Pimax “8K” Pre-production Previews Emerge from Select Backers


As part of the company’s ongoing development of the Pimax “8K” headset, a select group of Kickstarter backers recieved pre-production units to aid in testing and feedback ahead of production. Today those backers are allowed to talk publicly about their time with the latest ‘M2’ units. A preview from one of those backers, Thomas “VoodooDE” Poersch, speaks glowingly about the headset’s wide field of view, but suggests that it’ll take ultra high-end rendering hardware to reach the headset’s true potential due to the high resolution displays.

Thomas Poersch runs the German VR YouTube channel VoodooDE VR. He was one of just a small handful of Pimax “8K” Kickstarter backers who received the latest M2 unit to assist Pimax with testing before they begin production of the headset. Having used the headset privately for a few weeks now, Pimax today allowed Poersch and other testers to share their previews of the pre-production headset. You can see his full video preview here which is narrated in German but has English subtitles.

Poersch tested both the Pimax “8K” M2, and the recently revealed Pimax “5K” Plus, which are effectively the same headset but with different display resolutions.

With a huge claimed 180 degree horizontal field of view, Poersch says the Pimax headsets are much more immersive than first-generation headsets which have a horizontal field of view around 100 degrees. “You will never want to go back to another headset [after trying this field of view],” he says.

However, the wide field of view also comes with some distortion at the far edges. “Some people didn’t love it and other people didn’t even notice any distortion,” Poersch said. While he said he can see the distortion he further said that after using the headset regularly for some time it’s easy to forget about the distortion. For those who can’t look past it, a software tool provided with the headsets allows the field of view to be reduced, thereby cutting out the distortion at the far edges at the cost of field of view.

Image courtesy Thomas “VoodooDE” Poersch

Comparing the headset’s clarity (with regards to text legibility) to the Vive Pro, Poersch says that the “8K” ought to be sharper, but demands so much rendering power due to its huge 3,840 × 2,160 per-eye resolution that it’s not feasible in most cases to render at the headset’s native resolution (even with his test system sporting a GTX 1080 Ti and Intel Core i7-8700K). Side Note: the “8K” actually accepts an input resolution of 2,560 × 1,440 per-eye, and then upscales to the display resolution. The Pimax 8KX, which was an option in the Kickstarter campaign, is the only headset that will allow input at the native display resolution, though Pimax hasn’t shown the 8KX yet. Ultimately Poersch says that the “8K” and “5K” Plus thus see about the same level of text legibility as the Vive Pro, but the 8K has potential to look sharper once there’s graphics cards which are capable of rendering the necessary framerates at higher quality.

Even so, the increased pixel density makes a “huge difference,” to the ‘screen door effect’ (SDE) compared to first-generation headsets, Poersch says. SDE is the term used to describe the unlit spaces between pixels which detract from immersion. He doesn’t go so far as to say that the SDE is outright invisible in the headsets, but for the “8K” he notes that “you really have to concentrate on it” for it to be visible. Though he reiterates, “you need a very high resolution and a future graphics card to really take advantage of the small SDE.”

With both the “8K” and “5K” Plus using LCD displays, Poersch also notes that dark scenes have more of a grey tint to them instead of a deep black, which is a common complaint in headsets using LCD displays compared to others using OLED like the Rift or Vive.

Poersch confirms the Pimax “8K” and “5K” Plus support a hardware-configurable IPD between 59mm and 72mm, and he claims the ‘sweet spot’ (where the lens looks sharpest) is very large, so you don’t have to struggle to keep your eyes in a very specific spot to maintain sharpness.

The “8K” runs at 80Hz and the “5K” Plus at 90Hz, and while the Pimax headsets tout high resolutions and an ultra-wide field of view, it sounds like running them at smooth framerates will prove difficult even for high-end enthusiast hardware. Using a test system with a GTX 1080 Ti, Core i7-8700K, and 32GB of RAM, Poersch ran a series of benchmarks using popular VR titles running at medium settings and found that none of them were able to maintain the headsets’ native refresh rate on average, meaning graphical settings would need to be further reduced in order to have a consistently smooth visual experience.

Photo by Road to VR

Because rendering at such high resolutions is so demanding of the hardware, Poersch highly suggests that Kickstarter backers of the “8K” exercise their option to switch to the “5K” Plus instead. For those planning on keeping the “8K” he warns, “please keep in mind that your really need a high-end PC [to unlock its potential] and should definitely pre-order the GTX 2080 Ti in my opinion!”

You can check out Poersch’s full preview video here where he goes into further detail about the headsets (don’t forget to turn on English subtitles).

Pimax said earlier this month that it plans to begin shipping production Pimax headsets to Kickstarter backers by the end of the month, and that it expects to deliver all backer headsets by the end of the year. A slew of accessories promised to be included with the headset—like SteamVR base stations for tracking, controllers, a rigid headstrap with headphones, and more—aren’t expected until some time in 2019.

We’re planning to do our own in-depth review of the Pimax headsets when the production models are made available.

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