The latest industry buzz may be around “wearable tech”, but that doesn’t have to be just focussed around wrist-watches and connected spectacles. One of the most adventurous devices at Sony’s IFA 2013 stand was the HMZ-T3W headset, giving the wearer a personal cinema experience directly in front of their eyes. We wen’t hands-on for this first-look review.
The headset makes use of two 1280 x 720 OLED displays, housed in a frame that sits on your head. There’s one display for each of your eyes, with the headset giving the impression of watching a 750-inch screen from 20 metres away. Displaying in either 2D or 3D, straps let you adjust the fit of the headset, while there’s a pair of MDR-XB90 headphones packed in that create pseudo 7.1 surround sound.
It’s not the first time Sony have put together such a headset. We saw the company’s first 3D headwear efforts way back at CES 2011, with revisions to the design following at pretty much every major tech show since. This year’s effort is of particular interest however, as a new version rumoured to be designed to work with the PlayStation 4 is said to be in development, ready to give the Oculus Rift VR headset a run for its money. The HMZ-T3W may give an indication of what to expect from it.
So how well does it perform? For the most part it’s very impressive. Though there’s still a sweetspot to get the most from the 3D effect (meaning you may have to adjust the headset’s placement on your noggin a bit, and tweak the two optical adjustment sliders on the underside of the kit), once you do the viewing experience is quite enjoyable, with a rich image offered. Compared to earlier iterations of the headset, the HMZ-T3W feels much lighter too, while sensible padding keeps it comfortable. It will still slip around a bit, but for the most part it’s an improvement over its predecessors, both in terms of visual clarity and comfort.
The headset’s comfort levels are boosted massively by the inclusion of wirelessHD support. A wireless adapter that communicates with the headset can hook up to a HDMI source, PC, games console, tablet or a smartphone, allowing you the freedom to move around and still enjoy your viewing content. It’ll hit the onboard battery life harder than using a standard wired connection, but being able to move about more freely will definitely be appreciated.
Viewing a smartphone or PC while using the headset displays can be a little difficult, seeing as you need to be able to view either the smartphone screen or PC keyboard in order to navigate. Here a concession has been made, with the headset featuring a small gap if you look down, allowing you to view your physical device. It makes sense – it’d be almost impossible to navigate a smartphone without it – but does have the side effect of taking away from the otherwise immersive nature of having what feels like a cinema screen and surround sound speakers strapped your head.
At £1,300, this is very much going to be a luxury item, and one that’s unlikely to shake up living room viewing habits too much. But for those that can afford it, there’s the potential to bring a very unique experience home here, offering all the magic of the cinema without the annoying kids chatting at the back and the noisy popcorn munchers down front. For gamers, an undisturbed marathon session with this strapped on could be very appealing indeed, showing great promise for the rumoured PS4-specific version.