Video glasses still haven't caught on quite as manufacturers might like them to have, but that hasn't stopped them from scaling up the specifications and the marketing hyperbole to try and tempt us in. Latest to cross the SlashGear test bench are Q-London's 3D 80-inch Video Eyewear, billed as providing the same viewing experience as having an 80-inch TV two meters away. Bold claims; read on to see whether the Q-London system delivered.
In the box, as you can see from our unboxing video below, Q-London provide the headset itself, a rubber light-shield and alternative nose-pad, an in-line control box and the Nokia-type rechargeable battery that powers it, and an IR remote control. There's also a cluster of adapter cables, supporting standard composite input and the type of 3.5mm A/V you see on some cellphones and gaming devices. Finally, a USB charging cable and printed user guide round out the well-packaged set; if you want iPod/iPhone compatibility you'll need your own adapter.
Compared to the Vuzix system we reviewed several months back, we prefer the rechargeable battery used by Q-London. The company themselves don't quote specific usage times, but we found a full charge was good for a film or two, depending on brightness settings. The remote control is an interesting idea - allowing tweaking of 2D/3D viewing, PAL/NTSC/SECAM video formats, contrast/brightness and other settings - but given there's no tactile difference between the buttons you'll still have to peer outside the Eyewear's viewfinder to make sure you're hitting the right key.
In terms of comfort, the headset is relatively lightweight at 59g, though the bendy rubber arms grip the sides of your head more tightly than we liked. Being able to quickly unplug the standard headphones and use your own (plugging straight into the in-line control box) is a neat touch, and something we'd recommend you do as the supplied earphones are nothing special. The rubber light-shield fits easily into place and does a decent job of cutting out extra light, though it does make looking outside the Eyewear to see the remote a little trickier. Despite Q-London's suggestion that the setup has a "trendy design", you'll still stand out when wearing it and it's not necessarily a "good look".
Aesthetics aside, our biggest complaint about the 3D 80-inch Eyewear is the absence of eye focus adjustment. The Vuzix set had two small wheels that could be used to individually adjust the focus of each eye-display; with the Q-London system you're stuck using the standard settings. This is particularly frustrating if you wear glasses, since with the Vuzix you could fudge a passable setup to avoid wearing your spectacles. No such luck with Q-London, and the combined weight and bulk of spectacles, light-shield and Eyewear make it an uncomfortable prospect for anything but the shortest viewing session, or headache-inspiring if you attempt a film without your specs.
That's a real shame, as the 640 x 480 920k-pixel LCD displays Q-London have used easily beat the Vuzix OLED panels for resolution and picture quality. We're always dubious of "like an 80-inch set from 2m away" claims, but the Q-London Eyewear is certainly pleasant to watch and offers enough detail to make subtitles and on-screen text crisp. Unfortunately no VGA adapter cable was supplied, but we expect the Q-London system could make for an interesting head-up display from a netbook or notebook. With the right source you can also use the Eyewear as a 3D headset, something we were unable to try.
Other minor niggles include a bizarre choice of female A/V plugs on the composite adapter, which are unlikely to fit the outputs of most DVD players or other sources without an intermediary cable, and Q-London's decision not to include a mains charger in the box. If you're out and about with just your portable DVD player, cellphone or iPod, you're unlikely to have a spare USB port to recharge the Eyewear with.
That said, for those with decent eyesight and wanting reasonable resolution, we'd recommend the Q-London 3D 80-inch Video Eyewear over the Vuzix iWear AV230XL. The extra pixels on offer do make a difference to viewing enjoyment, especially when it comes to text, though you pay more for the privilege. In the UK the Q-London set are priced at £199.99 ($310 for US buyers), compared to around £130/$200 for the Vuzix system. For the money, we can't help thinking that an AC adapter and iPod/iPhone cables really should be included.
Q-London 3D 80" Video Eyewear unboxing: