An immersive 3D experience with some flaws.
3D movie experience and gaming
I decided to run through a variety of content to see just how the HMZ-T1 would stock up against traditional 3D displays. I had connected it to my Playstation 3, so the first thing I tried out was a Blu-ray of the latest Harry Potter in 3D. The experience in short, was fantastic. The HMZ-T1 was able to display very rich colors and blacks, so everything from fluttering robes to explosive spells were caught in great detail. It’s uncanny just how clear and crisp the entire experience is, and the illusion of watching your content on a 150-inch cinema screen is perfect. The OLED screens run at only 720p, and why this is so we aren’t quite sure. We did ask Sony what made them cap the resolution of the screens, and we’re still waiting for a technical explanation from their team. (UPDATE: Sony have replied that the resolution is at 720p as this is the highest resolutions that can be displayed by the OLED screens, given their super-small size. Full HD might come in a future version of the device.) But nevertheless, unless you’re a high-def addict, the 720p will run perfectly fine.
My next candidate for testing was Avatar, which again came off beautifully with every shade of blue imaginable. The HMZ-T1 had no problem handling the lush and detailed rainforests, coupled with the frantic action scenes that are peppered through the film. I plugged in Uncharted 3 and Motorstorm for some gaming fun, and again the system had no issues display an impressive level of detail – Stardust was exceptionally fun, even though it was just in regular 2D. Since my laptop has an HDMI port, I plugged the HMZ-T1 into that and fired up Skyrim as a test. I had to sit at my desk to play the game, and while the game did look great, it was ultimately my discomfort that made me give in – you can theoretically use the HMZ-T1 to play PC games, but you’ll need to take breaks to make sure you aren’t putting too much strain on your neck and eyes. Web browsers and documents took on a sort of ghostly appearance, so I don’t recommend using this headset for non-gaming tasks.
The HMZ-T1 features 5.1 surround sound, and there are a number of presets such as Cinema, Game, Music, and Standard which affect the audio accordingly. But here’s where I think Sony lucked out a bit – while the headphones may sound good, they don’t always sit comfortably, and if you make any adjustment in the headset you’ll have to make changes to the earpieces as well. You can theoretically slip in a pair of in-ear headphones if you can separate the audio and video streams, but this just proves to be uncomfortable as the larger pads then press your headphones deeper into your ears. I wish the headphones were removable or if there was an audio out on the device so I could just use the HMZ-T1 with my current home theatre setup.
Comfort & Drawbacks
There are many things that the HMZ-T1 does well, but at the same time there are some pitfalls. Firstly, while the headset can sit quite snugly on your face, there always appears to be light creeping in to interfere with the experience. Even with the light blockers installed, the OLED screens themselves were so bright that they illuminated the lenses in front of them, making for a rather awkward viewing experience at times. Most users will not notice this, but if you blur your focus just a little bit you’ll be able to make out the internal lenses. You also need to connect the device to an HDMI splitter if you want to connect two HMZ-T1s to the same source.
As mentioned before, the headphones don’t quite blend in with the sleek form factor of the headset. They feel a little flimsy during adjustment, and I really wish that I could just remove them and use my own headphones. The omission of an audio-out on the device is a bit of a puzzler, but if you’re using your PS3 you can turn off the HDMI audio and reroute it through headphones or your current home theatre setup, which is what I ended up doing.
Like with most electronics, moderate use is required, and the HMZ-T1 is no exception. Sony recommend using it for not more than three hours in a row, which is fine with me as even after an hour of using it I came away with a slight headache, probably due to the device resting on the front of my face so much.
Lastly there’s the price tag. At AED 3,000 you can splurge for an entry-level 3D TV or countless other digital goodies for your home, so why would you pick this? The truth is that not everyone will pick up the HMZ-T1. It’s clear that the device is targeted for niche users who want to enjoy the ‘cinema for one’ experience or want to experience 3D viewing in a whole new way.
The Sony HMZ-T1 3D Personal Viewer is certainly going to turn heads, and at the same time might weigh yours down. It’s packed full of some great tech from Sony, and there’s no other device that even comes close to it on the market. While the HMZ-T1 provides some of the best 3D experiences I’ve seen (even with my limited vision), it does have a few flaws that might need to be ironed out in future models.