Virtual reality refuses to die. Every couple of years, some new company enters the market with a new product that they claim solves all the glitches, drawbacks, and weaknesses associated with head-mounted displays. Vuzix is the latest; and like so many before them, they’ve made progress, but their iWear VR920 is as flawed and awkward as any of its predecessors.
Having said that, the fact that Vuzix has managed to pack this much technology into such a compact device priced this low (just $400) is remarkable. There’s support for Nvidia’s stereoscopic drivers (unfortunately, Nvidia frequently leaves this feature out of its most current drivers; and AMD doesn’t support the feature at all), a head-tracking mechanism (which is supported in only a few games), integrated stereo earbuds, and a built-in mic for VoIP and multiplayer gaming.
The visual performance of the VR920’s twin 640x480 LCDs doesn’t quite match that of the luscious dual 800x600 OLEDs in the eMagin Z800 3DVisor we reviewed back in October 2005, but Vuzix’s product is priced a cool grand less. The VR920 is designed to be worn just like eyeglasses, which makes it much easier to put on and take off than the Z800 (which have headbands that fit across the top and around the back of your head; but most people who wear prescription glasses will find the VR920 extremely difficult to use.
You can wear the screens in front of your glasses; but despite the adjustable nosepiece and the pivot points at the temples, we couldn’t position the display so that we could view its entire screen without the frame sliding down into our field of view. The problem is compounded for people who wear bifocals because it’s nearly impossible to maneuver text into the lenses’ sweet spot.
If you have perfect vision and can get the device to fit your head, head tracking is arguably the VR920’s best feature—provided, of course, that you’re playing one of the few games that takes advantage of the feature The list includes Microsoft Flight Sim X, Half Life 2, World of Warcraft (left-to-right, only), Quake 4, and a few others. If you absolutely crave the VR experience, the VR920 delivers more bang for the buck than anything we’ve tested to date. But considering the sparse competition, that’s not really saying much.