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Bigscreen Beyond review: Gunning for the VR throne

It’s a wild swing to take on Valve Index, but it’s not for VR newbies.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The Bigscreen Beyond is miraculous. I expected the first hardware from Bigscreen, a company known mainly for its VR movie-watching app, to be merely a noble effort. You know, a brave attempt by a newcomer to make a splash in the niche world of VR – something that deserves golf claps and little more. They say hardware is hard for a reason; how can a small software company take on titans like Valve and Meta?

Despite everything stacked against it (and it's not without some freshman stumbles), the Bigscreen Beyond stands out. It's less a headset like the original Oculus Rift, and more akin to an oversized pair of glasses that can still immerse you. Consequently, it's the most comfortable VR solution I've ever tested. It also has some of the sharpest displays I've ever seen, thanks to cutting-edge Micro-OLED panels (Meta, meanwhile, has fallen back on cheaper LCD displays for the Quest 3).


The Bigscreen Beyond is a solid, if expensive, high-end VR headset targeted directly at VR enthusiasts.

  • Incredibly light and comfortable
  • Sharp and bright Micro-OLED screens
  • Works alongside existing Valve Index accessories
  • Expensive
  • No built-in audio
  • Still exhibits artifacting like other VR headsets
$999 at Bigscreen

Somehow, a small VR app company built a truly compelling upgrade from the Valve Index, which is still one of the best VR headsets around. That deserves more than just golf claps.

With all that being said, the Bigscreen Beyond also isn't something I can recommend to most people. The average gamer doesn't need a Ferrari, after all. While Meta is aiming for the masses with the $299 Quest 2 and $499 Quest 3, the $999 Bigscreen Beyond is squarely targeted at Valve Index owners and VR enthusiasts who demand more comfort and better screens. It's meant for a niche of the niche. The Beyond is even harder to justify if you're stepping into high-end VR for the first time, since it requires two SteamVR base stations ($300 for a pair) and Valve Index controllers ($279). A $1,578 setup isn't exactly the best introduction to VR.

Nothing about the Beyond is easy. That makes it best suited for people who are already used to the inconveniences and indignities of PC VR. Upon ordering it, you'll need to create a 3D scan of your face via a mobile website. That process took around five minutes for me, but it requires an iPhone – Android users will need to borrow one or sneakily scan their faces at an Apple Store.

Once your face is scanned, Bigscreen 3D prints an eyepiece cushion that's built specifically for you. That process also determines the interpupillary distance, or IPD for the headset's lenses. Instead of being adjustable like some competitors, Bigscreen has 18 (!) different models of the Beyond to fit IPDs between 55 millimeters and 72mm. The company says being so rigid about IPD sizes allows it to reduce weight – I can only imagine the logistical nightmare that creates. (That extreme customization also means it’ll be tough to share the Beyond with others.)

Bigscreen Beyond VR headset lenses through the face cushion
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

I'll admit, I was shocked how well it fit the first time I tried the Beyond. It barely felt like I was wearing anything at all, since the weight was evenly distributed across my face. There was no pressure around my eyes, or on the bridge of my nose, issues I've come to expect from heavy VR headsets. There was also no light leakage either, something that can easily kill immersion, and the cushions easily clamp onto the headset using magnets.

According to Bigscreen founder and CEO Darshan Shankar, the company developed a unique skin-safe foam material for the face cushion. It can be washed with soap and water, making it potentially more sanitary than the sweat-absorbing pads on other headsets. Shankar says he's been using one foam pad for several years, and, surprisingly enough, he doesn't try to protect it while traveling. If you do need a replacement, though, you can order one from Bigscreen for $49.

Side profile of the Bigscreen Beyond
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Given how small it is, the Beyond also doesn't have room to fit glasses like the Quest 3. Instead, prescription glasses wearers will have to order custom lenses from the company. I can't speak about that ordering process much — Bigscreen just shipped me prescription lenses alongside my review unit — but it’ll involve plugging in your prescription alongside your order. (Snagging lenses for the Quest 3 from Zenni Optical is no different than ordering a normal pair of glasses.) The Beyond's lenses magnetically snap onto its displays without any effort, and they're also easy to remove for cleaning.

You can tell that the Bigscreen Beyond isn't like any other VR headset on the market with one glance. Imagine chopping off the top and bottom of the Valve Index, leaving only the displays behind. It looks suitably futuristic, with transparent plastic alongside the front and a few LEDs to let you know when it's powered up. It also weighs just 127 grams (0.28 pounds), slightly more than a deck of playing cards. In comparison, the Valve Index comes in at 1.8 pounds, while the Quest 3 weighs 1.1 pounds. The Beyond ships with a rear head strap, which was tight enough to stay secured on my head, but there's also a top strap in the box for those who need it.

Bigscreen Beyond VR headset from the front
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

If you look closely at Bigscreen's promotional photos for the Beyond, you may notice something that's missing: Headphones. It doesn't include any built-in speakers of its own, so you'll have to come up with your own solution. I was able to fit Arctis's Nova Pro headphones on top of the Beyond, but that defeats the purpose of having such a light headset. I eventually paired my AirPod Pros to my Windows PC — something I never do otherwise — and that worked just fine. Bigscreen plans to release a $129 audio strap later this year but, for now, Beyond buyers should plan to have wireless earbuds handy.

So clearly Bigscreen managed to create a unique headset, but how well does it handle VR? Simply put, it's far better than I expected from the company's first stab at hardware. Its Micro-OLED displays are bright and feature far more contrast than the Quest 3's LCD panels. They’re also noticeably sharper than the Index's. The Beyond offers 2,560 by 2,560 pixels per eye, while the Valve headset delivers 1,440 by 1,600 pixels per eye.

That difference was particularly stark while replaying Half-LIfe: Alyx, a game I've already spent dozens of hours immersed in while testing the Index years ago. On the Bigscreen Beyond, it felt more like I was stepping into Alyx's dystopian world. I could barely feel the headset on my face, and everything just looked more realistic. I had a far easier time reading small text on newspapers strewn about the game—something that took a lot of squinting on the Index.

Testing the Bigscreen Beyond with Half-Life Alyx

True to Bigscreen's original mission, the Beyond is also a fantastic headset for watching Netflix, YouTube or a handful of 3D films. It's not quite as relaxing as my home theater, since I'm stuck in an office chair tied to my computer, but it's certainly the best PC VR headset I've encountered for watching media. It's tough for me to choose between the Beyond and the Quest 3, though. Bigscreen's headset has far better optics, but I can't lay on the couch or in bed while wearing it. Meta probably wins when it comes to sheer convenience.

As great as the Beyond's screens are, they still occasionally display reflections and artifacts like every other VR headset. Shankar says that's a symptom of the Beyond's pancake lenses — the Quest 3 and Quest Pro also have similar reflections. Older headsets like the Index often exhibited "god rays" in bright scenes, which typically showed up as extra glare. I can live with visual imperfections during genuine VR experiences, but they're distracting while watching movies, which look far more pristine on a big screen TV and home theater projector.

Bigscreen Beyond VR headset topdown view
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Ironically enough, Bigscreen managed to create a VR headset that's better at gaming than it is for watching media. But if you're stuck in an apartment without room for a large TV, or you want to recreate the experience of sitting front row in a theater using the Bigscreen app, the Beyond still delivers a decent sense of immersion. It's sort of like going to a theater with a projector on the fritz: You learn to live with it just to see something on an enormous screen.

I'll reiterate: Most people should not buy the Bigscreen Beyond. The Meta Quest 3 is right there! (And the Quest 2 is even cheaper!) But if you're a VR fanatic for something lighter, brighter and sharper than the Valve Index, it's a genuinely compelling upgrade — as long as you don't mind shelling out another $999.