Describing itself as a ‘4K Hybrid VR Gaming System‘, The Pimax Portal is a new handheld gaming system. It not only plays Android games, but it’s suited for cloud gaming, and even has a virtual reality mode. It seems to do quite a few more things on top of that too.
Pimax kindly sent us a review unit of their Pimax Portal QLED handheld to test out. In advance of a review (or rather a preview), I wanted to share some first impressions.
As a disclaimer, our experience is based on a pre-release version. While you can purchase the handheld device now, Pimax is still working on the final release, and the current version may not fully reflect the features or condition of the build at a later time. We will highlight any known differences from the final Pimax Portal where relevant. Notably, the VR Kit isn’t ready yet, so this initial coverage will only be looking at the handheld mode.
What’s a Pimax Portal?
You’d be forgiven for looking at the Pimax Portal and mistaking it for a Nintendo Switch for a moment. This handheld gaming system certainly takes inspiration from it in its form. It’s essentially an Android tablet with detachable controllers.
With a 4K 5.5″ touchscreen which can come in QLED or LCD variants, a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Processor, and 8GB DDR4 RAM, it’s quite a powerful device. While it can be used for quite a lot, I believe it will particularly find fans among emulation enthusiasts. It comes in 128GB and 256GB variants, with the ability to add another 1TB through a Micro SD card, so there’s plenty of space for games, videos and whatever else you want to put on there.
While the VR element isn’t yet ready, a VR kit will be available for purchase including an attachment that turns the current controllers into 6DOF tracked controllers.
Opening The Box
The Pimax Portal was simply, but well packaged in a slim box. The screen inside was protected and I wouldn’t have any concerns about damage during transit.
Opening it up revealed the Pimax Portal tablet with two controllers attached, a USB-C to USB-A cable, a cleaning cloth, and some documentation including guidance on where to go for support. No plug was included to charge from the mains.
One of the first things I noticed was a feature that I certainly like. Rather than a more tricky method such as sliding and locking, the Pimax Portal controllers snap into place via strong magnets. I was a little worried at first that they’d come off or slide about, but they’ve been solid so far and given me no cause for concern. They work whether connected or not too, but will have to be reattached to the tablet to recharge their battery on occasion.
The second thing I noticed was just how light this device is. After trying the Steam Deck (669g) at an event, and even occasionally having issues with the Nintendo Switch (422g) due to hand/wrist problems (all that visual novel clicking isn’t good for me), the Pimax Portal is much lighter at 367g. I found that it increased my comfort in comparison quite a lot
Of course, these are just first impressions. I’ve only spent about eight hours testing it so far, so make sure to check out the full preview later to see how I feel after trying it out thoroughly.
The device arrived with about 50% battery, so I put it on charge with the attached USB cable.
After charging up, I powered the device on. The first thing that stood out was just how vivid the colors are on the Pimax Portal’s QLED screen and how bright it is. The screen is amazing.
The first icon is the VR one, which we sadly have to pass on for now. Aside from that, it’s a fairly standard layout with icons to scroll through for various apps, including the standard functions such as a web browser (Firefox), Gallery, and the Google Play Store to download more. It also comes with access to the Pimax Store, which has some further applications.
I started by downloading a few different apps via the store and adding a few files from my PC via the USB connection. Both were straightforward, being a case of logging into my Google account and dragging/dropping the PC files.
The user interface seems very user friendly and similar enough to an Android phone OS. While this isn’t too unexpected as an Android OS, I have seen a few less than user-friendly interfaces placed on some similar Android devices.
I’ve already mentioned how impressed I am by the Pimax Portal’s QLED screen and how lightweight it is, but it’s worth mentioning again. Aside from that, in terms of physical build, it seems quite solid.
The controller buttons are nice and clicky, though I would’ve preferred a full D-Pad. There are quite a lot of buttons, so these can be customized as needed for certain applications. The triggers are listed as analogue, and I’ll be testing how well these work in the full article.
While I’ve not had the chance to try it yet, the console has cameras all over it for motion tracking. This is primarily for VR, so we haven’t been able try this yet.
The Pimax Portal can do a lot in terms of gaming through its Android OS.
It can stream games via Steam Link, and the PlayStation/XBox apps. I do have to test this more for the full article, but initial impressions were that it worked well and controls mapped without an issue.Testing with a handful of platformers that require good timing, I didn’t notice any latency, though this will depend on your network and other factors.
Running Android apps means that native Android games are easily accessible. One Finger Death Punch and Parquet both ran smoothly. More demanding titles such as Real Racing 3 and Naruto x Boruto Ninja Voltage both had no issues either. I still want to try some more Android games out, but I expect titles like Genshin Impact won’t pose any problems. This is certainly on the higher-end for Android devices.
Emulation is a controversial topic and I’d certainly encourage you to ensure everything is legal in your location, to own any titles you are trying to run if not homebrew, and to be entitled to create any backup copies. Interestingly enough, there is a community of developers still creating games for old systems. For example, while I was too busy at the time, I was recently offered a ROM of a Mega Drive/Sega Genesis game by the developer to review.
Initial testing here has been very positive up to the sixth generation of consoles with solid 30 FPS aside from a handful of exceptions. While not all work well, some less resource-heavy modern titles from this generation seem to run smoothly too. Further testing is to follow, but it’s been very promising so far.
What Else Can It Do?
The Pimax Portal is primarily an internet-enabled gaming device, which means it has a great screen and sound. This also makes it an amazing device for watching TV shows and movies. The colors really pop in anime particularly. Anything like Onimai where the color palette is an attraction will certainly work well here.
In the end, it’s an Android tablet though, so it can do pretty much anything another can. I’ve been using it to browse the Internet, read eBooks via Google Play, and watch Youtube. While you probably won’t be using the Pimax Portal to look up a recipe while you’re cooking, you can.
Things To Look At
As I look further at the Pimax Portal, I’ll check out the Pimax Store further. I’ve not really needed to use it, but did come across issues with images not loading and older software versions compared to that on Google Play. It’s very minor too, but some of the writing needs another look, as there are a few issues with the English.
One thing I particularly want to test is the battery. It’s running a 4K screen and some heavy-duty activities; I have noticed it going down quickly at times. But I want to check more thoroughly with various tasks.
The heat does seem a little high when used for a long time, but it’s not yet gotten to the point of being uncomfortable to hold or make me concerned about the system overheating. I’ll keep an eye on it for ongoing coverage. Again, this will probably vary depending on usage.
As mentioned, the Pimax Portal comes in a few variants. There’s the basic 128GB model, an upgraded 256GB model, and an even higher end 256GB model with a QLED screen. Looking at competing devices that only do handheld gaming and based on what I’ve seen so far, the base unit seems to provide excellent value in particular. If you’re going to be a frequent user or pickup the VR kit later though, I expect the QLED model will be far more interesting.
(Not So) Final Thoughts
As mentioned, these are very much my first impressions of the Pimax Portal QLED handheld and thoughts of a non-final version at that. So far though, the Pimax Portal is extremely promising. It looks amazing, it runs well, it seems to be priced well, and I can see it becoming a favorite for Android gaming and being an ‘all-in-one’ device.
As for more definitive conclusions, keep an eye out for our future coverage after more extensive testing.
FIRST IMPRESSION: PIMAX PORTAL SEEMS VERY PROMISING
Thinking about buying a Pimax Portal for the VR functions? Why not check out our Virtual Reality reviews?
Many thanks go to Pimax for providing a review unit.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.