The idea of latching on a head-mounted display is part of the current geek chic. But for those with their sight set on the bottom line, the Eye-Trek FMD-200 is Olympus's low-end alternative to the much pricier Eye-Trek FMD-700. While its list price is a little easier to stomach, the video quality of the FMD-200 leaves a lot to be desired. The idea of latching on a head-mounted display is part of the current geek chic. But for those with their sight set on the bottom line, the Eye-Trek FMD-200 is Olympus's low-end alternative to the much pricier Eye-Trek FMD-700. While its list price is a little easier to stomach, the video quality of the FMD-200 leaves a lot to be desired.
Utilizing a 4:3 aspect ratio, the same screen shape that most televisions have, the FMD-200 yields an image quality only a mother could love. One of the corners the company cut to keep the price low is the lack of high-end video inputs. There is no VGA connector to use with a laptop, only a composite video connector to use with a portable DVD player. And because of the relatively poor quality of the composite video connections, you'll wind up with an overly soft picture. This is most painfully obvious when viewing movies set in the great outdoors, such as Braveheart. During the busy battle scenes, the soldiers blend together, the colors slightly bleed into each other, and the background vegetation is blurry. There are a few tweaking options available, such as brightness and contrast, but nothing robust enough to help improve the quality of the image.
Getting an earful
Like its more expensive sibling, the FMD-200 also suffers from subpar onboard audio. Instead of the sounds being crisp and independent of one another, the audio seems more like it was thrown into a blender. On higher-volume settings there is considerable hiss. And because the headphones are attached to the goggles, it's not easy to use your own high-quality headset.
The FMD-200 is well designed for traveling. It even comes with a nice leather carrying case. The control box that attaches to the goggles is light and compact (although it doesn't bristle with the myriad of picture and aspect-ratio controls of the more expensive FMD-700). However, the goggles are bulky and top-heavy. Those who wear glasses will find the display unit uncomfortable after a while. With extended viewing, eyestrain will rear its ugly head, only to be replaced by a raging hangover-worthy headache.
The suggested $550 list price for the Eye-Trek FMD-200 is much lower than that of the FMD-700. But considering the video quality isn't so hot, it's still very expensive. And that price doesn't include the additional $200 or so that you'll need to spend separately purchasing the battery and charger. With features and performance that simply don't justify the cost, it quickly becomes difficult to recommend the Eye-Trek FMD-200.