Pimax Announces a Handheld Console That Has VR Support
Pimax has announced a new handheld console, Pimax Portal, designed with an accessory that transforms the accessory into a virtual reality headset. The accessory has been designed to combine virtual reality and mobile gaming and could see a re-emergence of smartphone VR which was popular in the early days of virtual reality.
Pimax presented the device at the Pimax Frontier 2022 launch event yesterday and describes it as a “Metaverse Entertainment System”, abbreviated as MES.
Along with Pimax Portal, the Chinese VR hardware maker wants to integrate mobile gaming, PC gaming, virtual reality, and augmented reality.
The new Pimax console is built with WLAN streaming capabilities. It can also be connected to the TV through a docking station. You can connect it to a computer through an HDMI cable. The console’s display can be inserted into the casing of a virtual reality headset and used as a VR headset.
The pre-sale for Pimax Portal, which is Kickstarter-funded, is set to begin on November 15. The cheapest version of Pimax Portal goes for $299 while the most expensive version retails at $599. The device is powered by an unspecified ARM-based chip as well as a Snapdragon XR2. The Snapdragon XR2 chip is widely used in some of the standalone virtual reality headsets such as the Meta Quest Pro. The device also has 8GB RAM. Its storage space varies between 128GB and 256GB. This storage space is expandable to 1 TB through a microSD card.
Pimax Portal has an OS that is based on Android which will open it up to a large selection of mobile games. All the Portal consoles have a Wi-Fi 6E which likely has an optional 5G mobile module. It is also compatible with the Pimax WiGig module which provides more stable WLAN streaming.
The design and layout of Pimax Portal closely resemble that of Nintendo Switch. Both have an almost similar joystick and button arrangement. However, Pimax’s Metaverse Entertainment System (MES) features more option buttons on its upper and lower edges. The MES also has analog shoulder buttons with a resistance designed to be continuously adjustable.
Like in the Nintendo Switch, the controllers in the MES are also detachable, albeit through a magnetic mount. The Pimax controllers, similar to the JoyCons, can be divided among a number of players for multiplayer games or be deployed in motion control. The console can support up to six controllers.
Like the Nintendo Switch, the MES also has an optional docking station. Through this, the Pimax Portal can be directly connected to a TV for use on a big screen.
The Pimax Portal has a better display than the Nintendo Switch. The Portal features a QLED display with 4K resolution, HDR, and mini-LED along with a refresh rate of 144Hz. The Switch OLED, on the other hand, has a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz. Nintendo Switch’s screen is, thus, larger at 7 inches. In comparison, the standard Portal has a screen size of 5.5 inches.
Pimax Portal XL
There is also the Pimax Portal XL which provides a case expansion and is targeting PC gamers. This has an 8.8-inch screen and a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels along with a refresh rate of 120Hz. The Pimax Portal, along with the controllers, are plugged into the casing of the Portal XL. The WuGig module can also be used to stream PC games to the handheld.
Pimax Portal also provides support for Xbox Game Pass and Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming services. Pimax also provides a Mini Station that enables PC games to be played on the go. This is a form of mobile mini-PC powered by an AMD 6800U processor and with 32GB of RAM. You can install games on its 1 TB SSD and steam them to the handheld.
The display of the Pimax Portal can also be inserted into a virtual reality headset case to create the “Portal View” which hearkens to the early days of smartphone VR. Pimax also provides a case that allows you to use detachable controllers as virtual reality controllers. Five cameras are positioned at the back of the console casing enabling the setup to be put into mixed-reality applications as well as for inside-out tracking in virtual reality mode.
Like in the Pimax crystal, the virtual reality headset casing for Pimax Portal also contains two different types of aspherical interchangeable lenses. There is a standard pair that has 27 PPD as well as a 100-degree field of view which primarily targets virtual reality applications.
Additionally, there is also a 40 PPD lens pair that has a 60-degree field of view and targets movie-viewing applications. Pimax says there is also a “Portal Social Edition” that will have eye tracking and face tracking. The Portal View can also be put into PC VR gaming applications. The headset can be interfaced directly with a computer via a mini-HDMI port.
Pimax began with a 2017 Kickstarter for its ultra-wide field-of-view PC VR headset. This grew into a large lineup of VR hardware but the company has been plagued with lots of issues including inconsistent quality, long shipping delays, software issues, and concerns with its customer service. While its hardware has an appealingly large field of view, they still have very low market penetration.
Pimax’s Metaverse Entertainment System is the company’s third product in its new “VR3.0” lineup of standalone hardware. All the standalone headsets in this lineup are dual-mode and can work either standalone or through a PC.
The company announced its Reality Check 12K headset last year which offers a 200-degree field of view. Pre-orders of the headset were set to begin in the summer with a late 2022 launch. However, Pimax announced the Crystal headset in the summer which it pitches as packing the highest angular resolution for a consumer headset. The Crystal headset was set to ship before October this year. Both the Crystal and Reality 12JK headsets haven’t shipped yet but the company went ahead and announced its new project.
Pimax has been pitching new products before the delivery of previously announced products.