I’m someone who has been in love with the idea of virtual reality games since roughly the time it starting coming out, but was always a bit on the fence as to whether it was worth it. I had tried the Oculus and the Vive at booths and in stores, and while I loved the experience, most of what I looked at seemed somewhat blurry and hard to see, in particular text. Money was not really the issue, just making sure it would be worth it, as I did not have a desktop computer readily available, making the entry cost somewhat to consider.
After a while, stumbling across the Pimax 5k/8k series, well after the kickstarter and hearing that they were going to open for pre-orders in not the far future, I figured this might be the time to finally enter enter virtual reality for real. I joined the people who pre-ordered the Pimax 5k+ and started building my rig:
Motherboard: ASUS ROG Strix Z390-E 1151
CPU: intel core-i7 8700K
GPU: nVidia Titan X Pascal
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4 3200MHz
PSU: Seasonic Focus Plus 850W Gold 80
Now, as I wanted to play Room-Scale VR as well, and I did not see a whole lot of cheap offerings for Just the Base Stations and Vive Controllers (Sorry, but waiting for the Knuckle Controllers and Base Stations promised during the pre-ordering did not seem like too good a solution, given the big unknown of when it would be shipped), I figured I’d simply buy an HTC Vive for the base stations and Controller bundled with it (getting the full thing including the headset was just marginally more expensive than buying just the base stations and controllers separately). This gave some time to try Virtual Reality out before I’d finally get the Pimax headset, and gives me a point of comparison as well.
Come February, much to my girlfriend’s dismay, my Pimax finally arrived. Setting it up, was not too difficult, but there was still a few snags:
- It was not immediately obvious were the audio was supposed to come from. The hole was rather well hidden and didn’t scream it’s purpose while looking for it
- Pitool was available through the forum link, but not through the main site (at least not back then).
- There is a slight blur around the point when looking straight ahead. Some of this seemed like it could be wiped away, but a minor blur still remains. I have not taken out the lenses to wipe the other side clean yet, so there might still be something there.
Now for the actual gaming experience, having heard the reviews and how people said that Normal FOV was the way to go due to the Large FOV having too much distortion, I was pleasantly surprised to find out the distortions just did not bother me that much. As long as the performance is good, I generally prefer the Large FOV. It is distorted on the sides, very visibly so even, but it did not cause me any issues and even if the distortion on the edges make it next to impossible to see what’s actually there, it simply feel more immersive to have the full thing on (your eye normally does not try to see thing along the peripheral anyway, so it doesn’t know most of the time that you can’t really see what is there).
I’ve played with Large FOV for a decent while in both Arizona Sunshine and Apex Construct, and it was very pleasant (and fun). It really helps a lot to be able to not just wave your head around like crazy to try to figure out where the enemies are coming from, giving you better overview and time to focus on taking out those pesky bastards before they get to you. Even with this rig though, performance can become an issue.
Enjoying some sun in virtual reality to escape the gloomy real life weather, while blasting some zombies on the side. The Pimax ensures great immersion while enjoying this sunny escape from reality
Another game which has taken up a lot of my time since getting it, is Elite Dangerous (like a number of other people here, from what I can tell). Playing this with the Pimax 5k is an absolute delight. At least, after I got myself a proper Joystick, as it apparently is not really possible to play a game requiring you to utilize a million buttons to play properly if you try to play on a keyboard you cannot see due to huge box you’re wearing on your head. And Sure, it would have been nice with some darker blacks in games like this, but given the options between some better colours, and a slight boost in performance or this level of text clarity and FOV, the latter is always going to win on my end (to that note, my performance in ED when running on Normal FOV and Rendering Quality setting at roughly 1.0 I generally have around 60 FPS without having done too much alternative tweaking to boost the performance (i.e. I haven’t done too much apart from setting those two settings).
Some caveats with regards to the Pimax 5K+ however:
- Not every game is going to work well with this headset. A game I enjoyed on the vive while waiting for the Pimax was “The Wizards”. When I got the Pimax, it would either crash or run at around 1 FPS. There has since been an update, and the devs for this game seem to be working on a solution (they recently released an enhanced version, but this version mistakes non oculus / vive devices for WMR devices, and the control scheme is not compatible, making it still impossible to play the game). And this is a reality with this headset. A number of games run amazingly, but some games does not really run at all, and you need to spend some time investigating what other people have gathered or just wildly trying to figure out if the game you want to play will work.
- With the games that do work, some tweaking will be involved with trying to make it look good. I would say it is not as bad as some reviewers might have made it out to be, as Normal FOV and a quality setting of 1.5 will work rather well most of the time in my opinion. But I’m also fine with sacrificing a little bit of FPS for this, and when performance becomes a problem, you might find yourself spending quite a bit of time outside the game trying to figure how to enjoy the time you spend inside the game.
- The basic strap and the form of the headset does not make for the most comfortable wear. My nose will feel a bit sore after long (Elite Dangerous) sessions.
- Random incidents can occur. I had the device starting to flicker like crazy, and the latency becoming unbearable at some point. I still do not know exactly what caused this, but I know it was related to the tracking, since it would work perfectly fine again once I disabled the lighthouses in Pitool. I rebooted the computer, the headset and a number of other remedies to no avail, the flickering persisted. After some days of not having been able to fix the issue, it more or less suddenly started working properly again. I do not know exactly what I did to fix it, but it could be something related to the Vive which I’ve also set up, which might have somehow caused some interference. This only happened once however, and I have not experienced anything similar since.
I, like many others, believe that Pimax has the best offering when it comes to consumer virtual reality headsets. The biggest reason I could see not to go with Pimax is if you cannot stand having a cable dangling around and you need a wireless solution, or if you want to play very specific games which is not quite Pimax compatible. It is not a perfect headset, but it’s better at the other important points, and from the sounds of it, it could remain that way for a while still, so if you’ve got the pockets to support it and you don’t mind spending some extra time with setting up for specific games for getting the most out of it, it will be a blast.
If you’ve got a girlfriend though, be careful with what content you enjoy, lest you risk being caught in less fortunate circumstances