While Pimax isn’t up there with Valve and Oculus as one of the big VR manufacturers, it’s certainly made a name for itself in the high-end headset market, thanks to its 4K, 5K and 8K ranges of HMDs. The company, which got its start through crowdfunding site Kickstarter, now looks set to up the ante by announcing a wider range of headsets at this year’s CES, including a low-budget competitor to the Rift S.

At CES, Pimax showed off six headsets. Some we’ve already seen in some for or another before, like the Pimax Vision 8K X, which can natively display 4K resolution in each eye and features up to 120Hz refresh rate and has a hefty 170 degree horizontal FOV, compared to the original Rift’s 80.

The big excitement coming out of CES is the Pimax Artisan. It’s aiming to be a competitor to the Rift S, hitting around the same price point at $449. It’s got a slightly higher resolution than the Rift S, with 1770×1440 per eye versus the Rift S’ 1280×1440 per eye, a faster maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, IPD adjustment, and optional (modular) eye-tracking and hand-tracking capabilities.

It all sounds very fancy, especially for that price, but there is a significant catch: that’s only the price of the headset itself. If you want the Valve Index knuckle controllers and the base stations required to track them, as is recommended for the optimal experience, that’s going to double the price and set you back a whopping $978. Considering the Index itself isn’t much more expensive than that, and the Rift S has inside-out tracking and controllers included in its lower price, that makes this a much harder sell.

Of course, there is an alternative with the Nolo CV1 controller and motion tracking pack for $579, which could work out to be a decent deal, but it doesn’t have the large scale game support of the Index’s knuckle controllers.

I just don’t quite get who the Artisan is meant to be for. Either you’re a VR afficionado who already owns the knuckle controllers and base station, and so likely already own the superior Index headset (1440×1600 per eye, 120Hz, 130 degree FOV), or you’re a newcomer who doesn’t own them and would be better off with a Rift S which has everything you need out of the box bar the PC itself.

The only use I could see for the base $449 back is sim players who already own all the peripherals (think a flight stick or a steering wheel) and don’t have any intention of playing any motion-tracked games. Even then, is it really worth it when other headsets at similar prices will do the same thing and more?

If money is no object and you want the most high-fidelity experience you can possibly get, splashing out another $1800 on an 8K X headset would make sense because it is an undeniable upgrade compared to the other, more established displays. But the Artisan is trying to capture the mid-range market with its lower price while requiring high-end hardware for basic functionality that other headsets include in the cost. It just doesn’t make sense.

The Pimax Artisan, 8K X, and all other Pimax headsets are available to buy through the Pimax store now.

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