The Vision 8K Plus is SteamVR-compatible but isn’t a native SteamVR device. Pimax headsets require a proprietary application called PiTool, which handles the hardware calibration settings, firmware management and installs the headset drivers. PiTool even overrides Valve's controller pairing process with its own derivative.
PiTool opens up to the Status page, which gives you a visual representation of the headset and the devices that it's connected to, such as controllers, base stations and trackers. The Status page also allows you to run the room setup, reboot the headset, restart the Pimax services if necessary and launch Steam VR.
Perhaps one of the most exciting features of Pimax headsets is the ability to adjust color and brightness settings for each display independently. This allows you to change all channels together or the red, green, and blue channels independently for each display. Adjusting these values can improve the color quality for some titles. It's best to adjust these to suit your liking.
Fixed Foveated Rendering
The Brainwarp section in the PiTool settings includes a handful of advanced settings to help you fine-tune your headset. Here you'll find adjustments for fixed foveated rendering.
You may recall that Oculus introduced this technology on the Oculus Go in 2018 to improve performance where it matters most: centred in front of your pupils. Fixed foveated rendering renders a small inner section of your FOV at full resolution with the best possible clarity. Outside the inner area, the render quality is set much lower to conserve resources for the central focus point.
The Vision 8K Plus’ fixed foveated rendering options include close, aggressive, balanced and conservative, with each one offering a varying size of full rendering area. We played around with these settings but did not run any performance tests on these modes. The fixed foveation option leaves much to be desired, as it renders the wide FOV of the headset mostly unusable. We'll be more excited about foveated rendering when we get one of Pimax's eye tracking kits.
The Settings section is divided into three sub-sections: General, HMD and Games. The General settings is where you'll find the software version and the firmware version numbers and update buttons for both. This section also offers a language selector with six language options.
General Settings also offers checkboxes for starting PiTool at Windows start-up, hiding the software in the taskbar, running Pimax Home at launch and turning on a screen saver for the headset.
The HMD settings section gives you options for tracking mode, display refresh rate, IPD adjustment and motion compensation settings. The headset supports 72 Hz, 90 Hz and 110 Hz refresh rates.
The Pimax 8K Vision Plus features Valve's Steam VR Tracking 2.0 with sensors that support first and second-generation Lighthouse base stations. It also offers a 9-axis tracking mode that disables the SteamVR tracking system. The headset operates like a 3-degrees of freedom (DOF) device when it's configured that way.
The HMD settings also include a Horizontal Calibration button, which presumably runs an internal calibration. When we pressed the button, it said the calibration was complete, but whatever happened, happened instantly, so we're not sure what it accomplished.
The Games Settings section of PiTool has adjustments that directly affect rendering performance, such as FOV, render quality and fixed foveated rendering.
The Vision 8K Plus offers four FOV options. When you set the FOV to a narrower ratio, the headset renders a black section in the outer perimeter, improving performance and masking the distortions on the peripheral edges. Narrowing the FOV can also help with comfort if you have trouble with motion sickness.
You get your FOV choice of Large (approximately 170-degree horizontal FOV), Normal (~150 degrees), Small (120 degrees) or Potato. The Potato FOV is aptly named. This setting is so narrow we would never recommend running your headset this way. Pimax's documentation doesn't state the FOV of Potato mode, but it feels like you're looking at a 4:3 display suspended in darkness. It limits the immersion to such a dramatic degree that we hesitate to classify it a VR experience.
Image Quality Adjustments
The Render Quality slider is Pimax's supersampling adjustment. It sets the base resolution of the display. A value of 1 is equal to the factory resolution. This setting is independent of SteamVR's render quality settings, so be careful not to overdo it. The PiTool software warns that setting the value too high could cause your display to lock up but gives no guidance for doing it correctly.
We found that leaving this value at 1 and adjusting the image in SteamVR net better performance. Still, if image quality is a higher priority, this setting will help you fine-tune the displays for maximum visual fidelity. You should adjust this slider in small increments for the best results.
PiTool also offers a software IPD offset adjustment, but Pimax warns that this is meant for people whose pupil distance falls outside of the headset's mechanical range. We didn't adjust this setting.
Recently, Pimax added a vertical offset adjustment slider, which enables you to manually recalibrate the vertical position of the visual area of each display independently.
Pimax Experience Beta
The PiTool software handles all the configuration settings, but it doesn't have a 3D environment for accessing these settings from inside the headset. However, Pimax is building a new solution, Pimax Experience, that’ll provide access to most settings without having to take the headset off. The Pimax Experience software is still in beta and not recommended for all users yet, so we did not use it for this evaluation.