For the low low price of $800 USD or £800, you too can have a Tron-inspired discus-like piece of awesome to wear on your head – the Sony HMZ-T1. Sporting twin 0.7″ OLED displays, with 1280×720 resolution, this is truly the most technologically advanced VR headset to ever hit the consumer market. Indeed, Sony appears to be swamped with preorders in the US and the UK where it becomes available shortly. So, is it worth all the hype? Read on to find out…
First, full disclosure: I have not actually seen this device in person. I have, however, read hands-on reviews in four different languages and compiled them all together in this on article. For starters – depending who you listen to, the device ranges from uncomfortable to wear, to completely comfortable. The variation in hands-on reviews stems from the fact that some of them were previewing a prototype, some were previewing a pre-market model, and some have seen the final production model. The consensus from those who have seen the final market model appears to be that the device is comfortable, as long as you adjust the back head strap correctly. You do not want the device resting on your nose bridge. At around 420g, that could get painful fast.
Again, this is another point of contention. Sony’s marketing material would have you believe that the HMZ-T1 is the equivalent of watching a 750″ screen from 20 metres! In reality, the effect has been described as emulating sitting in a movie theatre by numerous reviewers. Some, however, complained about the field of view being only 50 degrees, although I have a feeling he is a VR enthusiast and thus a little overoptimistic. Make no mistake, Sony’s target audience seems to be the movie-watchers, rather than the gameplayers. Otherwise, why would they have left out head-tracking?
This is something just about everyone agrees on. The picture quality has been deemed to be fantastic by just about everyone. Sporting OLED panels, the blacks are true black because no light is actually emitted by the black pixels (unlike backlit LCD displays). 90% of people claim they could not see the pixel structure, which makes for a much more immersive experience. Here are a couple of close-up images shot by a Japanese reviewer through the eyepieces (click for big pictures):
The technology lends itself perfectly to 3D reproduction. With individual panels for each eye, there is no risk of crosstalk or ghosting. The pop factor should be extreme, yet reviews seem to suggest otherwise. One possible explanation is that the vast majority of the reviews are limited to viewing footage provided to them by Sony in the Sony store – mainly a rather shitty movie, the Green Hornet. There’s also the possibility that the 3D effect is turned down on the Bluray player. At the same time, a couple of reviewers who have managed to use their own material with the device have been said the 3D effect is outstanding. Until a full review comes out which puts the device through some rigorous tests, it’s a little hard to know what to make of this.
This seems to be the other challenge as far as the hands-on previews and reviews are concerned. Many people complained about headaches and eye-strain after using this device for a couple of hours. Some complained about the disconcerting lack of movement when you move your head around while playing first person shooters. As it’s so immersive, you expect your vision to shift as you tilt your head – as it doesn’t, perhaps you feel some motion discomfort.
If you want to know more, check out these hands-on previews and reviews:
The Examiner – Hands On (English)
Japanese Review (Japanese, use Google Translate for the win)
French Review (again, Google Translate is your friend)
If you’ve had a chance to try this device out, please post some feedback below!