YellowMosquito Qingbar GP300 on yours truly.Exclusive Hands-On Review

DigitalReviews has the pleasure of bringing you an exclusive hands-on review of the world’s first wireless video glasses with built-in media player – a totally hands free, mobile private cinema screen viewable through a pair of glasses together with hi-fi audio through high quality earphones. As YelloMosquito describes it, the Qingbar GP3000 is a state-of-the-art device combined with Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) micro displays and media player.

The YelloMosquito Qingbar GP300 was previewed here in November 2007.  After taking the ‘scenic postal route’ over the Christmas break, the Qingbar GP300 arrived in late February 2008 due to the efforts of the extremely helpful and professional staff at YelloMosquito and 22moo.

First Impressions
Holey moley, what the heck is that?  Can I have a play with it at some stage?”  was the reaction of the colleague who was with me when I opened up the package.  About 2 seconds later I had a cast of thousands gathered around me.

Qingbar GP300 in pouchThe Qingbar GP300 looks like a very heavy duty pair of sunglasses.  This is not surprising as the “optical glasses” contains the LCOS screens, the arms contain the battery, MiniSD card and controls.  On the end of each arm is an output jack for custom single earpieces.  At 100 grams the unit is surprisingly lightweight for what does, in comparison to the Oakley Thump sunglasses/MP3 player at 53 grams.

There was no accompanying documentation with this particular unit as it was a test sample.  Truth be known, that has never stopped yours truly anyway.

Control Centre
Even without documentation, the GP300 is refreshingly user friendly.  The physical interface shows thoughtful care in the design, with the controls clustered on the right arm and kept to a minimum.  Each button is clearly identified with its function.  It only took me a few short minutes to learn it on the fly.

On the top of the right arm is the power button highlighted in red, with the volume controls just ahead of it towards the front of the frame.  On the underside of the same arm are the menu button and a scroll/press wheel for play, pause, forward and reverse.  The positioning of the controls is good when your index and forefinger are on the volume controls, the thumb will naturally rest on the scroll wheel.

There is also a small remote control which came with the unit.  To be honest I was so comfortable using the buttons on the device itself that I never even touched the remote.

Lighting Up the Silver Screen
When I first fired up the GP300, I wondered whether I was going to be a dud reviewer for this device.  Through the displays I was seeing double images and my eyes did not adjust to the right focal length to allow me to see the image properly.  Since I am hopeless seeing the images in those “Magic 3D pictures”, I thought the problem lie with me rather than the GP300!  A little background about me, I am short sighted with a significantly weaker left eye and during the day I wear contact lenses.  This little titbit of information will come into play a little further in the review.

Determined not to be put off by the initial double vision, I figured that it would be a matter of time before my eyes and brain adjust and that I would be able to see the display properly.  There is an adjustable nose bridge (2 positions) which helps with getting the frame to sit correctly.  Persistence paid off and after a few minutes of watching a video my eyes finally adjusted and I was able to settle back and the watch my video of choice without any issues.  The images were clear and with good colour contrast, much as one would expect on a decent screen.

There was no physical discomfort from wearing the GP300 for an extended period.  In particular I did not feel the weight or size of the device on my face, nor did it change the centre of gravity on my head.  This last part is important as I have a natural tendency to move my head (vis-a-vis my eyes) around to follow the action.  Aside from getting used to the screen moving with my head, I had the feeling of being in a cinema, albeit sitting closer to the back row.

The audio through the bundled ear pieces was clear with reasonably good range.  I do have a tendency to turn the sound down a little to preserve my hearing, which would naturally lead to some loss in the audio quality.  Since I already have less than perfect eyesight, I figure I do not need to destroy my hearing either.  Irrespective the quality was sufficiently good enough for me that I was quite comfortable with it.  All in all, I did feel like I was in my own private cinema, right down to blinking furiously afterwards when I emerge from the “darkness” of the cinema.The audio player was a standard affair with major format support.  The screen displays some basic visualisation in time to the audio and an ability to display the lyrics (LRC files) on the bottom of the screen.

The photo viewer is capable of displaying JPEG images.

Lastly the eBook viewer handles text, and surprisingly for me, I could quite clearly read this review uploaded as a TXT file even without my contact lenses on.

File System
Qingbar GP300 with ear pieces and remote.The file structure on the SD card is very simple.  There is a folder for each category – movie, music, ebook and DCIM (picture), which reflects the GUI on start up.  There are no restrictions on the types of files that can be stored in the folders, but the GP300 will filter the display by file extension.  For example you can store a MPG file in the eBook folder, but the GP300 will not display it on screen.

Secondly, the file filter is extension based not format based.  That is, it will list any files that match the three letter extension that is recognised in the specification but it will not perform any checks on the file itself until you try to play it.  Unfortunately if the file has a MPEG extension instead of MPG, it will be filtered out in the Movie folder.

Initial concerns
I had a number of concerns about the Qingbar GP300 when I first started on this review.  The first and foremost one would be whether it caters for people without perfect vision.  As the GP300 is designed to worn like spectacles, there is no possible way to wear corrective glasses at the same time.  Same as one cannot wear a normal pair of sunglasses concurrently with prescriptive glasses.  My first few goes on the GP300 was done with contact lenses in, then I tentatively tried to watch it without them.

Initially I was quite hesitant about this as there is no dioptre adjustment on the GP300.  However much to my surprise, despite the handicap of short sightedness that ranges from 250 to 550 degrees, I could still clearly see the display without any corrective lenses or eye strain.  Optometrists would probably be able to explain why, but I am just happy to know that if I want to watch a movie any time I don’t have to go through the process of putting my contact lenses in.

There were some gotchas and issues with the Qingbar GP300.  Starting with the 2 major issues, one of which could be a showstopper for potential buyers.

At least one person that tried the GP300 had to take them off in a hurry as his eyes started watering as soon as he tried to look through them.  I have been also been told for at least one tester who was short sighted that her eyes did not adapt/adjust and the image remained blurry even after prolonged viewing.  This tester then tried viewing with her corrective contact lenses on and found that while the image improved there was still slight blurry vision.

Qingbar GP300 compared to normal sunglasses.The Qingbar GP300 comes in a single size which could be an issue for people with very broad or narrow faces.  Admittedly, the unit is quite wide as can be seen in comparison with my sunglasses.

The battery is rated at 750 mA, which for that size could possibly be of higher capacity considering that some phone batteries are about the same size or smaller with up to 1200 mA.  As it stands, I could not finish a two hour movie on a single charge.  This was doubly annoying when I have to fast forward a good 90 minutes of a movie to get to where I was. I would have liked the GP300 to have the ability to remember the last position where I stopped the video.  Ideally I would not be interrupted when watching a movie but it is inevitable for various reasons including low battery conditions. 

In my particular unit, the menu button feels stuck.  The button seems to work fine but I have a tendency to push at it pretty hard as it does not have the usual tactile feedback.  It is only a minor issue as it could be isolated to my unit only.

Other minor gripes I have is that the eBook viewer is really a text file viewer without support for the popular eBook formats out there, further there did not seem to have an autoscroll feature which would necessitate frequent trips to the controls.  Secondly I could not find a way to turn off the screen when the GP300 in the audio mode, which would have extended the battery life.

Specifications and Compatibility

  * DSP Chip: TI  * Memory card slot: Support Mini SD Card (Hot plug and play)  

  * EQ Mode: Rock/Classic/Normal/Bass

  * Language: Support multi-language; Chinese & English version (optional)
  * Playback mode: Normal/One/All/Shuffle/Repeat Shuffle
  * Interface: USB
  * Press key: Power on, volume +, -, forward, backward, play/pause, and menu
  * Screen Option LCOS Micro display, 50″ Virtual Screen
  * Remote control: Yes
  * Audio File Format: Support MP3, WMA9, IMA and AAC
  * Video File Format: MP4/MPG/AVI/ASF(MPEG1/2/4 (Divx3.x/4.x/5.x & XviD)
  * E-book: Support E book .TXT file
  * Photo: Support JPEG/BaselineJPEG+MP3
  * Power: Battery re-chargeable lithium battery (750 mAh) Adapter: voltage in 110v-240v; Voltage out: 5V, 500mA
  * Sample rate: 8 ~ 96 KHz SNR >90 dB
  * Frequency response range: 20 Hz-20 KHz
  * Display resolution: WQVGA 432×240
  * Image size 50” at 2 m away
  * Field of view: 22 degree
  * Contrast: 200:1
  * Ambient temp: -10 ~ +70 degrees C
  * Unit dimensions: (LxWxH) 180 x 175 x 40 mm
  * Weight: 100g

Test Unit Contents
  * Video glasses
  * Stereo earphones
  * Charger
  * Remote control
  * Spare lithium battery
  * SD card

Qingbar GP300 carry pouch.The Qingbar GP300 does excellently in delivering a movie to a very personal theatre setup.  I found myself immersed into the movie clip as though I was in a cinema along with the post movie disorientation as the GP300 was quite effective at cutting out ambient light.

I could live with the audio player in the same unit, preferably with some way to turn off the screen in that mode.  Displaying the song lyrics is cute, but given the device as a personal entertainment unit it really would not work well as for karaoke.  I think singing loudly to myself wearing the GP300 would just look silly.

As for the picture view and eBook reader I could take it or leave it.  My personal preference as a keen photographer is to have photos on a big screen so I can see all the details.  Again my personal preference is to read a book the old fashion way.

There are some excellent features to the Qingbar GP300 and some downsides.  For most of the issues I think they are easily resolvable with the exception of those who have issues with adjusting to viewing the screen.  Another major improvement would be in the use of higher capacity batteries for viewing longer movies, or charging through USB port.

Where would I use the Qingbar GP300?  If I don’t mind amused looks from strangers I would use it in transit to catch up on TV episodes.  Otherwise it would make a great product for dental surgeries, a good movie would distract me from someone inflicting pain on my teeth.  And there’s always the late night movie session when you want to be considerate and not wake everyone in the house.

Lastly I would like to say that how a company respond to issues and challenges is generally telling of how well they function and support their products.  In the case of YellowMosquito I have the highest praise for their staff for their support and efforts throughout the initial ordeal when the Qingbar GP300 went missing in transit.  A lot of time and effort was expended on their part to try and track down the parcel, and the staff were always courteous and a pleasure to deal with despite the stress of losing their only test unit at the time.

The YelloMosquito Qingbar GP300 has a suggest retail price of USD$399 from here.  The device is shipping now in either black or white frame.