Myvu Personal Media Viewer Review

Our first reaction to seeing the Myvu Personal Media Viewer was simply to think that it was a completely daft idea. Having used it for a while now we’ll admit that we’re starting to be won over a bit, although it’s still more of an expensive luxury than a ‘must-have’ iPod accessory.

The Myvu is best described as a set of ‘video glasses’. They look a bit like the trendy wraparound sunglasses that Bono likes to wear, but inside the black plastic lens there’s a pair of tiny little flat-panel video screens. A video cable feeds out of the end of the left-hand earpiece on the glasses and connects to your iPod. There’s also a set of earphones built into the glasses.

We reviewed the ‘Universal’ version of the Myvu glasses, which are sold with a collection of cables that allow you to connect them to iPods, as well as other portable devices such as the popular Archos video players (or the not-so-popular Microsoft Zune).There’s also a ‘Solo Edition’ of the Myvu glasses that is designed specifically for use with the iPod. The Solo model is the same price, but it plugs directly into the docking connector on the base of the iPod. That’s more convenient for iPod users, but means you won’t ever be able to use it with anything else.

The eyes have it

The two screens inside the glasses may be tiny – less than 1cm square, as far as we can tell – but because they’re so close to your eyes the image they produce appears much larger. It’s not quite the personalised widescreen extravaganza we were hoping for – the video image is in the squarish 4:3 format and doesn’t fill your entire field of view. Instead, the image seems to float right on the bridge of your nose, which allows you to focus on the video simply by looking straight ahead. But if you just look to the side a little you can still see through the transparent lens of the glasses. This means that you can move around while wearing the glasses without tripping over the furniture.

The image quality provided by the glasses is pretty good – quite clear, sharp and colourful. Our only comment here is that the 320 x 240 resolution of the screens inside the glasses is fairly low – the same as that on smaller iPods such as the nano. It’s not too distracting, but if your eyesight is good you can make out the dots of the individual pixels that make up the video image, so there’s still room for improvement there.

Even so, the apparent increase in image size caused by having the image so close to your eyes does improve the experience of watching video on your iPod – which, of course, is the main intention. Our only concern is that focusing for long periods on an image that is just an inch or so away from your eyes could cause eyestrain in the longer term, so it’s probably a good idea to take a rest from the glasses and not wear them for too long at a time.

And, of course, there’s also a problem here for people who wear glasses normally. Myvu has done a deal with an optical firm in the US to produce special thin clip-on glasses that can be used with the Myvu,
but this seems like a rather expensive way of watching your iPod videos, and we’d rather spend the money on a widescreen iPod touch instead.

Screen machine

The one big advantage of the Myvu glasses is that you can sit back on a plane or train and just watch the video on your iPod without having to hold the iPod up in front of your eyes the whole time, or craning your neck forward to look down at that tiny little screen. The cable that connects the glasses to your iPod also has a set of ‘inline’ controls that allow you to adjust the volume, as well as the brightness and contrast of the screen, so you can adjust the image quality quite easily.

The glasses have a rechargeable battery built into them, which lasts for about four hours when fully charged, so you should be able to get through two full-length films without too much trouble. It also means that the glasses won’t drain the battery in your iPod.

Although you can adjust the audio volume, and the brightness and contrast of the video image, you can’t use the controls on the glasses to skip forwards or backwards through a file, or even pause the video when the cabin crew come around with drinks. You’ll have to use the iPod controls for stopping and starting.

OUR VERDICT

Many people will dismiss the Myvu glasses as a silly gimmick, and we really can’t imagine that anyone will want to wear them in a public place. However, just as there are expensive sets of headphones designed for travellers to use on planes, we can imagine that the Myvu glasses could help pass the time quite enjoyably if you’re stuck on a long, boring train or plane ride.

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