Sony HMZ-T1 3DTV Headset Review: An Amazing Toy

I'm already living the Philip K. Dick life. I've got the communicator, the tablet computer, the everywhere internet. All I need now is a deadly government conspiracy and an immersive 3D environment that lets me jack in and walk around.

Oh, that's here now too! At least the immersive 3D environment part. Sort of.

Sony's new HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer is a gleaming bit of headgear that lets you have your 3D and wear it too, you gigantic nerd.

Why It Matters

This is a big step on the path towards being totally immersed in a virtual 3D world. Moreover, it's a working, wearable television. You probably haven't tried a wearable television. You probably haven't seen one on your friend's coffee table, or resting on the noggin of the guy sitting next to you in seat 7B. There's a good reason for that: they all suck. They've looked awful, fit poorly, felt bad and performed about as well as Justin Bieber in the bedroom bathroom.

Surprising that none have taken off.

But this one has a chance to. It lobs the ball squarely into good-enough territory.

Using It

The 3D and HDTV looked great. It has two screens, each with an OLED 720p display. Each sits centered in front of your eyes. Speakers cover your ears and promise virtual surround sound.

Before you even fire up this rig, you're going to need to spend some time fitting it. You can make it fit comfortably, but it takes effort. Sony made it super-adjustable. You can move the speakers forward and back on your head, and up and down to fit over your ears. The backside adjusts in the temples just above each ear, and in the back of the head via two extensible straps with watch-style fastener belts in the middle. The top strap is sturdier plastic, while the lower one is more flexible. A hinged pad rests on the forehead.

I spent several minutes, around 10, getting the headset adjusted to suit my face. The key is to get the bottom strap well below the most protuberant peak in the back of your skull. That keeps it largely comfortably in place.

There's an HDMI pass through box that sits in-between the viewer and your video source. You plug the source (like a PS3 or Blu-ray player) into the back end and a cable snakes out of the front to your eyes. The controls on the HMZ-T1 let you adjust the volume and gives you some limited menu options (3D or not 3D), but for channel surfing, fast forwarding, game controlling, etc., you're going to have to use your regular array of remotes.

Although the screen is only inches in front of your eyes, it feels a bit like sitting in a theatre. You can move your eyes around quite a bit and stay within the confines of the screen. It does not, however, completely take over your field of view so that you feel immersed in the screen. You wouldn't want that, for most movies and games. It might be nice for a nature video. But with it strapped on you'll still very much see the screen edges, and in your peripheral vision you can distinctly see above and below you. Light comes in.

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First, it's very fun technology. It's just neat to have the TV take over for you. This has some serious future shock going for it as well.

The video performance is exceptional. That's largely due to the 3D. Crosstalk or ghosting is one of the biggest problems with 3D. Sony claims that the two displays make the personal viewer crosstalk free, because the image is only merged in your head and never on a single screen It works. I saw none, and looked hard. Meanwhile, the display was bright and vivid. colours popped.

You won't be totally immersed in a world. You won't feel surrounded by gunmen when you're playing a 3D game, because the display doesn't completely take over your field of vision. Don't expect that, it won't happen. (Which is preferable, given that 3D content is designed for 16x9 screens. If the display was large and close enough to take over your vision, you'd miss things at the edges.) At 45 degrees, the viewing angle is more than ample.

But it does immerse you to a much greater extent than sitting in front of a TV, even a very large one.

That's also due to the sound. The speakers sounded quite good, and were loud enough to completely drown out external noise in my apartment. The clanging of buttons in the dryer, the sound of a radio playing at low volume disappeared. The 5.1 virtual surround sound was... OK. I certainly heard directional noises.

No Like

But the surround sound pass-throughs could have been better.

And let's talk wearability. While it's far, far more comfortable than any other headset we've tried, it isn't exactly like wearing your favourite hat. If you don't spend a lot of time adjusting it, it will rest poorly on your face, falling down on the bridge of your nose.

Even if you do adjust it, it's still heavy. You can't wear it for prolonged amounts of time — literally a warning pops up after three hours and it automatically shuts down at six. Your neck gets tired. I kept wanting to rest my chin on my hand, or to sit back completely in my chair, with my head draped over the back. At half an hour my neck felt strained. At just over an hour, I really noticed the pad on my head. By the time I took it off, 90 minutes later, I had a large red spot on my forehead.

It's also not very portable, or usable off the couch. The pass through box is the real problem. You have to plug it in, which rules it out of using on most flights, or for, say, taking it back and forth with you to the office. (Perhaps a positive after all, as it effectively prevents you from looking like a doofus in public.)

And finally, something sort of subtle. Because you largely can't see or hear anything going on outside of the viewer, I often felt a little claustrophobic in the headset. And if you want to get up and do something, like grab a beer from the kitchen, you have to take off the viewer and stop playback or miss what's going on. You can't just leave the game on and listen in.

Should I Buy This

Yes, as long as you have another TV. This is a toy. A $US700 toy. I think very few people would be happy with it as their primary television. It's too closed-off from the outside world, and tethered to the video source by a cable. You have to be so connected to it. And if you do pull an all-day TV sesh, you unrepentant couch potato, it will be a literal pain in the neck. Perhaps forehead too.

But it's one hell of a toy. The sound is good, the video is great and the 3D is far better than what you're used to at the theatre, and even the best 3DTVs. It's passably comfortable, and you are going to love playing games on it (even if the 3D on the game is weak, or non-existent.) It's fun, and interesting, and I dug it.


Comments

    Why not just make it into a helmet system?

      yeah then it wouldn't matter if you bumped your head on the way to getting a beer

      A wireless self contained helmet version with FHD and motion sensors would be the ideal. Such a system could include a camera and mike to see 'outside'.

    Could you lie down on the couch with it? Or do you have to keep facing forward?
    That could eliviate some of the weight and uncomforableness issues.

    I think the key line in this article is "But this one has a chance to".

    Give me R2 where Sony has applied some more of their ergonomic magic to it, and it will be much more appealing

    Im sorta surprised not see the "SONY" insignia stamped into the forehead where that red mark is left!

      I think Sony is still trying to figure out if they was the Logo Mirrored or Normal.
      ie Mirror so you see "SONY" correctly inteh mirror, or Normal so People see you branded with "SONY"

    I really really shouldn't buy this, but there is a disturbingly high chance I will.

    I want to get this, but I think looking at a screen inches away for hours at a time is bad for your eyes.

    You need to use those eye muscles!

    Now they just need to trick the eyes into believing there is any depth, then all our problems would be fixed!

    I want to get this, but I think looking at a screen inches away for hours at a time is pretty bad for your eyes.

      Are you an Optometrist? Do you have any knowledge of how eyes and vision work? Any links to quotations and/or studies by experts on the subject? Jus' sayin'...

      As far as the headset goes, I'm puzzled as to why you don't just lie back completely as well?

        A degree from the school of common sense, I presume. Focussing (different pupils differently) at a point close to your face is used with corrective glasses to counter eyesight deficiencies. Would not common sense indicate that doing this to someone with normal eyesight - would affect said eye sight?

          Its all about the muscles in your eyes. You need to use both the short distance and long distance one often. Eyes have muscles and its very important to use them. I have a problem with my eye muscles (at short distances, where if I look at a screen for too long, close up, my eyes will hurt because they need a rest).

          I'm not an optometrist but I asked my optometrist and thats what he told me.

          So its important to focus short and long distance, try this for an example. read this comment and then read something further away.

    Samsung flexible AMOLED screens anyone.

    mmm do want.
    I ordered one the otherday... but it'll probably be over a month before it gets here, due to high demand. :(

    Can this be used on a PC?

    How long is the cable???

      Sony site says 3.5m

    Woo, another Virtual Boy. Except with even more neck pain.

      Yeah reminds me of a 'back to the future' of the old '3d' style immersion headsets they tried to make mainstream. Still awesome tho

    AHHH, its the mark of the beats!

    Whoa whoa whoa mr reviewer. 3 hour warning and 6 hour shut-off? You've got to be kidding me... Don't tell me there's no way of turning that nonsense off?

    You can turn the nonsense off, by the way. I got my headset in the mail today. Praise Allah! It takes a lot of adjusting to find the perfect fit, and that's essential otherwise the image will not look as good as it was made to. Skyrim on this is going to be... EPIC!

    Not sure if turning off the warnings is such a good idea. Or to put it this way - taking breaks every 3 hours is a good idea. :D

    As for the mentioned downsides of this headset regarding weight and eyes.
    I dont think the weight thing is going to be such a huge problem if you keep in mind that you dont have to sit in the usual TV watching position to use it. You could lie on your back in your bed and stare at the celing and with these things the "screen" would be right there on it.

    As for eyes ... the point about eye muscles is a good one, and the impact of this set on the eyes is something that worries me as well (as a gamer) but then again I am not sure it is (much) worse then staring at the screen some 3 feet away from your face (PC users).

    Genuis concept, 1080p 60 frames a second - then i'll jump.

    Any extended cables available? Love to lie in bed with this hooked up to the computer

    Bottom line..do you think it's worth splashing the cash on yet?

    when and where to buy is the question.

    Perfect for subliminal messaging. Suddenly I own only Sony products and am very enthusiastic about it. Hmm

    I've just spent the last weekend in Tokyo trying to find a pair of these to buy - no luck. They're sold out across the country. Currently you have to pre-order for late January! This gives you an idea of their popularity. They're nothing but awesome I will say! And the sticker price in Yen.. 59,990.

    Can these plug directly into a ps3? Would like to use in the same room as my Mrs if she is watching something boring on TV (replace need for 2 TV's).

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