a year now and it has never went away completely. My Reverb G2 has nothing of these issues, and has so smooth head movements! I was thinking of switching to Crystal if these wouldn’t have this issue, but looks like it’s a bummer…

  • Cl

    How was the fov? Can you be more detailed?

  • Somerandomindividual

    When will it arrive and when will the review hit? :)