We have to admit we were initially apprehensive about the new Myvu Crystal personal media viewer. You see as much as we love the idea of a display that can be worn like glasses, we can't help but think they make you look like a dork. But as soon as we put them on and leaned back, we quickly realized that we've looked like a dork before, and for worse reasons. In fact our initial impressions after using them at CES was so good, that we decided to try 'em out and see if the novelty wears off after an hour or if they serve a real purpose.
Myvu Crystal reviewSee all photos
There isn't much doubt that the real application for a personal media viewer is when you're traveling. Sure you could use these at home or at the office, but odds are if you have $300 to spend on a gadget like this, you probably have a nicer HDTV at home or a high-end computer display in your office. So the primary focus of our tests was a long four hour flight, connected to an iPhone and with some 720x480 video that was converted from over-the-air HD to h.264 queued up.
After you get passed the fact that everyone on the plane is staring at you -- especially when you are on the isle seat and you stand up to let someone go to the restroom -- they work pretty well. In fact even after four hours they weren't uncomfortable to wear, even for someone who doesn't normally wear glasses -- the amount of discomfort after a few hours pales in comparison to the feeling in your arms after holding your iPhone in front of you for the same amount of time. The magnetic clip for the wires is really useful for quickly hanging the glasses around your neck and the remote is easy enough to use. We wish there was a way to pause the video from the remote, but we do appreciate the overall simple operation. The built in inner ear headphones are a must on planes and the cables are just the right length. The unit we tested included a built in iPod dock for video and charged via USB, the dock even included an extra USB port on it so you could charge the iPod while using it as a video source. We also had a universal input with just straight yellow, red and white RCA inputs, which is obviously really useful for connecting just about anything else. The only real complaint we have is that there is no battery indicator, so it's impossible to tell if you're about to be cut off mid-movie.
Unfortunately we've never tried any of the earlier versions from Myvu so we really can't say if the claimed 33 percent wider field of view, or 640x480 resolution, is noticeably better than previous products. But one thing is for sure, the video experience is enjoyable. The image appears to be a few feet away and seems about the same size as a 45-inch TV. Not exactly sure how the technology works, but at times it can be a little disorienting. It isn't so bad that it ruined the experience for us, but we can definitely see how some may be annoyed by it -- and don't even think about using them after you've had a few drinks. Being big HD fans, it goes without saying we're picture quality snobs and although we won't be ditching our HDTVs at home for these, the quality is acceptable. The most noticeable problems with quality is the contrast and colors. There are contrast and brightness adjustments, but we found ourselves fiddling with them for a while trying to improve the quality. There are two buttons, one for color, one for contrast, and the three or four levels just cycle through each time you press the button. We really wish there was some way to tell what level we were currently at -- either on the remote or a heads-up-display would be really nice -- but eventually we just found a setting and left it, accepting the fact that the contrast just isn't that hot. Not sure why, but there are also some noticeable analog artifacts at times, either squiggly lines or flickering. It isn't too bad though, and it's impossible to tell if the cause was the iPhone's video output, or the Myvue itself. Either way we were longing for some digital connectivity.
We have to say we're surprised to say this, but these are a must have for anyone who travels a lot. Sure you look like a dork, but considering your other options it is so worth it. Now if more planes had power ports for laptops or laptop batteries lasted longer while watching video, it might be another story. And then there is the privacy factor. We like all kinds of movies, but trying to watch something with any kind of violence or nudity next to a kid on a plane is just plan wrong in our opinion. With these, it doesn't matter, you can enjoy whatever you want without the risk of being a bad influence on an impressionable young mind. Of course the real problem is the price. We mean at $300 you really have to travel an awful lot in order to able to justify the cost.