TUAW Review and Giveaway: Vuzix Wrap 310XL Video Eyewear
When you're on an airplane or sitting on a beach, watching a movie on an iPhone or iPod touch can be a bit of a hassle. Sure, you can prop up the case -- in fact, there are a number of iPhone cases that feature a built-in prop of some sort -- but you're still watching your movie or TV show on a pretty small screen. Wouldn't it be nice to watch it on a big, widescreen TV?
That's the idea behind Vuzix Wrap 310XL video eyewear. These "TV glasses" are nothing new, but the quality of the displays has been getting better over the years. The glasses themselves look like a pair of fairly stylish sunglasses, and there are two tiny displays (428 x 240) that are placed in front of your eyes that are resolved into one widescreen image.
The glasses produce a virtual screen that is the equivalent of watching a 55" display from a distance of about 10 feet. The display works for both standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 aspect ratios, and the Wrap 310XL is even 3D compatible with the proper media. The glasses are usable with any composite video output, and both RCA and Dock Connector composite adapter cables are included in the box. Read on for my review of the Vuzix Wrap 310XL Video Eyewear.
The battery life on the Vuzix Wrap 310XL is pretty good -- 4 hours with a standard AA alkaline battery and up to 10 hours with a lithium AA cell. Of course, watching video for 10 hours might be a bit of a stretch, but it's good to know that you can get a few movies out of a single battery. Your movie-watching or game-playing experience isn't complete without sound, and the Wrap comes with fairly decent noise-isolating (not noise-cancelling) earphones with a choice of three different sizes of noise-isolation ear inserts.
The two questions I heard the most when I was telling people that I'd be reviewing this video eyewear were "Doesn't it give you a headache?" and "Aren't those things heavy?" The technology has come a long way over the years, so the Wrap eyewear is pretty lightweight -- about 3 ounces. The glasses come with an adjustable hypoallergenic nosepiece, so you can move them around a bit until they become quite comfortable. I did, however, begin to get a headache after about 30 minutes of watching a Star Trek episode that was being pumped out of my iPad and into the Wrap headset. Your mileage may vary.
Since I wear glasses, I was concerned that I wasn't going to be able to use these without taking off my glasses. Fortunately, the Wrap eyewear fits over most smaller eyeglasses, so I was able to keep mine on while viewing. If you have big glasses, you can take them off and use the +2 / -5 diopter adjustment to bring the image into focus for you.
So, how did they actually work with the iPhone and iPad? The idea is that the video eyewear is supposed to take that tiny image and make it look like it's on a large virtual screen. I had no luck getting anything to show up when this was connected to my iPhone 4. I tried applications that one would think would support video out -- iPod, YouTube, several games -- and could not get an image to appear on the little screens. I tried changing the settings for iPod, turning widescreen mode on and off, even changing the signal type from NTSC to PAL (Wrap eyewear supports both), but had no success. When I connected the composite connector to my iPad, however, I had much better success. I was able to view content in the Video app, from YouTube, and even with Chopper 2 using my iPhone as a controller for the game on the iPad. Erica Sadun's Whiteboard app worked well, although the screen was truncated on the Wrap displays. Where I had the best "view" was using Keynote for iPad with the eyewear -- both regular and widescreen presentations looked fine on the Wrap and were not truncated.
A visit to the Vuzix support forums showed little information about the lack of video support for the iPhone, although some forum participants (not Vuzix personnel) said they had been able to watch movies on the iPhone and iPod touch by jailbreaking and using the "screen splittr" app. Personally, I don't find having to jailbreak my phone or iPod touch to watch video on these thing to be worth the time and effort.
If I had my choice between watching a movie on an iPad or watching it on the Wrap eyewear connected to my iPad, I'd watch it directly on the iPad screen. The image quality on the iPad is considerably better than what you're able to get with the rather low-resolution (not even VGA) dual displays on the Wrap eyewear. When I was setting up the Wrap, I noticed that the default "blue screen" flickered quite noticeably, although I was unable to see that when actually watching a video.
However, there are some cases where I think you might want to use something like the Vuzix Wrap 310XL. First, if you're a person who travels a lot and has a need to view confidential information, then the Wrap eyewear may be for you. Just make sure whatever app you're using works with the eyewear first! Second, if you're in bright sunlight outdoors and want to watch a movie or look at some materials, then the Vuzix Wrap will definitely work for you. Third, if you don't want other people to know what you're watching, you may like the video eyewear.
I did not get a chance to try the Wraps with my Mac, but they would work fine with some Macs provided that you purchase the proper composite video cable. For the MacBook that I use for training classes, an Apple Mini-DVI to Video Adapter would work fine to pump out the needed composite video signal. The MacBook Air has an available Micro-DVI to Video Adapter that would work. However, most other Macs may have an issue. Apple, recognizing that the world is moving on from lower-quality video standards, seems to be getting rid of adapters that only support composite video, so there is no Mini DisplayPort to Composite cable that will work.
The cost of the Vuzix Wrap 310XL Video Eyewear is $249, which is expensive, but not out of line for products of this type. Whether or not that cost is worthwhile is entirely up to the potential purchaser.
We always want to make sure that our readers get a chance to try out the latest in technology for themselves, so we will be giving away our review Vuzix Wrap 310 XL. To enter the giveaway, just leave us a comment telling us what you'd like to watch on the Wrap! Here are the details:
- Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
- To enter, leave a comment telling us what you'd like to watch on the Wrap.
- The comment must be left before midnight on Friday, September 3rd, 2010, 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
- You may enter only once.
- One winner will be selected and will receive Vuzix Wrap 310XL video eyewear valued at $249.
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.
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