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12-26-2009, 03:00 AM #1Vuzix iWear AV310 Widescreen Video Eyewear - Giveaway Inside
Founded in 1997 Vuzix started off developing proprietary display technology for the military and industrial sectors. As consumer devices quickly advanced and started supporting video Vuzix jumped on the opportunity to start creating consumer mobile video products. The entered the Video Eyewear market in 2005 winning several awards for innovation, design, and engineering. Since then they have continued to develop their offerings and striding closer to the perfect combination for personal video eyewear.
The folks at Vuzix sent us one of their top models recently to review; the iWear AV310 Widescreen. Originally launched in fall 2008 the iWear AV310 Widescreen was the first consumer video eyewear on the market to support widescreen. The design has held up for the past year but was replaced with their newer models the Wrap 310 and Wrap 920 shortly after we received our review unit.
The AV310 widescreen includes an iPod/iPhone adapter allowing it to work with an video capable iPod and all iPhone models. Video is true widescreen supporting 16:9 widescreen and 4:3 standard screen formats. This is done with twin high-resolution 428 x 240 widescreen (WQVGA) LCD displays (one for each eye). All of this combines to an experience claimed to be the same as watching a 52" screen from 9 feet away. Not only does it display normal 2D video if you have a 3D movie the Av 310 Widescreen can handle that as well. To power the unit only one AA battery is used rated for 4 hours of video life. Using a higher power alkaline battery results in 11 hours of video. Other things included with the unit are a carrying pouch and head strap.
Setting up the AV310 Widescreen for video playback is as simple as putting in a AA battery and pressing the power button and plugging in the included iPhone/iPod adapter. After that it is ready to go — the most difficult part of the process making sure that your iPod or iPhone has the TV Out settings correct. After that browse to a video using your iPod or iPhone and just start playing! After i did this everything looked horrible and I thought this was crap, well, because I'm a moron. I quickly found the dials to focus the screens for each eye at the bottom of the unit, played with them a bit, and ended up with clear good looking video. I am extremely left eye dominate and find it difficult to focus the right eye at close range, but after some careful playing with the focus dial I found a combination that was good enough to try out. A few minutes into watching a movie I no longer noticed any issues.
Movie viewing isn't quite like the advertised 52" screen from 9 ft but for being a lightweight little mobile device it's good. The screens obviously aren't HD and if you look very closely you can pick out the individual pixels on the screens. When watching a movie you'll find that the overall experience is surprisingly good and the video clear and sharp enough to not distract after only a few moments play time. When wearing the video eyewear your entire view isn't cut off from the rest of the world and this can be distracting if you're in a brightly lit room. Dimmer areas like an airplane would be a more appropriate place for the AV310 Widescreen. Vuzix actually has a solution to this issue and sells a $14.95 Immersive Lightshield to block you completely off from the rest of the world. I think this would be a great benefit to the AV310 Widescreen and should have been included in the box instead of sold separately.
Hanging well down the cable are some control buttons built into the battery holder. I believe the cable is something like 50" long so the extra weight wont be hanging off the side of your head. The buttons are pretty basic consisting of volume up and down along with power and some menu settings. You can tweak the settings of the device to optimize the video output to your liking. There are a couple different viewing modes for 2D and 3D along with options to change back and forth between widescreen 16:9 and normal 4:3. There are also options to adjust brightness, contrast, hue, and saturation which I didn't mess with – everything looked good to me on default.
The earphones provided with the AV310 WS are decent. The bass sounds okay and the mids and highs are reasonably clear and crisp. I'd put them on a level slightly higher that the stock Apple earbuds. They easily detach so you can toss them out of the way and plug in your own set (I prefer a high quality in-ear design) into the audio-out on the iPhone or iPod itself.
Fitment is good. At 4 ounces the AV310 WS isn't too heavy to be worn as intended like glasses. When off the whole thing seems a bit flimsy like it isn't going to stay on very well. Once on however everything feels nice and stable. I have tried multiple video eyewear models from multiple manufacturers in the past and so far I like the fitment of these best. The earpieces haven't given me a headache after a couple hours of wearing. The whole front assembly can tilt up to 15 degrees so the screen can be perpendicular to your eyesight which helps reduce eyestrain and increase comfort. The nosepiece is thin, lightweight and adjustable fitting comfortably easily. The nosepiece is also probably the most important bit to have fit correctly. Most of the weight is on your nose so if it isn't comfortable to start it wil only get worse. The entire combination feels solid and once you get everything into place it stays in place as long as you aren't moving around too much. If that isn't enough for you there is also an adjustable head-strap designed to go around the back of your head for additional support. I didn't need or use the head-strap.
Overall this is one of if not the best video eyewear unit I've tried but it still could be better. I'd like Vuzix to up the resolution of the LCDs a bit and I'd like more coverage to block light from the top and sides. I would also like the whole unit to be a bit lighter. Watching one movie is reasonable but I found watching a couple right in a row with no break a little tiring. Something that would be awesome is the ability to control your iPhone via the controls. Browsing through your videos library and selecting which to play etc. without having to look at your iPhone/iPod would be excellent feature. As I mentioned earlier this AV310 Widescreen has been replaced by newer updated models so it's possible Vuzix has already improved upon the design.
If you're in a situation (frequent traveler) where a lightweight and portable private video experience would be a benefit or a necessity you might consider looking for a deal on the AV310 Widescreen. Since the model has been discontinued it's possible that the price has dropped a bit. Even though the AV310 Widescreen gives you away immediately as a super geek to anyone that sees you this would be a great device to have in your pocket if you travel alot on planes, etc. Watching movies on computers etc on the airplane always seems to end up with other travels leaning over to look or needing to watch something else because your first choice is too offensive for the child next to you. The Vuzix AV310 Widescreen makes video enjoyment truly personal.
I quite like these and have been debating for a couple weeks whether or not to keep them for myself. I only travel a couple times a year and have decided that one of our readers will probably get more use and enjoyment.
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Giveaway ends 12/28/2009