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Nathan Edwards Jun 25, 2008

Headplay Personal Cinema

At A Glance

Headfirst

Most comfortable, highest-res headset display currently out. Plenty of input options; support for bifocal wearers.

Headlong

For the money, you're better off just buying a decent 24" monitor.

If you’re just dying to strap a display to your head, the Headplay Personal Cinema is your best choice. It’s comfortable, even for people who wear glasses, supports a wide range of input devices, and delivers relatively high resolution, and the only virtual-reality feature it lacks is head tracking.

The Headplay’s liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) display, which sports an 800x600 resolution, is a step above the Vuzix iWear VR920’s LCD, which is limited to 640x480. And while the Headplay’s simple padded visor might look cheap, it’s much more comfortable than the Vuzix’s eyeglass frames. The inclusion of focus sliders enables even folks who need prescription bifocals to use the Headplay without their cheaters. (There’s an interpupillary adjustment, too.)

Flexibility is the Headplay’s other strong suit. Rather than plug straight into your PC, the visor connects to a powered brick (battery power is also an option) with a host of inputs, including VGA, S-video, mini USB 2.0, and two USB 2.0 ports (acting as either host or client); there’s even a Compact Flash slot. The earbuds aren’t integrated into the visor, which makes it easy to replace them with your own.

The Headplay supports Nvidia’s stereoscopic drivers, but we consider this to be a checklist item rather than a crucial feature: Nvidia is notorious for leaving stereoscopic support out of its most recent drivers, and AMD doesn’t support stereoscopic viewing at all.

The primary advantage that manufacturers such as Headplay and Vuzix always boast of is that playing a game or watching a movie on their headsets is equivalent to sitting in front of a 50- or 60-inch conventional display. While that may be true, it doesn’t change the fact that the displays these headsets provide are extended definition at best, with a 4:3 aspect ratio. For the price of the Headplay Personal Cinema, you could buy a 24-inch monitor capable of a 1920x1200 resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. You won’t be able to watch porn in secret, but you will get a compelling visual experience.

THE VERDICT

Headplay Personal Cinema

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