Pimax's 8K VR headsets could be a look into the next generation


— 1:33 PM on October 13, 2017

If you've gotten to use an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headset, you'll already be aware that the experience is enthralling, but still with some flaws. Even though VR has been around in various forms for over 20 years, it's not wrong to call the Vive and the Rift the first generation of modern VR hardware. A startup of engineers and entrepreneurs based out of Shanghai and Silicon Valley called Pimax thinks its Pimax 8K headsets will herald the next generation of VR.

That 8K in the name isn't entirely marketing fluff. It refers to the horizontal resolution of the display used in the headset: 7680 pixels, or the same width as an "8K UHD" display. The vertical resolution is "only" 2160 pixels (the same as a 4K UHD display), though, so it's only half the resolution of a true 8K display. This spec still gives the Pimax 8K a per-eye resolution of 3840x2160, or a 4K UHD display for each eye. According to the numerous testimonials on Pimax's Kickstarter page, the high resolution almost completely eliminates the "screen-door" effect that plagues the PSVR, Rift, and Vive headsets, for what it's worth.

The Pimax 8K's half-8K or dual-4K resolution is impressive, but more pertinent to the experience is the 200-degree field-of-view (FOV) that it affords. Existing VR headsets typically have a FOV between 90 and 110 degrees. A 200-degree field of view could mean that the headset's displays fill your vision from side to side, while wearing one of the existing VR headsets feels a little like looking at the world through a gas mask. Engadget's Richard Lai says the Pimax 8K is "literally the most immersive" VR headset out there thanks to its wide FOV, so there might be some truth to Pimax's claims.

There are actually three separate versions of the next-gen Pimax headset on offer. The Pimax 5K, Pimax 8K, and the Pimax 8K X have all the same features and functionality save for their display and input resolutions. The Pimax 5K has a pair of 2560x1440 panels for its displays, and it's the cheapest of the bunch at $399. The Pimax 8K has the full-resolution 3840x2160 per-eye displays running at the full 90 Hz refresh rate, but it relies on pixel-doubling to make driving the system easier. Finally, the Pimax 8K X is fundamentally the same headset as the 8K, and its $699 Kickstater price offers (or offered) improved signal processing hardware to allow it to take a full-resolution dual-4K input signal.

Pimax is showing the headset using an HDMI connection for now, but it says the final headset will likely use a DisplayPort connection. The Pimax 8K X will apparently require a pair of DisplayPort inputs for full quality. Obviously, pushing an 8K image at 90Hz is going to require some serious pixel-pushing prowess, and the company recommends at least a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti to even think about it. Most likely, the Pimax 8K X will need a pair of those cards to deliver a satisfying experience. Good luck.

Fortunately, VR enthusiasts are likely already set up to use the motion-tracking system in the Pimax headsets. Pimax's stuff is 100% compatible with Valve's SteamVR "lighthouse" trackers. They also are compatible with all SteamVR and Viveport software, and Pimax says that owners can avail themselves of Oculus Home software with a third-party utility. Furthermore, the company will be offering its own "PiPlay" content delivery platform, as well as its own hand-held motion controllers with SteamVR support.

The company's Kickstarter will run until November 3. Unfortunately, the early-bird specials on on the 8K and 8K X are all sold out. In fact, the Pimax 8K X is entirely sold out. As we noted, you may still be able to get in on a Pimax 5K for just $399, or $649 to get one with the hand controllers and a pair of lighthouse trackers. You can also put down $499 to get a shot at a Pimax 8K by itself, or $799 to get in line for the full kit with an 8K headset. Lastly, if you're feeling froggy, you could put down a cool $10,000 to maybe have a chance at 14 8K sets, including a set of controllers and trackers for each. Pimax currently expects to ship in January 2018, but buyer beware: this is a Kickstarter and not a pre-order.

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