Merlin Pocket Theater3D 3D Media Player Review

By on July 1, 2010
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Looking to experience 3D without glasses? Merlin might have a solution for you.

Editor's Score
The Verdict:
Yes- it shows 3D without glasses. Followed by a Migraine

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.


Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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  • Steve Kozak

    Luckily I bought the Merlin 3D Player before reading this review – I watched a 90 MIN movie (TOY STORY 1) in 2D auto converted to 3D by the Merlin and I've never enjoyed watching a movie more. My wife agrees – so what is it with TBREAK and panadol?

    • tbreaknet

      Good for you Steve- you and your wife probably have a pretty good pair of eyes. For three of us, it was getting bad after 4-6 minutes.

  • Fredrick Didier

    Hey , I am in the departures lounge of the airport and bought a merlin 3d player from the duty free an hour before reading this article, I think its pretty cool and have already watched an episode of lost converted to 3d.
    I honestly did not feel the eyestrain headache, I love all your reviews but I think this product deserves more accolades.

    Au revoir friends and tbreak, love your site keep it up .

    • tbreaknet

      Trust me Fredrick- we REALLY wanted to like this player, especially since its launched by a local company. But at the end of the day, I have to be honest because people trust us to be. There were three of us at the office that day and I made sure both the other guys also spent a few minutes with the player. All three of us experienced fatigue.

  • Darren Bradshaw

    3D at home still seems a long way to go before reaching main stream, and I like Abbas experienced some fatigue when using the Merlin 3D player (yups I bought it at launch) but my Samsung OLED 3D gave me the same problem the first few days. Its been a week since I've been watching movies on the Merlin and got to say cant sense the fatigue anymore.
    Takes getting used to I guess. But just keeping it as a 3D photo frame for my Fuji Film 3D camera makes it worth it – not to mention the jaw dropping response I get from guests.

  • Adnan

    3D won't be practical until it's offered without glasses. Period.

    • Ayas Safiyuddin

      Thats the point Adnan – the Merlin Player does it without glasses. Unfortunately the TBREAK team could not get the significance of that – this too from a local company that practically put Dubai on the map.

      It took me a few days to get used to it – and I dont have great eyes or love panadol. But like any new technology I knew it would take time to get used to.

      When many people suffer from headaches when watch 3D movies at the Cinema or on the new 3D tv's why should the Merlin be any different?

      Very bad job Tbreak – really disappointed.

  • Michael Przewrocki

    Merlin, 3dinlife, Aiptek
    all the same
    in november 2010 we will get aipteks 3dmediaplayer P8 for 200 euros

  • Peter Homer

    The fact that it shows the two images side by side in 2d is interesting. In fact this could be viewed in 3d by the traditional method with a lens for for each picture and eye. It is also possible to "free view" as with the magic eye images of a few years back, I can do it with the example here although the reflection in just one of the images is distracting.

  • jagan

    Is this not a korean company.

    • Abbas Jaffar Ali

      I think the unit is an ODM that many companies will take up and but their brand on.

  • jay p


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