Pimax Portal Kickstarter raises some red flags and concerns
What can we really expect from Pimax’s new handheld? First, we need to look back to understand more about the manual industry in general.
The portable gaming market went through many different phases, first being dominated by Nintendo from the late 80s to the mid 2000s, and finding a competitor in Sony’s PSP.
The following competition between Nintendo and Sony did not last long, as the Nintendo 3DS found much more success than the PS Vita.
After that, Nintendo tried their hand at the Wii U, a middle ground between a console and handheld devices. It didn’t sell well, which eventually led them to make the true hybrid Nintendo Switch.
While this was going on, many other companies also tried their hand at portable devices, most notably the bootloader 9000 in 1 handhelds, which actually only used 9000 versions of Tetris.
Which leads us to some of the most recent efforts made by smaller companies, such as the RetroGame RS-97 released in 2017 by Anbernic. It’s not exactly super powerful, even struggles a bit to run Super Nintendo games, but it was the start of a renaissance for handheld gaming.
The release of the RetroGame opened the floodgates for many other portable products, making companies like Anbernic and GPD somewhat responsible for the steam deck’s existence.
This in turn shed even more light on the portable gaming market as it showed the general public that portable computer gaming could be a reality.
Now that we’re caught up, let’s go back to Pimax. Pimax released their first product in 2016, the Pimax 4k, which is a Virtual Reality headset meant to compete with Oculus and HTC Vive.
The device started out with somewhat mixed Amazon reviews and reportedly suffered from issues ranging from dead pixels to lag and even screen tearing.
This also seems to be a trend with their next products, with many of them struggling to achieve anything above a 3.5 star rating on Amazon.
The Kickstarter page for the Pimax portal was launched on November 15, 2022 and reached more than half of its funding goal on the same day.
The first part of the Kickstarter’s description links to Pimax’s website, which is blocked by browsers with a big security warning.
There is a reddit post from 4 years ago that talks about this problem, so it is unknown if this has been a problem for the past 4 years or if it is a recurring problem that pops up every so often regardless, it doesn’t for a good first impression.
Right below that, there’s a short video by Taki Udon, a prominent Youtuber when it comes to the handheld, who seems to be enjoying the product:
Taki has a solid track record when it comes to reviewing wearables and is considered one of the biggest names when it comes to wearables, usually getting early access to units before they are released to the public. Taki also announced an upcoming review that will give a more in-depth look at the device as a whole.
The Kickstarter description is rather long and somewhat disorganized, and is a hodgepodge of Discord and Reddit screenshots along with some customizable diagrams of the device’s components and functions.
Pimax participated in two Roadshows, one in Berlin and the other in Orlando, which is where the user reviews seem to come from. Their products seem to follow this trend of being praised by reviewers but receiving mixed scores from the public, making these Roadshows where people can interact with the handheld essential to the product’s reputation.
Something else to note is the Media Review part of the description, which mentions a number of articles by various news sites.
The problem is that PC Gamer, Gaming Trend, and Dexerto, for example, don’t mention going to these Roadshows at all, meaning that their coverage of the handheld and announcement live stream was lumped together as a review, despite the fact that the writers for those articles may never have stood in the same room as the handheld.
The device has many different versions, with the most complete one appearing to include the handheld itself, a dock, and a VR headset.
The Portal is certainly an ambitious product, even with cameras on its back for body tracking in VR. The latter is a worrying fact considering China’s history with malware and invasion of privacy.
Furthermore, the Portal is an Android device, which means that while it may not be a direct competitor to the Steam Deck, it could have some success among its niche of Android handhelds.
Pimax will definitely have to work hard to make all the promised features come true in this device, and only when it is released will we know for sure.