Here's something every PlayStation 2 owner needs: yet another way to shut out reality. If you have $400 burning a hole your pocket, it may seem that there's nothing better than picking up the head-mounted equivalent of a 52-inch television. And while this may have its high points, the Olympus Eye-Trek FMD-20P is likely to plague you with headaches, both literally and figuratively. Here's something every PlayStation 2 owner needs: yet another way to shut out reality. If you have $400 burning a hole your pocket, it may seem that there's nothing better than picking up the head-mounted equivalent of a 52-inch television. And while this may have its high points, the Olympus Eye-Trek FMD-20P is likely to plague you with headaches, both literally and figuratively.
This "bargain" version of the more expensive Eye-Trek models is strictly a PlayStation 2-friendly device. And lest you think this is a child's plaything, a warning will quickly clue you in: "This product may interfere with development of a child's eyes and visual system. Password protection is provided to prevent children under 16 from using this display unit." Well, so much for little Jimmy's Christmas gift.
Before conniptions commenced, we carefully inspected the hard-plastic molded, well-built unit. In sleek black, the visor has small headphones slotted into the arms, as do the other Eye-Trek models. And while it is still pricey, this set of specs at least looks as if it can take some punishment. The visor itself attaches to the PlayStation 2 through the A/V port and is powered via a USB cord, so you have only a small bramble of wires to contend with. The downside to this is that you can use these goggles with only a PlayStation 2. If you want to plug into any other video source, stop reading right now and check out Olympus's FMD-200 or FMD-700 models instead.
A new vision for television
But what about the promised simulated-52-inch television floating six feet away? You can toggle between a 4:3 aspect ratio and a letterboxed mode. After a little fiddling, we finally booted up a game disc and settled back to enjoy an excellent, sharp LCD game of Gran Turismo 3, before watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We oohed at the exceptionally crisp, color-accurate image, which is on a par with that of a Sony WEGA when used with an S-Video connection. We aahed at how convincing the optical illusion created by the tiny, twin LCDs was. Rather than the skewed doubles images that we were expecting, it really did look like a big TV screen. And we "u-huh urked" at the weird sensation of being able to see the real world immediately below us when 80 percent of our vision was occupied by a giant goggle box. This creates a dizzying feeling when you move your head; the television stays put and the room moves. A word of advice: buy the optional blinders or a motion sickness bag--the choice is yours.
But the LCD screen does have its limitations. The pixels themselves are visible in textures at times, showing up as dot artifacts that linger behind. When watching Crouching Tiger, we experienced a slight blurring of images during the particularly busy fight scenes. Overall, though, we had minimal gripes for a portable television three inches from our eyes.
Unfortunately, the audio playback isn't nearly as pristine. The tiny, attached ear-bud headphones built into the frame are uncomfortable and do only a passable job of providing audio. Sounds were muddy, dialogue was indistinct, and there was too much hiss when we turned up the volume.
What a turn-off
Despite warnings of possible neurological damage, our testing continued. Then after 2.5 hours, the Eye-Trek flashed a short message that stated, "2 Hrs, 30 Min. have elapsed. For the Health of your eyes and body, stop viewing and rest. If you continue viewing, power will shut off in 5 minutes." We pressed on with testing--damn the consequences. Sure enough, the Eye-Trek shut down.
All said and done, this entertaining health risk manages to deliver a virtual home-theater experience of a sort. It's as if you are being occasionally stricken with a headache and motion sickness while sitting on the couch watching your big-screen TV. Because of that, its $400 price tag, and the single-minded functionality (it works only with a PS2), we find it difficult to recommend the Olympus Eye-Trek FMD-20P.