An immersive 3D experience with some flaws.
In my time at tbreak I’ve certainly reviewed some awesome gadgets. When I attended the official reveal of the Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer last week and had a brief trial with the unit, I figured that something that awesome would certainly be a lot of fun to review. So naturally when my review unit arrived in the office I couldn’t wait to head home and try out my new toy and immerse myself in the world of 3D.
Design and Build Quality
Two things come to mind when I look at the HMZ-T1. I’m firstly reminded of the arcade machines of my youth where you could pull down a Virtual Reality head-mounted display and pretend that you were shooting down aircraft or exploring a martian planet. The headsets were heavy and the graphics were less than impressive, but in those days it was the most magical thing ever invented. The second thing I’m reminded of is Geordi La Forge from Star Trek and his VISOR – I’m hoping that wearing the HMZ-T1 won’t suddenly transport me to an alternate dimension.
The HMZ-T1 is actually made up of two devices. The first is a black box that acts as a processor for video and audio. It has one HDMI output on the front to which you connect the headset, and one HDMI input at the back which you can connect your DVD player, Playstation 3, or other HDMI compliant devices to. There’s an additional HDMI out at the back to allow you to connect a TV to, so when the device is powered off you can watch content on your regular TV or projector. The processor box is fairly uninteresting and can sit quite unobtrusively in your living room setup or be hidden away.
The other obvious part of the setup is the actual headset itself. Unpacking the headset from the box was like handling the Holy Grail – the headset looks sleek and futuristic, with smooth finishes of white, grey, and black. There’s a blue status indicator hidden just under the Sony logo in the front, which lets you know when the device is powered up and ready to use. Holding the headset in my hands I’m aware of how weighted it is, so I’m wondering what it’s going to feel like once it’s actually on my head.
The ‘magic’ of the headset lies in the twin OLED displays that sit in front of each eye. Using one screen per eye means that you don’t have to suffer from the crossover-3D effects that are used in most cinemas, so you get a brighter and sharper image at all times. At the back of the device are two straps, one made of adjustable plastic and another made of rubber. These are designed to fit snugly to the back of your head for optimal viewing, and generally snap away and readjust quite easily. On the sides of the device are the padded headphones, which are large and again easily adjustable to fit your head. In the front is a large adjustable pad that rests up against your forehead, and below that are slots where you can snap in optional rubber blockers to keep external light sources from interfering when using the device. Right at the front on the underside of the device are a few buttons for power, volume, and menu options for minor adjustments when using the headset.
Overall while the unit looks fairly durable, the choice to use plastic everywhere reduces the appeal of the device somewhat. Yes I understand that the device had to remain lightweight, but I would dread to think what would happen if this headset slipped off a table or someone sat on it by mistake.
Setup and connectivity
Connecting the device was fairly simple – I plugged an HDMI cable into the back of the processor box, and then plugged in the headset to the front. Oh wait, did I forget to mention that this thing is wired? Yup – 11 feet of cable connects your headset to the processor box, so wherever you’re setting this thing up, make sure there’s minimum foot traffic to avoid tripping up someone or accidentally getting the cable caught somewhere. It would have been a huge boon if the headset was wireless, but given the amount of video and audio data that is being processed, this might just not be possible at the moment.
With the device properly connected and turned on, I then began the mammoth task of adjusting everything to fit my cranium. This had to be the least fun part of the experience, as there were so many things to adjust to get the right fit. After about fifteen minutes of adjusting the back straps and ensuring that everything was fitted properly, I slid the device on my head and could hardly see a thing – I had forgotten to adjust the OLED screens, which I did so using the two sliders at the bottom of the headset. Unfortunately the screens move together rather than individually, so even after adjusting them as best as I could, there was a slight blur towards the edge of the screen. If you’re looking to share this device with other people, prepare to repeat this painstaking adjustment process for each person – if you’re on your own then you’ll be fine.
With the headset actually on my head. I was immediately aware of the pressure that it was exerting on my forehead and my nose. While it wasn’t discomforting, I could tell that if I sat in a chair and used this device for longer than half an hour, I’d begin to feel uncomfortable. Donning the rubber light-blockers at the bottom of the device allowed it to rest on my cheeks a bit more and reduce the pressure on my nose, but this was only a minor improvement. Lying flat on my couch and wearing the device also proved to be uncomfortable, as it then started pressing against my glasses. So realistically the only comfortable way to enjoy the HMZ-T1 is in a reclined position such as a lounge chair that gives you neck and head support.