October 14, 2017
Fact-Checking the Hype behind the Pimax 8K VR Headset
The following breakdown is from Reddit user Heaney555
The “K” terminology for describing resolutions is very confusing when applied to VR (even outside VR). But boy is it great for marketing!
So you hear there’s a “Pimax 8K” PC VR system coming out. Some of the hype is… well… absurd.
A random Chinese company is smashing Oculus, Samsung, HTC, Dell, Lenovo, HP, Acer, Asus, and LG!
“What are all those stupid companies doing? Just stick an 8K display in a headset and sell it! What are you waiting for!?”
Pimax 8K, releasing in February 2018, surely will own the VR market, right?
Well… let’s take a look at the reality.
Well, it’s 8K! Right? That must be 4x the resolution of the Rift? Or at least 2x or something, right? There must be no visible pixels, and everything must look super clear! Even better than those Samsung prototype panels, right?
The Oculus Rift has a resolution of 1080x1200 per eye.
The Pimax 8K has an “on paper” resolution of 3840x2160 per eye. However, each panel can only accept a 2560x1440 signal. It is to me, almost a scam to call this thing “8K”, when in reality it is sending out 1440p per eye, ie 4K overall.
But remember, in VR, what matters isn’t raw panel resolution, but angular resolution. The pixels are being spread out across a huge FoV.
Here’s a representation of this compared (where one square represents roughly 100x100 pixels):
As you can see, the vast majority of the extra pixels are used for the higher FoV.
But it’s worse than this… because of Pimax 8K’s lens shape, not as much of each panel is usable compared to the Rift.
It is a myth to say that the Pimax 8K has a significantly higher angular resolution than the Rift. In reality, it is only AT BEST 20% higher per axis – honestly, it’s probably the PenTile vs RGB that makes the difference here
The detail you see will not be a generational leap over the Rift. In fact, the Samsung Odyssey will be better.
Screen Door Effect
“But even if those extra pixels aren’t usable, they will eliminate screen door effect!” – you might say.
On surface value, this is a reasonable claim. Pimax themselves claim it in their marketing materials (“no screen door effect”).
But again, this isn’t true.
Screen door effect actually isn’t related to resolution, or even to pixel density (although at extreme densities you brute force it away). It’s related to pixel fill factor.
Tested has confirmed that you can see the screen door effect [Source]
Lenses and FoV
Yes, there’s still god rays (but better than the Rift).
But far, far more damningly, Pimax 8K’s legendary 200-degree FoV, is achieved at a great, great cost.
Both headsets claim the FoV. But do you see the difference in their lenses?
Pimax’s lens system is unsuitable for the 200 degree FoV they have aimed for, and introduces uncorrectable distortion.
Some of it can be corrected, to be clear. But needs to be done explicitly by the developer. So each game you want to play with 200 degree FoV will have to add specific support for Pimax SDK.
But even once this is used, the distortion still exists. And it’s bad. To quote Norm from Tested:
“if the lenses aren’t fixed, if these are their final lenses, I couldn’t recommend it, I think they need to fix the distortion I saw“
Can they fix the lenses? Who knows. Not me. Not anyone else on reddit. But backing the project and evangelizing the product before we know is… crazy. If they can fix it, it’ll be a great high-end headset, offering a wide field of view with a similar angular resolution to the Rift.
The Pimax 8K requires 3x the GPU horsepower than the Rift if we consider the raw pixels alone. And that’s not including the overhead of a higher GPU.
Overall, I’d expect around 4x the GPU horsepower. For reference, Rift’s min spec is GTX 960 and rec spec is GTX 970.
That means that the Pimax 8K equivalents would be GTX 1080 Ti min spec and NO GPU in existence for recommended spec.
The FPS issues in many Pimax demos may be related to this issue. Most users will have to undersample to get sensible framerate, meaning your actual angular density will be even worse.
Throughout the Tested interview, they were constantly doubting the answers that Pimax were giving to them. For example, Jeremy kept noticing that it wasn’t keeping 90FPS, yet when he asked the company representative, he was told it was.
If they’ll lie to Tested, you think they won’t lie to you?
The Oculus Rift+Touch is $399.
The Samsung Oddsey system is $499.
Pimax 8K, including controllers and tracking, is $799.
The Pimax 8K system:
- will be double the price of the Rift+Touch ($399 vs $799)
- has an angular resolution only at best 1.2x that of the Rift (ie. just 20% more)
- still, has screen door effect comparable to the Rift
- the high FoV does not properly work without developers specifically adding Pimax SDK support
- even with Pimax SDK content, has immersion-destroying distortion– the image you see is not close to 1:1 scale and warps massively as you rotate your head
- requires a GTX 1080 Ti to play games at the same fidelity as the Rift- meaning most users will have to undersample
Ironically, Pimax probably could have made an incredible VR headset if they had have aimed for an achievable FoV. Even at 150, much better than Rift, they could have made something incredible. By aiming for an absurdly high FoV for the purpose of marketing specs, they ruined their own product.
Is this truly what people are claiming is worth 2x the price of Rift+Touch?
I believe that once this starts arriving to backers who already own a PC VR headset, there’s going to be a lot of buyers remorse, and some serious lessons learned. Think the “god rays scandal” of the Rift launch multiplied by 1000
TL;DR: stop trusting Chinese companies with consumer electronics marketing claims.
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