(Pocket-lint) - While companies like Oculus are going after the masses with easy-access, low-entry headsets like the Oculus Quest 2, others have realised that the best experience comes from high-end devices.
HTC knows it and showed what was possible with the HTC Vive Pro 2. But while that headset might seem like the best VR headset money can buy, it potentially doesn't hold a candle to this lesser-heard-about Pimax headset on review.
The Pimax Vision 8K X is the most bonkers and power-hungry VR headset we've seen to date - and for good reason too, considering it boasts two 4K displays. That's right, with this headset each eye is getting a dedicated Ultra HD display to gawk at. That's not all either as the lenses are gargantuan.
But presenting the best possible virtual reality experience inevitably comes at cost. So is the Pimax 8K X worthy?
Serious VR for serious gamers
- 60Hz, 75Hz (native), 90Hz (native), 114Hz (upscaled) refresh rate
- Interpupillary Distance (IPD) adjustment from 60 to 70mm
- Customised low persistence liquid (CLPL) screen
- Dual 4K screens (two lots of 3840 x 2160)
- Up to 200-degree field of view
- 15ms (typical) MTP latency
As you can see from the specs above, the Pimax Vision 8K X is pulling no punches. This is a VR headset that means serious business and does so with bold claims that include the promise of "clarity in VR that rivals reality" and "unrivalled clarity and vision". With dual screens sporting 4K resolution each it's easy to imagine what the experience is going to be like even before you don the headset.
But the Pimax Vision 8K X offers much more than just pixels. It also has one of the widest field-of-view displays you're likely to see on a VR headset - at a whopping 200-degrees. To put that into perspective, the FoV on the Vive Pro 2 is just 120-degrees - and that's no slouch anyway. It's built this way to give you masses of peripheral vision, so you can simply get lost in the VR experience. Sure, the resolution is insane and the graphics are amazing - but you can just see so much of the game world.
To enable this the lenses are massive; gargantuan even. Take a look at the photos in this review and compare the Pimax's lenses to those on the Vive Pro 2. Which goes some way to explain why the Pimax Vision 8K X is such a whopper. It's large and wide and one of the heaviest VR headsets around.
This headset also offers multiple refresh rate options all the way up to 114Hz. You can also run games in native mode or upscale the visuals to enhance what you're seeing and when you get those settings right, it's an experience like no other. Of course, all this requires a powerful gaming PC in order to run it - and if you want to make the most of it, you'll need an Nvidia 3000 series graphics card ideally.
Valve tracking and Vive compatibility
- SteamVR tracking system
- 9-axis accelerometer sensors
- Dual 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x USB Type-C, microphone, speakers
- Dimensions 280.1 x 108.2 x 135.9mm (11 x 4.3 x 5.4 inches) / Weight: 997.9g (2.2 pounds)
Externally, on the face of it, the Pimax 8K X is remarkably similar to the Vive Pro 2. That's not just because of the blue styling or accents, but due to the way the tracking works. This headset uses 9-axis accelerometer sensors and requires the SteamVR tracking system in order to run.
That means you need some SteamVR base stations in your setup. Like the HTC, the Pimax 8K X is available to purchase in a number of formats. You can just buy the headset if you already have a Vive system and use your pre-existing setup, or you can purchase the full package including the base stations and controllers.
The Pimax Vision 8K X is also upgradeable and compatible with a number of Vive accessories. That list includes add-ons like the Vive trackers, hand and eye tracking modules, and more. It'll work with the classic Vive controllers or Valve's Knuckle VR controllers. So it's really flexible and customisable, making it even more appealing.
There are also different models available with slightly varied setups in terms of headband design - DMAS, SMAS and KDMAS. The options here essentially change the audio setup on the headset. For this review, we were testing the full system, which includes built-in off-ear speakers that can be converted into on-ears with an included attachment.
The headband on the Pimax Vision 8K X is otherwise really familiar. The design is similar to the Vive Pro 2 with a solid headband that's adjustable via a sizing wheel at the rear and a Velcro strap on top. This makes it really easy to get on and off and to adjust to the right size to fit your head too.
The Pimax is one heavy though. At around a kilogramme (2.2 pounds), it's a fair a bit heavier than the Vive Pro 2's 850g. And that's because of the large lens and screen setup housed within its wide frame. Despite this, the Pimax 8K X is surprisingly well balanced. It has a good facial interface and some large soft padding on the faceplate which makes it comfortable to wear.
We're happy to report that we were able to game for hours while wearing this headset without problem. Yes, we got hot and bothered as we always do with these things, but we didn't find we had unbearable face ache after a short play period. It's clear that Pimax has worked hard to get the balance and the padding of the headset right to negate some of that weight.
The headset connects to your PC using a 4.5m DisplayPort cable along with a USB2.0 and USB 3.0 connection. We managed to get it working nicely on our main gaming desktop, but also with a DisplayPort Mini adapter on the MSI GE76 Raider. So it is pretty flexible and will work on both gaming laptops and desktops, as long as you have enough power under the hood.
What spec PC do I need to run a Pimax Vision 8K X?
As anyone knows, running games at 4K requires some serious power. If you've ever tried to crank out maximum frames-per-second on a 4K gaming monitor while running on the highest graphics settings, you'll know just how taxing that can be.
So trying to run the Pimax Vision 8K X with its dual 4K displays on a lesser machine will just result in misery. At a glance, the minimum recommended specs for your machine aren't all that taxing. We'd suggest, however, that if you want to have a truly great experience, you're going to want to ensure you're running a higher-spec machine than below:
- GPU: Nvidia RTX 2060 or above (upscale mode) / Nvidia RTX 2080 or above (native mode)
- CPU: lntel Core i5-9400 or above / RAM: 8GB or more
- Output: USB2.0/3.0, DP1.2
When connected to your PC, you can run Pimax's Pitool software to start the setup process. This is also used to update the firmware, setup your gameplay boundaries and, more importantly, tweak the settings for the best results.
This is one area the Pimax Vision 8K X falls down in our mind. The software is simple enough to use, but we found we had to do a lot of fiddling to get things running right. Playing Half-Life Alyx on this headset, for example, we were struck how pixelated it looked initially. Odd considering just how gorgeous that game had looked on other headsets we'd tested. So we opened up the Pitool and started tweaking settings to adjust render quality, the field of view and refresh rate. With those settings changed, we were presented with a breath-taking view of the Half-Life universe.
Yes, the Pimax 8K X makes Half-Life Alyx even more impressive, which we didn't think was possible. Head crabs have never looked as intimidating. The wide field of view means you can see much more of what's going on, even without turning your head. The high pixel density also means that the view is crisp and clear and things like screen door effect are firmly a problem of the past.
Then we swapped games and found we were having visual problems again. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners didn't look right at all. Again, tweaking the settings in Pitool and we got it running well and looking really good. Some games were fine, others needed adjustment in the settings before they were properly playable.
This isn't an issue we've seen with other VR headsets we've tried. Usually, it's a much more plug-and-play experience. But then very few headsets offer this level of fidelity or customisation in terms of what you're seeing on the display. This is either frustrating or satisfying, depending on your disposition. If you're technically savvy and don't mind fiddling with software then you won't be fazed - but if you'd rather just be able to pick up the headset and play whatever game you want on a whim, then it might be more annoying.
That said though, the experience is undoubtedly fantastic when you get it setup correctly. The size of the lenses means you can get an unadulterated view and be fully bathed in your gameplay. The peripheral vision makes that more convincing and helps add to the overall immersion. The speakers are nice and loud too, with a good convincing sound that draws you in. The padding on the faceplate and the general fit of the headset also results in very little surrounding light getting into the headset, meaning immersion that's beyond compare.
The Pimax Vision 8K X is, in our opinion, both the most impressive and most frustrating virtual reality headset we've tried. It ticks all the boxes for those who demand a specs-rich and powerful device - and only falls down because of how much faffing you have to do with the software to get it working perfectly.
If you're already invested in the HTC Vive ecosystem then the Pimax 8K X might well be a fantastic upgrade for your VR experience. Because, make no bones about it, this Pimax headset takes you from virtual reality to virtual insanity. Assuming, of course, that you have a gaming PC that's capable of pushing its limits.
HTC Vive Pro 2
A high-end VR experience thanks to impressive visuals, satisfying audio, and superb comfort. You still need a beast of a PC to run it, but it's also much more user-friendly.
HP Reverb G2
Interesting not only for its specs, but also thanks to the convenient inclusion of Windows Mixed Reality elements. This means it's really flexible and easy to use when plugged into a Windows machine.