TCL NXTWear G review: The almost unwearable wearable display
“I was excited to try out the TCL NXTWear G wearable display, but unfortunately while the concept and technology is good, the execution and wearability is not.”
- Colorful screens show plenty of detail
- Easy connection and no set up
- No battery to recharge
- Uncomfortable fit
- No focus adjustment
- Small icons used throughout the interface
- “Rounding” of viewing area
When I first heard about the TCL NXTWear G wearable display, I was very excited to try them out. Putting on a pair of high-tech glasses, and then using only my phone and a pair of Bluetooth headphones to get a big-screen cinema experience really fit in with my recent quest to shut out the sounds of the world.
However, my anticipation was short lived once I tried them on, as I hadn’t bargained for the way the NXTWear G would assault my face. I did find things to like, but unfortunately, this wearable display is otherwise the very definition of a first-generation product.
The TCL NXTWear G is shaped like bulky sunglasses, but with oversize arms and two screens where you’d normally look through lenses. A thick rubber-coated cable is attached to one of the arms which stretches out to 1.2 meters in length (about 4 feet). The front piece is covered in reflective black plastic, which extends out along the arms. A speaker vent on each arm exits close to where they meet your ears.
When they’re not on your face the NXTWear G look quite good, in a space-age geeky way, but unless you have a small face, they’re not proportioned very well when you put them on. Unlike actual spectacles, they’re not worn right up against your eyes which adds to the unusual look. Obviously, they aren’t for wearing casually, but you should expect to get some odd sideways stares wearing them in Starbucks or on an airplane.
The positioning of the NXTWear G on your face means you can see out below them, allowing you to control the onscreen content using your phone, or not trip over the cat if you get up and move around while still wearing them. Like many pieces of wearable tech that go on your face, the TCLWear G will never make you look cool. But that’s not really the point here. They’re designed to put a personal cinema screen right in front of your eyes, but this means wearing them for more than 10 minutes, and that’s where the pain begins.
Wearing the glasses
I admit, I was really looking forward to using the NXTWear G. I love the idea of shutting out the world with a great screen right in front of my eyes and a good pair of headphones on. Unfortunately, it seems to have been designed by people who have never actually worn glasses, or possibly anything on their faces at all, and have instead taken inspiration for the design from an insidious torture device. It’s OK, TCL, I’ll tell you everything you want to know, just don’t make me wear the NXTWear G for too long.
There are two primary problems that make the NXTWear G so uncomfortable. The first is the grip of the arms. There’s very little flexibility once they’re opened out so they’re really tight, and the tips dig into the spot behind my ears to the point where I could still “feel” them for a while after taking the glasses off. Once clamped onto my face, there’s no doubt the NXTWear G aren’t going to fall off without someone ripping them off, but this security makes wearing them even for the length of a music video on YouTube a test of endurance. Being forced to wear them to watch a 120-minute movie sounds like a punishment you’d threaten a particularly naughty child with.
The second problem, and even worse than the vice-like grip on my head, is how they sit on my nose. There are three surprisingly rigid nose pads included, each apparently designed to pinch the bridge of your nose with ever-increasing amounts of uncomfortable pressure and never give in. They also have the unpleasant side-effect of ensuring you feel every single one of the NXTWear’s 100 grams bearing down right on your conk. Restricted breathing capacity and the growing feeling of being in a headlock do not make for an enjoyable viewing experience.
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Maybe it’s the shape of my head and nose that’s the problem, as in other NXTWear coverage the comfort has not always been highlighted in an overly negative fashion. Obviously, faces don’t have a uniform size, so while wearing it is like putting my head in a vice for me, it may provide pillow-like comfort for others. The glasses may eventually “give” a little, but after 10 days or so using them for this review, they have not stretched out in any meaningful way. For me, the NXTWear G wearable display is too uncomfortable to use for any meaningful amount of time.
Looking into the screen
Very little concession seems to have been made in the design to make sure the NXTWear G fits comfortably on as many different faces as possible. The nose pads are fixed in place, with no forward or back movement to help with fit, and this lack of adjustment means it’s impossible to position the display at exactly the right spot to see all the images. Again, perhaps my head is horribly misshapen and no one else will have a problem, but I simply couldn’t get it in the right spot to actually see all the display.
With the smallest nose pad fitted — the least uncomfortable for me — and the glasses balanced in the center of my nose to maximize breathing ability, all four corners of the screen are hidden by an odd rounding of the viewing area. It’s distracting and annoying, especially when using the PC-like desktop view, as this hides the tiny icons in those corners from view. But Andy, you say, why not just adjust the glasses to see more? Sure, but the trouble is, when you move the glasses to the tip of your nose the top of the display disappears, while squashing them against your face obscures the bottom of the screen.
Swap to the other nose pads and there’s no improvement at all, it just exasperates the issue based on the size and shape of your face, and adds in even more discomfort. The angled glass also plays a part in trying to get the position right, as in bright rooms they reflect your clothing, when the lack of varied adjustment becomes even more of a problem. You can eat while wearing the NXTWear G, but drinking is rather messy because the glasses poke out quite far from your face. A normal glass just bumps up against them, forcing you to look right up to try and get the liquid down your throat, but this mostly results in you spilling it down your front. Convenient, they are not.
Perhaps the closest approximation to how the NXTWear G feel on your face is to imagine those massive, front-heavy, tangled-metal contraptions the optician uses to assess which lens combination you need during an eye exam, but with the screw-down nose part tightened to a deliberately restrictive degree. It’s that, but marketed for enjoyment.
This brings me to a different kind of restriction. If you don’t have 20/20 vision, the NXTWear G aren’t for you. It’s practically impossible to wear glasses under them, unlike some VR headsets like PlayStation VR, and there’s no focus adjustment like there was on the Samsung Gear VR, so there’s every chance you won’t see the screen clearly at all. TCL’s solution is to supply a lens attachment ready to take your prescription lenses, which magnetically clip to the inside of the frame.
But fitting your own lenses will undoubtedly cost quite a lot more money, and may also be impossible depending on the strength of your prescription. I’d also be wary about the attachment introducing even more reflections, as it sits at a vertical angle in front of your eyes, unlike the 45-degree angle of