The Good It’s fun! Whether it’s for gaming or movies, the Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer is one of the best 3D displays on the market, with zero crosstalk. Based on OLED technology, the headset is capable of deep, deep black levels, and whether in 2D or 3D, all images have surprising amounts of depth.
The Bad The headset is heavy and becomes quite uncomfortable with prolonged use. It is impossible to focus the entire screen in focus at once, resulting in blurring at the edges. The effects of its lower resolution are obvious: the detail levels there do not have a flat-screen TV, and the pixel structure is visible.
The Bottom Line Although the Sony HMZ-T1 Personal Headset is capable of delivering some of the best 3D effects I’ve ever seen, wearing it for a long time is uncomfortable and the images suffer from blur.
Back in the 1990s, with the promise of this new thing called cyberspace, video cards across the country began gaming for newborns with VR (virtual reality) headsets. The new games allowed players to stand in a small cherry-like box (without a tap) and shoot pterodactyls and interact with the screaming Money for Nothing characters.
Fast forward 15 years, and Sony is giving the personal 3D device a second launch with the HMZ-T1, minus VR. The HMZ-T1 was first shown at CES 2011, where it was given the dubious Headman nickname – you know, like the Walkman. But since Walkman had a leg up, I think the T1 would have been more aptly named Couchman.
Design and features
The HMZ-T1 “3D Personal Theater” consists of two small OLED screens inside a large headset with built-in stereo headphones. The headset is made of two-tone plastic that would perfectly match the Storm Trooper armor. It’s a little thinner in design than the prototype I saw at CES 2011, with only one blue power light.
The headset weighs nearly a pound at 14.8 ounces, which Sony describes as “surprisingly lightweight.” If you are expecting a deep-sea diving helmet, then yes, it’s amazing. The headset comes with adjustable rubber straps and a number of different pillows for people who do or do not wear glasses, though it was still difficult to get comfortable.
The screen has 720p resolution for both 2D and 3D, and comes with a slider that allows you to adjust the separation between screens to take into account different eye distances. Unfortunately, the adjustment is rather rough; I would rate individual sliders for each eye.
Sony says the display is equivalent to a 150-inch screen that is viewed 12 feet away. I don’t know what typical Sony rooms are used to having a rest, but based on our recent 4K article , more likely to be 8 feet away from the screen. This means that in a normal lounge, it’s the equivalent of a 100-inch screen. It’s still big enough.
While there were noises using batteries, the headset was unfortunately tied to a small punch box – hence, Couchman. The box has its own HMD (head-up display) that connects to the headset using a substantial 11.6-foot (3.5 m) cable. I found that the cable was long enough for most living room settings and did not get caught when I put on the headset. The box has two HDMI ports – one input and one – and when the headset is switched off, the box performs the video transfer function for the connected device. For added flexibility, I would like to see the passage work even when the device is on.
All controls are mounted on the underside of the helmet and include a four-sided swing, a Menu / OK button, power and volume buttons. Pressing the Menu button also allows you to change the picture and sound modes and adjust settings such as brightness and contrast.
T1 can be seen as a satellite to another specialized 3D screen the company released this year, The Sony PlayStation 3D display , but using both products over a long period, I can say that T1 is definitely the best.
I thought attaching a headset was a difficult task, and I had a larger strap than usual, too small to fit. If you’re terribly cranial, but Megamind, then you can forget about buying this device.
Once attached, the headset presents a customization menu for adjusting your screen distances. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make all the text sharp on the screen at the same time; Keeping sharp in the center of the screen made the edges blurry. Once you have passed all the warnings – take regular breaks, they should not be used by children age 15 and under – you may get cracks.
Using T1, 3D proved to be particularly exciting, and in 3D games it was actually fun to play for the first time. On 3D TVs, the in-depth effects seem too attractive, and therefore brainwashed, in most games, but the HMZ-T1 is much more subtle and exciting. I checked out a few PlayStation 3 games on the headset and found that even the infamous Wipeout had no cross talk.
The cross-listed display does not exist on this device because it actually sends different images to each eye, instead of relying on active shutters or passive polarization in 3D glasses to split blurred images on the TV screen. Because cross-talk is one of the most annoying 3D artifacts and to some extent noticeable on every 3D TV I’ve seen, it was refreshing to experience a stereoscopic presentation where it simply wasn’t a factor.
The movies were just as enjoyable, and I quickly lost track of watching Avatar in 3D. I would say that if I were to choose passive 3D viewing or glasses, I would choose Sonys if image quality was the only factor. But there is one major caveat: heavy headsets become uncomfortable after a while. Watching a 3-hour movie can be tiring, and the system even warns you to relax.
Watching 2D was also fun, but not entirely exciting. The black levels were fantastic with lots of detail, but you may want to sit in the dark to take full advantage as the top of the headset is open. The colors, even in the standard standard mode, were true and due to the deep blacks there was a lot of pop. 1080p / 24p support was great thanks to smooth frying pans and on-screen movement.
Blurring on the edge is visible in moving video, but it doesn’t take much of the time. Games with intricate screen screens that feature figures at the far ends, on the other hand, are certainly suffering. Although I have found that I can use the headset as a PC personal screen, it is not worth blurring.
In addition to the blurring problem, there were other issues that spoiled my pleasure. The pixel structure is clearly visible on the light color screen, and compared to what you see on a 1080p TV, it was a deficit deficit.
For fighters, the built-in headphones sound decent with a lot of low weight and medium range. But it can also turn into incomprehensible dialogue from mock-deep actors such as Harrison Ford. If I hadn’t seen “The Empire Reflects Back” so many times, I would not have known it was not the cave in which they had buried the Falcons for millennia.
Play music? Carries. If you are masochistic enough to wear a video headset to listen to tunes, you will be greeted with flat, murky transformations. The speakers are not capable of generating high enough frequencies to make the music enjoyable.
Who is this headset for? I would say if you are looking at fast flash games or a little 3D TV then the HMZ-T1 will be great. Its lack of portability is a problem, and aside from watching adult movies, there is really nothing contrived that forces users to choose it on cheaper 3D TV in the long run. Will this trend begin? Probably not, but for what it’s worth, it’s by far the best video headset I’ve ever used. I look forward (and will hear) where this technology can go next.