Review: MicroOptical myvu Made for iPod Edition
Pros: The best wearable video display we’ve yet tested for the iPod, combining a lightweight pair of 320x240 LCD screens, silicone tipped earbuds, an iPod battery pack, and a remote control into one package, with a nice carrying case, wall and car chargers, and solid overall audio and video performance. A complete solution that’s well thought-out and great for travel.
Cons: Can still see world around you through intentionally non-immersive visor, if you want to focus on it - a combination pro and con. Though apparent screen quality is solid, screen size is on the small side, and other than the surprisingly comfortable nose and ear pieces for general positioning, there’s no way to adjust the screens for differently-spaced or focused eyes.
[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.]
Every iPod accessory category has a best-of-breed entry, and MicroOptical’s myvu for iPod is the best wearable video display we’ve tested. Designed to let you watch iPod videos while you lay back in any chair, myvu consists of a pair of lightweight goggles with two 320x240 LCD screens in front of your eyes, earbuds dangling down for your ears, and a cable with an in-line remote control leading to your iPod. Shipping with detachable rubber nosepieces and silicone rubber ear tips of various sizes, myvu provides the best overall comfort we’ve yet experienced in a wearable display, fitting your nose noticeably better than current alternatives, and ears substantially so, sealing your canals against outside noise. Similarly, the dual screens provide a viewing experience that’s similar to seeing a clear, medium-sized TV floating in front of your eyes - better-looking than both iWear and ezVision, and completely contrast- and brightness-adjustable, though smaller.
In our Buyers’ Guide review of myvu, we noted that the company’s $399 asking price wasn’t as attractive as it needed to be to win over more mainstream buyers, but said that MicroOptical’s kit, which includes a nice 6-hour iPod battery pack/case to extend your play time, and a quality ballistic nylon, zippered travel pouch, feels like a complete and well-designed package. Immediately after our review, and based on our comments, MicroOptical took an impressive step, dropping the package’s price by $100 - a factor that makes this package an even better value than it was before. While we’re not re-rating it based on the new price, we feel even more strongly that it’s worth readers’ attention: when we’ve handed our unit off to various people for outside opinions, some have gone so far as to say that they’d sooner take myvu on a plane than the portable video displays we’ve reviewed (Memorex iFlip, Sonic Impact Video-55, and iLuv i1055), based on myvu’s comfort and convenience. Some people will write all of these displays off until they reach even lower price and higher performance or fashion points, but for the iPod, myvu is a very good start.
It’s also worth noting a few other factors, taken from our First Look at myvu. MicroOptical also includes both wall and car chargers, a belt clip, and a soft carrying bag that doubles as a lens cloth. You can charge the system via a standard USB cable and synchronize your docked iPod with a PC or Mac at the same time.
The combination case and battery pack indicates remaining power via four lights and a button on its back side; your goggles are connected to the case’s top, and then a Dock Connector connection is made with the iPod inside.
MicroOptical’s dual-display technology promises 320x240 resolution - identical to the iPod’s screen - with 24-bit color. The visual effect is claimed to be equivalent to a 27-inch television at a distance of roughly 7 feet away, but the company isn’t aiming for immersiveness: as explained to us back in January, the goal is to allow you to see the world around you while the display is in use. There are three related issues we feel are worth noting in greater detail here: we found the display small - a bit too small, but still watchable, and moreso than on either of the other iPod wearable headsets out there - one user with a larger intra-ocular distance found the display impossible to adjust for optimal viewing. And several testers commented correctly that the unit’s designed-in ability to let you see the world around you while you’re viewing video can be distracting under certain circumstances, one noting that this is the right pair of goggles to wear in a plane, but not as a passenger in a car. Icuiti’s iWear does a better job of screening the world out, if that’s what you’re trying to accomplish, and myvu should really include a way to temporarily block out your surroundings.
We also really liked the pendant remote control, which offers a convenient combination of iPod and headset controls across six buttons rather than forcing you to look at your iPod to make changes while wearing the goggles. A clip on the back enables the remote to be attached to your shirt while the display is in use. Hopefully, Apple will design a nice on-TV interface for the iPod, enabling these devices to let you browse your video library fully from a remote without the need to ever pop the goggles off - we’re keeping our fingers crossed.