Pimax 5K XR review and thoughts compared with the Rift S and Valve Index.

Howdy folks,

I recently got my hands on the Pimax 5K XR VR kit with index controllers and lighthouses. I never see much talk about Pimax here in the forums. I figure that there are either not that many Pimax users or that they are happy with the HMD. That being the case I thought I would post my thoughts for those people that are using another VR solution and have an eye on the Pimax. Fair warning this is going to be a wall of text.

TLDR - If you are tech savvy the Pimax is very much worth your time. with some fair warning about customer service. If you just want plug and play stick with the Oculus or Index.

I got into VR on ED with the Oculus Rift S. and it blew me away. that being said there were several things about the Rift that bothered me to the point that I retired my HMD. The view in the headset is abysmal it is like looking through a straw. added to that is the LCD display that washes the color out. The colors were not bad by any means, however, they were not vibrant. added to that I had the very annoying problem of lens fogging. The face seal is so tight that my lenses would fog up pretty quickly whenever I used the HMD. The biggest downside of the Rift in my opinion is that it is a closed ecosystem. by this I mean that first and formost you cannot upgrade any aspect of the Rift setup by using Index tracking solutions or competitive HMD's. this also means that your hardware is not useable with other manufacturers setup including Oculus's own hardware solutions. The Oculus store does not easily support non Oculus hardware in a plug and play manner. You can get around this issue with software solutions but it defeats the very easy plug and play nature of the rift ecosystem. The upsides of the Oculus Rift S are numerous. It truly is plug and play. you connect the HMD throw some AA batteries in the Oculus Touch controllers, install the Oculus software, and you are good to go. On top of that the PC specs needed for the Rift are fairly light weight. You can run it on any fairly recent PC build from the last five years or so. Another plus in the Rifts favor is some very good inside out tracking. no need for lighthouses this makes the Rift more than portable. The inside out tracking also has the advantage of being more than accurate enough for any use, the only time this fails is when you reach the controller behind your back and the Rift cameras loose sight of the Touch controller. The Rift is a great entry level VR setup and I would recommend it to anyone looking to get into VR for the first time or anyone that is not technically proficient with doing configuration on PC hardware and software. if you don't want to spend the cash for an Index then Rift is the way to go. I would rate it a solid C+ which as I said places it into the entry level of VR hardware.

My experience with the Index is limited I have tried out my buddies setup and I did like it. It is a good step up from the Oculus. the hardware is premium. It does improve on some of the shortcomings of the Rift. The LCD displays of the index in my opinion had a better resolution as well as improved color saturation. The FOV while not great is superior to the Rift in every way. Steam VR is an open platform meaning anyone is free to enter. If you own a Rift, an Odyssey, Vive, Index, Pimax, etc you can use the device with both the store front and VR interface. makeing it possible to avoid multiple purchases of the same game. This makes the Index a far more user friendly and upgradeable VR solution. The Index knuckle controllers, oh lordy, the index knuckles. They are hands down worlds better than the Oculus Touch and Vive controllers. the use of them is well thought out and intuitive to a ridiculous degree. the squeeze grips are great in games like walking dead Saints and Sinners, Alyx, etc. Instead of holding a trigger to grip your weapon you squeeze the controller just like you would a sword or gun, I personally love this. the fact that they grip to your hand and remain in playing position rather than hanging from a strap around your wrist alone make these far better than both Vive and Rift controllers. Add to that that they do not require AA batteries and instead charge off USB makes the knuckles a real next gen step up. There are down sides to the knuckles as well. The placement of the touch pads on them is bad. the pad is in between the buttons and the thumb sticks. this means that the thumbs sticks can be a bit awkward to reach. it takes some moving the controllers on you hand to get the sticks at a comfortable angle. the touch pad and the thumb sticks honestly should switch positions on the controller interface, that would makes these about perfect. The index also uses the lighthouse system for tracking which means that you have one or more laser tracking boxes mounted somewhere in the room. while this makes the tracking for the index absolutely spot on you do not have the simple portability of the Rift experience. for many this will be a con. Also with lighthouses comes one more point of failure. these devices will not last forever and will eventually have mechanical issues and need to be replaced entirely, keep this in mind as it very well may become a hidden cost of owning the Index setup. All in all Valve have put out a very good setup that I am not affraid to recommend to the plug and play crowd that has a little more cheddar at hand for the higher price tag of the Index. I would rate the Index kit a solid B overall.

The Pimax. I have had the HMD with Valve controllers and lighthouses now for a week and have been loving life. I will start this out with the bad. If you pay any attention to the Pimax sub reddit you will already know the horror stories about not only the kickstarter backer experience but also dealing with customer support. I will state this up front, the sub reddit is about 20% accurate. This was my experience. I ordered the 5K XR kit on 4/20/20. I did not hear a word other than my order number for the next two weeks. the web site stated that the kit was in stock and that shipping was immediate from Amazon. I placed my order and got an email with my order number, after that it was radio silence. I heard nothing for the next two weeks about when the order would ship, if the order had shipped, if there were issues with the order, nothing. Now for me this was worrying because I dropped $1200 dollars US on the kit and this is a significant investment for me. If I had gotten anything after the order number saying allow x weeks for delivery or expect this amount of time for turn around I would have been fine. But like I said the web site states immediate shipping, their words not mine, and an with an obvious lack of communication I began to worry. I placed two support tickets asking how long it might take to begin the shipping process. I did two tickets because the first was never answered. after two weeks without word and two tickets that appeared to be ignored I placed a third ticket asking that my order be cancelled and that I be issued a refund. it was at this point that I was finally contacted by support. in the back and forth that followed I pointed out that the web site said it was immediate shipping and that the HMD was in stack as well as the index kit. the person who answered the ticket looked into it for me and I was issued tracking numbers the very next day. the entire kit shipped a couple of days after that. I find it sad that I had to request a refund in order to get an answer from customer service. That being said after that my experience improved dramatically. once the kit was shipped it took two weeks for it to arrive. with that disclaimer out of the way on to the kit.

I am going to start with the cons on this setup. The Pimax kit does not have the same quality of materials that the Index or even Rift S are constructed from. The plastic of the HMD is not as heavy duty as either of the other two setups mentioned. I understand why this is however. The headset is HUGE the wide field of view (170 degrees horizontally, 200 degrees diagonally) means that the dual screens in the HMD take up a large amount of real estate. because of this I am sure they used a lighter plastic housing to offset what the weight might have been otherwise. Because of this there have been many complaints of the housing cracking on early release builds of the Pimax HMD. This is an issue they are addressing with the new 8K lines by rubber coating the plastic housing of the HMD. the 5K series however is not included in this. that means that you need to take some care with your handling of the HMD itself. Another downside that results from the wide FOV is that the Pimax screens are canted to the sides in order to reduce some of the size of the HMD. both the rift and Index use only one LCD screen which makes the head sets much smaller, this also means that at the outer edges of the FOV on both the Rift and Index there is no distortion. this is not the case with the Pimax. with canted screens you introduce distortion at the edges of the FOV because the screens are angled and the software that controls the displays needs to compensate so that the image aligns properly. Many users especially those using older versions of Pitool (the Pimax control software) experience a notable degree of warping at the edges of the display on the left an right. this has not been my experience, I believe that Pitool has been improved to the point that I have not been able to notice any warping. The next thing that many people will consider to be a con is that the 5K XR used OLED screens which mean that we reintroduce SDE (Screen Door Effect) into the image. a lot of people hate this and find it distracting. that being said... The 5K XR when properly configured in both Pitool and user settings for your software reduces the SDE to a significant degree so significant that I find it almost unnoticeable. It is there but nothing like the early days with the CV1 and og Vive.

The Pimax is also not plug and play in the sense that the Index or Rift are. Once you get the hardware running you need to run Pitool. This is going to be your launching platform for both Oculus and Index homes and software. While the Rift and index take care of 90% of your configuration behind the scenes the Pimax is 100% controlled by the end user. For many people this will be an issue. If you do not take the time to explore and play with the video and hardware settings in Both Pitool and whatever game you are playing you will not get a decent display. That means that it will take a decent amount of experimentation to find the settings that work for you. this also means that software and hardware settings are not one size fits all. you will have to do this for each and every game that you run through the Pimax HMD. Once you find settings that work however you are done the Pitool software saves your settings on an individual bases for each program that you run through Pitool. Personally I find this to be a bonus as I can tailor my display to my personal tastes and I enjoy playing with hardware and software settings, but I'm stupid that way. I understand why a lot of people might find this frustrating.

What a lot of people will consider as another con is the 82mhz refresh rate of the OLED display on the 5K XR. I personally have no issues with it and do not notice the blurring that can happen with head movement in the lower refresh rate. that is me though, a lot of other people will and do notice this. the index has a higher refresh rate of 90mhz which can be upped to 120mhz, the rift is locked at 80mhz. this is really in the eye of the beholder as to whether this is a con or not, for some it will be a big one. For others it is not really an issue so your mileage may very.

The next con is the head strap. it is pretty much the same as the og Vive. a velcro stretchy thing with no padding that grips at the back of your head an pulls the HMD onto your face with much of the weight on your forehead and front forward portion of your skull. I have not had a problem with this but I will get into why that is at the end of this paragraph. the head strap has no padding and a lot of folks report that the HMD gets very uncomfortable after long sessions in VR especially as mentioned at the top of the head and on the forehead. this strap is really the weakest part of the HMD in my opinion especially for a product with a price tag as high as that of the Pimax. before I bought the kit I did a little research on this and found a couple of solutions that people have put forward. the fist and most difficult solution is the use of the Vive DAS head strap. the strap is a halo design that also includes an audio solution with head phones built in. there are a few things that make this solution difficult. the first is that the strap is not designed for the Pimax. While it will work it takes either using Tape, velcro, or 3D printed adapters to attach the DAS to the Pimax HMD. Once this is done though the community pretty much agrees that this makes the Pimax supremely comfortable. The second problem is that for a long time Vive had discontinued the DAS and was not producing any more new units. that meant that it could only be found in the used aftermarket often times at inflated prices. That has recently changed and Vive is now producing the DAS once again but it seems to usually be sold out which means that you are still relegated to resorting to the used and inflated aftermarket in order to find one. There is however a second solution that I recommend. It is both easy and affordable. I do not work for this company but do use the product and recommend it highly. Studioform Creative makes a padded strap add on for use with the Pimax, it is both very comfortable and more importantly cheap. It shifts where the weight of the HMD is placed on the head and adds padding to increase comfort and it is easy to install. Using this strap I have had no discomfort whatsoever in spite of hours long sessions using the Pimax HMD. I highly recommend it as an alternative to the Vive DAS. The best part is that rather than giving your money to some super corporation you are instead giving it to a small company making a great product at a reasonable price based in New Zealand, I'm down for that. The strap can be found at.


Now on to the Pros of the Pimax. The 5K XR is an OLED display while I mentioned this as a possible con because of SDE it is also an overwhelming Pro. the OLED display is worlds above LCD in the display of color and the level of blacks. The colors on this HMD are true color which means that unlike the washed out LCD display of my Rift the OLEDs in the Pimax are vibrant and rich. I can not overstate how this fact makes the Pimax experience a for more immersive and rich experience. Colors are bright and they pop off the screen. Along with that you get true and deep blacks. if you have used nothing other than an LCD display you may not understand this. LCDs are back lit which means that rather than a true deep black you are instead getting a very dark grey. OLEDs are not back lit they actually switch pixels on and off which means that you get real blacks and true darks. Until you experience this you will have no idea how much of a difference it can make in the overall immersive experience. At the same time these screens are a hi res alternative in a low res world. The Index and rift are decent but they are no means a hi res screen. once you get your software and hardware settings dialed in on Pitool the display is hands down the best resolution of any HMD on the market today. there is no competition whatsoever. between true color deep blacks and hi res displays the OLEDs of the 5K XR make this hands down the best VR experience that I have had to this day bar none and is worth every penny paid.

The FOV, oh dear lord the FOV. the first time I got my settings dialed in and resolution tweaked and hopped into ED I just about crapped myself. The FOV of the Pimax is a game changer for me. While the FOV of the Rift and Index is like looking through a straw, the FOV of the Pimax is almost but not quite equal to walking out your front door and seeing the world in real life. I seriously will never consider going back to a more narrow FOV. this is the huge selling point of the Pimax and a good enough reason to put up with a lot of crap. between the FOV, and OLED colors and blacks there is no reason in my opinion to use another headset, the drawbacks in no way outweigh the pluses in my opinion. And I am including the 5K + in this opinion. Oled is the way to go in my opinion even with the SDE. All in all I rate the Pimax a solid A as far as the HMD market goes. that being said the Customer service experience is without a doubt a full on D.
 
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Sold! Did you ever try marketing work?)
Been eyeing pimaxes, but despite huge sticker price, they arent easy obtainable in my region. And oh boy what a confusing lineup they got.
-Why 5k xr, instead of 5k plus? afaik plus has some funky-tagged lcd, but with refresh rates up to 120 hz, and xr has true oleds and a bit more expensive. That oled colours that everone talks about really overwhelms more clarity and refresh rate? Personally i dunno, cuz i never had an oled screen gadgets.
-Will it work properly without lighthouses and controllers in sims? I suppose you will get 3dof, which is bad, but acceptable.
-What rig do you have, and how your GPU is handling that? I suppose to run that 4k VR it needs to be top notch stuff like 2080ti, or two)
-Do pimax offers some tool to reduce load by cutting framerates by half, like ASW?
 
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Sold! Did you ever try marketing work?)
Been eyeing pimaxes, but despite huge sticker price, they arent easy obtainable in my region. And oh boy what a confusing lineup they got.
-Why 5k xr, instead of 5k plus? afaik plus has some funky-tagged lcd, but with refresh rates up to 120 hz, and xr has true oleds and a bit more expensive. That oled colours that everone talks about really overwhelms more clarity and refresh rate? Personally i dunno, cuz i never had an oled screen gadgets.
-Will it work properly without lighthouses and controllers in sims? I suppose you will get 3dof, which is bad, but acceptable.
-What rig do you have, and how your GPU is handling that? I suppose to run that 4k VR it needs to be top notch stuff like 2080ti, or two)
-Do pimax offers some tool to reduce load by cutting framerates by half, like ASW?
Nope never done marketing.:)

I went with the XR because I had tried the LCD displays in the Index and Rift and found them lacking in both blacks and colors. I had heard about what OLED could do and wanted to check it out. I'm glad I did because I will not switch back now for me the colors and the darks really do make a difference. I did not kknow what I was missing until I saw it for myself.

It works in sims without controllers and lighthouses. like you said it is 3 degrees of tracking so you can't move your head forward or back but if you lack controllers that is fine. You will need something like an Xbox controller though.

My rig is indeed fairly high end except for my video card which I have not had a problem with as of yet. my specs are.

Intel i7 6800k 3.40Ghz
Asus X-99 E motherboard
4 1tb SSD drives and 2 4tb HDD
128gb ram on the motherboard (because I can)
GTX 1080 founders edition video card

I am on the high end for everything except the video card. Yeah 128 gigs of ram just because my board supports it and I could. My system never crashes no matter how many things I am running, it is great.

As far as Pimax offering tools to cut frame rates, etc. it is all in Pitool. You can set FOV size which has an effect on performance and in some case with different software titles you can turn off Parallel Projections which is the software the allows the HMD to compensate for the canted lenses. With PP turned off you get a significant performance boost. Not all titles will work with this turned off however. It really boils down to a balance between game video sttings and Pitool hardware setting you really have to play with it. for elite I have it dialed in right where I like it and that is with maxed out video settings in the game.
 
Well, ty for such a detailed response.

128 gb ram, first time i ever see such things, you probably ran into lost box of ddrs

Well, i see that pimax sofware offers some tweaks. I just asked bec my 2070s cant quite handle anything more then HMDQ 1.5 at mostly low settings with Rift S, and pimaxes have much more res to work with.
 
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