When Vuzix’s PR firm asked me to look at the iWear Video Headphones and write a review, I jumped at the chance. I’m not an early adopter of VR (no Vive or Oculus for me), but the technology fascinates me, and I was not disappointed by the iWear’s capabilities. That said, there are several limitations to the headset that keep me from recommending it to everyone.
As a straight-up movie theatre in your face experience, the iWear is a winner. That is, when used without VR apps and just taken at face value as a viewing and listening experience, it’s grand. The problem with that is that the iWear retails for $500, and if I’m going to spend that kind of money on a VR-capable headset, I might as well get the PSVR, the Oculus, or the Vive. If there’s one big complaint I have about the iWear, it’s that to lure people it would need a significantly lower price tag. Obviously, I did not pay for the sample Vuzix sent me, but I did not keep it either. It was merely a trial unit that I had to send back. (Just in case someone here thought I was complaining about free swag.)
The iWear is mostly plug and play. The beauty of the headset is that you can use it with just about anything – your PC, you tablet, your phone, your console. Indeed, in these cases it’s just a video headset that displays your screen to you as opposed to being full on head-tracking VR. But that’s kind of cool in and of itself. Playing games on your PS4, PC, or watching 3D movies with the iWear is a dream. If that’s what you want out of a wearable display, the iWear is excellent. It’d almost be worth the cost for that functionality, if it was more comfortable to wear.
It’s not the heaviest headset I’ve tried, but the iWear is slightly uncomfortable. I’ve got a big head, not just figuratively, and it feels like the headset was constantly hugging my noggin just a little bit too tight. There’s also a fabric shroud to block out light, but it often gets in the way of use, and I wound up removing it which had the downside of letting in light and reflections which are distracting in VR.
Here it’s worth noting that the Vuzix iWear isn’t necessarily targeted at VR users. It’s marketed as a set of video-headphones and in that role, they’re hard to beat. Watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, via my phone no less, with the iWear was incredibly enthralling. Playing ESO while using it, or hooking it up for World of Final Fantasy was simple and straightforward. It doesn’t support the full range of VR apps you’d be hoping for if you want a Rift or a Vive, but it is using OSVR and meets all the open source specifications so the hope for more app support is there. Still, if you’re in want of an overall VR headset, the iWear may not be for you. If instead you’re seeking a wearable movie theatre or a way to play gory games without your kids seeing, the iWear can’t be beat.