(Pocket-lint) - The Royole Moon is an interesting piece of hardware. It's a headset that purports to offer a 'virtual 3D theatre experience' in an immersive mobile device that's suitable for use anywhere, anytime. It's not a virtual reality headset, as such, despite looking like one.
In essence, the Royole Moon is a 2-in-1 VR-style headset combined with a set of built-in high-quality noise-cancelling headphones. The concept is sound, but with a sizeable price tag can this gadget live up to its lofty goals?
Royole Moon review: Design and build quality
- Foldable design with carry case
- Active noise-cancelling headphones with 22dB noise reduction
- Available in three colours and finishes
- 6,000mAh battery (5hrs per charge)
Upon taking the Royole Moon out of its box, the first thing that struck us was the build quality. This is a product that oozes sublime quality right from the start.
The lightweight, breathable fabric on the face plate and ear cups, the bold colours, the smoothly finished plastic housing - it all alludes to a superior level of craftsmanship.
It doesn't end there, with the specification following a similar superior line. Royole has really spared no expense with the Moon - which might explain its explicit price tag - so, on paper alone, you could really think it's a monster piece of A/V kit.
The unit is not without its downsides though, We did find, for example, that the material on the faceplate, although comfortable, still lead us to quickly steam up the lenses and ruin the experience unless we were sitting in a cold enough room. More ventilation needed, then.
Perhaps a less warm-blooded person might have a better experience, but we can't imagine using it on a hot train would give a steam-free viewing experience. Not to mention a whole host of looks - not that we'd know, which would make us even warmer-blooded with conscience.
Royole Moon review: Video quality and screen experience
- Equivalent '800-inch' curved display
- 1920x1080p display per eye
- 10,000:1 contrast ratio
- 3,000 pixels per inch
- Dioptre adjustment from -7.0 to +2.0 (for near- and farsightedness)
Based on specification alone, the Royole Moon offers a lot of promise. Royole says the Moon offers a view that's equivalent to an 800-inch wrap around display before your eyes.
In our experience, though, the Moon offers something similar to holding your mobile phone a couple of inches in front of your face, sticking on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones on and throwing a towel over your head to block out sunlight.
If you fit the Moon properly on your head then the light is blocked out well and the active noise-cancelling headphones handle sound pretty well too. So if you're the sort of person who loves being anti-social and enjoys watching a good film on your own, then the Moon may well be for you.
Perhaps we're being cruel, but for upwards of £825 we were expecting a wholly more immersive experience. Because watching video footage using the Moon is like being at the cinema - but on your own and way at the back. The video is small and surrounded by darkness.
However, in a world of already impressive virtual reality headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, we were expecting so much more. Ok, so the Moon is not meant to be a VR headset, it's a mobile theatre instead - kind of like a modern portable Blu-ray player with TV visor.
There's no denying the video quality is excellent. We didn't see as any pixel squares as we had done with other similar devices and the result is a clear picture that's easy on the eye. It's Full HD per eye and high contrast, too, which explains that.
Plus, the Moon has a lot going for it in terms of design. Unlike other headsets like this, it doesn't fit over your glasses (if you're a spectacle wearer) - but the good news it doesn't have to (unless you have particularly extreme near- or long-sightedness). There are two dials on the underneath of the headset that allow you to adjust the focus and positioning of the lenses. We tested the headset with a couple of people of each variety of friends - one who requires glasses for everyday wear and one with perfect 20/20 vision - and the Moon coped well with both, with a little adjustment. It's not a paltry +/-2 adjustment like most camera viewfinders, either, the Moon pushes adjustment as far as -7, which is impressive for those of us who are nearsighted.
Comfort is an issue though. Wearing a headset like this on your face for any amount of time isn't perfectly comfortable (and we're frequent HTC Vive users). Given it contains a lot of tech, it therefore weighs a fair amount, resulting in strain on your face and head that takes a little getting used to. We found ourselves regularly adjusting the headset to get comfortable and lengthening and shortening the ear cups and headset to find a better fit. Even during a short film, there was a fair amount of adjustment needed for us.
Royole Moon review: Content playback and accessibility
- Compatible 2D video formats: MP4, MKV, MOV, AVI, 3GP, FLV, M2TS, M2V, M4V, MPEG, MPG, TS, VOB, WEBM, ASF
- 3D video support: side-by-side and Anaglyph
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB connectivity
- 32GB onboard storage
One thing the Royole Moon has going for it is flexibility. There are a lot of connectivity options built into the box the Moon connects to (the box also works as the battery power for the headset and the storage for compatible files) so what content you watch only depends on your imagination and the limitations of the system.
There are inputs for Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB allowing you to either connect an HDMI source or transfer video files from another location (a laptop for example) so, theoretically, there are plenty of options. We tried a few options: plugging a PS4 into the HDMI socket via supplied Micro-HDMI converter and playing games on the headset using the PlayStation controller worked a treat; as did beaming Netflix video to the headset from our phone with a Chromecast plugged into the Moon box; moving video files from a PC or laptop is a breeze too, by simply connecting the box together using the Micro-USB cable and dragging and dropping files onto the headset's internal storage.
The downside is things that should logically work don't. For example, we found plugging an HDMI cable from a Sky HD box into the Royole Moon didn't transfer video, just a stuttering audio track. So it's unclear what will work and what won't.
You can also download apps to play videos straight from the device. This was where we hit our first main frustration. The Moon runs on a Royole's own operating system, known as Moon OS - which is essentially a version of Android, so in theory it should be easy enough to install all the apps you're already familiar with. However, there's no app store on the device and no obvious way to download applications. Royole's FAQ's suggests you visit http://apkmirror.com to download apps, but that really limits your options and isn't terribly user-friendly, especially for those who aren't tech savvy.
Getting something like Netflix to download is easy enough, however, as visiting the website in the browser will suggest you install the app to view content. YouTube works well too. So some of the major bases are ticked.
There is 32GB of available storage on the Moon, so if you have a library of video files that you can access, then it's plausible that you could transfer them onto the headset for watching while you're on your daily commute or on a long flight. The Moon has just five hours playback time though, so you'll need to be wary - it's got enough for two feature-length films per charge, though.
During testing, we found the Moon sometimes didn't turn off properly and so the next time we went to use it the battery was already drained. However, the device does appear to charge quickly - but you can't watch content while it's charging.
The Royole Moon is capable of both 2D and 3D video playback. It is not, however, capable of playing 360-degree or VR content.
The 3D content we tried was convincing and certainly impressive - certainly better than the experience we've previously had at the cinema or at home with 3D glasses. Perhaps this is down to us wearing spectacles, so there wasn't the usual annoyances of having to wear two pairs of glasses to watch 3D videos with the Moon.
We also noticed some issues with playback of high-quality footage (2K and 4K, not 1080p) from both YouTube and files downloaded onto the Moon from external sources. Buffering, lag and audio issues appeared to be a regular problem - both when streaming over Wi-Fi and when playing files stored on the device. However, Netflix worked fine and the image was clear. So it might be that the player is only capable of handling 1080p videos with ease, thus you may want to adapt the content you transfer to the device itself to avoid disappointment.
Royole Moon review: User-experience and accessibility issues
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Compatible companion app
- Up to 5 hours viewing time on one charge
Navigating around the various applications and settings on the Moon requires you to use the touch-sensitive controls on the headphones. A flick of the finger allows you to move up/down/left/right. A single tap selects the option you're after, while a double tap exits or cancels your current action.
For using the browser, you can navigate around a virtual keyboard using the same directional flicks of the touchpad. Typing out a full web address or entering a username/password using this method is painfully long, of course.
Fortunately there is a Royole Moon companion app for both iPhone and Android devices. This app works as a remote control and allows you to enter data into fields using your phone's keyboard. That does, of course, mean you have to remove the headset in order to be able to see what you're typing - it doesn't pop up like the Dell Visor (which is a whole different proposition) - but it's a much more user-friendly experience.
As a virtual theatre experience, the Royole Moon does a good job. It's comfortable for short periods of wear and is well designed, so for watching a film it's a great bit of kit - even though the idea of strapping a headset on won't be to everyone's tastes.
The active noise-cancelling headphones are great, while the immersive design of the headset certainly means you can fully enjoy a good film without interruption from the outside world. It has some other clever tricks up its sleeve, too, such as the considerable dioptre adjustment (at +/-7 even many spectacles wearers can leave their lenses behind), along with plenty of format compatibility, 32GB on-board storage for truly free viewing.
But for all it's promise, there are just too many issues. First, you'll need to be ok with looking like a cyborg from the future in public, which is subjective. Second, we were a bit underwhelmed by the '800-inch equivalent' size of the screen - but anything larger would no doubt cause eye ache from tracking all the angles close up - as current VR headsets offer full 360-degree immersive experiences of a similar quality. Third, the lenses steam up, which is an obvious issue, while long periods of wear become uncomfortable due to the product's weight.
But the biggest hurdle of all is the Moon's price. At over £825 you could buy HTC Vive and Oculus Rift together for roughly the same money - and each of those products are VR headsets with six degrees of freedom. We can see how it's approximately justified, as a Samsung Gear VR headset with pricey Galaxy phone would be even more cash, but that would also deliver full smartphone use when not docked.
In the end, the Royole Moon is a flexible and powerful tool for a niche of film enthusiasts. But that's all. It's well made and well designed, and while it exists out in a world entirely on its own, it also feels too far removed from the more affordable and more versatile options also available on the market.