Review: Royole Moon 3D Virtual Mobile Theater

Great technology falls short when it comes to comfort

Royole Moon headset  on head
Royole
At a Glance

I’m generally an optimist when it comes to new technology (hence the ‘Cool Tools’ name of the column, not ‘Meh Tools’ or something like that), which means I go into most reviews ready to enjoy the products I’m testing.

Such was the case with the Royole Moon 3D Virtual Mobile Theater ($799). I’ve seen products like this before – take a display and attach some headphones, and you can experience video and music as if you were sitting in a movie theater while you’re at home or on an airplane.

Royole Moon 3D Virtual Mobile Theater Royole

In the case of this headset, it includes the experience of an 800-inch movie screen – the front part has two AMOLED displays at 1080p resolution. Over the top of the unit are two noise-canceling headphones that create the audio experience. It looks a lot like the VR headsets in the market now – such as the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive – so much so that people might think you’re playing VR games while using this. But no, it’s more of an entertainment device for experiencing content in this “virtual environment”.

The content comes from a small “box” connected to the headset via a USB-C cable. On the box is an Android-based OS (Royole calls it the Moon OS), with a square-like UI that lets you choose things like Videos, Music, Photos or a Web browser. Internet connectivity is provided via a Wi-Fi adapter, so you can go to different web sites if you want to view other content (such as YouTube or other sites). Input is controlled via touch sensors on the earphones – you tap on the earphone or slide your finger across to navigate what’s on the screen (double-tapping to go back). Volume control is handled by sliding your figure clockwise around the edge of the earphone. It took me a few minutes of practice to figure out the touch controls and the navigation, but once I did I was impressed with the sensors. Royole told me that the touch sensors are at the heart of their business, and it’s not hard to see why. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these types of sensors and touch panels on other devices beyond the headset here.

In addition to the USB-C port for connecting to the headset, the box includes a mini-USB port and a mini HDMI port. The USB port is used when you want to transfer content onto the device – such as your own videos, music or photos. The HDMI port is used with an included adapter cable to attach other HDMI-output devices to the unit – such as a Blu-ray player or video game console. The goal is to let users experience a variety of content with the headset – whether the content lives on the device, is streamed over the Internet or connected via HDMI (games or Blu-Ray).

In my experience with the headset, the hardware parts of the box generally worked as advertised. I couldn’t directly transfer content from my MacBook Pro to the device until I downloaded the Android File Transfer app for Mac, because of course we live in a world where Google and Apple can’t make things easy for end users. The box includes a Wi-Fi connection that, in theory, would let you stream content from Netflix and other video streaming services. However, Netflix required an app download to the Moon OS, which wasn’t compatible with the Netflix app (Royole said they are working on an alternative app download process for Netflix and Hulu). 

The biggest problems with the device are around the comfort fit of the headset and the eyepieces. Because there are two displays, designed to create a 3D effect, focus adjustments need to be made to match up the two displays. Royole does this with dials on the bottom of the device (called diopter adjustment wheel) that let you focus on each individual eye, as most people’s eyes aren’t exactly the same. Royole says adjustments can be made for eyes from -7.0 Diopter nearsightedness to +2.0 Diopter farsightedness for each eye. This is done so users don’t have to wear glasses while using the Royole device.

A second adjustment is made to adjust “interpupillary distance” – the distance between the eyes. This is done by pushing both of the diopter dials and sliding them back and forth to either expand or contract the display window until you can see one clear image with both eyes open.

In theory, this should provide an optimal optical experience for each user, based on their own eyesight needs. In practice, it felt like a visit to the eye doctor, when they keep asking you which view looks better – “This one? Or this one?”. In my case, I must have other eye issues, because even during my best focal attempts (one of my eyes is really weaker than the other one), I still experienced ghosting effects on the display. It took several minutes of trial and lots of errors to find a focus setting that was at least tolerable for the experience.

Meanwhile, you have to make all these adjustments while wearing the headset, which leads me to the second big problem – comfort on the head. The front of the unit is very heavy, so it inevitably will end up pinching the bridge of your nose to the point of discomfort. The headband connecting the earphones can adjust around the top of your head to try and make it less nose-pinchy, but like the focal experience, I never found an optimal setting. If I could get the unit to sit on my head without pressure on my nose, the headphones would be off center and not completely around my ears. Royole does its best to provide cushion pads for both the earphones and the area where your forehead goes, but the weight of the unit itself needs to be lowered in order to avoid the nose pinch effect. In talking about this with Royole, they said they are designing an alternative immersion mask (the rubbery/cushion part that connects to the hard plastic display area) for customers who might experience the nose-pinching effect.

In the end, I ended up just holding the front of the unit higher while trying to watch videos or listen to music. This is a problem because if you need to do things with your hands (like play a video game), you’re not going to be using this for a long time due to the discomfort.

Speaking of video games, I was able to use the HDMI adapter to connect my Sony PS4 to the unit and experience the game (and Blu-ray movies) with the headset. It was cool to experience a video game in this way, but I can also get a similar experience by using the Sony PSVR unit as well. When it was connected, the box unit does warm up quite a bit.

Bottom line: The focusing issue and comfort concerns, at least for me, make this unit hard to recommend in its current form. If Royole can make the front unit lighter to relieve pressure on the nose, or redesign the frame to support the weight (perhaps utilize other VR headsets where a bar goes over the head vertically instead of between the ears?), it would go a long way in improving comfort. It’s hard to ding them too much on the focal issues – I think they are doing their best with the dual displays and my own eyesight might not fit within the parameters of this device. Other users with better eyes will likely have a better experience here.

Grade: 3 stars (out of five)

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At a Glance
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