VR headset maker Pimax has made a bit of a name for itself with a series of devices with high-end features. The company was the first that I’m aware of to introduce a VR headset with dual 4K displays, for example.
Now the company is introducing a new device that’s… a little different. The upcoming Pimax Portal is basically an Android gaming tablet with detachable controllers that allow you to use it like a Nintendo Switch. But thanks to a series of optional accessories you can use it for handheld gaming, connect it to a dock for gaming on the big screen, strap it to your face for a virtual reality experience, or even turn the small tablet into a slightly larger handheld with an optional Portal XL dock.
The Pimax Portal will go up for pre-order soon through a Kickstarter campaign, with prices expected to start at $299 for an entry-level model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage during crowdfunding. Update: In late November, 2022 the Kickstarter campaign went live, and the Pimax Portal is expected to ship to backers in January, 2023.
It will be available with up to a 4K QLED display with a 144 Hz refresh rate and a Qualcomm XR2 processor, which is the same chip used in the Meta Quest 2.
To use the Pimax Portal as a VR device, you remove the controllers from the sides of the tablet, slide it into a headset and use it like a Google Daydream or Cardboard-style VR headset with the controllers functioning as wireless input devices.
But unlike the Meta Quest line of products, which run software designed for virtual reality, the Pimax Portal will ship with Android… an operating system which has largely dropped support for VR since Google killed of its Daydream and Cardboard platforms. So Pimax says the system will come loaded with its own custom software.
It remains to be seen is how many native Android third-party VR apps and games will be worth running on the device. But the Pimax portal can also be used as a wired or 60 GHz WiGig wireless display, which means you can connect a gaming PC with an HDMI cable or via WiFi to experience PC-based virtual reality on the headset.
Pimax says when used as a headset, the system supports interchangeable lenses that let you choose the best compromise between field-of-view and pixel density for your needs:
- 140 degree FOV (field of view) / 20 PPD (pixels per degree) / for widest field of view
- 100 degree FOV / 27 PPD / for standard VR applications
- 60 degree FOV / 40 PPD / for watching movies in high-resolution, for example)
Other features include cameras and sensors for eye tracking, face, and mouth tracking, and inside-out motion tracking when used with the wireless controllers.
The Pimax Portal isn’t just designed for VR though. Like the upcoming Razer Edge, it’s basically a small Android tablet with controllers that snap onto the sides for gaming. So you can use it with cloud gaming services like NVIDIA GeForce Now or Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming, or play native Android games in handheld mode.
Pimax says the Portal features analog switches and linear motors, WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1 wireless connectivity, a microSD card slot for up to 1TB of additional storage, a USB Type-C port for charging, and a fan for active cooling.
And if the primary 5.5 inch display is too small, there may be an optional Pimax Portal XL accessory. Just slide the Pimax Portal into a slot in the back of the Portal XL and it will power an 8.8 inch, 2560 x 1600 pixel, 120 Hz display.
The Portal XL also has a slot that can be used for optional accessories including a 5G cellular modem or an extra 5,000 mAh battery.
To sum up, so the Pimax Portal is a tablet that can be used as a handheld game console… a bigger handheld game console, or a VR headset. And it can run native Android apps and games, cloud gaming services, and work as an external headset for your PC.
But Pimax has another trick up its sleeve for folks who want to take their PC gaming on the go: the Pimax Mini Station is basically a mini PC with the specs of a pretty good gaming laptop plus 60 GHz WiGig support for low-latency streaming to the Pimax Portal. Oh, and it has a battery, so unlike most mini PCs, you can use it unplugged.
The Mini Station has an AMD Ryzen 7 6800U processor, Radeon 680M integrated graphics, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, support for WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, WiGig, and a 56 Wh battery.
And finally, there’s a Pimax Portal Dock that lets you connect the Portal Max to a TV for big-screen gaming mode while using up to 6 wireless controllers for multi-player games. You can also use it for streaming video or music, among other things.
The dock has HDMI, Ethernet, and USB Type-A and Type-C ports, and it also functions as a charging dock and storage space for up to 4 game controllers. And since the dock is designed to hold the Pimax tablet so that the rear cameras are accessible, you can still use it for room-scale 6 degree-of-freedom motion tracking with the controllers.
Pimax says it wants to create a developer ecosystem around its products, and is prepared to send Pimax Portal dev kits to developers free of charge. And the company says it’s “ready for mass production.”
That said, it’s worth noting that in an hour-long launch video for the Pimax Portal product lineup, the company relied pretty heavily on 3D renderings of the product rather than showing functional prototypes.
The company says launch pricing for the Pimax Portal will
- Pimax Portal with 128GB of storage for $299
- Pimax Portal with 256GB of storage for $399
- Pimax Portal with QLED display and 256GB of storage for $549
- Pimax Portal View (tablet, controllers & headset) for $449
- Pimax Portal View w/QLED tablet for $599
The company says that part of the reason the Portal will launch via a Kickstarter campaign is to allow Pimax to gauge user interest in other options such as models with 512GB of storage or alternate color options.
There’s no word on how much the Pimax Portal XL, Portal Dock, or Mini Station will cost.