The Vuzix iWear 720 unveiled earlier this year and made several heads turn at CES 2015 in January, so of course Pocket-lint leapt at the chance to give the virtual reality headset a try while at E3 2015 in Los Angeles this past week.
The iWear 720 is meant to provide an immersive gaming experience, though it can also be used to display 2D and 3D videos. It's like watching a 130-inch television screen from 10 feet away, or so we were told. Pocket-lint was super excited to get our hands on it, because we wanted to find out what it was capable of and whether it could give premium headsets like the Oculus Rift a run for its money.
Here's what we determined...
First of all, the iWear 720 is described as a "high-end pair of video headphones" - and that accurately sums up the design. It really is like strapping on a pair of on-ear headphones. Only, it is super bulky and heavier than a traditional pair, because it features a plastic visor-like thing with two 1280 x 720 displays. The visor slides over your eyes and delivers a 60Hz refresh rate and 57-degree diagonal FOV.
Despite the meh refresh rate, we thought the visuals looked impressive during our demos. We also thought the headset was a breeze to put on and tighten using an adjustable rubber strap that wrapped around our head. It didn't feel too weighty and had plenty of cushioning for our forehead, meaning the entire system distributed pressure evenly and overall felt very comfortable to wear.
We first got to use the headset with the Nvidia Shield gaming system and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The head-tracking feature wasn't enabled during this demo though, so it felt like we were standing stationary in front of a large screen. Also, unlike the Rift, the screen wasn't completely immersive. We could see a rectangle frame around the display and thus didn't feel like a flying, all-seeing orb.
We do think the up-close visual experience was cool, as it was kind of like a floating TV in front of our eyes, but nothing mind-blowing. As for sound, the headset boasts noise-isolating 1500mW headphones. Although we didn't deem the audio anything worth bragging about, it was loud and crisp enough to us in the moment (which in itself is a feat, considering the floor at E3 is super congested).
During our second demo, with head tracking enabled, we used the iWear 720 with a PC laptop. The headset features a 9-axis inertial measurement sensor, and it enabled everything to run and work smoothly. We gazed all around and didn't notice any significant lagging. We also didn't feel nauseous, which as you probably know, is a constant complaint from users when it comes to most VR headsets.
We definitely prefer the head-tracking feature enabled, at least while gaming, because it helped to put us in the middle of the action. Even though we saw a thick border around the edges of the display, we were immersed enough and felt pretty thrilled about the whole experience. It was like beginner VR. But don't forget the iWear 720 isn't just for gaming; it's open source and multi-platform.
You can connect it to any PC, TV, mobile device, or console via HDMI, which means you can use the headset to play existing VR apps and games (that work with other systems) as well as 2D and 3D video. The headset is also completely portable because it has a 30-hour battery life and uses micro-USB for charging. So, instead of being chained to a desktop computer, you can use it for VR-on-the-go.
The Vuzix iWear 720 will launch later this summer for $499 in US, Europe, and Asia. But honestly, that price point is a bit much. For instance, right after we played with the iWear 720, we tried the $199 Samsung Gear VR and thought it blew the Vuzix headset out of the water. Simply put: Samsung's headset does a better job at delivering a comparable Oculus Rift experience at a cheaper price point.
That said, Vuzix's offering doesn't require a smartphone to be slotted in the front, and it still delivers a somewhat immersive experience with head tracking. It even packs support for Unity 3D and Unreal engine games. As if that wasn't enough, the iWear 720 also makes for a solid portable video player.
So, say it with us now: "Shut up and take my money!"