Vuzix has been making video eyewear for a number of years now, but the technology is just now reaching the level of maturity that it is usable for the average consumer. Before now it was prohibitively expensive and the set up process was just too clunky for normal people.
I tested out the Vuzix Wrap 1200 model, which is their newest addition to their video eyewear line. Most people are probably asking themselves just what the heck video eyewear is, and rightly so. Until now, it has been mostly for nerds. Video eyewear is Vuzix’s term for glasses with screens in them. You put on the Wrap 1200 and you feel like you are watching a 75-inch television screen. The effect is pretty impressive when you first put the glasses on.
The glasses themselves are quite sturdy. They feel well-built and don’t feel cheap or overly plastic-y as many gadgets are prone to do. These feel like the expensive piece of technology that they are. That said, they aren’t so heavy that you’ll feel like you’re wearing a lead weight on your face when you put them on.
Getting the glasses set up does take a bit of work. The glasses attach to one end of a small remote control u, the other end of which has a slot for a plug for an adapter which you can use to hook the glasses up to a variety of different electronics. Vuzix is pretty generous with the adapters they include in the box, giving you component, composite and 30 pin dock connector adapters. This box serves as both the remote control and the battery pack for the glasses themselves. The glasses are powered by two rechargeable AA batteries (included in the box) and can last for around 5 hours per charge.
The composite and component adapters allow you to hook the Wrap 1200 up to almost any entertainment device that you might have sitting in your A/V rack, such as a DVD player or television. The 30 pin connector is the most useful, since it can be used to hook the Wrap 1200 up to any Apple device, including the iPod Classic, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well the glasses work. Once you plug them into a video source, the screens light up and you are treated to a high quality video screen right before your eyes (literally).
The video looked sharp and the contrast ratio and color reproduction were surprisingly good. The only disappointing aspect of the picture quality were the black levels. They weren’t bad, they were just mediocre. It’s not too much of a shock that the black levels were not the best, since having such a small screen makes it hard to keep the light from the individual pixels from bleeding together.
You can adjust the contrast and other video properties from an onscreen menu but the text is blocky and white over a blue background. Anyone who used a VCR in the 1990s will immediately know what I mean.
Video played back smoothly and there was no motion blur during the actions scenes of That Matrix or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The Matrix (which was playing from a standard DVD player) looked as good as it does on my HD television. There were some parts of the movie that had a static background for a long period of time and I was able to see the individual pixels, but for the most part, you can’t even tell.
The fact that the you can’t really make out individual pixels is due in part to the two LCD screens that are housed inside the glasses. Each screen has a resolution of 852 by 480 pixels. For comparison, the iPhone 4’s Retina Display has a resolution of 960 by 640 pixels but it is almost twice as large.
The image quality was high from a variety of different sources. I played back clips using an iPod Classic and digital copies of movies from the iTunes Store and video from both Hulu and Netflix running on my iPad 2 and iPhone 4, respectively. Since the Vuzix Wrap 1200 comes with component connectors, I decided to hook it up to my TiVo Premiere to see how well it would handle playing back 1080p content. The text on the menus was crisp and easy to read. Video looked just as good as it would had I played it back through my HDTV.
According to Vuzix, the Wrap 1200 supports 3D. I wasn’t able to test it out, however, since the only 3D-enabled device I own is a PS3 and the Wrap does not use the same type of 3D. Because of that I can’t speak to how well the 3D works.
The Wrap 1200 also includes a pair of earbuds that plug into either side of the glasses. The audio quality is about what you would expect from any bundled headphone set– good enough, but not anything to write home about. If you are using the 30 pin dock adapter and have a more comfortable pair of headphones or just prefer to use your own (as I do), you can simply plug your own headphones into the headphone jack of your iOS device and use them like normal.
There is one other problem with the Vuzix Wrap 1200 though, and that’s the price. They cost $499 for a pair. That’s a pretty hefty price for something that you, quite honestly, won’t use all that much. Why would you use them around the house when you can just turn on the television? I can see how they would be useful for someone who travels a lot and has to sit on airplanes for hours on end– they let you block out the world and just enjoy your video.
The bottom line: The Vuzix Wrap 1200 performs well and is definitely a slick gadget, but $499 is a high price tag to pay. If they could cut the price in half, I would recommend them in a second.
- Video looked great
- Lots of pack in items (headphones, adapters and batteries included in the box)
- Works with many iPad apps via display mirroring
- You look silly wearing them
- No VGA, DVI or HDMI adapters in the box
- 90s style menus make the glasses feel somewhat cheap
You can get your own pair of Vuzix Wrap 1200s from Amazon for $499.99