Audio glasses such as the Bose Frames Tempo and the Amazon Echo Frames have gained popularity over the past few years, but cinema-display glasses never really caught on. TCL is looking to change that with its Nxtwear G Smart Glasses. TCL says it plans to release the glasses in Australia first, later this month, and that additional markets will be announced soon, but there’s currently no word on US availability or pricing. The lightweight frames pack an immersive 140-inch-equivalent display and lush speakers that are great for video calls and Netflix binges on the go, but the the design is downright uncomfortable. This cutting-edge technology could use some honing.
Not Quite Cyberpunk Style
If I were to make a list of things I love, you’d find television near the top of the very short list. So when TCL announced its Nxtwear G Smart Glasses, I fantasized about a cyberpunk future where I could spend my days cocooned by a 140-inch screen, untethered from the outside world and looking cool in my digital shades.
Like many fantasies, mine was sadly implausible in real life. This gadget just doesn’t fit well enough to wear for long stretches, and though it’s the smallest pair of cinema glasses I’ve seen, it’s far from sleek. On the other hand, if matters of comfort and style are set aside, there’s a lot to admire in what the Nxtwear G can do.
Let’s start with the design. At 6.3 by 7.4 by 1.7 inches unfolded (HWD), the Nxtwear G is downright svelte when compared with the monstrous cinema glasses of years past. That said, I doubt anyone other than the folks at TCL would call it snazzy.
TCL says, “Both familiar and avant-garde, the aerodynamic, reflective, deep black exterior of the TCL Nxtwear G Smart glasses take sleek eyewear design to the next level.” That’s a bold claim. To me it looks more like vintage Oakleys combined with post-surgical wraparound sunglasses, perched on top of a swimmer’s nose clip. There’s also a six-foot USB-C cable dangling from the right arm that you’ll need to tuck behind your ear.
The opaque plastic lenses are reflective and quickly show fingerprints and smudges. The exterior portions of the frame are made of a highly reflective plastic that’s slightly lighter than the lenses. A soft, grippy nylon is used on the interior edges of the arms and the bridge.
If your head is of average size, you may find the Nxtwear G frames to be comfortable, though the hanging cable will probably annoy you. If you’re sporting a wider head like me, however, the TCL’s smart glasses will be uncomfortably tight. The lenses are about 55mm wide, so they should fit generously, but the nylon arms dig in a bit.
The Nxtwear G’s bridge is an awkward appendage that hangs from the frame. The bridge that’s attached to the glasses out of the box is so constricting that I found myself breathing through my mouth while watching an episode of Law and Order: SVU. I removed the bridge and tried the glasses without it; the frames rested directly on my nose and required an adjustment every few minutes.
After some hunting, I found two wider bridges hidden in the Nxtwear G case, along with a lens adapter and a cleaning cloth. They’re tucked behind an opaque cover in the case lid and easy to miss. These replacement bridges are more comfortable for broader noses.
TCL’s design choices do serve a purpose. The chunky arms house a pair of speakers, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a proximity sensor. The prominent bridge ensures the glasses are properly positioned on your face, and the lopped-off lenses let you look up to see the people around you or down to focus on your keyboard or smartphone. We’re still a long way from cinema glasses that are both beautiful and functional, but TCL has opted for functionality, and that’s not a bad choice in theory. It’s just a little hard to appreciate in practice.
Impressive Technical Achievement
Until now, you’ve had three options if you want to lie on your back and watch TV: hold a tablet, hold a smartphone, or bolt a television to the ceiling. There’s a good chance you’re unable or unwilling to do that much work just to catch up on The Throne. The Oculus Go and other VR headsets aren’t great for streaming on your back (I’ve tried). However, the Nxtwear G makes it easy.
A mini-AMOLED display is housed in each of the lenses. Together, the pair emulate the experience of watching a 140-inch screen at 13 feet. The dual displays have a standard 1080p display resolution, a 60Hz refresh rate, and a 47-degree field of view.
If you were expecting the Nxtwear G to pack higher resolution or a wider field of view, this is probably a good time to explain why TCL’s setup is spot-on for cinema glasses. Display resolution is an important consideration with large screens, but as they get smaller, so do the benefits you get from high resolutions. Combine the teeny-tiny displays on the Nxtwear G with a 47 pixels-per-degree resolution, and even people with 20/20 vision will not notice pixelation with high-definition movies or games.
A wide field of view makes sense for VR headsets, since games and interactive experiences get your attention by placing cues in the peripheries, but it’s not useful for the Nxtwear G. Most people are born with a visual field of about 120 degrees of arc; about 90 degrees of that is peripheral vision, and peripheral vision isn’t very good. Though you can recognize objects with your peripheral vision, you can’t make out specific details. So, though TCL could have created larger lenses with a larger field of view, they wouldn’t work well for gaming or office work. And since most television and movies have a 16:9 or 21:9 aspect ratio, a greater field of view would make your viewing experience worse, since it would require a giant letterbox.
Thanks to a tiny accelerometer in one of the Nxtwear G’s arms, the screen remains fixed, no matter your position. I tried it at every angle imaginable, short of standing on my head, and the sensor worked perfectly.
A Wearable Display
The Nxtwear G functions pretty simply as an output device. Like any other computer display, you don’t have to create an account, connect it to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or charge it—you just plug the cable into any device that supports USB-C with Mini DisplayPort.
I tried it with a number of phones, and the only ones it didn’t work with were my iPhone 12 (it won’t work on any iPhone) and, surprisingly enough, the US version of TCL’s latest flagship, the 20 Pro 5G. When I tried an international version of the 20 Pro 5G, it functioned just fine. Long story short: Make sure your phone supports Mini DisplayPort via USB-C before investing in these glasses.
To test the Nxtwear G, I streamed video, gamed a little, and attempted to use it as my primary monitor. It’s by far best suited for catching up on your favorite shows. The display was bright, the colors were vivid, and it felt like I could just drown into those inky blacks. TCL suggests using Bluetooth headphones with the Nxtwear G, but there’s no need unless you want privacy. The stereo speakers have nice timbre, with well-represented mids and just enough bass.
Gaming is sort of awkward with the smart glasses; I encountered noticeable lag while playing Alto’s Odyssey, and the entire experience just feels a little off. Looking down at the trackpad and then back up at the display led to lots of missed jumps.
Word processing, web browsing, and other work and daily life tasks are also a little bit of a challenge with the Nxtwear G. I’d suggest not using the frames with Android Desktop mode. The combination works, but Android Desktop isn’t spectacular, and typing anything longer than a few sentences on your phone is annoying.
However, if you’re willing to zoom in a bit, the Nxtwear G works well as a second display for your laptop. When I plugged it into my MacBook Air, the giant display in front of me was every bit as crisp and colorful as the one it replaced. If you set it up as a secondary display rather than a mirror, you can drag windows onto the eyeglass display for a modicum of privacy when using your laptop out in the world, but you can’t see your regular display and look at the glasses at the same time.
I was surprised that I didn’t get the typical eyestrain that occurs when my face is inches from a screen for hours on end. In fact, the only issue I encountered while using the Nxtwear G was slight blurring around the edges. That went away as soon as I put it on over my prescription eyeglasses. If you’re planning to use the Nxtwear G for work, or just don’t want to look goofy wearing glasses over your glasses, you can get a pair of prescription lenses to pop into the lens adapter.
I expected the Nxtwear G to drain the host device’s battery quickly, but it pleasantly surprised me. Over the course of one hour’s use, my MacBook Air’s battery level dropped by about 3%, and the charge on the international TCL 20 Pro 5G was reduced by about 8%.
Not a Perfect Fit
There’s a lot to like about the TCL Nxtwear G Smart Glasses. It has an incredible display and capable speakers, and it works with many laptops and Android smartphones. That said, it’s uncomfortable, and the overall design aesthetic is an acquired taste. The tech is sound, but the part where a human wears it needs work.
The biggest issue is availability. Right now, we don’t even know whether TCL plans to release its smart glasses in the US, but the fact that its US flagship phone is missing a Mini DisplayPort connection doesn’t seem like a good sign. And the Nxtwear G is likely to cost as much as a midrange phone, some of which (including TCL’s own 20 Pro 5G) now come with very nice displays. If you’re zipping across the globe and tired of squinting at movies on the seat-back display, it may be worth the cost. Otherwise, your best bet is to spend your money on a good smartphone with an AMOLED screen.
Published at Mon, 19 Jul 2021 20:13:34 +0000
This post originally posted here https://in.pcmag.com/mobile-phone-accessories/143801/tcl-nxtwear-g-smart-glasses