Bigscreen is best known for its namesake virtual social platform, but it’s now getting into VR headsets — and it thinks it has a way to stand out in a crowd of powerful but bulky rivals. The company has introduced the Beyond, a PC-only wearable it claims is both the “world’s smallest” VR headset and extremely light at just under 6oz with a strap. For context, even a simple competitor like the HTC Vive Flow weighs 6.6oz. This isn’t a stripped-down device, either, as it includes two 5K (5,120 x 2,560) 90Hz OLED displays, six-degrees-of-freedom tracking and three-element pancake optics that reportedly eliminate the screen door effect (where you can see the gaps between pixels) while reducing bulk and providing a decent 93-degree horizontal field of view.
The company isn’t relying on a marvellous new technology to achieve the size reduction. Rather, it’s making a number of strategic sacrifices. Instead of adjusting knobs and other controls to get an ideal fit, Bigscreen asks you to scan your face using an iPhone app (sorry, Android fans) to produce a custom-fitted Beyond design. You even need to buy custom prescription lenses if you normally wear glasses. The six-degree tracking relies on external SteamVR Base Stations rather than built-in cameras, and built-in headphones are only available with an optional “Audio Strap.” You plug into a PC through a link box that supplies both video and power.
The Beyond supports the SteamVR platform and will work with any compatible controllers (including the Vive and Valve’s Index) and full-body trackers. You’ll need that compatibility, too, as Bigscreen doesn’t ship controllers in the box. You’ll need a reasonable powerful computer, too, with at least a quad-core processor and GeForce RTX 2070- or Radeon RX 5700 XT-class graphics.
The Beyond is available to pre-order today for $999, and will ship to the US in the third quarter of the year (read: summer). Canada and Europe will get their units in the fourth quarter, while Australia, New Zealand and Japan will have to wait until the very end of the year. Other countries are coming in 2024, Bigscreen says. The company chalks up the lengthy rollout to the longer manufacturing times needed for customized headsets.
Whether or not the Beyond is a good value may depend on your uses and expectations. It’s less expensive than clunkier, lower-resolution alternatives like the $1,500 Meta Quest Pro and $1,099 HTC Vive XR Elite, but those are also standalone headsets that include controllers and, crucially, can be shared with other users. You’re also out of luck if you use games and apps that don’t use SteamVR. If you meet all the criteria, though, this may be one of the few high-end headsets you can comfortably wear for extended periods.