Pimax Crystal Impressions

GBAtemp Impressions Pimax Crystal.png

VR headset manufacturer Pimax made some waves with the Pimax Portal and its ambitious promise to be an Android handheld/standalone VR headset hybrid device. But before the Portal, Pimax announced another ambitious device geared towards more hardcore PCVR gaming, the Pimax Crystal.

With this headset, the company boasts having the “highest pixel amount of any consumer VR headset” with 35 pixels per degree (PPD) and an 8K QLED+mini LED display (native 2880*2880 pixels per lens), hence its namesake. If this wasn’t enough, Pimax threw in a wireless standalone mode for the Crystal.

But does it offer a crystal-clear experience? This might be something you’re wondering as the Pimax Crystal has opened up orders, at $1599/€1499/AUD 2359, with shipping in about a month after the purchase has been made. I had the opportunity to try it on, and will share my experience in this impressions article.

Contents and specs

The contents of the Pimax Crystal are as follows:

crystal_2.jpg

As for the specs, you can find them below:

Screenshot_2023-07-24-22-32-27-029_com.brave.browser.pngScreenshot_2023-07-24-22-32-51-194_com.brave.browser.pngScreenshot_2023-07-24-22-33-04-779_com.brave.browser.png

Given its PCVR leaning, you might want to consider the PC requirements:

  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 and above
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-12500/ AMD Ryzen 7 3700X and above (avoid using CPU with integrated GPU)
  • RAM: 16GB and above
Crystal headset, sleek hardware

With a name like that, I was half expecting the Pimax Crystal to sport a (crystal) clear shell, as these have come back into fashion for tech devices lately and it would be quite a unique touch on a VR headset. While this is not the case with this device, its build is more than decent. Its all-black and angular design gives it a rather futuristic and unique look that I am personally fond of.

IMG_20230720_135906.jpg

However, at around 960g (with the battery), the Pimax Crystal leans on the heavier end of VR HMDs. That said, Pimax somewhat distributed the weight with the optics in front and the battery pack at the back. There’s also face masks and an adjustable head strap to further improve comfort while wearing the headset. These features do make the device more comfortable, but over extended periods of time, the weight can be felt.



What I was really thrilled to find is that the Crystal can accommodate glasses. For bespectacled users like myself, this is a huge relief as you don’t need to find/wear contacts or order prescription lens inserts. That said, the crystal now ships with 35 PPD and 42 PPD lenses for pre-order kits, although after August the 42 PPD lenses won't be included anymore, as the company explained in a blog post. A bigger FOV lens will still be available as a separate purchase.

If you’re among the first 500 customers, the Crystal will come with a pair of DMAS headphones that attach to the sides of the headset and go over your ears. Otherwise, the headphones can be purchased separately. It’s a nice addition that enhances the VR immersion but I wish these were included in the package considering its cost.

Also related to the cost, I wish Pimax also included a storage case. While it’s not a common inclusion in other VR packages, it would still be a welcome extra.

As for the controllers, they also pack a polished finish and deliver satisfying feedback. Aesthetically, they are very much like those of the Quest but they feel more ergonomic in use than the Quest’s or the VIVE’s controllers.

IMG_20230720_135937.jpg

Since the Crystal supports a standalone mode, it comes with a battery pack (at the back of the strap). This is a welcome feature as it does not require a power source (and more wires) for use. It also helps to balance the weight of the device but a downside with its design is the charging process. You’ll need to remove the battery and slot it into its dedicated charging dock. Removing the battery itself is quite tricky at first and the charging port on the charger is at an awkward angle. A less cumbersome design option would have been to be able to charge the battery while it is already on the headset itself.

IMG_20230719_171408.jpg

The package includes two, 6000mAh batteries which you can hotswap. Pimax also included a handy USB hub that can make battery consumption more efficient. It’s a welcome addition but means having a couple of other cables to the setup. That said, the battery life is decent, at around 6 hours each, and each battery pack takes roughly 2.5 hours to charge. This means that you can safely game and have a spare battery to swap when one runs out.



Best-in-class display, finicky set-up

Before running your SteamVR games on the Pimax Crystal, you’ll have to first download and pair the device with the Pimax’s own storefront, the Pimax Play. It not only lets you update and adjust the headset’s settings but also purchase and play some VR games. The latter is rather limited currently but I hope to see it get more populated.

However, getting around the setup at first was quite finicky. What worked out for me to get the Pimax Play app to recognise the device had to do with first powering on the headset without plugging it into the PC, then when the Pimax logo shows up, there’s a brief window to plug in the DP cable into the headset.

Pimax tells me that they haven’t encountered this setup issue themselves and it might be due to the PC used for testing and thus your experience might vary.

IMG_20230720_123849.jpg

Screenshot_2023-07-24-22-50-32-513_com.microsoft.office.outlook.png Screenshot_2023-07-24-22-47-08-363_com.microsoft.office.outlook.png

After the pairing process is complete, the connection is stable and SteamVR can be launched through the Pimax Play app.

Even in the SteamVR lobby, the sharpness of the image quality is apparent. It definitely delivers the crispest VR visuals I’ve experienced. The QLED display makes colours pop, details are highlighted on the native 2800*2800 resolution and, together with its high refresh rate 90 Hz/120Hz (with 144Hz/160Hz in testing mode), really add to the immersive experience.

Photos won’t do the experience any justice, so these official through-the-lens video snippets will provide an idea of what the Crystal is capable of:



Impressive PC VR experience and some yet-to-be-fulfilled promises

When it comes to visuals alone, after experiencing the Crystal’s display, I don’t want to try any headset with an inferior display for PC VR gaming. It is costly but the image quality it delivers is unparalleled in consumer VR headsets. All titles that I’ve tried, such as Blade & Sorcery, Hubris, VRChat, and Beat Saber on the headset look the best they could. Thanks to the native 2800*2800 resolution per lens (not upscaled, even at 120Hz), the Crystal feels like how VR should be experienced.

IMG_20230720_134954.jpg

IMG_20230720_132048.jpg Screenshot_2023-07-24-22-53-18-978_com.microsoft.office.outlook.png Screenshot_2023-07-24-22-53-00-955_com.microsoft.office.outlook.png

However, there are still some aspects that would make it a definite winner over the competition. In addition to the price, cumbersome battery swapping/charging and headset weight, the setup could be improved. The only option to pair to a PC is via a DisplayPort and two USB ports. If your rig doesn’t feature a DP port, then you’re out of luck and might need to find a dock that supports one. Having an option to pair over USB-C, like the Quest, would have been welcome, even if it means playing at a lower resolution.

Then there are some features that have yet to be unlocked. Most prominently is the standalone mode. While it has been demoed, it doesn’t appear ready to be made accessible to consumers. I couldn’t try it myself but hope that it is unlocked sooner rather than later as it is quite an enticing proposition with a VR headset of such an impressive display. But maybe waiting for this mode might be in favour of consumers as the Pimax Play store is rather limited in terms of VR software and as a standalone device, it will compete head-on with other headsets like the Quest and Pico which boast more dedicated standalone VR games. I also hope that by the time that standalone mode is made available, there is a decent software library accessible.



Other features that have to be unlocked include higher refresh rates. With 144Hz/160Hz in the pipeline, the experience could be made even more compelling. But Pimax is slowly rolling out these features as they recently made eye tracking accessible. They also announced a lighthouse cover, shipping in September, for compatibility with base stations and controllers instead of the Crystal’s inside-out tracking. With these software roll-outs and modular components, there's hope that they will unleash the Crystal’s full potential in the near future.



These potentials can’t be made available soon enough though. If you’re interested in ordering the Crystal, you should be aware of these aspects and what you’ll currently be getting out of the box. With a compatible PC, you’ll have one of (if not the) the best visual VR experiences on a consumer VR headset but will have to grapple with some finicky setup. Down the line, you can expect more features such as standalone mode but it’s best to consider the Pimax Crystal as a PC VR headset first and at that, it is quite compelling.

IMG_20230720_135911.jpg

UPDATE

Pimax has requested to share the news about their Black Friday sales which features up to 20% discount for the Crystal headset. The sale is ongoing and will last till November 30th. More details about the Pimax Crystal Black Friday Value Guarantee that covers new purchases can be found on the official Pimax page here.

Pimax has also been kind to provide GBAtemp readers with a special $20 discount, but do note that it won't work work/stack with the Black Friday sale. Follow this link to make use of this GBAtemp reader discount.
 

Xzi

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Unfortunate we're never gonna see Pimax headsets at early bird Kickstarter prices again, but I'm glad the company is seeing some success given the high bar for image quality/resolution they've set. Had to seal up a couple cracks that developed on the front of my 5K, but it's still going strong other than that.
 

N10A

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It would be so much easier to take pimax seriously if they would just stop over promising so much and actually deliver what are now basic features for headsets with standalone capabilities. If there's a standalone mode on the headset, I at least expect to be able to stream games over wifi at launch, even if their storefront isn't quite brimming with titles. It feels like pimax just ships early alpha software with all their headsets. Even if the visuals are good, bad software just turns me off for such an expensive headset.
 

auntnadia

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Finally a VR game that doesn’t look like it belongs on the Gamecube, I wonder what it is….* zooms in on screenshot * … ah, VR Chat.

Appealing as 8K VR sounds, it’s really a case of the technology overtaking the technology. The 6 hour battery life sounds great though and I wonder how much longer it would last if it wasn’t dealing with 8K?

The device looks really uncomfortable and yes it does look futuristic, but in the same way the Transformers cartoon did in 1987.

I’m pleased that VR is still progressing though, being such a niche community. This is good for us all. I Just wish the industry would focus on improving the obvious areas and making it cheaper to buy, rather than maxing out stuff that’s really unnecessary.
 

codezer0

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If I wasn't going to pay $1200 USD for a valve index, why would I pay $1600 for this + $500 lenses + sensors, etc al? For something that is a glorified monitor otherwise, I look at the asking price of VR and can't help but feel like I'm getting scammed hard.
 
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N10A

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If I wasn't going to pay $1200 USD for a valve index, why would I pay $1600 for this + $500 lenses + sensors, etc al? For something that is a glorified monitor otherwise, I look at the asking price of VR and can't help but feel like I'm getting scammed hard.
You feel that way because you're looking at the price of enthusiast grade equipment. That's like looking at the price of the 4090 and saying that gpus are a scam.
 

codezer0

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You feel that way because you're looking at the price of enthusiast grade equipment. That's like looking at the price of the 4090 and saying that gpus are a scam.
Nevermind that the resolution these claim would need a 4090 for each eye to drive as many pixels at the framerates to ensure one doesn't barf their brains out.

Unfortunately, I have no means to even be able to try any vr anywhere, even halfway affordably. Put bluntly, the only reason I was even able to try a PS VR at all was entirely from a Sony sponsored demo. And because Sony would rather go out of business than provide a driver for it on anything else, I can't use it on PC either.

Sidebar:
Aside from the 4090, the entire 40 series from nvidia, and the rx 7k series from AMD have been an absolute scam, clearly meant only to drive up the tier price of product since every analyst and their stockholder friends were hoping crypto would keep going. Even then, being used to buying around the 80/Ti tier, I was already getting worried with the 2080ti, but nvidia just straight up priced me out of everything above a 70 tier with the 40 series.

My only hope was a 7900xt, which was mercilessly clowned on for being stupid expensive and disappointingly slow too. About all i could do after those reviews was buy a second-hand RX 6800 since I still needed an upgrade regardless. Sure, it was an upgrade, but more disappointed I've apparently lost the silicon lottery with this example.

Even with a waterblock, it won't overclock the memory at all without crashing in my more demanding games, even though the GPU temp is dramatically better than the factory cooler (from peak temps of 80c and 15C of separation of edge/junction, down to 58C max and 6 degrees between edge/junction at most).
 

stylo

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Does anyone here still play VR regularly? I took down my OG Vive setup and put it in the closest...
 

N10A

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Nevermind that the resolution these claim would need a 4090 for each eye to drive as many pixels at the framerates to ensure one doesn't barf their brains out.

Unfortunately, I have no means to even be able to try any vr anywhere, even halfway affordably. Put bluntly, the only reason I was even able to try a PS VR at all was entirely from a Sony sponsored demo. And because Sony would rather go out of business than provide a driver for it on anything else, I can't use it on PC either.

~snip~
Do they not have quest 2 in your area? Around where I live you can find them used for pretty cheap. Even if not used base price is still $300. That's about as affordable as any dedicated gaming device gets.
Does anyone here still play VR regularly? I took down my OG Vive setup and put it in the closest...
I use my quest 2 for vrchat and some other games on the side all the time, I'd say I use vr more than flat screen games these days. Admittedly there's a bit of a content drought atm, but I stretch out what there is by not having much free time.
 

codezer0

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No quest anywhere. And for requiring Facebook, oculus in general is banned.

The only remotely affordable headset I've seen, was a secondhand original ps VR, for $150. Which of course won't work on PC, let alone steam.
 

N10A

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No quest anywhere. And for requiring Facebook, oculus in general is banned.

The only remotely affordable headset I've seen, was a secondhand original ps VR, for $150. Which of course won't work on PC, let alone steam.
Quest headsets haven't required facebook login for around a year, they now use a "meta" account which is more akin to a steam account (i.e. for making purchases on their store and their social game that everyone ignores.) PSVR1 can work with steam vr using the iVRY driver, but it is admittedly a little fiddly.
I'm pretty sure the pico neo 4 can be used without any login, but that's been having some issues with rolling out in some countries due to association with bytedance, but if you can order from the eu it can be had for less than $400.
 

codezer0

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Quest headsets haven't required facebook login for around a year, they now use a "meta" account which is more akin to a steam account (i.e. for making purchases on their store and their social game that everyone ignores.) PSVR1 can work with steam vr using the iVRY driver, but it is admittedly a little fiddly.
I'm pretty sure the pico neo 4 can be used without any login, but that's been having some issues with rolling out in some countries due to association with bytedance, but if you can order from the eu it can be had for less than $400.
I've only been speaking in USD.

And meta *is* Facebook. And the permissions zuck wants to require to use an oculus are about six(hundred) degrees too far.

Not like I've not been trying to find a place that offers a way to test drive vr. But even in the malls in rich kid towns, the only places to offer that are only equipped to offer arcade-ized phone games. My desire for a VR headset begins and ends with half life Alyx. And I'm not paying more for a VR headset than I would for a monitor I could use with literally anything else, full stop.
 

Yourmomdotcom

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Honestly I love the look of this headset, it's got like 50's vintage car look to it and it's really sleek. Will I buy it? Hell nah. I'd need like stupid-money to even consider this, like I make millions a year and I've already bought everything else.
 

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Pimax has requested to share the news about their Black Friday sales which features up to 20% discount for the Crystal headset. The sale is ongoing and will last till November 30th. More details about the Pimax Crystal Black Friday Value Guarantee that covers new purchases can be found on the official Pimax page here.

Pimax has also been kind to provide GBAtemp readers with a special $20 discount, but do note that it won't work work/stack with the Black Friday sale. Follow this link to make use of this GBAtemp reader discount.
 

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