Looking to experience 3D without glasses? Merlin might have a solution for you.
With a strong line-up of 3D movies in the cinema as well as the FIFA World-cup’s 3D broadcast, interest in 3D technology is at an all time peak. And although you can purchase a 3DTV to view all the action in glorious three dimensions, the glasses that come with these displays are not necessarily very convenient. So what we have with us today is a glasses-free 3D display from a UAE-based company called Merlin. Its not exactly 40+ inches as it’s not a TV but what we do have a 7″ “FreeD” media player that manages to play movies and show pictures in 3D without the need for 3D glasses.
The packaging for Merlin’s Pocket Theater3D is pretty average with a picture of penguins stepping out of the frame along with a list of specifications. Inside the packaging, you find the media player along with a user manual, a remote control a USB cable and a TV-Out cable. An 8GB SD card is also included. As far as specifications go, you have a 7″ Parallax barrier auto stereoscopic 3D digital LCD display with 800×480 pixels. I don’t really know what that means but to put it short, it’s a 7″ 3D LCD display with a resolution of 800×480 pixels.
The kickstand and USB/SD slot
The Pocket Theater3D looks, acts and feels more like a digital photo frame than a dedicated media player. It has a built-in kickstand along with USB and SD card inputs on the left side inside a hidden door. The top has stereo speakers, a power button as well as a lock switch so the unit doesn’t accidentally turn on. Finally on the right you have the power connector, audio and TV output as well as a built-in mic for recording audio. The Pocket Theater3D has a built-in rechargeable battery that can go on for about three hours.
On the front, Merlin adds a slightly glossy border around the frame which looks alright and supports touch controls that light up on the right side and disappear when not needed giving the Pocket Theater3D a nice uniform look. These controls on the unit are for switching between 2D and 3D and navigating/operating the unit and although they work, using the included remote is a lot more convenient. Ideally, the LCD should have been a touch screen as that would’ve made the unit a lot more intuitive to use.
The Touch Buttons
Powering up the Pocket Theater3D shows six options that you can chose which are Photo, Video, Audio, Calendar, Setup and Storage. We will get to the first two options momentarily, but Calender shows you an analog watch and calender along with the option to set an alarm while Audio plays back mp3 files from the built-in speakers or a connected headphone. Storage lets you chose the mass storage mode when you connect it to your PC while Setup includes things like language and setting timings for powering up the unit at a particular time of the day. You can also select Depth of Field in the setup options between 1 to 5, however, we could not see any difference between the levels.
The Music Player
The viewing angles of the LCD screen are good but not great- especially when viewing 3D content. Coming to that, the biggest question is weather 3D works or doesn’t without glasses and the short answer is that yes it works. However, the 3D effect depends on weather the original source is in 3D or converted to 3D using the included software. If the source is in 3D then you can very easily distinguish between different levels of depth in a picture. However for converted items, this becomes less apparent. FYI, true 3D source will show two pictures when viewed in 2D mode.
Real 3D content will show 2 pictures in 2D mode
Our biggest issue is the fatigue the 3D display causes to your eyes- more so in videos than photos. There were three of us in the office when we tested the unit and none of us could look at videos for more than a minute. Our eyes tired real fast- to the point where I thought I would get a headache if I didn’t stop. Now this will obviously differ from person to person but if all three of us experienced the fatigue, then chances are that most people will. Let me also add that I experienced similar fatigues when I attended the launch of 3DTVs in the region with the 3D glasses on me although they weren’t as quick as when watching the Merlin Pocket Theater3D.
Priced at US$395 or AED 1,450, the Pocket Theater3D sure is pricey but you always pay a premium for new technology. However it doesn’t stop there- don’t forget to add the cost of bottles of Panadol that you’ll need to buy to take care of the headaches. We really wanted to like the Pocket Theater3D especially since its launched by a local company but we just don’t think the technology is worth the headache. No pun intended.