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December 16, 2006

Review: 22Moo Zune VG Video Glasses

Australian accessory provider 22Moo recently released its Zune VG wearable video display, and this week they loaned us a copy to put through our paces. We found the video glasses to be an entertaining and surprisingly usable device - for those occasions when you want the convenience or novelty of a wearable display.

And if you're into the geeky-cool look... well, you're probably not even reading this, because you've already ordered a pair of your own from 22Moo's website.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

The display works with your Zune, as well as iPod Video, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo GameCube, and most devices with AV output.

With your Xbox, you can play games while you're lying on the couch - without hogging the family TV.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

What's in the box? Video glasses, with attached earphones and AV cable; USB charger cord; eyepatch; bander; 3 AV cable adapters; and manual.

See below for description of these items.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

Setup. First step was to charge the Zune VG's internal battery. This is done by connecting the glasses to the USB port of a computer, using the included USB cable. A blue indicator light lets you know it's charging; the light goes out when the battery is completely charged. Full charging takes 2 hours; when fully charged the glasses will play for 4 to 5 hours.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

Attached to the glasses is a cord with a 1/8" connector, which goes into the Zune's A/V (headphone) jack.

Once the Zune is connected to the glasses, go to Settings - display and set tv-out to "on". You'll see the message pictured below. Press OK; your Zune screen will go blank, and the display will now appear on the Zune VG's twin displays.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

The glasses automatically switch on when an incoming video signal is detected.

To direct the display back to the Zune player, turn off the Zune by holding the play/pause button, and turn it back on by pressing any button. The video glasses will automatically switch off when they stop receiving the video signal.

With its generous assortment of AV cables, Zune VG gets high marks for compatibility with many video devices. The AV cable attached to the glasses terminates in a 3-channel 1/8" headphone jack. The extra cords allow you to attach to other video devices that have AV output jacks. One adapter provides 3 red-white-yellow male RCA connectors; another provides three red-white-yellow female RCA connectors; and the third provides two red-yellow 1/8" male connectors.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

Video display. The video glasses give one a decent illusion of viewing a large-screen TV from across the room. 22Moo describes the image size as comparable to viewing a 35" screen from a distance of 2 meters.

I quickly got used to the sensation of always having the screen directly in front of you, even as you move your head around. It is actually quite a freeing experience.

The video displayed in the glasses is comparable in quality with the video displayed on your Zune player. The screen resolution of the video glasses LCDs is 320x240, the same resolution as the Zune displays. Some minor pixelation is noticeable, particularly with the text on the menu screens, and when you freeze the video with the pause button. But the effect of this was less than I expected.

If you're using a device with a higher AV-out resolution (such as the video iPod), you may want to spring for 22Moo's i-Vision 922, which features a display resolution of 640x480. That unit retails for $350 USD. But Zune's highest resolution for video stored on the player is 320x240, so the video glasses' display resolution is optimal for Zune.

Curiously, the Zune background photo was scaled larger in the VG display than it appears on the Zune player. Picture slideshows and videos all displayed normally, though.

As one would expect, the glasses show all images (video, pictures, background images, menus) in horizontal mode; they don't turn the image 90 degrees - as the Zune player does when it flips between vertical and horizontal viewing. The firmware on the Zune player obviously knows not to apply its orientation adjustment to the AV-out signal.

Brightness level is good; I was able to use the glasses outside on a reasonably bright day without any difficulty. On a sunny day, one might want to use the included "eyepatch" - a soft rubber surround that fits inside the glasses, between the frame and your face. It blocks outside light, enhancing the screen display. I found it unnecessary for indoor viewing; the screen was bright enough without it.

The two photos below show the glasses with and without the eyepatch.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses 22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

Other features and performance. 22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

The folding arms are quite stiff, and I was momentarily concerned about them being a little too snug for me. I didn't feel discomfort though, even after using them for close to an hour. The wideness of the arms helps with the comfort of them.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

The earphones are attached to each arm via a stretchable coiled wire. It took a little fiddling to get them positioned to a point where I wasn't concerned about them falling out. Once I had them positioned properly, though, they remained secure. Sound quality through the earphones is comparable with what you get with the standard Zune earphones: not audiophile-friendly, but serviceable.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

While the video glasses fit me and my wife, I wouldn't describe them as one-size-fits-all. My nine-year-old daughters had to hold the glasses to keep them from slipping down their noses, and were not able to keep the earbuds in without holding them in.

The glasses include a "bander", which might be Australian for croakie. The white elastic strap is designed to clasp to the arms of the glasses and wrap behind your head. It secures your glasses - useful for when you're watching Rocky XIV and reflexively throw your head back everytime Sly takes one in the face. My demo model, however, lacked the holes for attaching the bander.

At 4.2 ounces, the glasses are reasonably lightweight - although you're not likely to forget that you have them on (but that's the whole point, right?). The soft rubber nose tongs add to the comfort.

22Moo ZuneVG video glasses

Warranty. The unit comes with a 1-year warranty.

Price. Retail price is $250 USD.

Summary.
  Company: 22Moo
  Link: www.22moo.com.au
  Model: Zune VG
  Price: $250 USD
  Pros:
4-5 hours battery life is comparable to Zune video life. Broad compatibility, and thoughtful assortment of adapter cables makes it readily usable with many AV devices.
  Cons:
Some might find the springy earphones a bit fiddly. Some loss in resolution in menu text and Zune UI.
  Overall:
As a high-end accessory for your Zune, the Zune VG wearable display provides bright video viewing in a comfortable package. Its strong points include its sturdy construction, ease of use, and thoughtful design elements. With the caveats that it's not designed for high-resolution output, and it may not fit smaller children, we give the Zune VG our "Recommended by Zunerama" rating.

Zune accessory - Recommended by Zunerama

P.S. Courtesy of 22Moo, we're giving away a set of Zune VG Video Glasses to a lucky Zunerama member. Enter to win in our Giveaway boards.

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