Do you remember Nintendo Labo? Chinese virtual reality hardware maker Pimax appears to be doing just that.
Newly announced Pimax portalSwitch-like Android device with accessories that can turn it into a fully standalone VR headset. Just launched its Kickstarter campaign Tuesday. The device shares similarities with the Labo cardboard accessories made by Nintendo a keyspecifically Optical aperture virtual reality set It allows you to open the Switch screen in a variety of different headsets.
Pimax’s version is more ambitious, and naturally comes with all the uncertainty crowdfunding suggests. Ahead of its planned launch in 2023, here’s what we know about the Pimax portal.
Pimax portal features
The Pimax Portal, at its most basic level, is a handheld Android device with removable controllers and a 5.5-inch LCD or QLED display in the generic shape of a Nintendo Switch. Pimax says the device will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2, the same chip Meta Quest 2It has 32 physical buttons (not including software options), and has five cameras on the back of the device for tracking and augmented reality features.
This is for mobile games only. Pimax describes Portal as a “metaverse entertainment system,” so the real trick is all of the other ways you can use the device. If you open the Portal in Pimax’s Portal View headset, it can function as a standalone VR device with interchangeable lenses and a controller shell a bit like the Quest 2 controllers. The company plans to sell a Pro version of the headset with an additional built-in 6,000mAh battery.
Connected to the Portal Dock, the mobile device can function as a traditional home console, or in Pimax’s vision, a fitness tracker in the same vein as Peloton Guide. Pimax also plans to sell a larger 8.8-inch Pimax XL display that you can dock the Portal to, and an “off-board portable processor” Mini Station for playing more graphically intensive games on the mobile device.
Pimax portal technical specifications
Here is a breakdown of what Pimax plans to include in the portal:
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2
- GPU: Qualcomm Adreno 650
- memory: 8 GB RAM / 128 GB storage or 8 GB RAM / 256 GB storage
- Show: 5.5 inches with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 and an LCD or QLED 144 Hz display
- tracking: 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) tracking via four rear cameras
- battery: 4000 mAh
Pimax portal price and release date
Pimax plans to start shipping the Gateway and accompanying accessories in January 2023. The current prices listed on the company’s Kickstarter are “Early Bird” so they will likely go up after the device’s official release. Here is the current price distribution:
- Starting at $299 for Pimax Gateway (LCD)
- Starting at $449 for Pimax Portal (LCD) and Portal View Speaker
- Starting at $549 for the Pimax Gateway (QLED)
- Starting at $599 for the Pimax Portal (QLED) and Portal View Pro Speaker
Would a Pimax portal be any good?
The Pimax Portal sits at the bustling intersection of mobile gaming and virtual reality, but I have to urge extra caution: There are a lot of unknowns with this device.
Pimax has sold VR headsets for PC before – and recently introduced another standalone VR headset, Crystal Baymax, earlier this year – but the portal is much more complex. According to Pimax, the portable device itself is “ready for mass production,” but there’s no indication of how many different accessories will actually ship with the device in January.
What is clear about Portal is that Pimax is on to something. The Nintendo Switch is powered by (old) mobile hardware and many of the most popular standalone VR headsets basically look like Android smartphones on the inside. The motivation to combine the two devices seems to be good. But like any piece of new hardware, it’ll be the make or break whether or not there’s any software to run it, and it’s not clear that Pimax has the influence of a company like Meta to entice developers.