(Disclaimer: For my Review I can only compare the pimax HMDs with the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality Headsets…NOT with the Vive Pro or Samsung Odyssey! I also do not own a Vive or Rift but have tried it many times at exhibitions or at friends of mine.)
Almost 1 year has past where, back then, I was one of the lucky few who was able to try out the first iteration prototype units of the Pimax 8K and Pimax 5K (Oled at that point) and wrote an extensive review you can look up here:
Pimax 5K Review (see description):
Pimax 8K Review:
To my very excitemnet Pimax made the descision to once again chose Berlin for there Backer meetup location. Fot that circumstance I m in a position to form an indepth understanding of how these Headsets have changed over a long period of time. And I can happily say that Pimax improved in almost every department that there is.
I will structure this review by obvious crireria like Optics, FOV, Dispaly etc but later on I will take you deep down the rabbit hole explaining what a high FOV / high Resolution HMD actually does with your body, with your mind and with your perception of reality.
So lets start shall we.
When I arrived at the meetup I was pleaseantly surpised of how well organized everything appeared also the athmosphere was filled with enthusiasm and very friendly to say the least. The Pimax Team was so sweet and you had the feeling that they actually care about our opinion and were open for many new influences. This would be unimagible at lets say an Ocouls Connect exhibition were everything feels kinda like a sealed enviroment.
Anyway I digress…Also Big Big thank you to all the Testers (Sebastian (MRTV); Martin (Sweviver) and Thomas (VoodooVR)) for the warm welcome and all there dedication to make this meetup a success story!
Lets ge to the nittys gritty nameley the Headsets themselfes:
Overall Appearance/ Build Quality:
I think I m not alone when I say that dispite a bigger formfactor this headset looks frikkin badass / not from this world. Its kinda the Lamborghini out of all the headsets: sleek, edgy, making you look cool when wearing it (!).
The outer build havent changed much to last year prototype but one thing I noticed was the weight.
Its definately a bit heavier then last year, which back then was so feathery light I couldnt believe it judging from the outside build. Now I would say that an untrained neck would bear it for 1h – 1,5 h before it would get uncomfortble. But with concurrent use you will accomodate to it strengtening your neck for playing multiple of hours with no problem.
The thing that annoyed me a bit were the headstraps which made the HMD rest on your middle face. Thats why I m looking forward for the deluxe headstraps shipping for free to all the backers.
Making a basic HMD headset today is surprisingly easy, just allign a pair of fresnel or aspheric lenses in front of a smartphone display which is bundled with a DSI MIPI to HDMI chipset, mantle it all in an enclosure and youre good to go. Right? Well it depends…
Making a large FOV HMD is a daunting task if you really think about it…especially if the 2 panels were tilted some degrees to ensure efficient pixel usage.
One concern of mine back then was that there was a missmatch in focal overlap which resulted in a weird looking effect when looking right at the center of the screen. I was so relieved when trying out the M2 that this issue has been adressed marvelously by Pimax. The vision at the center feels clean and comfortble now. Big cudos to the engineers at Pimax as I can imagine making it work with tilted screens is very challeninging.
Also what I noticed is that the sweetspot was much more forgiving when not alligning properly with your eyes compared to last years lenses. Overall the lens setup made a much more professional impact on me. They made them even bigger and more awesome then last years allready big lenses.
Regarding distortion at the pheriphery I would say it was slightly better last year but it was by no means a dealbreaker or something. On the M2 you really had to glance at the very edge of the screen to notice it at all which under a normal usecase scenario would happen very rarely coz your head turns automaticly making hard glances with your eyes not practical.
It was kinda confusing that you never knew what FOV profile (full 200°; 170° etc.) was active but testing out all units there were, for me personally, I had no real issues with distortions. Only usecase it might be noticble would be watching movies without headtracking.
8K had slighly more distortions then 5K+ but again that might be coz of different FOV profiles.
At last years IFA, the thing that impressed me the most was the added clarity / resolution jump especially on the Pimax 8K. Being able to focus sharply on objects more then 15-20 meters away was an eye opener…literally. It makes you feel way more immersed and also the large FOV push your brain into believing the scenery you see is actually real.
Unfortunately back then the brightness and color profile werent good enough for prime time.
I m happy to say that Pimax also improved on thoses areas, adding more LED background lights and tweaking the color profile (for both 8K and 5K+) makes it a valid commercial unit right now.
Back then the 5K unit had an OLED panel were the colors were much more pronounced and popped more destinctivly to my eyes. It was a though choice back then going either for better color / black levels or going for more resolution. Now its kinda strange that the 5K+ has catched up quiete nicely to the 8K percieved resolution but unfortunately it doesnt have an OLED panel anymore.
The 8K is still a little better when it comes to focus objects far away and SDE effects.
Regarding blacklevels well its one of the core drawbacks of this HMD but no dealbreaker either. Tried out 8K with handtracking demo, its mostly a black room around you and it was okay. Also Elite dangerous was…okay with regards to blacklevels.
Many backers also reported slightly better colors on 5K+ which is true imo. In addition I would say the 5k+ was also a little bit brighter.
In an attempt to show you all what the image feels like when inside the HMD I ve tried to make an approximation with the following photoshoped images:
(note that you need to make it fullscreen on your monitor (mine is 24″ ) and distance yourself 1 meter away to get the impression)
Now imagine your whole viewing area is filled with this SDE/Resolution profile to get what its like wearing it.
Look and Feel:
For those of you who are still reading well…again, Thank you, youre still a great person!
By now I think I covered most of the important hardware aspects of the HMDs and if you can remember I wrote that I want to take you deep down the rabbit hole of what it actually feels like.
Well lets try…
I think Pimax really accomplished something here not only in terms of bringing improvements in certain areas which can held up to current premium devices. No I think this M2 iteration really is a milestone of HMDs in a historical sense. What effect it has on your body and mind.
Because I really am convinced that it’s something totally different we experienced so far.
Let me explain…
I tried the Pimax 8K handtracking demo for more then 15 minutes in a row.
In it you are inside a black box enviroment were your body / hand is represented as particles. In order to change the particle effect you ve to touch one of the 4 walls. By doing this the wall is also showing of a kind of stargate like watery effect. You know the moment were Daniel Jackson for the first time comes in contact with the event horizon of the stargate. For a brief moment I remembered this scene while touching it and really…I was close to tears having this experience. Stargate beeing one of my alltime favourite movies.
But it doesnt end there. When I was back in reality and spoke with fellow backers I stared at my hands and out of the blue something rushed through my buddy thinking that I m still inside an HMD. I really had to pause for a minute. The HMD really was that advanced that it fooled my brain big time. Never had this experience using the Vive or Rift.
The Optics, the Display properties, the comfort its amazes me how well it all fits together. You dont have this feeling anymore when pulling it over your face that the showed scenery feels in its core unreal and therefore cant deny the fact youre looking at 2 screens. No with the Pimax HMDs it was more of putting on normal glasses and have the impression that youre still in real life. It was that amazing.
Ofcourse there is much room for improvement I wont deny that…resolution wise and brightness/color/contrast ratio leaves room for improvement.
So is this device worth its 500$ pricetag…absolutely, no questions asked.
Im eager to see what Pimax is doing with all its accessorys in the future which is a whole other story.
This Review comes to an end by now. I m thankful for all the readers and if I missed any details just ask me.