Hardware Set Up
The quick start guide is fairly accurate and should get anyone who is somewhat familiar with their PC up and running in a few minutes. The main control unit has plug receptacles for an AC Adaptor (I didn‘t need to use this as the unit is powered via the USB), USB, audio, microphone, and 2 VGA connectors.
The hardware installation is straight forward. Microphone to your mic input, USB to a USB on your PC, and so on. The only thing out of the norm is the 2 VGA connectors on the main control unit. If one desires they can connect their monitor into the control unit and then the unit into the video card. This enables the user to use both the Z800 and a standard monitor.
There are some important items to note about the supplied hardware.
First, the VGA cable that is supplied is only one foot long. This means if you are using a tower PC the unit will have to rest beside your case. The 1’ cable is not long enough to even reach the top of my ATX case. If your set up is like mine, where the PC is under your work station, or beside it, you will not be able to use the controls on the main control unit. A 3’ cable would have been more appropriate for this device.
Following this is the audio and mic cable lengths. These are also too short and confine the unit to a close vicinity of the PC. Also, if you are using an Audigy 2ZS or similar sound card, which has front mounted ¼” jacks for audio and mic, it is impossible for the supplied cables to reach the front of the PC. This is because the main control unit is attached by the 1‘ VGA connector to the back of the PC.
The lengths of the cables suggest they were designed for laptop users as long cables would get in the way. Perhaps it would be a good idea for Emagin to sell Laptop and PC configured versions, the latter having longer cables. Emagin does offer 6’ foot cables in the PDF document but these must be purchased separately. Plan accordingly if you are thinking about buying the Z800.
The headset has features which allow a great deal of freedom when personalizing the Z800. There are adjustable straps for both depth and head circumference. The front of the head band has foam padding to lessen the stress on the forehead. The actual visor can be manipulated up and down. Also, the visor can be moved very close to the face or up to about one and a half inches away. Finally, the eye pieces can be moved side to side to accommodate varying eye widths. The bottom section of the eyepieces is open so the user can view a keyboard. This comes in very handy.
The headset can become uncomfortable when worn for extended periods. This is not due to the weight of the product as it is only 8 oz. The reason I found the headset uncomfortable was the result of trying to keep the eyepieces in focus. When I moved my head abruptly inevitably one eyepiece would go out of focus. The eyepieces are very similar to a binocular setup and must remain fixed in place or one will lose focus. The logical way to combat the movement of the eyepieces is to tighten the straps. After tightening the straps the unit became uncomfortable in a shorter time period.
Eyestrain is another discomfort that can be expected when using the Z800. The documentation does recommend taking a break after an hour of use. This is a norm for any monitor as focusing on a screen tends to lessen how often someone blinks. Using the Z800 in normal viewing mode did not produce any eyestrain that I have not felt from using a standard monitor. Actually, I found using the headset to be nearly the same as a normal monitor.
When using the headset in 3D the load upon the eyes is increased. This load varies with the amount of Stereo Vision effect applied. (Read more on this in the 3D viewing section below.)
The main contributing factor to eyestrain for me was the loss of focus in one eyepiece. While flying combat missions I found myself allowing the eyepiece to remain unfocused as I was tracking a target. The partial loss of focus doesn’t hinder combat too much so I overlooked this minor flaw. However, the lack of focus generates much more stress than normal viewing. After about fifteen to twenty minutes of this I had to take a break.
Microphone and Earphones
The Z800 has an open air microphone and ear buds built into the headset. The microphone is functional but it is not on my top list of microphones to use. The reason for this is the open architecture of the design. The microphone is prone to pick up noise in the room around the user. A microphone boom would be optimal as you can direct it to pick up the user and minimize background noise. The provided microphone will function fine as long as there isn’t much background noise.
The audio reception of the unit is provided by ear buds. I am not a strong supporter of ear buds and my personal opinion of any ear buds is that they lessen sound quality. The supplied buds worked properly but they felt a little large for my comfort. A nice feature of the ear buds is the cable that attaches them to the headset. This cable is coiled and can reach several inches from the main unit. The ear buds can also be attached to the headset when not in use. After my initial testing this is where they remained as I prefer my surround speaker system to any headphone. With the ear buds docked in place it is possible to use a headphone system with microphone boom over the top of the head band. The compactness of the Z800 facilitates this. I also was able to wear a baseball hat with the NaturalPoint TrackIR gear attached.