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Giulio

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 10:03 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

Hi everybody.
I didnít forget I promised to post a review about my brand new Z800. I was just too busy having fun with itÖ :p
The headset was punctually delivered Dec. 27th, and Iíve been using it intensively in the past three days. These are my impressions about it. I tried to cover the most controversial points about the Z800, comparing my experience with the other usersí remarks I read in this and other boards. So here we go. Be sure to have some time because itís not a quick read ;-).

Setup

Itís quite a straight forward, hassle-free process: Basically you just have to connect the Z800 controller to a VGA output to get the video signal, and to an USB port for power and headtracking. If you still use a monitor, you have to hook it up to the VGA output of the controller in a daisy-chain fashion.
When I got the unit, I had already reverted to ForceWare 78.01 and installed the 78.01 stereo driver, so I skipped that part. When you first plug the USB cable into your PC, you get the ďnew hardware foundĒ message, and you just have to hit ďcancelĒ to abort the windows driver installation process and use the Z800 CD instead. Windows will warn you that the driver doesnít have WHQL certification, you continue, and itís done. If the headset is not your only display, remember to enable the secondary monitor in the Z800 control panel, otherwise the controller wonít amplify the output signal and youíll get a dark yet washed out picture.
I happen to have a dual monitor layout in my system, with a BenQ FP71V+ on the DVI output of my 6600GT as the primary display, and an Acer 1704 as my secondary display. To have the games rendered on the VGA output, I had to make the analog monitor primary, and also, of course, I had to set the resolution at 800x600, and change a few other things, like the refresh rate. Fortunately the nVidia driver supports profiles, which I used to store the two different layouts, and now switching from work to games is a matter of seconds. I also tweaked the color correction settings, taking down gamma a little and increasing digital vibrance. When I was happy with the results, I saved a specific color correction profile for the Z800.

Picture quality: is it blurry?

So, with my Z800 tuned up and ready to go, I started to adjust the optics to match my head shape, eyes position and features. This is where a lot of users reported they were unable to have the picture completely in focus. So, howís the Z800 picture quality? Is it blurry?
It is not, in my experience, but I can see why some people couldnít get the picture to be in focus everywhere. Someone even complained about the Z800 having plastic lenses instead of crystal ones. Well, my glasses have synthetic lenses and they cost much more than the correspondent crystal version: they are much lighter and although their refraction index is slightly lower than that of crystal, they have great optic properties. Complaining about the lenses being made of plastic is a nonsense to me: Rather than worrying about that, I think you should pay attention to all the parameters that actually affect the performance of the complex Z800 optics:

- The unit inclination on the rear-front axis
- The unit inclination on the left - right axis
- The unit inclination on the up-down axis
- The interpupillary distance adjustment
- How close you pull the visor to your eyes
- The inclination of the visor

Many of these factors interact with each other. You have to understand which part of the picture can become blurry when you change one of these parameters. The first times I used the Z800 I did get the impression I would never get the whole picture in focus, no matter what I did. But I was wrong. When youíll get accustomed to the way each of the above parameter changes the final result, having an optimal picture will become a matter of seconds. But it does require some trial and error in order to figure out all that. I used the Z800 both with glasses and contacts, and now I can always get the whole picture to be in focus in both cases.
Ok then, and how does an optimal picture look like in 2D? Is it as sharp as a monitor? Well, not in my opinion. But I donít think it has to do with poor optics or whatever. Think about it: when you use a normal monitor, both your eyes get a picture of the same pixel grid. Here you have two pixel grids, one per eye, which are slightly dissimilar even though they show the same picture. When your brain merges the two pictures, there are small differences between the pixels it gets from the right and left eye, and I think that creates a sort of natural antialiasing. Which, by the way, makes the 800x600 resolution look better than one would expect. Itís like a very subtle softness that canít be described as blurriness. The blurriness you get when the Z800 is not properly adjusted is much more annoying.
Even though the headset can be used as a portable laptop display for privacy and low power consumption, I think the laptopís own TFT panel is still better sharpness-wise. I personally wouldnít spend $800 for that purpose alone, even though it can be considered a bonus if youíre primarily interested in 3D gaming. Of course if you work for the CIA and privacy is a key factor, you might think differently. Another thing is the graininess. When you look at bright pictures, like a document in Word or Excel, you see it like it was painted on some very fine canvas. Itís barely noticeable, but you donít have that effect on ordinary TFT monitors.
I also read of people complaining about the picture being washed out and how they couldnít adjust the brightness properly because itís got only 5 different steps. While the last statement is true, still the ForceWare driver gives the user full control over the quality of the video card output. Once I took very little time to create a color correction profile, I got a really nice picture, with rich, vibrant colors and good black levels, much better than what I expected by a mere 200:1 contrast ratio. Oh, and I can instantly retrieve the settings every time I switch from work to gaming, which is handy.

FOV / Immersiveness

First of all, let me say I think 3D gaming is where the Z800 really shines. When both the optics and picture output are properly adjusted, the Z800 has really nice colors and a great stereo effect, which is not spoiled by ghosting or anything like that. The Z800 stereovision is like stereovision should be, and it gets better with time. Also, in my experience the pictures looks much sharper in 3D than it does in 2D, although why that happens is beyond me.
About the FOV, I think other users have described it quite fairly: I used to play Guild Wars on my 17Ē BenQ at 2í, and the Z800 picture looks bigger, I would say about 20/22Ē at the same distance, even though it feels like an even bigger yet farther picture. I have to admit that, since almost everybody complained about the Z800 having a small FOV, I expected a much smaller picture. Actually I consider the gaming experience with the Z800 to be very immersive, but in my opinion the FOV contribution to the immersiveness factor is overrated. Having a natural-looking stereovision not affected by ghosting or other ugly artifacts / effects, causes some strange reactions I neved had before. Like yesterday, I was watching the sky in GW, and I found myself thinking it looked like it was about 6-7PM in a sunny summer day. And then I realized I had never had a thought like that even though I play Guild Wars since July and I saw that sky hundreds of times. What triggered that thought was the way the sky looked in stereovision: it felt distant, far away behind the mountains, and that made it pretty much real. Thatís immersiveness in my opinion: thinking as though the virtual universe you see before your eyes were real. And while the FOV can contribute to that, in my opinion its contribution is not as fundamental as many persons think it is. The whole FOV thing has a lot to do with expectations, but Iíll get back on that later.
Yesterday I played an insane number of hours, like 13-14, taking only a few pauses, and I noticed no eyestrain. When I went to bed I had more what I would call a brainstrain, feeling quite dizzy, but I think that has to do with the stereovison thing per se and not the Z800. I think itís the brain having to manage for such an extended period of time a stereo separation thatís different compared to the one I get from my own eyes.

Headtracker

I donít think Iím the right person to review the Z800 headtracker both because I have no experience with other trackers and because I play RPG games, which arenít the best to try headtracking with. I did activate it for a while just to see how it performed, and what I can say is that the responsiveness and precision of the movement is fully customizable, and it felt like the sensors were very accurate and the game reacted instantly to my head movement. I didnít notice any drift. But I think itís better you ask someone who plays driving games or flight sims for a meaningful review of this feature. According to eMagin news page, Lock On now supports the Z800 natively. Whether that means they used the recently released SDK to unlock its hardware 6DOF capabilities, or just another limited 2DOF movement via mouse emulation, I donít know. Maybe someone with a Z800 and Lock On can patch it and tell us how it is.

Watching movies

The subtle softness of the Z800 picture can disappoint some 2D users if they are accustomed to really sharp displays, since it can be annoying if you have to read documents which contain small fonts. However, itís really no issue when you use the visor to watch movies. Actually, it contributes to the ďtheater feelingĒ you get by using the Z800 for this purpose. This is really the situation when you believe it is a 105Ē screen at 12í. While the picture is not as sharp as the one I get from my Panasonic plasma TV, which has a lower resolution but a great 3000:1 contrast ratio, amazing colors and almost perfect black levels, I think the experience of watching movies on this unit is really pleasant. I think this is the second best use of this headset right after playing 3D games. I tried both Shrek 2 and the beginning of LOTR The Fellowship of the Ring, and I was really happy with the outcome.

Am I satisfied?

Yes, definitely. The unit is not perfect, but still has made my gaming experience way better and is really fun to use. Thereís no going back to flat gaming for me. The only thing of this headset I find somewhat annoying is the subtle but sometimes noticeable graininess which appears in bright, low contrast pictures. For that reason I think you get a better experience in darker and/or highly contrasted games / movies. If I could have a Z800 without the graininess I would say itís perfect, but I still consider it an amazing gadget and am really happy with the purchase.

Will/Would you be satisfied?

Of course there isnít a clever way to answer this question. But I use it as a pretext to raise an issue that has more to do with your attitude towards life and yet it will affect the way you will/would react to the Z800. Disappointment doesnít happen without expectations. By definition, disappointment happens when expectations are not fulfilled. Like those women spending their lives looking for Prince Charming just to find themselves disappointed by every single man they meet, if you have unfair or excessive expectations about the Z800 you will indeed be disappointed. The Z800 is not cheap either. So the only advice I can give you is this: carefully watch inside yourself and see what you expect to get from the Z800. If it is Lawnmower Man, then youíll be disappointed. If it is razor-sharp pictures then youíll be disappointed. If it is a really great stereovision gaming and virtual theater and a nice but not excellent 2D display, I think youíll find yourself quite happy. But remember, if you expect too much out of things, the Z800 wonít be the last disappointment youíll have in lifeÖ

Hope this helps those who are evaluating the purchase of a Z800, or just curious about it.
Feel free to ask about points I forgot to mention, or I didnít cover as thoroughly as you would have wanted. If I can be of any help, I will.

All the best

Giulio
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TigerClaw

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 12:16 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

Great Review Giulio!
I have some questions:
Can you see any death pixels?
When did you order the z800?
It was shipped prontly, no shipping lag?
Can you please give me your email to speak about the z800? (In italian :D)

Thank You
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water1

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Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 7:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

Thank you very much Giulio for the review.
It looks like you put alot of time into it.
For someone that speaks english as a 2nd, 3rd or so on and so on language. You see, I don't know how many languages you can speak but your english was great.
I don't have a Z800 yet so I like reading peoples thoughts on it after they have had a chance to use one.
Your review was a big help so Thanks again.
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Giulio

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Posted on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 8:49 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

@TigerClaw
Yes, there are some dead pixels. I haven't counted them, also because they are in different positions in the left and right screen, so they are not overly noticeable and they don't spoil the overall experience. From what I understand every single Z800 shipped so far has dead pixels, so we have to assume (and accept) that for the time being dead pixels are an inherent limit of the OLED technology, pretty much like defective sectors were in the early magnetic storage devices.
I placed my order on Dec. 20th and the Z800 shipped on Dec. 22nd. I would indeed call that a prompt shipping, especially so because it was Christmas time.
About giving you my e-mail, I have no problems at all, provided we find a way so I don't hate to post it here, otherwise my mailbox will be assaulted by spammers...

@water1
I did read a lot of reviews myself before deciding to order the Z800, and they were very helpful since the Z800 can't be tried out before buying it. So I kinda tried to return the favor...
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Giulio

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Posted on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 8:51 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

In the previous post "hate" was obviously "have"...
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TigerClaw

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Posted on Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - 11:42 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

It's very difficult to accept from a 900$ device to have, very often, some dead pixels. Emagin have to do something about it
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Giulio

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Posted on Thursday, January 05, 2006 - 12:09 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

I agree with you. Personally it doesn't bother me to have dead pixels, and I expected to have some before ordering the headset, but I still see your point. I think if someone invests in bleeding edge technology (s)he must be prepared to see that same technology improve as the prices drop. Which means that, to buy a Z800 now, one has to know exctactly what (s)he's doing and be comfortable with it. And I perfectly understand why you are not.
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MarkS

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Posted on Sunday, January 08, 2006 - 6:53 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

Giulio

Thanks for one of the most detailed and realistic reviews of the Z800 to be posted.

I think that with your review and some previous I have now a very realistic expectation for the z800 for my purpose with flight simulation and it is a case of just when I can purchase a Z800 and not if :) I still feel excited that I will be part of this movement embracing the 'bleeding edge ' of this consumer level technology

Mark
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Tommi Korhonen

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Posted on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 1:28 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

Very good review, thank you. You could perhaps have said more about the 3D experience, how does it compare to other 3D glasses... but then again you say the crucial: no ghosting. :)

Now some of our sim-heads need to know about the useability in simulators. I have been dreaming Falcon4 with VR-gear for about 10 years now, this might be close to it.

I am quite often one of the spearhead consumers. Z800 is a tad expensive, but it looks like I'm loosing the grip. :) Thanks for the review.
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Reticuli

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Posted on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 9:03 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

It's impossible to get the Z800 to work on any piece of software that can't run at 800x600. X-Plane and Falcon 4 start at 1024x768. A lot of the better older sims that run in part or in full at 640x480 are either difficult or impossible to use, as well. Many of these older sims require Windows 98, and the Emagin tracking drivers & mouse emulator do not appear to install correctly on that OS yet. Even though there are 98 drivers on the CD, it attempts to install the 2000 drivers. I also see no evidence that the unit can use any refresh rate other than 60hz. You can feed it higher ones, but it will not use them. At least in 2D mode there is even evidence vertical frame ripping when the fps is higher than 60hz but you're running the refresh at a high enough setting without vertical sync. So it's probably dropping those extra frames similar to what happens in the buffer for a TV out (also needs 60hz)
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Charles

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Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 1:00 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

The z800 will also accept 85 Hz input at 800 x 600, and its image (at least for stereoscopic video) is indistinguishable from 60 Hz input. At refresh rates above 85 Hz, the z800 won't display an image.
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Andrea

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Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 1:17 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

Hi Giulio and thanks for the info.
I read some reviews about I-Glasses and some of them says that the displays need a warm-up time to show good images; in the first 10/20 minutes, the colors and the blacks are not good and sometimes they are different in the two eyes.
What about the "boot" of the Z800?
When you switch it on from hours of inactivity, is it immediately ready to use as a normal monitor?
Some more questions...
Did you buy the CE or the US version? Is it worth to spend 100$ more and buy the CE version (I don't have to sell it and I live in northern Italy too)?
Did you try it on Win2000?

TIA

Ciao
Andrea
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TigerClaw

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Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 11:28 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

L'unica differenza fra la versione CE e la versione americana è la garanzia di 1 anno.
Nella versione USA la garanzia è infatti solo di 3 mesi.
Non possiedo uno z800, comunque posso dirti che non è necessario il warm up avendo letto numerose recensioni.

There is only a difference between USA and CE version: warranty
3 months for USA version, 1 year for CE version.
It don't need a warm up.
Please remember that I don't own a z800, so wait for a complete Giulio's reply.
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madjack

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Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 - 1:24 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

'I can always get the whole picture to be in focus in both cases. '

But can you really? Perhaps it's my unit but there's always an element of slight ghosting which runs as a band along one strip of the screen. It's not great, and fiddling with the units placement can minimise it, but it's there and it reduces the unit's efficacy for reading pages of text or HUD details. I suspect this is down to the optic's barrel like construction.


'Complaining about the lenses being made of plastic is a nonsense to me: Rather than worrying about that, I think you should pay attention to all the parameters that actually affect the performance of the complex Z800 optics:'

Jeez. I've been using the thing for 4 months now, I'm aware of all the settings eh?

I wasn't 'complaining' about the lenses being plastic/composite - I was complaining about the fact that the Z800 has a rather small 'sweetspot' and is quite sensitive to being not quite properly aligned. To me, while build quality is good for the unit overall, this sensitiveness reduces the unit's overall robustness. I'm not up on optics and was wondering aloud if the lens material might be a factor in this.
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oqvist

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Posted on Saturday, March 11, 2006 - 9:15 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

You can use it for hours? Read reports that the manufacturers recommend one hour and extremetech says they get headache after 30 minutes and you can see flicker...

Now I guess with 3d enabled you get 30 hertz on each eye. Running just 60 hertz on my CRT is not something I want to do for my 2 hour endurances and with my stereo3d glasses I notice the higher refresh rate the greater the 3d experience... Now running with fresnel a larger screen and stereo3d glasses does enhance the 3d effect as well so maybe the 3d effect with these Z800 is decent anyway. Without ghosting is of course a big plus but can you run say fast paced racing games or flight sims for hours in 3d mode? I have read one user that says the 3d in LOMAC with these is pretty much non existant... I have the edimensionals and with those I get a good 3d impression with Lomac...

But 900$ I need to empty my bank account which I am ready to do if it´s really that good. Now why is the european version 100$ more expensive? It powers from the USB port right so what differs???
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anon100

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Posted on Monday, March 13, 2006 - 9:20 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

They are OLED not CRT. LCD monitors for example have very often a fixed refresh of 60 Hz anf this is normal. You can't compare two different technologies like CRT and OLED.
HDM have one large problem they are very subjective. Someone can use it for 5 minutes and get an headache and others can play with it for hours without a issue.
YOU have to try it.
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oqvist

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Posted on Monday, March 13, 2006 - 7:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

But can you try it with a full money back warranty if you aren´t satisfied? I have emailed emagin but haven´t got an answer...
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Manta

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Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 - 6:59 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

The refresh rate depends on the type of signal your display (monitor or HMD) is receiving from the graphic card. If it is DVI (digital), the refresh is set to 60Hz. But, if it is analog (traditional VGA connector) the refresh rate can be set, for example, from 60 to 85Hz.
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oqvist

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Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 - 6:57 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

ok cool. So I can have 150 hertz since my monitor supports that at 800x600 (or even more) Not that I would need that though lol. But I have noticed the speed sensation in fast paced F1 games for example benefits on a CRT to go for 100 over 85 really whereas I can´t detect flicker at 85 hertz.
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Charles

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Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 - 7:22 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post

Oqvist:

The z800 won't display an image if the signal it receives has a refresh rate greater than 85.

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