Since I’m a gadget geek, I collect a lot of odd unusual gadgets and one of those happens to be HMDs (head mounted displays), and its important to separate the distinction of HMDs from VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive because those are meant primarily for gaming and have a much wider field of view to accomodate for that. HMDs are mostly designed as mobile home theater experiences, they may or may not include headphones and generally are designed to be used in a small apartment or for people who don’t have room to put a large projector or TV.
So I’ve tried a bunch of HMDs over the years, here are my experiences with each:
This was my first HMD. Way back in 2008.
Pros: It was probably the best HMD for video quality at the time (now it sucks). Built in earphones. Portable size.
Cons: It’s outdated and it’s not very immersive, low resolution by today’s standards.
Pros: Best image quality for the time by far. Stereoscopic SBS 3D support. OLED display so good contrast ratio. Still holds up somewhat today. Sound from built in headphones is decent.
Cons: Not very comfortable. Due to needing separate processor, not portable at all. Light shield needs to be attached separately. Only 720p.
Pros: Still great the best image quality of its time and still passable even today. OLED display so good contrast ratio. Stereoscopic SBS 3D support. Somewhat more portable than the first 2 generations due to being “wireless” and slightly less bulky.
Cons: Still not that portable and even though its “wireless” still needs to be in range of the signal processor. Light shield needs to be attached separately. Only 720p. No built in headphones anymore.
Vuzix is one of the oldest HMD makers and have been around for decades.
Pros: Its cheap (only $99 at this time), and quite immersive with the light shield. Stereoscopic SBS 3D support. Sound from built in headphones is decent.
Cons: LCD display. Picture quality looks very washed out, resolution not very impressive, contrast isn’t very good. Big and bulky. Light shield needs to be attached separately.
Pros: Very compact and portable. Stereoscopic SBS 3D and frame packed 3D support. Sound quality from built in headphones is decent. Visual quality is very sharp due to retina projection technology.
Cons: Not very immersive, suitable more for drone racing or outside usage rather than an actual home theater experience. Lots of light leakage. Virtual display is not very large.
Pros: Great for drones. Picture quality is surprising decent considering the main purpose was not for home entertainment use. Virtual display is quite large although the edges might be a little obscured for some people.
Cons: Big and bulky. No built in headphones. No support for any 3D formats (due to its main purpose being for FPV drone usage). Not being able to see the edges clearly due to big display (its both a pro and a con depending on your preference).
Pros: Very comfortable. Picture quality is on par with the old Sony HMZs which is quite good and virtual display is also on par with the old Sony HMZs. OLED display so good contrast ratio. More portable than the old Sony HMZs. Built in noise cancelling headphones have surprisingly good sound quality. Stereoscopic SBS 3D and frame packed 3D support. Built in OS so you can play youtube or load videos onto it.
Cons: Not as portable as the Glyph still. The virtual display isn’t as large as the DJI Goggles or Cinera are.
Pros: More portable than the Royole/Cinera/Sony, picture quality is in between the Royole Moon and the Sony HMZ headsets, its acceptable. OLED display so good contrast ratio. Stereoscopic SBS 3D support.
Cons: No built in headphones. Not as immersive as the Royole or the Sony HMZ or Cinera. Some light leakage.
Pros: Highest res per eye (2560×1440) out of all the HMDs I have tested. Stereoscopic SBS 3D support. Comes with arm mounting bracket, so its more comfortable by way of not having to support the headset with your head. USB and SD card support. Virtual display is quite large although the edges might be a little obscured for some people.
Cons: Using it without the arm mounting bracket is uncomfortable. Not being able to see the edges clearly due to big display (its both a pro and a con depending on your preference). No built in headphones. Not portable – no battery unless you buy the FPV Mount.
Best video quality: Cinera HMD
Best audio quality: Royole Moon
Best comfort: Cinera HMD because its not strapped to your head… Royole Moon in second place
Best portability: Avegant Glyph
Best immersiveness: Cinera HMD has the largest ‘virtual’ display size, Royole Moon / Sony HMZT3 with light shield have less light leakage
As people who know me may find out, I really love gadgets. An example is my purchase of the Sony HMZ-T1, which I reviewed Here. I love the quirky, niche gadgets and here’s a chronicle of my gadget obsession since I was young. In case you’re wondering btw, these recollections are all from memory, so don’t expect in depth reviews of something I had when I was 15.
2002-2006 Gadget collection Sharp Yo-190
This is a mini computer PDA/Organizer that I had back in middle school and was probably my first gadget. It had a calendar, memo, email, web browser, converter, clock, and calculator. With computer linking capability, a backlight, and 256k of RAM, it was amazing for a small kid like me. I took it to class and used it to store all my friends phone numbers and stuff. I probably didn’t use it to its full extent as it was designed for adults, but it was my first taste of gadget goodness.
This is such a niche device. But I had one of these things. It was kind of like a PDA or a game boy, but not. It had a bunch of downloadable games, and this chat thing, which I guess the makers expected this to be really popular, because that chat was only to other Cybiko users. I used it to play alot of cool games, it even had two players games in it, but eventually it got bricked when I reset it while playing a game and it didn’t turn back on after that. Eventually Cybiko realized it was a niche product and so the number of actual applications were really low. It was a cool device for the time though. ‘
Yay, the $300 PDA I had when I was a kid. You know, back before smartphones, people had these devices called Pocket PCs, which are like the precursor to today’s smartphones. And I had the Casio Cassiopeia, cause I was the nerdy kid on the block. It was a good device – it had a number of cool apps and games for it, and no other 15 year old kid had something like that. Unfortunately, it got bricked when I tried to root it and install another OS on it, lol.
Dell Inspiron 7500
The Dell Inspiron 7500 was my first laptop, which I got in 2003. It was quite powerful for the time, having a dedicated graphics card (ATI Radeon 7500), and cost over $2000 I think. Ah yes I remember the days when 256MB RAM was alot, and everyone had a sound blaster card. And these days we take built-in Wifi for granted, but back then laptops didn’t have it built in! I needed to use a pcmcia wifi card to have it! (remember pcmcia/express cards?) and it also had legacy modem & s-video ports which are not found anymore… I had good memories with this laptop, and especially the overheating issues, due to Intel having not invented mobile processors yet. The Pentium M hadn’t arrived yet, so it had a full Pentium 4 processor in it, which isn’t efficient, and often overheated the laptop. My dad and I had to put it on some homemade pieces of wood as a cooling solution, lol.
2006-2011 Gadget collection
I had several gadgets when I was in university, including several laptops. Among the ones I had was:
You know how all these Windows 8 convertible ultrabooks are coming out?? Well back in 2006, Gateway had a convertible notebook, the same kind!! 4 years before the iPad came out. And I was carrying this 7lb behemoth to classes. Despite the heavy weight, I loved using it. A screen that can rotate?? A Wacom digitizer?? That was cool stuff back then, and although it wasn’t particularly powerful on specs (an original Core Duo and GMA 950), it was a unique laptop.
Asus EEEPC S101
My next laptop was when netbooks were all the rage… and this one really catches my eye. It only had 16GB of storage, sure. And had an underpowered Atom processor. But, the brushed aluminum lid and Swarovski crystals… they were a good touch. Ok, so I bought it based more on looks, but it was decent for what netbooks do – browse the internet. Netbooks have been replaced by Tablets and Chromebooks now, but they all serve the same purpose, to be mobile and browse internet.
Dell Latitude E4200
My last laptop in college is still one of my favorites. This was in 2008, before ultrabooks came out. But this essentially is an ultrabook. A powerful laptop that is thin and light. It was only 2.6lbs!! and had a Core 2 Duo ultra low voltage CPU, which was good for its time, and I had a port replicator as well, so I could connect it with 3 externals and a 22″ Samsung display at home. It was very durable, I think I dropped it a few times and even spilled drinks on it before and it kept working. It served me well – I gave it to my parents after I retired it, and I will always remember playing Starcraft 2 lagging the hell out of games with it on that integrated GMA 4500.
Yes, the same one I reviewed, and as I mentioned – 320GB of storage space, plays movies without a hitch, and recording PS3 gameplay, it still holds up to the tablets of today despite having an outdated TFT resistive touch screen.
Yes – I’ve had several HMDs before. The Myvu is actually quite good, when I hooked it up to my Xbox 360/PS3, I was able to play many games quite smoothly on it. Of course, my current Sony HMZ-T1 beats it hands down, but the Myvu was pretty decent for its time, plus the company is out of business, so they might be hard to find.
My cellphone of choice during university. Remember flip phones and slider phones? This was the slimmest slider phone when it came out, and its one of the best non smartphones out there. 3.2MP camera with an autofocus and flash was good for its time, and sending text messages isn’t great as the iPhone of course, but it does its job well. And remember when batteries lasted weeks instead of days?? yeah…
Creative Zen Vision M
This was my mp3 player of choice during university, and it stills holds up pretty well to the iPod Classic, even now. It stored 30GBs, which is actually more than most phones these days can store. Remember when people carried a dedicated mp3 player back before smartphones? Not to mention, it played alot of photo and video formats, could record radio and voice, and had some pretty good sound quality as well.
Canon Powershot 300
I recorded all of my old videos, and took all of my old pictures on this baby. Before I got my new Canon and iPhone. It was – and remains – decent at what it does.
Flip Video Mino
The Flip Video Mino was the GoPro before GoPros. A pocket camcorder that can be taken anywhere easily and record from your pocket. It was innovative for its time, before smartphones had good cameras, and unfortunately, I didn’t use it as much as I should have.
What can I say? I went through 22 years of my life without needing this phone. And yet now I can’t live without it. It’s the perfect phone. I’ve never wanted an iPhone 5, or a Galaxy SIII or a Nokia Lumia, or a Blackberry, simply because the iPhone 4S has everything I need. It has a ton of apps, it has a small enough screen to be portable (I don’t like the big screens on the iphone 5 or samsung galaxy), its replaced my main camera, and its great at texting. I’ve never wanted anything more.
I reviewed this before and my thoughts haven’t changed. It’s a simulated 100″ screen with the best 3D you can get, and virtual surround sound. The only downside being the comfort and lack of two-player convenience. I’ve also upgraded to an HMZ-T3, which is much lighter than the T1 and has wireless HD transmission, but still requires you to carry around an HD receiver.
I recorded all my videos and trips with this thing, and its pretty decent at that. Full HD res, multiple recording modes, and a better low light performance than many other video cameras out there. It continues to be my main video camera.
HP Envy Beats edition
My current main laptop. The one I use for everyday computing. Its my first laptop with a quad core processor and a dedicated video card (Radeon 6630) since my Inspiron 7500, and I loved being able to play games at high framerates again. Also, the beats audio is quite good when using external speakers or headphones. Its also got a hybrid SSD-HDD drive system which is great for fast bootup of applications, and I still get alot of storage space. I don’t really appreciate the low resolution 768p screen though, but it is still a very functional laptop with 3 USB ports, an optical disk drive and full HDMI port. Eventually the display broke when it slipped off my desk and fell on the floor, but the HDMI output still works so I can still hook it up to a display and it functions.
Macbook Pro Retina 13
This is my first macbook – and its mainly used for work purposes. For many years I never got a Mac – but I realize its faster for development, and less riskier for viruses, so I’ve been using it as my main work laptop now. Its fast, the screen is gorgeous, and its a Mac – I wouldn’t say its better than windows, just different. I also use it as my main recording tool after installing Pro Tools on it – for some reason Windows just isn’t as good for audio recording and video editing as a Mac. I’ve since sold this laptop due to using my iPad Air a lot more.
The Nikon D5100 is my DSLR. I don’t use it too much for general photography use, as I use my iPhone for taking most pictures due to the wider lens. The DSLR lens I use is more for taking close up pictures, portraits, and video recording, of which the quality is much better than my Canon but requires another cameraman to hold. It is a pretty decent value too; I acquired it at only $400.
Audio Technica A900
These are my go-to headphones for recording, studio monitoring and anything else requiring little to no noise interference. They are excellent closed back headphones, and for the price of $150, very good value for what you get. They are one of the best sounding headphones I’ve owned (and I’ve owned many), so I’ll probably keep these for many years 🙂
Audyssey Wireless Speakers
These are my computer speakers, and they are pretty decent at all around performance. I am impressed at the level of bass they offer despite not having any subwoofer. They are bluetooth enabled, so other than my computer, they also double as speakers for my iPhone and tablet as well.
Sorry Samsung, but Panasonic makes better Plasma TVs at the medium range segment, and hence I opted for them. This is a 3D Plasma TV, which means uniform viewing angles, deeper blacks, and pretty thin too… all in all, one of the better TVs I’ve used, though I wish the interface for youtube and video browsing was done better.
Samsung E450 Sound Bar
This is the soundbar for my TV, and its a pretty good value as well, being only $150. It takes in the regular HDMI and optical connections, but also comes with Bluetooth and AUX and a wireless subwoofer. Many soundbars at this price doesn’t have bluetooth, hence I went for this one.
This thing is pretty cool, its a portable second monitor that displays a nice HD+ resolution, and can be used in various configurations, standing up, swiveling, etc. It also supports being used as a secondary display for an iPad, iPhone, or anything with an HDMI connection. I’m currently using it paired with my Mac for work, and the DisplayLink technology works flawlessly.