Review: Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer
- — 07 February, 2012 22:00
|Name||3D video headset: Sony Personal 3D Viewer HMZ-T1|
|At a glance:||Incredible 3D viewing,Minimal eye-strain,Uncomfortable to wear,Great sound|
|Summary:||A real, cinematic 3D experience - if you can live with constant discomfort from the weight.|
Sometimes in the PC World office, testing gadgets starts to get a bit ordinary. You test smartphone after smartphone, tablet after tablet, laptop after laptop. But then one day you strap a head-mounted display to your head like it’s a super-futuristic visor.
Sony’s HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer is a niche product that works phenomenally well. To set it up, you plug the headset – which has a five metre cord attached, no wireless technology here – into a pass-through box and plug that box into anything with an HDMI output, like a Blu-ray player, or better yet, a PlayStation 3. I ran it through a PS3 and found that we had to turn the viewer on first, then the PS3, because the console detected whether a 3D device was attached only when first switched on. Once that was sorted, however, the headset would detect whether 3D was available from the video source and switch it on and off automatically.
Even in 2D mode, the picture is shiny and crisp. It is, essentially, like sitting alone in the middle of a cinema – the display takes up almost all of your field of vision, and once you pull the headphones down over your ears, you’ve got great, built-in surround sound. Watching a 3D Blu-ray with the headset was, if anything, actually clearer than watching a movie in a theatre where HD video is often blown up so much that it doesn’t look like HD anymore.
That was impressive enough, but then I started playing Wipeout HD - a colourful, high-speed racing game involving hovercrafts – and first-person shooter Resistance 3 with the 3D depth cranked right up, and both blew me away. For the first 20 seconds or so I felt a little eye strain, but after that it was a comfortable and clear experience. The viewer provided what is almost the most immersive gaming experience one can have – with a couple of caveats.
Unfortunately, there are no shades on the device to block out light coming in from the sides, and the lenses do reflect a lot of that light back into your eyes. The constant flickering took me out of the experience and can only be resolved by DIY shades. A bigger problem, however, is the way the device is weighted.
For something that gets strapped to your head, the viewer isn’t lightweight, and the bulk of that weight is in the front of the headset. I found my head being dragged down by the viewer, which isn’t great for your neck and puts enormous pressure on your nose. A counter-weight might have worked, but we suspect keeping the weight of the device as a whole down was a priority. Because of the way the viewer is weighted, it can’t be comfortably worn for extended periods.
The HMZ-T1 is awesome. Really, it is, and I didn’t want to give it back. But I can’t justify telling you to go out and buy one with a price tag of $1200, even if you love 3D movies or gaming. I’m waiting for the lighter, more balanced follow-up product, with attached (or detachable) shades. Now that product I might even buy for myself.