PlayStation VR Teardown Reveals Display Curiosity and Lenses

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A hardware launch wouldn’t be complete without an iFixit teardown, and the most recent VR device on their operating table is Sony’s PlayStation VR.

With decades of experience in hardware design and manufacturing, and having created many non-VR head-mounted displays in the past, it’s no surprise that Sony’s VR headset is competitive with the other high-end VR headsets on the market, and arguably surpasses the high-end PC headsets in some areas of ergonomics and image quality. Perhaps more surprising is the relative ease of disassembly; Sony have a fondness for proprietary hardware and unusual design solutions, but the iFixit team had little trouble pulling it apart, giving it an 8/10 for ‘repairability’, a point above the Rift, and matching the Vive, and just a step behind the modder-friendly OSVR HDK 2.

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Photo courtesy iFixit (BY-NC-SA)

Sony beat iFixit to the punch, having released a video last month of mechanical design director Takamasa Araki disassembling the whole unit with impressive ease. But Araki stopped short of removing the lenses from their housing as they are glued on; iFixit popped them out with the help of a heat gun, and indeed they appear to be a conventional dome shape rather than the low-profile Fresnel lenses found in the Vive and Rift, contributing to the extra weight of the PSVR headset, but explaining why it avoids the unsightly ‘godray’ refractions that are notable on the HTC and Oculus headsets.

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Photo courtesy iFixit (BY-NC-SA)

We also get to see the OLED display up close for the first time, and interestingly, the single 1080p display panel has a hexagonal pattern on the surface. There is some confusion here, as Sony have talked about subpixels and custom displays on multiple occasions. iFixit says the display is Samsung-made, and the part number seems to agree. Samsung’s OLED displays typically use PenTile or ‘diamond’ subpixel arrangements in many of their smartphone panels, which is where things get interesting.

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Photo courtesy iFixit (BY-NC-SA)

iFixit suggests we’re looking at a unique hexagonal subpixel layout, but with Sony’s prior statements about using a RGB display (as opposed to the PenTile RGBG approach), we’re not so sure. One hypothesis is that we’re looking at a diffusing mesh of sorts, above a conventional RGB stripe layout, which could be a factor in why PSVR has perhaps the least noticeable ‘screendoor effect’ of all the headsets. We’ve reached out to iFixit for their thoughts.

The PSVR display. We've enhanced the contrast to show what appears to be an underlying grid structure which may be the actual pixels under the hexagonal grid. | Photo courtesy iFixit
The PSVR display. We’ve enhanced the contrast to show what appears to be an underlying grid structure which may be the actual pixels under the hexagonal grid. | Photo courtesy iFixit (BY-NC-SA)

In addition, iFixit deconstructed the Processing Unit, a small breakout box that helps the PSVR communicate with the PS4, manage spatial audio and the ‘social screen’ output to the TV. Although it doesn’t improve the PS4’s VR rendering performance, the device is clearly powerful, requiring a cooling fan and chunky heatsink over the Marvell SoC, capable of processing 4K video, which incorporates an ARM-based quad core CPU.

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Photo courtesy iFixit (BY-NC-SA)

We’ve remarked on the comfort and image quality of Sony’s design several times, and this teardown further demonstrates Sony’s attention to detail on build quality throughout the hardware. We hope to see the wipe-down surfaces and halo-style fit on other headset designs in the future.

Check out iFixit’s full teardown for even more detail.

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  • Foreign Devil

    I bet fresnel lenses won’t be in the next gen headsets. . a bit of a mistep there . just to save a big of weight. Sony understood that image quality is more important than weight and extra weight can be offset by good ergonomics.

    • Get Schwifty!

      I sure hope you are right, it would be lunacy for Vive/Rift not to adopt the better headset design which has better weight distribution and allows for a greater weight and not lose the Fresnel lens.

  • Interesting! In the PS4 Pro article it was suggested that the 4k output could help upsample the PSVR’s output to make images look better, but it *kinda* looks like the processing unit might already be upsampling the PS4’s output to 4k and then back down again, to get better looking images.

  • Bryan Ischo

    The PSVR lenses are far superior to the Vive and Rift lenses, in my opinion. I actually cannot fathom why the Vive and Rift used fresnel lenses because they appear to suck in pretty much every way, except weight, which quite frankly, can hardly even be a noticeable contributor to the overall weight of the headset.

    I really hope that HTC/Valve and Oculus/Facebook have learned their lessons and put real quality lenses in the next generation.

    I also hope someone comes out with a lens replacement system for the Vive, I’d buy it.

    • Get Schwifty!

      I agree… the Fresnel lens approach seems like one of those design decisions that was made in haste early on and was never reconsidered. Considering image quality is fundamentally the most key quality in the VR experience, it seems strange to have been that concerned about the extra weight. If (really when) HTC and Oculus adopt the clearly superior headset design that Sony settled on there is no good reason not to use regular lenses and lose the God-rays effect.

  • OgreTactics

    PSVR while it does not have the sharpest image, is the best of the 3 for me. It simple is better designed, better built, in the most optimised and usable entertainment context.