Hands-On with Vuzix Video Eyewear: A 62" TV for $350?
What is it: The iWear AV920 is a video headset that connects to most video sources and lets you watch content on a virtual 62" screen. The headset has built-in earbuds, a 5-hour battery, and comes with all the necessary cables to connect to most popular devices like a portable DVD player, personal media player, or Apple's video iPod. It has two 640x480 displays that work in tandem to convey the illusion of a large screen TV and it can be worn with or without prescription eyeglasses. Priced at $349.95 (see PriceGabber for price comparison), it's thousands of dollars under the cost of a real 62" screen.
What we like: Unlike other video goggles we've seen, the AV920 is relatively slim and light, weighing a mere 2.9 ounces. It has removable ear buds, an adjustable nose bridge, and it comes with everything you need to connect to other devices, including a proprietary cable for your iPod. We were pleased to see it supported our iPod touch, as Vuzix only lists support for the iPod video.
Design-wise, the unit is very simple, with a clickable wheel that can be used to adjust on-screen brightness, contrast, 2D/3D support, volume, and backlight brightness. Assuming you don't wear glasses, the AV920 fits snugly and comfortably. It wasn't too front-heavy and the letterboxed display made it easy to immerse ourselves in our videos. Video quality was also impressive. In a dark room, it was easy to forget your surroundings and although the goggles won't pick up every detail of what you're watching (like a real 62" TV would), they provided a better experience than our iPod Touch or even a portable DVD player.
What we hate: Although the AV920 is meant to be mobile, it has too many wires to be a travel-friendly device. At the very minimum, two cables are always required — one connecting the visor to its battery and another that connects your video source to the battery. The device itself also has a flimsy, fragile feel to it.
Sound-wise, the built-in earbuds may be loud, but the audio is still poor, providing almost no bass. Fortunately, there's a headphone jack that lets you plug in your favorite headphones, but that results in even more wiring, making the slightest movement cumbersome. Although Vuzix claims 5 hours of playback on one charge, we clocked in 4 hours before it went dead.
Unfortunately, our biggest gripe with the device is related to its design if you wear glasses (like us). Although the headset claims to accommodate prescription glasses (you wear the headset on top of your glasses), it's impossible to keep both of them on. We even tried removing the nose bridge and the earbuds, hoping it would create a snugger fit. Even then, the headset continued sliding off our face. And without our prescription glasses, it was impossible to view content on the AV920 because the goggles trick your eyes into thinking the screen is 9' away. Nearsighted people be warned: the AV920 is not made for you.
In addition, the headset's glossy coat creates a small bit of glare, which is distracting when you're wearing the headset in a well-lit room. Vuzix offers an immersive eyeshield for the AV920, which we recommend adding. It adds another $14.95 to the price.
Verdict: If you can get over the geek factor and don't wear glasses, the Vuzix AV920 might provide a few hours of entertainment. However, its high price and flimsy build keeps us from fully recommending it.
Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features Editor.