Personal video displays are the old-school siblings of VR headsets. They've been around for years, creating a virtual floating screen through which one person can enjoy video. Due to concerns over picture quality, I've never been all that interested in this sort of device. But, when I ran into some reviews of the Avegant Video Headset, I realized it promised something different than the personal viewers of yore.
What makes Avegant's device unique, aside from its convertible design—you can use it as audio headphones as well as a multimedia viewer—is that you are not looking at a screen through magnifying glasses. Instead, you are projecting light bouncing off a DLP chip, right onto your retinas. The resulting image, although only 720p in resolution, has a crispness and cohesiveness that any videophile I know would acknowledge is awesome. Contrast, color, and uniformity are all accounted for in abundance.
This is a pure HDMI device. In other words, it's just like a TV. You connect an HDMI source to it (there is a micro HDMI input) and it plays. Simple as that!
Initially, I was skeptical of the utility of a 720p display, given that I've grown accustomed to 4K TVs. But, it need be said, quality of pixels matters a lot, and Avegant does a lot with the million (per eye) it's got.
Existing reviews of the Avegant focus on ergonomics and comfort. To that point, I'll say this, I have yet to try a headset that's truly comfortable for long-term use, and the Avegant was not an exception. But, what it offered in terms of an experience was seductive enough to keep me in it grip for extended gaming sessions.
Unlike virtual reality headsets, this viewer does not cover your face like a mask. No risk of fogged up screens or getting the feeling you are in a sauna for. Plus, with Avegant's approach, you can actually see around you by looking up or down; you're not fully isolated from your environment.
The moment I put the headset on and dialed in the test pattern, I knew that I was dealing with a device delivering performance on the optimistic end of my expectations, given the specs. I'm laser-focused on its image quality attributes, here's what I found using it with various sources.
I found that with my PC as well as with my PS4 Pro, the Avegant's 720p resolution was not explicitly a minus. Both gaming platforms delivered smooth graphics that looked crisp and colorful. I could not measure lag, but driving games felt snappy and I was very competitive in GTA5 races. Furthermore, the PC was able to handle both 60p and 120p output with style and ease; 120p is unbelievably smooth and not something I'm used to seeing since I only game on TVs.
3D gaming with the Avegant and PS4 Pro makes me wish Sony's box had more games that support it. Super Stardust Ultra is a 3D title that looked phenomenal through the Avegant.
While gaming on the Avegant Video Headset was thrilling, watching TV and movies was a bit more of a mixed bag. The greatest disappointment is the lack of support for Blu-ray 3D. I wish there was a 1080p version of this headset that supported 3D because based on how good 720p 3D looks, full HD would provide a sublime experience. Truly. Maybe next time?
The other issue with the headset is weak black levels. Anyone familiar with DLP and projection knows the technology struggles with reproducing deep blacks, and that is true with the Avegant. But part of the issue is that even the "low" setting for the Avegant is very bright—too bright for movies. Anyhow, aside from the poor black levels, the rich and colorful SDR image has an almost HDR-like quality to it. Again, it begs the question of how amazing would a 1080p version of the Avegant look?
The AVS Forum Hands-On Review Process
(master list of hands-on threads)