Pimax Crystal review: VR overkill for the most dedicated of PCVR enthusiasts

Pimax Crystal review: VR overkill for the most dedicated of PCVR enthusiasts
The Pimax Crystal is a premium virtual reality headset with a premium price, starting at $1,599. Both its name and marketing promise the most crystal-clear PCVR experience, and it indeed offers the highest-res VR display we've seen yet, plus a standalone VR experience also.

Is the Pimax Crystal a Quest Pro and Valve Index killer, or is it so ahead of its time, that most users plain don't have the gaming rigs needed to power this beast of a VR headset? Well, let's get into it and find answers to these burning questions…

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As the specs show, what we have here is an absolute beast of a VR headset, on paper crushing every other one we've reviewed so far. But before you get too excited, it's worth noting again that you'll need a pretty serious gaming PC, in order to take advantage of that maximum resolution, at that maximum refresh rate.

The good news is that you can always downgrade your display settings from the SteamVR menu, and run pretty much all the VR games at a lower resolution, even if you don't own a cutting-edge graphics card.

For reference – my PC is packing a GeForce RTX 3070, and I was more than happy with the experience, but I should point out that Pimax recommends that you ideally have an RTX 3080, with a 2070 considered a minimum.

Design and Build Quality

The Pimax Crystal is a pretty hefty device – it's wide, it's heavy, and has an angular, edgy, gamer-y design. It feels reasonably premium, and looks cool, although a bit too much like a piece of military equipment, and not something you'd think is for home entertainment.

Visually it's quite the opposite of the Apple Vision Pro, Quest 3 or HTC Vive XR Elite, which all aim to be as thin, light, and non-threatening as possible.

But if you want top specs, the size and weight are going to be an inevitable compromise, I suppose. I definitely don't see myself jumping around playing Beat Saber or any other high-intensity fitness VR games with this big beast on my face, and I doubt you'll manage it too.

But that might not even be the point of this headset – to be your family-friendly, casual VR gaming device. Nope, this strikes me as some serious equipment for VR enthusiasts that are heavy into triple-A PCVR gaming, and perhaps even VR development.

We have adjustable stereo speakers, very akin to what we've seen on the Valve Index, a lovely silicone overhead strap, and an additional strap that goes behind your head, which also serves as a battery pack holder.

Indeed, like the HTC Vive XR Elite we reviewed a few days back, the Pimax Crystal uses external, swappable batteries, and we get two of those included.

Let's talk comfort, because ultimately, that's what it all comes down to. Despite its size and weight, I got used to wearing it pretty quickly, partly because I was distracted by how immersive VR gaming gets with this headset. You can adjust the head strap pieces in all the ways you'd expect, in order to make this headset fit snugly to your head shape, so no complaints there.

The weight of the headset is pretty fairly balanced, the face cushion is soft, and the nose cutout is larger than on other headsets, so in some ways – the Pimax Crystal is more comfortable than lighter headsets I've used.

But yeah, I wouldn't recommend this headset for children, or even adults who have neck problems.


The Pimax Crystal controllers are borderline exactly the same as the Quest 2 ones in design, size, weight, and button layout, and that's not a bad thing – they feel right at home.

Even better – these are rechargeable, so you don't need to buy and swap out AA batteries every couple of weeks; just plug them into a USB-C charger to top up the 600mAh battery inside each one.

My only real complaint is that they're almost entirely made out of glossy plastic, unlike the nice, grippier matte plastic Quest 2 controllers. So these are slightly more slippery, and can get smudgy. It's no big deal, but worth pointing out.

The upcoming Quest 3 will set a new standard for how small VR controllers should be, dropping the plastic ring that these, and most other contemporary headset controllers still have, but overall – these controllers feel nice, responsive and comfortable.

Screen quality and IPD adjustment

The Pimax Crystal packs a high-resolution QLED display, which is also its main selling point. While the industry standard Quest 2's LCD screen offers 1920-by-1832 pixels per eye, here we get 2880-by-2880 pixels per eye, or 5760-by-2880 pixels in total.

And the difference is pretty evident – we have a much sharper image, with pitch blacks and brighter, more vibrant colors, than what we get on the average VR headset. If you're coming from a Quest 2 – the difference is big, and if you're coming from a Valve Index – massive.

The Pimax Crystal features automatic IPD adjustment that kicks in soon after you put on the headset, and while that's an impressive feature in theory, it didn't quite nail my IPD (interpupillary distance – the distance between a person's eyes).

Thankfully, Pimax gave the headset dedicated IPD buttons that let users mechanically fine-tune the distance between the lenses, to match the distance between their eyes, so I was able to set that to my IPD in seconds. Perfect!

In addition, it's worth pointing out that this headset supports an IPD range of 58-to-72mm, which is more than we usually see, so it should provide a comfortable VR experience for far more users than the average VR headset.

Standalone VR experience and games

First impressions – the headset reliably detects when you put it on, and turns on automatically. You go through a very familiar "guardian" set up process, where you outline your physical play area, in order for the headset to warn you if you're approaching any walls in your room, plus get an idea of how tall you are, and whether you're sitting or planning to move around in VR.

During that process, we get black and white passthrough, very akin to the one on the Quest 2. For those unfamiliar with the feature – most standalone-capable headsets have it – passthrough lets you see your real-life surroundings through the headset's cameras, and is occasionally used in games, but usually only during this set up process.

Now, the Pimax Crystal is very clearly meant to be used as a PCVR headset first and foremost, so in this standalone mode, I wasn't exactly surprised to see a rather simple and underdeveloped Meta Quest-like interface, and an app store that was missing the popular VR titles you may want (e.g. Beat Saber).

Still, there are far more games and apps than I would've guessed, including a Firefox web browser. Most of those seem to be simple experiences made by small teams of devs, or even individuals, but can be fun to mess around with, such as a 3D VR painting app I tried.

But if you're looking for a predominantly standalone VR headset, you'd be far better off with the Quest 2 or the upcoming Quest 3. That's kind of a given, as Meta's cornered that market, and companies like Pimax (or even HTC and its Vive XR Elite headset we reviewed earlier) will inevitably have a hard time attracting big developers to publish games for such niche platforms.

The standalone VR interface also notably has the occasional Chinese text popping up, even when it's set to English, plus some typos (such as "Notification will be scilenced").

None of that's a big deal, because, again – this is clearly a high-end PCVR headset first and foremost, so let's get to that…

PC-connected VR experience and SteamVR games compatibility

This is the part that should make or break your Pimax Crystal purchase – is this the best SteamVR headset available right now or not?

To get your Pimax Crystal paired with your Windows gaming PC, you'll need to download and install an app called Pimax Play on the latter.

There's no wireless streaming from your PC to the Pimax Crystal yet, although the company says they'll release an addon device for that later, which will plug into the Pimax Crystal, supposedly giving it functionality akin to AirLink.

But for now – a cable is your only PCVR option. The Pimax Crystal comes with a 4.5-meter long cable that splits into 3 ends you need to plug into your PC, so make sure yours has the required DisplayPort, and two USB ports (one of which must be USB 3.0).

The other end of the cable obviously goes into the headset, through a very, very tight plastic "tunnel" piece on it, and it's just unnecessarily, and frustratingly difficult to plug it in through.

Besides that, you need to download and install the aforementioned Windows app called Pimax Play, and should be good to go.

One thing that wasn't clear is that you must flip a physical switch on the headset, in order to get it from standalone mode into PCVR mode. Otherwise nothing will happen, and the headset will show as undetected. I reached out to Pimax, suggesting that their Pimax Play app informs users on that, because it's definitely an unusual step. All other headsets we've used switch automatically.

In any case, once that's done, SteamVR immediately detects the headset and its controllers, including their layout, perfectly.

After firing off my go-to VR game – Skyrim VR – reality hit me pretty quick. My GeForce RTX 3070 isn't powerful enough to run this game at the Pimax Crystal's native resolution. Even a VR game as old and fairly easy to run as this needs some tweaks, unless you have a top-of-the-line graphics card.

Luckily SteamVR lets users change any game's resolution, which is something you'll likely have to do often with a headset as high-res as this one (again, unless your graphics card is far better than the average user's).

After dropping the Skyrim VR resolution from 5280 x 6248 to about half of that, the game ran smoothly on my rig, while still looking far, far sharper than it has on any of the other headsets I've ever used.

It's all strikingly impressive – the huge field of view, great colors and contrast, excessively high resolution, wide IPD range, combined with the fact that the controllers' layout works flawlessly with Steam VR.

The only thing I wish could go higher is the 200 nits display brightness, which is still double what the industry standard Quest 2 offers. But the VR experience is otherwise so crystal clear and unusually immersive with this headset, that you automatically expect exceptional brightness too. Not to say that the display is dark; it's still brighter than most, but that's the one and only aspect of the screen that didn't wow me. Shows how much everything else did, I suppose.

By the way, adjusting the brightness via the Pimax Crystal app as my VR game was running crashed the game, so keep that in mind.

Head tracking and hand (controller) tracking are pretty much flawless too. And the fact that the Pimax Crystal does not need any archaic Base Stations or other devices for its tracking to work keeps things simple.

As mentioned earlier, the Pimax Crystal has eye tracking also, which is supposedly used not only to automatically adjust the IPD for the user, but to help reduce motion sickness for some. In addition, by being able to detect the user's point of gaze, the headset can render certain points of the display at a higher pixel density.

Some games and experiences may also employ eye tracking as a gameplay mechanic or at least a way to interact with menus, but for now – it's a pretty niche thing. But it is available.

Ultimately, all the triple-A virtual reality games I tested worked perfectly, and it's reassuring that Pimax encourages users to report any potential unsupported games they may discover, in order to fix any issues with those. But it's best not to have issues in the first place, and in my experience – all SteamVR games and apps tested were compatible with the Pimax Crystal.


The battery situation on the Pimax Crystal is a bit confusing and convoluted. The headset has a tiny 120mAh battery inside of it, basically there only to keep it running for a few minutes when you hot-swap its main 6000mAh battery, which attaches to the back of the head strap.

Pimax gives us two of those swappable 6000mAh batteries out of the box, and you need one of them plugged into the headset, for it to work. Even if it's connected to your PC and technically taking power from it, which is a bummer.

Thankfully, we also get a charging dock for those batteries, so keeping them topped up isn't as big of a chore as it could've been, although I definitely would've preferred a normal built-in battery that you didn't have to think about, nor dealing with hot-swapping at all.

And just like it's hard to get the headset's PCVR cable plugged into it, hot-swapping those batteries isn't exactly a smooth and elegant process either. Unless you watch Pimax's video tutorial on how to do that, you'll just feel like you're breaking your headset. Once you get the hang of it – it's not too difficult, but the cracks you hear as you take those batteries out of the head strap aren't exactly reassuring.

This headset should've been able to run indefinitely without any battery swapping when used in PCVR mode, like other headsets (e.g. the Valve Index). So the battery situation is my biggest gripe with the Pimax Crystal.

In terms of battery life, you can expect to play for about 3.5-to-4 hours until it's time to swap a battery, which is fairly reasonable considering the display being powered here.

Frequently asked questions

Let's briefly address some of the questions you may have about the Pimax Crystal and how it works…

Does Pimax Crystal need Base Stations?

Unlike the Valve Index or older HTC VR headsets, the Pimax Crystal does not require any Base Stations to track your head position and orientation. It instead uses its cameras for tracking, just like a Meta Quest, keeping things simple and easy.

Is the Pimax Crystal wireless?

If used as a standalone headset, the Pimax Crystal is wireless. However, if you wish to play PCVR games, your only option is to connect it to your PC with a cable.

Pimax says they'll introduce an addon device later on, which will give the headset wireless connectivity akin to AirLink, but we don't know when that would happen, or how good it would work just yet.

Does the Pimax Crystal use SteamVR?

Yes, like most other headsets capable of PCVR, you'll want SteamVR installed and running, in order to play PC virtual reality games on your Pimax Crystal.

However, it alternatively supports OpenXR, and there are even unofficial OpenXR runtimes available for this headset.


Like the team behind Oculus (now Meta Quest), the Pimax team appears to be tight with its community, constantly optimizing its headset to work better with various triple-A VR games, which is fantastic.

The headset itself is what I'd argue targets a hardcore VR gamer demographic unlike any other, as most of the competition is instead aimed at families, sticking to casual games, and offering just-good-enough specs. But the Pimax Crystal goes all out on triple-A PCVR gaming instead.

For all that, I really wanted to love it, and ultimately – I do like it a lot, besides some minor frustrations, and the fact that it's plain too big and heavy to be used for fitness-slash-casual games like Beat Saber anyway.

If you're a hardcore VR enthusiast, who already knows a thing or two about triple-A virtual reality PC gaming, and you own a gaming computer powerful enough to take advantage of it – the Pimax Crystal might just be the perfect headset for you to invest $1,599 in. Now, that's a lot of money, but you're getting one of the highest-quality consumer VR displays, and superb VR immersion.

VR simulators, be those racing, plane sims, and pretty much all experiences that don't require you to move around rapidly will feel as real as today's consumer technology allows it. The Pimax Crystal's name lives up to the fact that the image it delivers is crystal clear, beating the competition effortlessly.

The sharpness is sharper than any other consumer headset, the colors are great, the blacks are pitch black (not gray like on LCD displays), the field-of-view is significant, and its compatibility with SteamVR is pretty much perfect.

However, if you just want something simple and reasonably light, super easy to set up and get going, and just as easy to power – you'll want to wait a few more days for the Quest 3 instead.


  • Beautiful high-resolution display, large field of view; VR has never felt so immersive
  • Perfect compatibility with SteamVR
  • Good-sounding, positionable headphones
  • Comfortable, rechargeable controllers
  • IPD fine-tuning


  • Larger and heavier than the average headset
  • Underdeveloped (and arguably unnecessary) standalone mode
  • Mild humming noise when the headset is on
  • Battery swapping is a chore, and required even in PCVR mode
  • No wireless PCVR yet

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