Premium virtual reality headsets have been expensive since they first launched. Even now, after some modest price drops and the inclusion of extra features, they’re often beyond the budget of casual consumers. Headsets such as the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and HTC Vive have dominated this premium space, but there are alternatives. One such device is the Pimax 4K.
Originally launched in and aimed at the Chinese market, the Pimax 4K has since seen a release in the West. It may not have garnered the attention of its better-known rivals, but it still offers some excellent features.
The company behind the headset is dedicated to bringing high-resolution virtual reality to the masses. After the success of their 4K device, Pimax ran a successful Kickstarter for an 8K version of the headset, which is scheduled for release in 2018.
In this guide, we’ll take a close look at the Pimax 4K virtual reality headset. We cover details of how it works and what you’ll need to run it, as well as how much it costs and how it compares to some other similar devices. We’ll finally take a look at what it can be used for and some of the top games available for the headset.
What is the Pimax 4K Headset?
The Pimax 4K was the world’s first commercially available 4K VR headset. When it launched back in 2016, it won the Best VR product of CES Asia award that year. Pimax, a Chinese firm, created the virtual reality device as an affordable alternative to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Despite these grand ambitions, there are some notable differences between the Pimax 4K and its rivals, as we’ll see further down. However, at launch, it was considerably more affordable than the alternatives. It also runs both the SteamVR and Oculus Home software, in addition to the device’s proprietary PiPlay platform.
Perhaps the most significant difference between this device and the Oculus and HTC headsets is that the Pimax 4K only has 3-degrees of freedom (3DoF) tracking. This feature means that the device only tracks players’ head movements. The Vive and Rift both allow for 6DoF room-scale tracking, meaning you can walk around to explore your virtual environments. This is not possible with the 4K.
How the Pimax 4K Headset Works
The main draw of this VR device is the 4K resolution. The 4K UHD screen delivers a 3840 x 2160P resolution, equivalent to 8.29 megapixels and 806 PPI. The dual 53mm aspherical optical lenses provide a 110-degree field of vision.
There’s also an automatic light adjustment system to help protect the user’s eyes when in use. The slight downside to the screen is that it only has a 60Hz refresh rate, which is lower than other headsets in this space. One other slightly problematic feature is that the headset upscales the display from 2K to 4K.
For the tracking, the Pimax 4K relies on a range of sensors. There is an Acceleration sensor, magnetometer sensor, range sensor, and 1000Hz dual Gyroscope. Combined, these track the player’s head movements and translate them into the virtual space. There are no external sensors, such as the Vive’s lighthouse system. It also doesn’t currently come bundled with a controller of any kind.
The headset does come bundled with two headphones that connect via 3.5mm jacks. These are capable of providing a virtual 5.1 soundstage experience.
Pimax 4K Headset Requirements
One of the biggest drawbacks of VR currently is the high system requirements it demands.
High-end PCs are necessary to run the most immersive kind of virtual reality, and they’re expensive. Unfortunately, the Pimax 4K is no exception to this. Although there are few consumer PCs that could render a VR setting in true 4K, Pimax’s flagship model upscales pretty well using these specs:
Windows 7 SP1/8.1/10 or greater.
At least an Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350.
At least 4GB of DDR3
At least 10GB of free space.
At least an NVIDIA GTX 960 or AMD R9 290.
These minimum specifications aren’t quite as daunting (or expensive) as some of the other headsets we’ve seen, but are still considered high-end. As is usual, the graphics card is the big stumbling block for most, although the 4K doesn’t require a GTX 10 series to run.
Affordability is the name of the game for Pimax. They specifically designed and priced the headset to compete with the more expensive alternatives out there. It’s currently possible to buy the headset on Amazon for £260/$329. Compare this to the £399/$399 of the Oculus Rift, and the £499/$399 of the HTC Vive and the Pimax 4K seems affordable.
If you take into account the cost of the PC required to run the headset, it also works out a little cheaper. However, unless you already have a fairly decent system already, the chances are you’ll still have to spend quite a bit. Also, there is no controller bundled with the Pimax 4K. You’ll likely have to purchase an Xbox One controller or similar, which will add to the overall cost.
Pimax 4K Headset vs Oculus Rift
Perhaps the closest rival to the 4K is the Oculus Rift. There is quite a price gap between the two headsets, but that has decreased greatly since launch. In simple terms, the Oculus Rift is a far superior headset. Not only is it capable of 6DoF tracking, but it also comes paired with two excellent controllers.
The Pimax may have a higher-resolution screen, but for gaming it often underperforms. The Rift, on the other hand, performs fantastically well. One of the main issues with the 4K is that there is excessive ghosting. So, as soon as you move your head excessively, things tend to blur. This can make it unpleasant when you’re gaming.
It is possible to play a range of SteamVR and Oculus Store games on the Pimax headset, but they are significantly limited by the 3DoF tracking and lack of dedicated controller. It’s clear that the Pimax goes for affordability rather than high-quality.
Pimax 4K Headset vs HTC Vive
Our favourite virtual reality headset is the HTC Vive. It offers a premium experience and delivers the most immersive VR we’ve seen to date. Much as with the Oculus Rift, the Vive simply offers far more to consumers than the Pimax 4K ever can. Despite the higher resolution of the 4K, the 60Hz refresh rate and the aforementioned ghosting holds it back,
The Vive’s controllers, a fantastic tracking system, and overall build quality make it stand out from the crowd. The price difference is considerable, but if you already have a gaming PC that’s capable of running VR, you should save up the difference between the two and opt for the Vive every time.
Pimax 4K Headset vs PlayStation VR
Another rival in terms of price and quality is the PlayStation VR. Sony provides the only virtual reality system for console gamers, and its current price point of around £200/$230 means it’s actually a lot more affordable than the Pimax 4K. Furthermore, the cost of a PS4 or PS4 Pro will be considerably less than a high-end gaming PC. The payoff is that the Pimax does have a far superior resolution and field of vision compared to Sony’s headset.
The PSVR doesn’t quite have the same quality of tracking or controllers as good as the Rift and Vive. However, it still performs very well as a gaming headset. It offers 6DoF movement tracking, dedicated controllers, and a good range of game. With this in mind, it has a definite edge over the Pimax 4K in these critical areas. Now that it’s had a price reduction and the addition of the Aim controller, it’s a preferred choice over Pimax’s headset.
Pimax 4K Headset for Entertainment
Where the Pimax 4K excels is in entertainment. There is a good range of content available for the headset, and it’s with the virtual reality experiences and 360-degree videos that the quality of the 4K resolution screen is evident.
One of the big issues with the current generation of virtual reality is the ‘screen-door’ effect. This refers to when individual pixels are visible, which often breaks immersion.
The 4K doesn’t suffer from this as much as other headsets. Therefore, videos and experiences look crisp and clear, bringing an excellent level of immersion.
Pimax 4K Headset for Gaming
Gaming can be problematic on the Pimax. We mentioned above the issue with ghosting and blurriness. Many games with a high level of action and movement don’t look great. However, simulation-based games are usually a little better.
Many games with a high level of action and movement don’t look great. However, simulation-based games are usually a little better.
Due to the lack of dedicated controllers for the 4K, a large degree of interactivity is lost. Part of the joy of VR is exploring new worlds and environments, picking up objects, and interacting with your surroundings.
Because you can’t physically walk around, you have to rely on a hand-held controller to navigate. However, there are still plenty of games available, and many of them offering enjoyable experiences. Overall though, the Pimax is far better as a means of enjoying other forms of VR content.
Pimax 4K Headset Top Games
Given that the Pimax can access both SteamVR and Oculus Store libraries, there are plenty of excellent titles that can be played using the headset. We’ve highlighted some of the best ones, below:
Above, we mentioned that the Pimax 4K is best suited to simulation games. DCS, or Digital Combat Simulator, is an excellent example of this. Players can experience the cockpits of a variety of powerful vehicles across a range of different settings. The graphics look fantastic, particularly on a VR headset, and it’s currently free on the Steam store.
Taking the idea of a flight sim to the next level, Elite Dangerous places players in the cockpit of their very own spacecraft. Explore the universe as you fight, trade, and travel your way across a rich an immersive world.
Project Cars 2
Again, another simulator where the player gets to take control of high-powered vehicles. In this case, it’s a range of gorgeously rendered cars. This is one of the most technically-advanced racing games out there, and it looks amazing in VR.
Pimax 4K Headset Review
In many ways, there’s a lot to like about the Pimax 4K; its competitive price point and high-resolution screen promise a lot. However, there just isn’t enough to rival some of the more established names out there. The main drawbacks are the lack of 6DoF tracking and lack of dedicated controllers. While the high resolution increases the immersion, the missing elements detract from it considerably more.
Those who are mainly interested in watching 360-degree videos and VR experiences will find a lot to like here; the screen is better than anything we’ve seen so far for these. However, gamers will be left largely disappointed and frustrated. Aside from a few high-quality simulation games, the majority of fast-paced and interactive titles are a disappointment.
With the PSVR being more affordable, and the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive being reduced in price, the Pimax 4K has far too much competition in the gaming sector. Hopefully, the 8K model will prove us wrong when it’s released.