For all their attributes, iPhones and iPads don't provide as immersive of a movie-watching experience as a big-screen TV. Only problem is, you can't exactly lug your plasma set on the airplane. The Vuzix Wrap 1200 Eyewear sets out to recreate that experience. What looks like an oversized set of shades contains two small LCD panels that can recreate the effect of a large TV and can even play 3D content. But is it worth spending $500?
The Vuzix Wrap 1200 is a jet-black pair of glasses with a design that wraps around your head, much like a pair of sweat-proof UV running shades. Once you plug in the attached earbud headphones and connect the cord to your iPhone, though, you'll feel less like Asafa Powell than you will Blade Runner. Behind the lenses are two miniature LCD screens, each of which has a resolution of 852 x 480 pixels. The shades have a wire running down the left ear that connects to a small 3-inch control box that serves as a remote and power source. Another wire runs from the box to the device you're using.
The frames fit snugly and comfortably around the head, and they look pretty cool from the front. But given the 0.7-inch thick piece holding the screens, wearing these outside of your easy chair or airplane seat is preposterous. The nose bridge is adjustable but flimsy. You can easily change how far apart the two displays are, as well as their angle, which is crucial for a comfortable viewing experience. At 4.4 ounces, the Wrap 1200 is heavier than normal shades, but it wasn't overbearing at all.
Included with the Wrap 1200 is a connector for iOS devices (iPods, iPhones, and iPads), as well as composite and component video cable outputs. Unfortunately, the glasses don't have an HDMI port to connect to mobile phones or laptops. We're told an adapter will come later this year.
A small control box about the size of an out-of-date MP3 player (3 x 0.7 inches) serves as the hub between the shades and your device. A navigable on-screen menu is controlled by buttons on the remote, allowing the user to adjust for brightness, contrast, hue, and playback setting. The Vuzix Wrap 1200 comes with a USB battery charger, as well as a cloth carrying case.
After we changed the menu settings, artifacts lingered for up to 30 seconds afterward, and a few times when we browsed through settings, the device shut down all together. The Wrap 1200 doesn't control the iPhone's interface, so we had to peek under our glasses to select a new track or video on the device.
When we viewed a Coldplay concert streamed from YouTube and a downloaded episode of Up All Night from an iPhone, the Wrap 1200 displayed a crisp, clear images, though at times there was a slightly hazy yellow cast. We could mitigate this somewhat by adjusting the angle of the glasses and by fiddling with the contrast and hue, but it was always present to some degree.
The Wrap 1200 is supposed to simulate a 75-inch display as seen from 10 feet, and the experience is certainly more immersive than viewing on an iPad, but occasional glare and awkward hues on screen were distracting.
Games and other apps were not displayed by the glasses, which could have certainly been a cool application. We tried playing Angry Birds and Real Racing HD, but the Wrap 1200 didn't support viewing the games.
These glasses also support side-by-side and anaglyph 3D video, both of which appeared vivid in color. We watched a 3D trailer for Avatar and a short animated film called Pangea, both of which popped out from the screen a bit but weren't quite as in your face as they would be on some TVs.
Audio from both the Internet and the iPhone was shockingly good. At half volume, all other noise was completely eliminated. During the Coldplay performance, bass was deep, voices weren't muddled, and Chris Martin's notes on "Paradise" were clear and balanced.
If you're looking to supersize entertainment on your iPod, iPhone, or iPad, the Vuzix Wrap 1200 is definitely worth a look. This nifty accessory delivers solid video along with excellent sound in a relatively cool package. However, $500 is a lot of cash to spend on an accessory, and you don't get HDMI support (at least for now). Overall, though, the Wrap 1200 feels more like a viable product than a gimmick, which is definitely a step in the right direction for portable video eyewear.