We tested the TCL NxtWear S, augmented reality glasses perfect for multimedia

TCL NxtWear S



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They were presented in CES 2022 and tried when of IFA the same year, but we had to wait until early 2023 to be able to lay our hands (and eyes) on TCL’s NxtWear outside the living room. At CES 2023, the Chinese company finally announced that pairs of its glasses would go on sale in the market in a less exclusive way than previous models. The opportunity for us to ask the brand to send us a test model for a catch.

Neither AR (augmented reality) glasses, nor VR (virtual reality) glasses, nor connected glasses, TCL’s NxtWear S is no different in the “future” glasses market. Indeed, this is a product that replaces a screen, promising a screen equivalent to a 130-inch tablet when one is 4m away. In the program, a definition Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) with a ratio of 16: 9, all carried by two micro-oled screens. At TCL, we call them XR glasses, for “augmented reality“, or augmented reality.

Aesthetically, they are very similar to real glasses, at least in appearance. But once in the nose, it’s a completely different matter. They weigh 82g, which is not that heavy, luckily. Four speakers and two control wheels are placed in the branch. One is used to adjust the volume, the other to manage the screen brightness.

The speakers are hidden in the upper part of the branches, but also below, and are aimed at the ears.

The speakers are hidden in the upper part of the branches, but also below, and are aimed at the ears.

© Digital.

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For operation, nothing could be simpler. Only a proprietary cable (USB-C to magnetic connectors) is required. The glasses do not include batteries, it is the device to which they are connected that is responsible for the power supply. Therefore, the limitation created by the integration of an accumulator is avoided, losing autonomous operation. The connection is plug and play if NxtWear is connected to a device with a USB-C DisplayPort port. The vast majority of high-end Android smartphones have one, as do some tablets, MacBooks, PCs or even Steam Decks. For others, like the PS5, Nintendo Switch or iPhone, you’ll need to go through a dedicated adapter. A list of compatible devices is provided by TCL here.

The cable is magnetized at the back of the left branch.

The cable is magnetized at the back of the left branch.

© The Digital

Glasses owners will be pleased to know that TCL has thought of them. With the NxtWear S pair, lenses are available that are positioned using a magnet and that can be exchanged for glasses adapted to your vision at an optician. For our test, we weren’t able to go that far in customization. Which means your visually impaired servant had to overcome this limitation. But we must admit that despite this, the experience was more than pleasant, if not completely clear.

The corrective lens rests just before the lens.

The corrective lens rests just before the lens.

© Digital.

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An overall pleasant viewing experience

Honestly, it’s pretty hard to transcribe the experience offered by the NxtWear S as it might be with a virtual reality headset. This is usually the type of product you should try to get an idea. The choice of micro-Oled technology for the screens ensures that the content is accurately transcribed. Game-wise, there’s nothing to complain about, as long as you’re not playing a heavily narrative title.

Unfortunately (and this is one of the main drawbacks of the glasses), the text is not quite legible when the content comes from the Steam Deck or from a computer. Only the smartphone experience turned out to be more pleasant at this level, because the fonts are larger. For watching videos, the glasses are more than pleasant. Sometimes you can even imagine yourself in front of the TV, provided you are in the dark. The colors come out well and that’s ultimately the most important thing. So much so that you can almost forget that your peripheral vision isn’t as good as expected.

We tested the TCL NxtWear S, augmented reality glasses perfect for multimedia

However, there are some drawbacks due to the design of the device. The glasses being concave in their lower part, the screen is often not fully visible and is slightly cut. A “surprise” that stands out more or less depending on the support on which the glasses are attached. A more noticeable problem on a PC than on a portable keyboard; and once noticed, hard to ignore. Again, this is a matter of peripheral vision. NxtWear S not being completely attached to the face, the eye and gaze are often directed downwards. A little visual gymnastics is to get used to the feeling. Virtual reality headset users should do a little better at this level, accustomed to having a screen in their field of vision.

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Right, let’s talk about this screen. As mentioned above, TCL advertises the equivalent of 130 inches at 4m. If the diagonal is good, the distance is a little smaller: it may seem a little too far in the field of view. At first launch, we were quickly confused by the distance of the screen, which could be confirmed by all the other editors who tested the product. Without trying it, it is impossible to understand what this screen distance can represent. Again, it will take a while to fully adjust, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a feast for the eyes, especially when viewing content. It should be noted that the glasses can handle 2D and 3D. The few demo videos we watched in 3D gave us a real sense of depth. It remains to be seen what concretely this gives over time, with a movie for example.

Of course it's not the frames that give the smartest look, but you get a good impression of the rendering.

Of course it’s not the frames that give the smartest look, but you get a good impression of the rendering.

© Digital.

A far from perfect product

But behind this experience hides a product that is still not perfect. The NxtWear S are TCL’s third foray into the world of glasses of this type, and it shows. Some points can still be improved to provide the best possible experience. We can start with the one and only cable that is needed to connect the devices. If the latter is practical, however, it is too short. For a handset or keyboard, this will do the trick, but if you want to connect the glasses to a keyboard, it’s a bit trickier. Even on a computer, sometimes a few centimeters can be lost for optimal comfort.

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Also note something that might put some off, beyond its futuristic design. By design, TCL’s glasses touch the face on the forehead, just above the eyebrows. It is in this space that the projectors are placed which allow you to send the image and, inevitably, it gets a little hot. Nothing serious, don’t worry, but it deserves a mention as over a long period of use, this heat can end up being annoying. We wore the NxtWear non-stop for 1 hour 30 minutes and heating was not an issue. But it can be different after a long movie, several episodes of a series or a long gaming session, for example.

It's getting hot here.

It’s getting hot here.

© Digital.

The pads (those plastic pieces that sit on the nose) are quite strong and quite tight. This was the case in our test model and, unfortunately, it was impossible to fix them. After a while, you feel the weight of the NxtWear and it’s a bit painful. So don’t forget to fix this part if you ever buy the glasses. TCL has anticipated this and is offering a type of card for these purposes.

Another regret, we said above, 4m is a significant screen distance and we would have liked to have been able to modify it, reducing (or not) the “size” of the screen. A setting that will allow you to see the periphery better, especially when it comes to text.

A compelling experience

Unlike other connected glasses we’ve had on our noses, TCL’s NxtWear S are compelling for regular use. Despite some inherent flaws in this type of technology, still new, the experience was very pleasant. The “wow” factor they generate can also be considered. The glasses catch the eye and the curious want to try it on. It’s a good thing, because it’s really the kind of product you have to wear to understand the uses it allows. Paradoxically, the goggles offer the closest experience to a nomadic VR headset, and that’s probably why we let ourselves be convinced. The opportunities for use are already there and others are just waiting to be developed. There is no doubt that 2023 and the following years will be able to further showcase this type of device. For our part, we hope that over time, this type of device will look even more like real glasses, with the finesse that goes with them.

For the more curious who want to test the TCL glasses: know that the NxtWear S should be available very soon, as the company announces a release in the first quarter of this year. For the price, you will have to pay €499. The price to pay for having a screen in your eyes.

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