Performance & Conclusion
The first time you power up the device, you will be greeted by a screen that asks you to calibrate the device by adjusting the lens span using the two sliders just under the lens. This is crucial to getting a good picture as images will appear blur and out of focus if this is not done correctly. Other things to take note of are the light shields which are are fitted above and below the lens to block out ambient light.
Sony claims that the HMZ-T3 can recreate the experience of watching a 750-inch screen from a seating distance of 20 meters, so we went in with big expectations. However, the actual viewing experience left us slightly underwhelmed. Obviously, such matters are subjective but we did not feel as though we were watching on a big screen. That’s not to say that it didn’t feel "big", but it felt more like we were staring down two tubes at a mid-sized screen. Much of this has to do with perspective and if you are able to "focus" far enough, the sensation of watching on a big screen is there - but once you realize that it is all an optical illusion, the big screen sensation quickly fades away. On the flip side, thanks to its twin 720p resolution OLED displays, images were sufficiently bright and sharp. However, we did notice that its sharpness falls away towards the edges of the display.
3D performance was decent and for that we have to thank the light shields which helped keep out ambient light. Also, there is only a little of that flickering effect that is so commonly associated with active shutter lenses. That said, Sony did not specify if it was using active or passive 3D technology.
Overall, display and image quality is definitely good and commendable, but we found it hard to use the HMZ-T3 for extended periods of time for two main reasons. Weight is definitely one of the reasons, as it felt like there was something weighing down on our heads and pulling it downwards in a nodding position.
But more importantly, we found it hard to use the HMZ-T3 without becoming nauseous and giddy. We found that every little motion of our head or the device itself would translate into a disconcerting shake and judder of the display that we are looking at. It does not help that the device itself was heavy and that even after much trial and error and experimenting, the headbands and forehead support was not very effective at keeping the HMZ-T3 in place. Remember Cloverfield and the Blair Witch Project? The effect is the same.
Wearable technology is all the rage now, but unfortunately, head-mounted displays such as the Sony HMZ-T3 still have some catching up to do. While image quality is certainly decent enough, such devices remain too heavy and uncomfortable to wear. Then there is also the wire clutter that users will have to deal with. Ideally, a wireless solution will be best, but that would most probably come at the cost of increased size and weight to the head-mounted display itself.
Additionally, there are other practical issues to consider such as the adaptability of users to such a display. For many, using a head-mounted display like this can be a nauseating experience and would require a substantial amount of time to get used to. And to be honest, considering that the experience is underwhelming in the sense that it does not provide that "big screen experience" that movie buffs and home cinema enthusiasts so crave, we don’t feel that this "investment" in getting adapted to the device is worth it. Don't get us wrong. The device puts up a good effort in trying to recreate the cinema experience without taking up space and extensive hardware, but it's just not the same as the real experience.
And then there are other more mundane issues such as reaching out for food and drinks - it’s hard to do such things based on just touch and feel alone, especially with wires from your headphones and the head-mounted display getting in the way.
So who then might consider 'investing' in these expensive head-mount displays?
One example we can think of is if your apartment has extremely limited space and your only TV is occupied by your partner, and you must have your personal zone of entertainment locked out from the rest of the world around you, the Sony HMZ-T3 personal viewer might be just what you need - provided that you can adapt to using it effectively. Yet another option is if you've a long plane journey and you so crave a large screen experience, you can slip on the Sony HMZ-T3 and hook it up to your notebook to bring about your own mobile theater. However, given the cable clutter and limited space on the flight you would much rather just use the in-flight entertainment or run your movies off a tablet. Bus and train journeys won't bode well with such head-mount displays because of all the in-carriage movement from the road and rail respectively.
All things considered, the premise behind head-mounted displays such as the Sony HMZ-T3 still requires a lot of work. And as such, devices of this type still feel raw, as if they are a work in progress. It does not help too that this device commands a hefty asking price of S$1,299, which is more than enough for you to get a decent 46-inch Full-HD Smart TV if all you need is a screen for the home.