The latest iteration of Sony's head-mounted display is somewhat obscured, deep at the back of the company's IFA 2013 booth, but that didn't stop me from paying it a curious visit. I'd never previously gotten the chance to experience this strange contraption for myself, and having recently taken a magical ride inside the Oculus Rift, I was keen to see what Sony had to offer as competition. Alas, my experience is best described as mixed.
Reaching the milestone of a third-generation product should mean the HMZ-T3 has the benefits of a couple years' of evolution and, indeed, the latest model has been subjected to a range of small nips, tucks, and improvements. You now have a pocketable battery pack, which tethers to the HMZ and helps lighten the load on your head. It can accept Wireless HD transmissions — which are then piped to the headset — or you can even plug in your smartphone via an MHL cable. In spite of the octopus-like arrangement of head-gripping gear, there are no actual headphones built into the HMZ, so you'll need a second cable, preferably jacked into a high-quality pair of over-the-ear headphones.
It's prettier on the inside
Once you negotiate your way inside the HMZ-T3's tentacles, you're faced with two 720p OLED displays, one for each eye, and are provided with a set of adjustments to get the picture perfectly focused. I had a great deal of difficulty achieving that, however. Things weren't much helped by the 3D content that was playing back, but in the rare moments where I could get focused in properly, the picture was crisp and pleasingly saturated. The HMZ-T3 can play back both 2D and 3D video, so things might be a bit easier with more conventional content.
The two big problems of the original and second-gen HMZ sets remain unfortunately unresolved. Comfort was issue number one, and the T3 model still rests too heavily on your nose, leaving marks after just a few minutes' wear. The other trouble arises when you look at the price tag, which is an eye-watering £1,299 in the UK, €1,299 in the rest of Europe, or a somewhat more palatable ¥100,000 in Japan. Both markets should get the HMZ-T3 in October.