Sometimes it feels like CES is all about big numbers — whoever plants their flag in the biggest, most impressive spec, wins. Pimax is a Chinese startup company which made waves in 2017 with its virtual reality headset that it claimed was the first 8K VR headset. The promise of the highest-resolution VR experiences won over nearly 6,000 backers invested more than $4.2 million into the Kickstarter campaign.
Here at CES 2018, we got to try out the newest iteration of the company’s VR headset. It still promises an 8K resolution, but now includes head-tracking technology this time around, which was missing in previous models.
Before we move any further, it is important to point out the marketing trick being used surrounding the phrase “8K VR headset.” The actual resolution of the headset is a pair of 3,840 x 2,160 LCD displays. Now if you add those up, you might get 8K — but as we all know, that’s not how 8K or virtual reality works! So while the marketing might be a little suspect, the experience of VR in the two 4K displays is certainly still something special.
We tried out the popular VR app TheBlu, which puts you into a deep sea environment. What we noticed right away was just how incredibly crisp the images were. It was most noticeable when something like a massive jellyfish floated right by our vision. The amount of detail you can make out in VR really is stunning. But the resolution isn’t actually the most exciting thing about Pimax’s VR headset: It’s the field of view.
At 200 degrees, it’s got the widest field of view of any VR headset we ever used. Compared to other premium headsets, the wider view makes it feel like you’re much more present in the scene, and less like your looking through a black box. The human eyes’ natural field of view is 220 degrees, so the Pimax headset gets closer to that experience. The result is quite impressive.
The closest competitor in terms of pure specs was also announced this year at CES: The Vive Pro. On its high-end Vive, HTC bumped the resolution to 2,880 x 1,600, which still doesn’t quite hit 4K. Furthermore, its field of view is only 110 degrees.
All that said, it should be noted that the Pimax still very much feels like a prototype. The head strap is a made of a stretchy rubber, which was probably a cheap way to make sure it fits heads of most sizes. The trade-off, of course, is comfort. Compared to something like the Vive Pro, the Pimax headset is definitely not the kind of thing you want to have on your face for long periods of time.
Pricing and shipping details for the Pimax 8K headset have not been announced, but shipments for the Kickstarter backers are currently set for May.
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