Review: Icuiti iWear Video Eyewear for iPod
Pros: A pair of lightweight wearable video goggles designed specifically for the iPod, featuring the simplest iPod connectivity we’ve yet seen - one cable direct from the goggles to the iPod, capable of running on low enough power consumption to let you watch between 3 and 7 hours of iPod video, depending on the 5G iPod you own. Large apparent screen size is easy to see, aided by independent eye adjustment knobs, and an immersive design.
Cons: Comfort of both goggles and included earpieces isn’t up to top standards of accessories we’ve tested, and other than size, video quality isn’t up to those standards, either, lacking default balance and user-adjustability.
[Editors’ Note: On November 1, 2006, iLounge published The 2007 iPod Buyers’ Guide, with more than 30 brand new, capsule-sized product reviews - only for products we considered to be amongst the very best we’ve seen throughout the year. The short review below is excerpted and enhanced from the Guide, which you can download here.]
When you compare Icuiti’s iWear Video Eyewear for iPod against the company’s earlier, higher-end DV920 headset, it’s actually impressive to see how far the company’s engineering team has come. iWear is as simple as can be - it connects to your iPod without the need for an additional battery pack, uses the superior bottom Dock Connector port, and has literally no controls for the average user to be concerned with. You mold the flexible earpieces into shapes that fit your ears, move the retractable nose bridge so the twin 320x240 displays line up with your eyes, and press play on your iPod - it all works. Independent knobs for each LCD screen let users with corrective lenses see, too, and Icuiti touts the fact that their twin displays can be used for special 3-D videos, as well - the samples we’ve seen are legitimately impressive, and if quality content becomes available, the feature will be a big hit.
But despite the superior size of iWear’s virtual TV, which promises to simulate a 44” television hovering 9 feet in front of your eyes, it otherwise doesn’t look quite as good as MicroOptical’s myvu for iPod (iLounge rating: B+), lacking contrast and brightness adjustments and seeming a bit more pixelated, most likely because it’s blowing up the same 320x240 image to a larger size. Similarly, while lightweight, the headset wasn’t as comfortable on our heads as myvu’s - the earbuds and headset are both less than ideal, whereas myvu smooths both out with superior use of silicone rubber - and the package doesn’t include as many frills. It runs for as long as your 5G iPod’s battery can play video, which is to say between 3 and 7 hours, model dependent, and doesn’t include wall or car chargers, or hard carrying case, like myvu.
Like the DV920, iWear has detachable earbuds, capable of being flexed into your preferred wearing position. There are knobs under the lenses to let you adjust each of the screens for a better-focused image, and a single rubber nosepiece. A detachable fabric cord lets you keep the goggles hanging from your neck, grandpa style, when not in use.
The cable has a mini USB-in port alongside the iPod Dock Connector.
iWear does have enough advantages over competing options to remain worthy of consideration - it’s certainly better than ezGear’s ezVision alternative, at a more reasonable price. Besides its simplicity - the lack of a separate battery pack has its pros and cons - plus the larger apparent screen size, and independent adjustments for its optics, it also does a better job of screening out the world around you than myvu, which intentionally allows you to refocus your eyes through the visor on whatever’s moving around in front of you. iWear just blocks out the world, which provides you with a somewhat more immersive, less distracting visual experience - assuming you feel comfortable with the goggles and earpieces. This is still a solid, affordable option for fifth-generation iPod owners looking for a first-generation wearable video experience.
[Updated Mar. 1, 2007: Several months after our initial tests of iWear, the unit’s right display began to exhibit serious problems - after several seconds of playback, it went dim, and eventually faded to black, a situation it would typically repeat each time it was connected to any of our fifth-generation iPods. It appears that either a display failure or a Dock Connector issue is to blame; wiggling the Dock Connector cable sometimes restores the image temporarily, leading us to believe that a bent pin or otherwise insecure connection may be responsible for the issue.]