Not a pretty picture
Wouldnâ€™t it be cool and so utterly futuristic if you could buy a pair of glasses with teeny-tiny displays mounted inside that would let you privately enjoy videosâ€”in both 2D and 3Dâ€”in situations where video enjoyment is normally prohibitive? How totallyâ€¦ Matrix. So why is Vuzix Corpâ€™s Wrap 920 Video Eyewear, a product that delivers exactly that, soâ€¦ mediocre?
We thought youâ€™d never ask.
Outwardly, the Wrap 920 system looks pretty good. The glasses are dark and sleek, not unlike a pair of slightly bloated Oakleys. Inside are two miniature LCD viewing screens (one for the right eye and one for the left), and outside are two earbuds dangling from suitably short tethers. Heck, thereâ€™s even a little cable-mounted control pod so you can adjust visual and audible parameters independently of the source. And speaking of sources, the Wrap 920 is compatible with just about everything: your iPod, your Xbox, your TV, and your computer.
But thatâ€™s where the good news tapers off. In action, the Wrap 920 is cumbersome and unimpressive. For example, the glasses are at least three times the weight of â€śnormalâ€ť shades and tend to slide down your nose even after youâ€™ve adjusted their bridge. This is a Really Bad Thing because the unitâ€™s electronics appropriate so much of the interior above the tiny screens that even a centimeterâ€™s slippage cuts off the top of the image.
But even if youâ€™re holding them in place, the view is unremarkable. For starters, theyâ€™re so narrow and their displays are positioned so far forward from your face that you see way too much of the outside world (and all its inherent brightness). Accordingly, youâ€™ll never truly feel immersed. Perhaps worse, the Wrap 920 is limited to 640×480 maximum resolutionâ€”a journey back to a time when â€śclarityâ€ť meant something different than it does today. Though Vuzix claims the experience is akin to watching a 67-inch screen from a distance of ten feet, itâ€™s a small and indistinct 67 inches in practice. And one that features an old school 4:3 aspect ratio.
In 2D mode, even after youâ€™ve used the enclosed mini-screwdriver to manually adjust focusâ€”a troublesome process where you tweak settings while youâ€™re wearing the deviceâ€”the image is okay for short bursts, but too blurry and fatiguing over the course of a full movie. Itâ€™s definitely not crisp enough for documents or games. Three-dimensional capabilities include many of todayâ€™s most popular formats, including various side-by-side modes and anaglyphâ€”but the results are only somewhat convincing and theyâ€™re certainly nothing like a modern 3D desktop monitor.
Yet the most damning aspect of the Wrap 920 may be its physical size and complexity. If you connect it to a source with composite audio/video ports, you need not only the cable thatâ€™s permanently attached to the glasses, but also the control pod and the enclosed composite cable too. If you connect the glasses to an iPod/iPhone, youâ€™ll need to swap out the composite cable for the included iPod/iPhone AV cable. And if you dare to use it with a computer, youâ€™ll need to purchase a proprietary VGA adapter cable. If your computer doesnâ€™t have a VGA port, youâ€™ll need a third-party VGA-to-DVI adapter. Considering all of the above, along with the dangling earbuds and the obvious fragility of the entire setup, we found ourselves wishing for a hardshell carrying case. Alas, the provided case is soft as a hanky.
And letâ€™s not forget the price. With a $350 MSRP, the Wrap 920 ainâ€™t cheap. Factor in the additional costs of using it with a computer – $50 for the proprietary adapter and an extra $10 for a generic VGA-DVI adapter â€“ and this becomes one pricey peripheral. Though why anyone would want to use it with a PC/laptop in the first place is beyond us.
Nevertheless, with decent battery life (though only half the rated six hours for a pair of AAs) and solid audio (thereâ€™s plenty of headroom for Hollywood-esque explosions), the unit is a viable option for well-heeled individuals with a serious hankering for portable media players with LCDs the size of electrons. Itâ€™s just that at this price, we expected a far better, far more immersive viewing experience, and significantly better ergonomics.
Vuzix Wrap 920 Video Eyewear
The Price is Right
Good looks, good sound, oodles of compatibility; one of precious few alternatives to minuscule portable player displays.
The Price is Not Right
Low-res 640×480 display; Old-school 4:3 aspect ratio, too many add-ons; will not stay in position; ho-hum images; expensive.