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myvu Personal Media Viewer Review

Posted on 26-Jun-2006 12:30 by Jack Cook | Filed under: Reviews

The holidays have come and gone and for some, the appeal of the iPod Video has started to wear off. You see, the problem is that it was just too much of a problem holding the iPod Video the right distance away from your eyes for a couple of hours. A short music video is cool, even a clip you saved of that birthday party you wanted to share was great but watch a 2 hour movie…it is a little difficult and frankly, it’s just too small to really enjoy a great flick.

The MicroOptical Corporation, with its myvu personal media viewer, is going to change your whole view of the value of your iPod Video. Back in March 2006, when MicroOptical sent out some press information about the upcoming release of the myvu personal media viewer we could read:

"When plugged into a mobile device, the myvu viewer presents a large TV-like experience that mobile devices' small displays cannot match."

They went on to say:

"The myvu viewer is designed to address this issue by providing hands free, head-up access to a large, bright quality image that's daylight viewable. The myvu viewer, which offers privacy by design, truly enables users to watch anything, anytime, anywhere, and any way they want it."

I liked it! It looked cool reminding me of Geordi La Forge from StarTrek and if it lived up to its promise of a big screen viewing experience, it would be a huge hit. The myvu was definitely a “cool” way to "experience mobility".
So life went on until one day I asked my son how his new iPod Video was. He replied that it was great but he was not watching videos. When I asked why, he replied that the video was just too small for long movies. It was then that I remembered the myvu post and I thought I’d try to get a “sneak peek” to see just how good it was and if it would really improve the video experience on the iPod.

I was fortunate to be able to get a review unit for a couple of weeks to try and I have to tell you, it has changed the way I want to watch videos when traveling. I have tested it extensively on the iPod Video and on a portable DVD player and am very happy with the results.

The MicroOptical Corporation is only a few miles from my home so I drove over to get my review unit. As I entered the office, the folks knew I was coming and had my device ready. I asked the receptionist if she had tried the viewer and she replied that she had and that I will find it to be an awesome experience. Of course I would not have expected her to say anything else but it was the way that she expressed it that I knew I was in for a great viewing experience.

I am a believer in packaging. Not that it makes the device better but it does give some insight into the company and how they truly believe in their product. I was not disappointed in that aspect either. The myvu comes packaged in black box with a picture of the viewer emblazoned on the front. There is glow surrounding the viewer which immediately focus your attention on the device. It looked good and I could not wait to open the box and get my first real glimpse at the viewer. I have to tell you that the drive home was painful…I wanted to open that box!

Opening the package, I slid out an inner box that housed the myvu. It was neatly incorporated in a soft dark grey foam surrounding the viewers power unit, a case that holds the power unit and your Video iPod at the same time, 2 addition nose pads for different height adjustment, additional earbud covers, 3 AAA batteries and a user guide. In my box, there was an A/V cable for an iPod and they supplied me with a special cable for use with my portable DVD player.

Slipping the myvu viewer from its comfortable resting spot, I was immediately impressed with its design and pleased with its weight (or lack of I should say). As I held it up, there were two earbuds that dropped from the library temples and a long cord that came from the end of the left temple attaching to the myvu power unit. The library temples are straight for ease in slipping the myvu viewer on and are surprisingly comfortable. (Just as an FYI, a temple is the "arm" of a pair of glasses, running from the ear to the lens area).

Before I slipped them on for the first time, I couldn’t help but notice the hinge system used with the library temples. When opened, they have a spring loaded system allowing them to open a bit more as they are slipped on and gently go back into their standard position. When the glasses are off, they can be easily closed making storage easy. As you open for use, they easily click into position. They have a great design providing comfort and ease of use.

Once on for the first time, I found them to feel a bit strange. I could see above and below the glasses so activity that might be going on would not be missed. In addition, there are also two windows (on either side of the actual viewing screen) that allow you to see through the viewer. Each window is tinted so it does not affect the viewing of a movie…sort of like having sunglasses on. You definitely get a different perspective in your surroundings. I certainly would not advise driving a vehicle but interestingly enough you can with some practice have movement while focused on a movie.

The power into the viewer is supplied from a power unit that is hard wired by a long cord from the left library temple. I would hope that the next iteration would not be hard wired to allow for the power unit to be removed for storage. Measuring approximately 3.5 X 2.3 X .5, it contains 3 AAA batteries that have a fairly good life cycle. The front of the power unit has a power button that glows green when power is being applied. On the top, one side has the cord from the myvu glasses and the other side has a female jack for attaching the output from your video source. The rear of the power unit has a slide off cover over the battery compartment.

I have been able to watch three full length movies and still have had power remaining. During the fourth movie, the batteries died about halfway through the movie. They rate the batteries to last approximately 6 hours but I have found it to be slightly longer.

The two earbuds that are attached to the library temples provide excellent sound and fit comfortably in your ear. With the provided earbud covers, external sounds are dramatically reduced allowing you to have the full enjoyment of the audio.

The integrated earbuds are strategically placed on the library temples so as not to interfere with your sliding the glasses. A nice design allowing them to easily be placed in your ear also allows for quick removal in case you need to listen to some external conversation. With the myvu on and the earbuds attached, if you slide off the glasses, the earbuds pop out of your ears easily. The angular design of the wire coming from the library temple eliminates any possibility of “stress” to the wires….a well thought-out design.

Getting the right position and angle is important for a good experience. Like any pair of glasses, fit is everything for comfort and Micro Optical has tried to provide in their design several options for the users comfort by providing three different nose clips that adjust how the glasses rest on your nose. Choosing the correct angle coupled with the moldable nose clip for comfort provides an image that gives you a full view, distortion free image for your experience.

I tried all three clips and found that each one gave distinct adjustments and yes, there was one that worked perfectly for me. The clips are firmly integrated in the device but can easily be removed with the appropriate pressure. I would imagine that once you choose the clip that fits for you, you will never change it again…unless your friends and family start using it.

As you hold the myvu in your hand getting ready to place them on your head, the eye piece has a very interesting design. As you would expect, there are two “lens areas”, one on either side of the nose guard but they are quite unique. There are two distinct pieces to each lens: a flat lens for viewing external sources and a rounded (fisheye) magnifier type lens that is used for viewing the image projected in the myvu viewer. They are literally right next to each other and yet when you actually are viewing a movie, they are distinctly separate. It is a very cool design that works magnificently.

The front of the myvu player is a very shiny smoked black plastic…sort of a futuristic look. The myvu logo is embossed in white on either side. Normally I would not care for a logo so prominent but it is small and gives an accent to the glasses. The MicroOptical logo on the inside of one library temple is hidden from view unless you are looking directly on the inside.

Overall the looks are quite nice; the device is well designed, has smooth finishes and is comfortable to wear. The ability to watch a movie and yet be totally aware of what is going on around you is a terrific plus.

A good looking device is one thing but the real question is: “how well does it work”? It is surprisingly incredible! I have to be honest and tell you that I had expected a big screen look…and I mean a BIG screen. So when I turned it on for the first time, I was disappointed that I didn’t have that 60 inch screen in front of my eyes. I guess I was a little unrealistic in that but what you do get is great.

The video signal is NTSC/PAL and you get a resolution of 320 X 240 on a 4:3 aspect ratio. MicroOptical indicates that the Focus Image Location is 1 meter but it seems further away as you watch or at least it did for me. I would compare the image to be like watching a 30” screen not bad considering the size of the iPod screen and definitely cool when you look at the myvu and wonder “how did they created that illusion”? That illusion is a very cool breakthrough in Optical Technology. I can’t even begin to explain it but this might help a bit in the understanding:

SolidOptex assemblies comprise a patented optical system in which the optical path is inside a refractive optical polymer instead of free space. By being in a rigid form, alignment of the component surfaces is maintained, the intrusion of dust and moisture is prevented, and the optical path length is folded to move the display and back light away from the eyes.

So the end result is that you get a pretty incredible viewing experience on a device that is remarkably thin and lightweight. I was impressed with the clarity of the picture although I did notice a distinct difference when a movie was playing on my Panasonic portable DVD player and the myvu. The LCD on the DVD player gives a very deep rich color saturation where as the myvu seemed to lose some of the richness. It would be nice to be able to adjust color saturation in some way.

My guess is that if the resolution was increased to 640 X 480, the “richness” of color would change (but so would the price). Frankly, I am not sure if you were not doing a side by side comparison that you would notice (or even care about) the color.

I was impressed with brightness of the displayed video image. The display was very enjoyable to view whether or not I was in a dark or lighted environment. I was able to enjoy a movie sitting outside on my deck (somewhat shaded), however, if I moved into the direct sun, the viewing experience was dramatically reduced.

There are some distinct advantages to these glasses, the biggest being that you can wear them in ANY position. Regardless of your position, standing, sitting or reclining, they provide an awesome viewing experience greatly enhancing your ability to use you iPod (or other portable video device).

One concern you might have is whether or not you can wear glasses with the device. The answer really depends on the size of your glasses. I have several pairs of eyeglasses and found that I could use ones that had smaller frames although it would not be optimal for comfort. However, there is a prescription lens snap-on option (integrated with nose pad) that you could get to aid in viewing.

There was NO storage container (or bag) with my unit but from what I understand, there will be a means of storing the device and the battery pack for easy transport…this will be a plus.

Lastly, an issue foremost in the minds of users that are making an investment in a device is its durability. The MicroOptical Corporation has gone through great lengths to design and build an optical system that can endure the rigors of every day use. Their optical system has no moving parts and is one solid optical piece (that in itself is an incredible feat). This design provides the user with a durable, rugged and rigid optical platform.

Of course, the durability factor also goes hand and hand with optical alignment which is critical and must be maintained to prevent eye strain. From my use, which has been intense over the past few weeks, I have never experienced any degree of discomfort. Clearly, a key factor in the design of any successful mobile device is its durability. The MicroOptical Corporation has achieved that goal by developing a device designed to provide the user with the ultimate video experience and at the same time withstand significant abuse.

I have really enjoyed using the myvu personal media viewer. It certainly has provided me with a rather unique way of enjoying my videos and one that I would recommend to those that want an alternative to having to glare at a small screen for any length of time. The ability to enjoy high quality video and remain aware of your surroundings at the same time has some terrific benefits. How many times have you been on a plane, working on your laptop and have the person in front of you recline their seat only to push your folding table into your chest and virtually stop you from working or watching that video? How often have you felt the “eyes” of the person sitting next to you staring at your laptop? With the myvu personal media viewer you will have privacy as well as comfort viewing your videos.

Display Format: Binocular
Display Type: AMLCD
Video Signal: NTSC/PAL (auto selecting)
Resolution: 320 x 240
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Focus Image: Location 1 meter
Field of View: Approximately 13.5º horizontal, 16.8º diagonal
Image Size: 27" image (virtual screen) @ 2 meters
Refresh Rate: 60 frames/sec.
Color Depth: 24 bit
Optical System: SolidOptex™ technology
Drop test portion of MIL-STD-810F test procedures:
Dropped 26 times onto 2”plywood from a height of 4 feet.
Audio: Integrated stereo sound via earbuds
Viewer: Weight 68 grams
Nose Pad: Adjustable
Prescription Lens: Snap-on option (integrated with nose pad)
Power Supply: 3 AAA batteries
Power Consumption: < 400 mW, <150 mW if integrated*
Power Saver: Auto shut off
Battery Life: Approximately 6 hours
Operating Temperature: 0 to 40ºC
Control Box Function: Power on/off button
Control Box Dimensions: 56 mm x 90 mm x 19 mm

  • Light weight
  • Comfortable design
  • SolidOptex optical system
  • Bright video image
  • Excellent battery life
  • Very definite “slickness” factor

  • No means of adjusting incoming video color
  • Battery pack is not removable for easy storage

    About the author: Jack spent 35 years teaching mathematics, worked as a Dean of Students, and completed his career as a Principal of a suburban school just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout his years in public education, the computer field has always sparked an interest in him.

    In his early years as a teacher, he became proficient with computers by teaching himself "BASIC" with an old HP card reader. Handheld computers soon became his passion where he eventually focused his attention on the HP iPAQ.

    Always the teacher, Jack participates in several discussion groups and is currently serving as Senior Editor on Mobilitysite, participates in the Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine Blogs and maintains his personal site, Experience Mobility. Jack brings to the mobile device community, news, events, and reviews that generate the same passion in handhelds that he has had.

    Retirement has not slowed Jack down, he finds himself busier today than ever before. Traveling between Massachusetts and Maine, he is continually writing, reading and working with his iPAQ. In addition, Jack serves on the board of advisors for SCOTTEVEST.

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