Sony HMZ-T3W review
6th Sep 2013 | 06:30
Who needs company?
Sony has been toying with its personal 3D viewer concept for some time but things are about to get serious.
The Sony HMZ-T3W is an updated version of what we'd already seen at previous IFAs and the home entertainment headset is finally hitting the market in November, arriving in the UK for £1,300 (about $2030, AU$2230 although no US release has been set).
As big fans of the Oculus Rift, we were intrigued to see what Sony's market-ready version of its headset had in store this time around.
In terms of what's new, the HMD now has all-important wirelessHD support, improved display and better adjustment straps, the third of which is actually pretty important, as we we'll explain.
Wireless happens thanks to a control box that connects your source, such as HDMI, and transmits it over to the goggles. Sony has designed the HMZ-T3W to connect to your PC, mobile phone, tablet or game console, all fed through a wireless adapter that communicates with the headset.
Smartphone support is new - do this and you'll find yourself viewing a very inflated version of your phone screen in real time. It's interesting that Sony is pushing this for gaming too as recent rumours suggest that a dedicated PS4 version is on the horizon.
So how best to describe the experience? It's pretty much the equivalent of sitting in your own private cinema. The viewer replicates a 750-inch TV screen from 20m away - a 1280x720 OLED display for each eye - that can play in either 2D or 3D.
However unlike the Oculus, the display is fixed. Move your head around and the big screen will follow your eyeline meaning you can watch with your head at any angle.
On the underside of the goggles are two sliders for optical adjustment, a four-way menu button and two volume buttons. The headset also comes packed with a pair of MDR-XB90 headphones that create 7.1 surround sound.
It's all very cool in theory and it's difficult not to be a little impressed when you put the HMD on for the first time. But then the harsh realities begin to set in.
The first main issue with the HMZ is that there's still a 'sweet spot' demand. Have the headset too high or low on your face and you'll get some annoying blur in your vision.
This is why the adjustable straps are so important as you'll need to fiddle to find that perfect point and keep it in place. We found the headset had a habit of slowly slipping down, especially when moving the head around, which meant we had to keep readjusting it.
The next problem is the open space below the eyeline that proves to be surprisingly distracting. While we can understand that the gap is there so you can see your phone, mouse or keyboard (depending on what you're using the headset for) it annoyingly takes some of the immersion away.
The final problem is the price - £1,300 puts this very much in the luxury sector and we honestly can't see many people shelling out for one. As a showcase product for what Sony might be about to unveil for the PS4, it's promising. It just doesn't feel ready yet.
When you've nailed that sweet spot, the HMZ-T3W is a neat bit of kit. But even after the adjustments Sony has made it still feels like this is just a luxury product, especially considering the price.
But if Sony really has been working on a dedicated PS4 version then this is a promising sign of what could be about to come. As it stands, the T3W by itself probably won't start any revolution in the way we watch.