Pimax Crystal’s foveated rendering powered my PC VR system

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An upcoming Pimax Crystal software update enables hardware eye-tracking and foveated rendering, unlocking higher resolution even on my old PC VR system.

The Pimax Crystal has impressive specs, most notably a super-sharp display that compares favorably to Varjo’s Aero while coming in at a significantly lower price. However, some of the Crystal’s best features were not available at launch.

The latest update, which will be available to everyone soon, enables the Crystal’s eye-tracking hardware. This unlocks avatar animation and foveated rendering. The standalone mode is still a work in progress, but we already know some of the titles that will launch with the Crystal’s standalone mode.

VRChat avatar animation

With eye tracking enabled, I can animate my VRChat avatar with natural eye movement while wearing the Pimax Crystal. Realistic eye movement can make a big difference in social apps.

A group of VRchat avatars pose for the camera.

A group of VRChat avatars pose for the camera. | Image: VRChat

Even blinks are detected and reflected in virtual reality, so I can blink, pretend to fall asleep with my eyes down, and close my eyes as if I were sleeping or meditating. Expanded avatar control is useful and allows for more natural communication.

The only downside is that everyone I interact with gets the benefit of this update, while I have to observe the simulated eye movement of others. This means we need more devices that include eye-tracking hardware.

The foveated rendering is impressive

Foveated rendering has a bigger impact on my VR experience on PC. I prefer VR games over VRChat, but I’m relying on a three year old computer and GPU. My system works great when I use AirLink with Meta Quest 2 and Quest Pro, but Pimax Crystal has much more graphics potential.

With an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-11400 and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, my games run best at moderate resolutions. When I first tested a Pimax Crystal, I had to significantly reduce the resolution to avoid overloading my GPU, which reduces the frame rate and can cause stuttering.

The Crystal is capable of displaying 2880×2880 pixels per eye. It is sharper than the Varjo Aero. However, if my GPU can’t process that many pixels fast enough, I might as well stick with a more affordable VR headset. This is where foveated rendering saves the day and allows for higher resolution without buying a new GPU.

The fovea, located in the center of the retina at the back of our eyes, contains most of the cells responsible for vision. Foveated rendering takes advantage of this design, maximizing resolution where I’m looking and reducing quality in my peripheral vision.

The Pimax Crystal has three options for foveated rendering: minimum, balanced, and maximum. I chose maximum foveation and also set the rendering resolution to maximum.

I enabled Pimax Crystal's Eye-tracking and set the rendering quality and Foveated to maximum.

I enabled Pimax Crystal’s Eye-tracking and set the rendering quality and Foveated to maximum.

In SteamVR, this equated to a rendering resolution of 4312×5100 pixels per eye. The results are incredibly sharp. The eye tracking samples 120 times per second, so it adapts quickly as my eyes move, and I couldn’t detect any quality loss at the edges.

The frame rate was good and consistent, without affecting the game’s rendering or quality settings. I tried several games, including Half-Life:Alyx, Propagation VR, and Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay. Everything worked and worked well despite my outdated computer.

Pimax shared a sample of customer reports who noted the results of using foveated rendering (FR) on different games and GPUs.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Ti:

Game FR deactivated FR active
DCS World 65 FPS 85 FPS
Skyrim 82 FPS 98 FPS
Subnautica 48 FPS 62 FPS
iRacing +15%
MSFS 2020 +28%
Half-life: Alyx 56 FPS 70 FPS

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti:

Game FR deactivated FR active
Dead Walking: Sinners and Saints 62 FPS 80FPS
Half-life: Alyx +40%

NvidiaGeForce RTX 4090:

Game FR deactivated FR active
Skyrim with minimalist mod overhaul +15%

Pimax Crystal’s foveated rendering provides approximately a 30% improvement in frame rate on most Nvidia GPUs in a variety of games, enabling higher-resolution graphics for more people without requiring an upgrade to a more powerful PC VR system .

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Image Source : mixed-news.com

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