July 18, 2023:
Parts of the Pimax Portal VR hybrid system have been delayed again. Pimax announced today on its official website that it has started shipping the handheld console. Later, it will also become the screen and computing unit on the front of the “Portal View” VR headset.
At the moment, however, customers can’t tuck the handheld into the front of the headset, as the Portal View has been redesigned (see image below) and won’t be available until the third quarter of 2023. The 600-plus Kickstarter backers will get their turn first, followed by the retail release.
In the first prototype, stability, comfort and weight distribution were not optimal, says product manager Snake Lin.
The new design also incorporates a sturdier plastic strap instead of the original’s thinner headband. The revised frame is based on the company’s models Pimax Crystal and Pimax 8K. Depending on the edition, a battery pack is integrated into the back of the headband. Mixed reality is not supported, so there is no hole for the handheld’s front camera.
Update from April 20, 2023:
Pimax has just informed us that going forward, the company wants to take a more transparent and proactive path to communicate the development status more openly. This includes delays in development:
“Our blog post is meant to let our customers know better about the status of Portal since we would like to be more responsible and genuine to our users. Hope you could see our efforts to end our past passive state”, the company told MIXED.
We have updated the article accordingly.
Original article from April 19, 2023:
Pimax announces the completion of the “Pimax Portal”. Backers should receive their VR hybrid consoles soon, some features are still in the works.
Pimax announced completion of its modular VR hybrid console “Portal”. The company is ready for mass production after an initial 569 units for developers and testing purposes, according to an update on the official blog. Pimax now anticipates delivery to Kickstarter campaign backers before the end of April.
“All orders on the Kickstarter portal are expected to be completed and delivered to customers in April 2023. This includes the VR headset,” the April 13, 2023 post reads. Some apps and features won’t work as planned until later updates.
Nintendo Switch meets VR headsets
The Pimax Portal combines virtual reality and mobile gaming. It supports Wi-Fi streaming and connects to a TV via a docking station or to a computer via an HDMI cable.
The principle of the hybrid handheld console is reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch. When users remove the two magnetically attached controllers on either side, the center part serves as a screen in the housing of the VR headset. A total of 605 backers supported the Kickstarter campaign raising $354,080, exceeding the $200,000 goal.
The handheld console costs $299 (128 GB) or $549 US dollars (256 GB, QLED display), depending on the Kickstarter version. The bundle with the “Portal View” VR headset costs $449 (128 GB) or $599 (256 GB, QLED display).
Originally, the company hoped to ship all orders by Christmas 2022. Later, the manufacturer aimed for the end of January, but missed that deadline as well. Now it should be ready by the end of April. Even after the delivery, Pimax plans to continue optimizing the software. Because of the 4K resolution and 144 Hz refresh rate, the designers plan to improve heat dissipation in the future.
“Before delivery, Pimax will make sure that the gantry is relatively stable and will further improve this with software updates,” reads the post.
Other software improvements include battery life and wireless connectivity, which still “needs improvement.” VR games running natively on the XR2 processor still had “SDK-related issues” during the carrying process. These issues will be fixed in the future, the company said.
Pimax Portal: Delayed development
By the end of April, more than 20 games should be available for Portal’s standalone VR mode. Support for PC VR gaming is also still in development, according to Pimax. Pimax also hopes that a collaboration with the provider of the streaming application Virtual Desktop enables efficient local streaming from the VR computer.
“In the future, the QLED version of Portal will support native PCVR via an HDMI cable, while other versions of Portal will support streaming PCVR via WIFI/USB,” the company said in the blog post.
An investment of more than $30 million in the company, announced in February, could allow for greater reliability in software and distribution in the future. The funds are also expected to facilitate the delivery of the high-end Pimax Crystal VR headset.
For years, many Western prospects bet on the Shanghai-based company focusing on a few, better-designed VR headsets. After all, Pimax is known for VR headsets with high resolution and, above all, a large field of view, which the competition does not offer.