Monday, February 9, 2009
Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Accessories" @ 07:00 AM
Product Category: Media player video accessory
Where to Buy: Amazon.com [Affiliate]
Price: $110 USD
Specifications: Glasses with 3:4 320x240 (QVGA) screen, 4 hour battery life, Ultimate Ears in-ear monitors with three different sized buds.
- Good for long, relaxed trips;
- Ultimate Ears earbuds sound great;
- Comes with cables for many different portable media players.
- Not very practical for day-to-day use;
- Harder to watch during day flights;
- Looks like something Geordi La Forge would wear.
Summary: The MyVu Solo Plus is hard to love. It's easy to like the idea of a portable, personal video screen, or the lure of a neck strain-reducing visor that handles all the typical problems associated with watching video on a tiny device. But in reality, the idea just isn't that well executed. Holding a Zune (or iPod, or Cowon, or any of the plethora of other players the glasses work with) at arm's-length has never been a particularly enjoyable experience, especially over an extended period of time, but this is where the MyVu glasses shine. They're light, portable, and good for long, relaxed trips where you would otherwise be sleeping or holding your player the whole time.
Aside from the obvious resemblance to a certain Star Trek prop, the experience of watching a long video or podcast isn't all that uncomfortable. The arms rest fairly easily on the side of my head, and the three included nose bridges can be bent to fit all shapes and sizes. For people with glasses, MyVu has an optional bridge add-on that fits right on the top of your rims. Being somewhat nearsighted, I mostly preferred to just watch sans-glasses or with contacts.
Figure 1: The plugs and adapters that come with the Solo Plus.
The video image appears as a floating screen in front of you, with a version of the screen in both eyes. This creates a virtual-3D effect that gives the screen some depth from you, but still feels awkward to look at. The screen itself isn't particularly big or easy to see, and feels more like a thumbnail than a full, true image. As one friend described it to me: "It's like watching a cheap TV from across the bar." But, keeping in mind the alternative, is comparatively pleasant. A controller pod provides access to brightness, contrast, and an on/off switch, and also provides the battery for the device, which hangs uncomfortably from the video cable. Thankfully, the battery is rechargeable and can be powered by a standard mini-USB plug, and the cable between the control pod and device can be swapped for the one most compatible with your device.
I used my MyVus in several different scenarios, but I imagine the killer app for a device like this is on a train or an airplane. In my tests, the MyVu player didn't disappoint. It was able to keep out most of the engine noise, and served as a partial blindfold, though I found it easier to watch in the night than the day. Of course, there were a number of people who did a double-take when they noticed the glasses (as with most places I wore them), but hey, isn't the point of this futuristic technology to invite a few questions? The area surrounding the screen is transparent to allow its wearer to walk around while watching a video, but I wouldn't recommend it.
The sound quality is very good, due mostly to the integrated Ultimate Ears IEMs. The earphones dangle from a two cables on the arms of the glasses, and fit snugly in any ear size, thanks to the three different sized rubber inserts provided in the package. During playback on my Zune 80, I found the sound to be slightly muffled, but definitely acceptable. When paused, however, I could hear some electrical interference in the background. This appears to be more a side-effect of Zune's TV-out than with the glasses. I would not recommend using the glasses with a Zune 30, as I found the level of noise to be too much of an issue. Another qualm I have is that there is no external headphone input to allow me to use my own headphones in conjunction with the glasses. Hopefully the next version will have a headphone jack included.
The glasses themselves are a decent solution to a difficult problem, and if you travel by train, bus, or plane regularly, I would recommend giving them a look. Unfortunately, at $110, I have a hard time suggesting them to anyone else. Regardless, they're a neat idea, and one that you should experience for yourself.
Adam Krebs is a full time student and Zune aficionado. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his family and sometimes obedient Zune.
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