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Hands-on: Sony HMZ-T1 head-mounted 3D OLED display

Judging from a quick hands-on look, Sony's HMZ-T1 head-mounted 3D OLED display is one of the best of the breed.

Boldly baldly, Geoff tries the OLED head. Geoffrey Morrison, photo taken by Dennis Burger

Don't let the picture fool you; it's not as awkward as it looks. Perhaps that's not the most auspicious start, but come on, it's a video visor. You're not going to look elegant. The HMZ-T1 from Sony has a pair of 720p, 0.7-inch OLED screens, integrated headphones, and a head-clamp that's equal parts necessary and weird.

Christopher MacManus wrote up the heads-up display news here, but at the CEDIA Expo yesterday, I tried it on and gave it a peek.

It doesn't weigh a lot, and it's adjustable for most heads. I'm a sort of worst-case scenario for this thing in many ways: no hair to grip out back, and glasses up front. Yet the head-clamp slides in and out, the headphones pivot, and you can slide the eye pieces so they're directly in front of your eyes. It ends up fitting pretty well. The cushioned front forehead pad holds the visor far enough away that glasses aren't a problem.

Sony claims "an immersive experience, which is similar to watching video on a large screen approximating 150 inches from 12 feet away (750-inch virtual screen, virtual viewing distance approximately 65 feet away)." While this sounds impressive, it's misleading. Like all head-mounted displays, it actually looks like you're viewing two tiny screens a few inches from your face. Yes, they fill your field of vision similar to the screens mentioned above, but as someone who has had a 150-inch screen, the effect isn't the same.

However, unlike every other head-mounted display I've ever used, the HMZ-T1 is actually watchable. The high-resolution OLED screens are vibrant and contrasty, and the pixel structure is just barely noticeable.

The demo video was the trailer for "The Amazing Spider-Man." The opening cityscape had the deep blacks I expect from OLED, while the city lights still popped. The colors throughout were rich without being overly saturated, and skin tones seemed natural.

The 3D effect was rather mild, with only a slight amount of separation foreground-to-background. I wonder if this is intentional. Is a more substantial 3D effect off-putting that close? Not sure.

I don't expect to see scores of people wearing these things commuting to work or chilling out in their backyard, but I have to give Sony credit for having the best head-mounted display I've seen. For what that's worth.

The HMZ-T1 will be available in the United States in November for $799. Conversely, you could just buy an iPad and hold it closer to your face.

Here's Sony's blurb on the HMZ-T1:

Sony's Personal 3D Viewer head-mounted display is the world's first personal, wearable OLED HD/3D TV. The HMZ-T1 viewer has a unique form factor that allows users to simply slip the device onto their head and immerse themselves in a virtual theater experience. Announced at IFA last week, the innovative device is designed to deliver an image that appears to be on a theater-size wide screen (750-inch virtual screen from 65 feet away), using miniature720p OLED screens developed by Sony. Displaying high-quality HD video with high contrast and fast refresh rates, the device is capable of enhanced 3D display. The viewer can enjoy a more natural 3D video experience that is completely free of crosstalk since each eye has its own display.

Leveraging Sony's legacy in top-quality personal audio products, the HMZ-T1 head mount display also delivers virtual surround sound. Sony's proprietary signal processing technology powers two integrated headphones which bring the equivalent of 5.1-channel sound to accompany the stunning visuals. Available in November, the HMZ-T1 head mount display will retail for about $799. Perfect for the cinema enthusiast or avid gamer, the innovative personal display lets viewers experience 2D or 3D content comfortably for hours on end.

Sony HMZ-T1 Sony
Sony HMZ-T1 Sony