Sony Personal 3D Viewer HMZ-T1 Review

You can’t help but think of Tron or Robocop when you see Sony’s Personal 3D viewer in action. It’s been that way since we first glimpsed the prototype at CES 2011. So now that it’s just about hit Australia, we needed to know: does, as Sony claims, wearing twin 0.7-inch OLED screens on your face really approximate watching a 750-inch cinema screen from 20m away? An immersive 3D experience awaits, but there’s always room for improvement.

Out Of The Box

The headset ships with an HDMI pass-through box, and your first job is to plug this into the wall and connect your PS3/Xbox, Blu-ray player (or PC for that matter) via HDMI. The headset itself is then tethered to the box with a proprietary 3.5m cable that supplies both picture and power.

This part of the setup is pretty painless, but it also highlights two areas where future versions of the viewer can improve. Immediately apparent is the lack of portability, and that’s a shame. It’d be ideal for air travel, but short of lugging the box with you (and praying/paying for a power point), that’s not overly feasible. It’d also be great to do away with the proprietary tether: I’d love to see the headset go wireless and run on a charge.

Then it’s time to suit up. The headset is well-built and quite adjustable, and its rear head straps and forehead padding should accommodate most head sizes (that said, Angus from Lifehacker has a big noggin and said it was a little small, while Elly found it too big and had to keep it propped up with her hand to prevent it from falling forward). You’ll also need to fiddle around to get everything sitting just right and square in front of your eyes. The on-ear phones then slide down nicely over your ears to deliver virtual 5.1 surround sound.

Underside controls let you adjust the lens span. When going through the setup, you truly see the two 720p OLED screens merge into a single big screen viewing experience. You also get playback, volume and power buttons.

Using It

Video quality is great: colours pop, and being OLED, blacks are black. Try hard enough and you can still make out pixels, but that whole big screen feeling really is there. The 45-degree viewing angle also helps draw you in. This is one of the better headsets I’ve tried, and ultimately, one of the best 3D experiences also.

It’s with 3D content that the headset really shines. Sony claims that the two displays make the personal viewer crosstalk free, because the image is only merged in your head and never on a single screen. So no headaches to report, something I can’t say about some regular 3D TVs. The faux surround sound was OK, definitely directional and quite serviceable but also a little ‘hollow’ sounding at times.

So is it comfortable? Uh... not overly. The viewer only weighs 420 grams, but if you’re not lying down your neck may get a little stiff half way through a movie. At least mine did. I didn’t notice it so much when hunched over gaming. After a good hour I did tend to end up with a red mark on the bridge of my nose that looked like I’d been wearing my little brother’s glasses, or that I'd been punched in the face.

HMZ-T1 Specs

• 1280x720 (per eye) • 0.01ms refresh rate • 3.5m cable • 45°wide field of view • 2x foam covered audo earphones • 420g • Headmount: 210 x 126 x 257mm • Box: HDMI 1.4a, virtual 5.1, 600g • More: [Sony Australia]

The viewer also doesn’t completely block your peripheral vision. On the upside, this lets you glimpse down to your game controller, Blu-ray remote or box of Tim Tams — but also detracts (just a little) from the overall effect of escaping the real world around you.

Having said all that, this is one of the better headsets I’ve tried, and ultimately, one of the best 3D experiences also.

Should You Buy It?

Straight up, this is one of the most unique-looking, innovative gadgets you could have lying around your house for friends and family to drool over. It’s definitely got that wow factor. But at $900, it’ll also burn a hole in your pocket the size of a face and won’t entertain groups like a $900 big screen would.

3D gaming was my favourite use for the headset — especially Gran Turismo (side note to Sony: please seriously consider head-tracking in a future version). I'm intrigued now that the HMZ-T1 is up for pre-order, but still not quite sold. Some of that hesitation stems from price, but also because this is a first generation device. It could worth sitting round one out while we watch — with genuine interest — for a more refined successor.

Update: Check out Aussie Chris Zaharia's efforts to add head-tracking for in-game play via an IR tracker and Microsoft Kinect. Skyrim VR win!


    Yeah no thanks not for $900. Hell even at $500 I would not get one. I was silly enough to pay near $600 for the Samsung 27 inch 3d monitor just to find out the 3d makes me feel ill within 10 minutes. Still a decent screen though.

      Same experience for me too (I bought a 3D 27inch samsung monitor), thought i might just take a leap and try 3D, unfortunately i ended up turning it off most of the time because it just a strain on the eyes if you use it for long periods of time and the experience isnt as amazing as it sounds (IMO). I think we are a longs way off before we can have 3d without the eye strain.

      Yeah atleast it still a good 2d Screen (though i could have saved a couple of hundred and got non 3d screen but you live and learn)

    If it had eye tracking and head tracking for camera control, then I would be interested. But the price is really steep, and I'm not sold on it at all.

      me too,

      Although it has intrigued me, no doubt this thing will be on sale one day... need to try it first though.

    Any idea how comfortable it is for users with spectacles?

      That's a very good question, and an important one as this is basically the only way people with glasses are likely to get a decent 3D experience.

      I actually think this is going to be a pretty successful device/concept eventually. Price needs to come down to be comparable to a PC monitor, but if you think about what people are willing to spend on screens and gaming headsets (this thing needs a mic input and generic audio handling for that) it's not that unreasonable at say $300-400. $900 is expensive, but everything starts off that way. Remember with plasma TVs were $20,000?

        I would risk assuming it has a focus control on it.
        Anyone confirm/deny?

      This is the first review I found where the reviewer actually wears glasses and he seems to wear them under the headset. Doesn't sound too comfortable but he seems pretty soured on the very idea of a headset viewer.
        this review seems to indicate that the headset isn't very good for people who wear glasses

      I own one of these bad boys and I also wear glasses. The headset fits right over my glasses. After awhile I even forgot that I am wearing my glasses.
      PS the headset is the greatest thing I own for gaming.

    900$ is not bad for a fregging TV on your head ^^

    They had a competition on the PlayStation website to win one of these last month. Would have been kind of cool to win one but no way would I ever be able to justify spending money on one.

    I tried one out at Chatswood Westfield, interesting, but not something I'd pay $899 for. Sorry, an actual TV works just fine Sony.

    The middle left picture - Goooooodbye eyesight!




    $900 is pretty cheap for what you get, 2X OLED viewfinders are already $300+ each, add in all that miscellaneous headset/plastic body/ receiver and it's about there.

    Wasn't (and isn't) there non-3D versions of these? Always considering getting one, but never did! Recommendations?

    I have it for work purposes and its a good screen with a terrible head set design. your nose will hurt after 20 mins easily.

    Needs a better mounting to your head, but the 3d is excellent

      That's the problem with this. No matter how good the screens are if the head set design sucks then it is not worth buying at even $200. Especially if it hurts to wear them for longer than 20 minutes.

    is it just me or does the curly-haired guy on the top right look a lot like Tim Schafer? o_O

    Oh god, the virtual boy has returned!

    +1 for a company to develop this idea.

    Same with any new product, the future will be smaller and cheaper.

    I would imagine the size and weight will shrink to be the size of existing 3D glasses we use for our 3DTV. Also, i would imagine the headset will have 7.1 speakers and a next gen wireless audio/video input.

    wow, first impression is that sony are making the MMORPG from .Hack the anime series. seriosly want one even if a little pricey

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