VR Headset Reviews

Pimax 4K: half price HP Reverb high-resolution VR headset?

Pimax 4K review: half-price HP Reverb?
Pimax 4K review: half-price HP Reverb?

What if you could get a VR headset that is almost as sharp as the highest resolution consumer VR headset at half the price?  The Pimax 4K is a VR headset with a resolution of 1920 x 2160 per eye, which is almost as high as HP Reverb’s 2160 x 2160 resolution per eye.  Here is a hands-on review.

Background

HP Reverb has the highest resolution among consumer VR headsets, with a resolution of 2160 x 2160 per eye.  However, the HP Reverb is a bit pricey at around $599 ($649 for the commercial version with removable face pads), and it is hard to find in stock.  It also requires a GTX 1080 to get the full resolution.  Is there a cheaper alternative?

The Pimax 4K is a desktop VR headset with a total resolution of 3840 x 2160, or 1920 x 2160 per eye, or just 11% less than the HP Reverb resolution.  Unlike HP Reverb, it can run on conventional VR-ready PCs, and it costs under $350.  I decided to try out the Pimax 4K and there’s both good news and bad news.

Pimax 4K rear view
Pimax 4K rear view

Specifications

Resolution per eye1920 x 2160
Field of view110 degrees
Lenses53mm aspherical lenses
Latency18ms motion to photon latency
Sensors1000hz dual gyroscopes
FramerateNot specified
Tracking3DOF
AudioBuilt-in headphones
two headphone jacks
IPD adjustmentdigital
Controllersnone
CompatibilitySteamVR, PiPlay
ConnectivityHDMI 1.4b, USB 2.0
Weight290 grams
PriceApprox. $350

As mentioned, the Pimax 4K is a 3DOF desktop VR headset and does not come with controllers.  It can be used for gaming when paired with Nolo VR or similar products.  However, for my purposes,  I was evaluating how well it could be used for viewing 360 photos and videos.

Setup and use

Pimax 4K has simple buttons
Pimax 4K has simple buttons

Setting up the Pimax 4K is relatively simple.  You just install the PiPlay app (scroll down below the PiTool).  After installing PiPlay, connect the Pimax 4K to your PC’s HDMI and USB ports.  You can then launch PiPlay Desktop, which will have a list of your VR apps.  There is also a store that lists some VR apps and videos for purchase.  If you launch a SteamVR game from the PiPlay Desktop, it will automatically launch SteamVR and the VR game/app.  The first time you run SteamVR, you’ll need to go through the SteamVR room setup, and you’ll need to input your height.  After that, launching SteamVR apps is straightforward.

Performance

I divided my analysis of the Pimax into strengths, neutral points and weaknesses.

Strengths

+ Detail: Let’s start with the good news.  The Pimax 4K is indeed detailed, although not as detailed as I was hoping it would be.  I found it to be a bit more detailed than even Samsung Odyssey, but the detail was not noticeably better than that of the Oculus Rift S.

+ God rays: the Pimax 4K lenses are not fresnel lenses and there are no god rays.

Pimax 4K doesn't use fresnel lenses, has no god rays
Pimax 4K doesn’t use fresnel lenses, has no god rays

Neutral

o Brightness: By default, the Pimax 4K is very dim.  Fortunately, the brightness can be adjusted in the PiPlay app.  At its maximum brightness, the Pimax 4K’s brightness is satisfactory.

o Field of view: Pimax claims that the 4K has a field of view of 110 degrees, similar to the HTC Vive.  However, I found that its field of view is actually quite limited, and was more similar to a Samsung Gear VR.

o Sound quality: On the plus side, the Pimax does have headphones but the sound quality is not that good, in my opinion.

Pimax 4K has two separate headphone jacks
Pimax 4K has two separate headphone jacks

Weaknesses

– No controllers: Without controllers, it is not easy to navigate some media apps such as Skybox VR.

– Not comfortable:  When viewing the Pimax 4K through its sweet spot, the headset presses down on my nose bridge.

– Distortion: The Pimax 4K lens has a bit of distortion.  As you turn your head from side to side, the image will get slightly distorted, similar to a 2017 Gear VR.

– Screendoor effect: Although the Pimax 4K has a detailed display, it suffers from a screendoor effect.  Normally, SDE doesn’t bother me, but on the Pimax 4K, its pixels follow a very distracting zigzag pattern.

– Horrible tracking: probably the worst thing about the Pimax 4K, and in my opinion, a total dealbreaker is its dismal tracking performance.  Not only does it suffer from stutters, but it also has a severe ghosting effect, not from LCD latency, but because of a type of reprojection.  The tracking is so poor that it is arguably no better than Google Cardboard on an iPhone.  Here is a through the lens video that I shot while moving the headset.  You can see the severe ghosting issue.  For the record, my laptop is an i7-7th gen, 32GB, GTX 1070 SLI.

Conclusion

Because of the Pimax 4K’s dismal tracking performance, distracting screendoor effect, and other disadvantages, I would not recommend it.  If you want a VR headset that has similar amount of detail without the Pimax 4K’s problems, check out the Oculus Rift S (reviewed here) or Samsung Odyssey.

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Mic Ty

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