Virtual reality is still an emerging technology, and we don’t know yet what’s going to take hold and breakthrough to the mainstream by 2020. Although the HTC Vive is widely regarded as the best VR headset, the Rift is the most well-known, owned and popular, and the PSVR (which I owned until it was stolen in Flagstaff) is the most comfortable I’ve found to date.
Between these high-end gaming headsets and the ubiquitous options powered by your smartphone lies a vast range of headsets. Microsoft is working with hardware makers like Dell, Asus, and Acer to get Windows 10-compatible mixed reality headsets to the masses at a $300 price point. Meanwhile consumer tech companies from around the globe are hustling Android-powered headsets that mostly fall short of expectations.
Amidst this pack is the high-end Royole Moon 3D Virtual Mobile Theater, which I got some hands-on time with this summer to learn what drives this $800 headset. For starters, although it looks like another VR headset, it’s not. It does, however, use dual screens to create a 3D display and is capable of both mirroring and replacing your desktop (or laptop monitor) with an immersive theater-like experience. It’s also wireless, has great latency, and is a popular high-end headset for first-person view drone enthusiasts.
Under the Hood
Royole Moon is clearly built with luxury in mind and justifies the high price point (equal to the HTC Vive) by providing much more comfortable and luxurious accommodations for your face. Leathery cushions on both the earpieces and facemask make Moon easy to wear and provides an experience in line with most drool-worthy home theater headphones from the 1970s to present.
Moon’s AMOLED display creates over 3000ppi, ultra-high contrast images (10000:1) with Full HD 1080p resolution at a 60 Hz refresh rate. It has Active Noise-Cancelling headphones and the screen resolution can be adjusted form -7.00 to 2.00 (with -5.25 glasses, I was able to remove them and adjust to see, although it was never exactly as clear as with my contacts in). The headphone frequency response range is 8Hz to 20kHz.
There’s 2G of RAM onboard, along with 32GB of internal storage, and Moon can connect to external devices (smartphone, laptop, etc.) through WiFi (B/G/N @ 2.4 GHz), Bluetooth, or Micro HDMI. There’s also a micro USB port to connect external memory. Moon runs a proprietary Android-based Moon OS and can support a wide array of audio, video, and image files.
I’ve now used the Rift, Vive, PSVR, Auravisor, Cardboard, Gear VR v1/v2, Royole X, View-master, and Homido (I may be leaving out a few) headsets, and Moon is second only to PSVR in comfort. However, that’s only because the weight of PSVR is supported by your forehead, much like wearing a hat. It’s a normal experience for a typical American male (hell, our President wore one through his election campaign), and both myself and my female roommates in Flagstaff were able to comfortably wear it through long gaming sessions.
Moon is in between PSVR and the rest in comfort because the over-the-ear headphone style design takes much (though not all) of the burden of the headphones from your face. It never feels like having an uncomfortable Halloween mask strapped to your face, but still provides an immersive level of light-blocking. This is what elevates it past its predecessor, which left a full bar of real-world view at the bottom of your view, limiting its usefulness.
Using it as a monitor for my laptop made me feel complete privacy from onlookers, and I immediately appreciated how that ability could be useful in travel. Unfortunately I’m typically driving myself on long trips, so I won’t get to enjoy that experience before returning this unit to Royole’s PR agency. I did, however, spend a fun weekend working on my laptop through the Moon to see how gaming, watching movies, and generally navigating through the Internet and my desktop was using it.
Navigating Moon is a simple matter of either swiping or swirling your fingers on the outside of the headphones. This feature was implemented very smoothly, and Royole hopes to eventually license it to other headset makers.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Moon, but it’s hard to justify spending so much instead of waiting for Microsoft’s version of the same thing that’ll really take advantage of the built-in 3D and mixed-reality experiences of Windows 10. I had to bring Moon beyond my laptop to see what it could do attached to everything else.
Connecting it to a PS4 through HDMI feels like you’re using a PSVR headset for everything except every PSVR experience. You can’t play any PSVR games with it, only watch 3D and 360 movies. It does save the energy of using a big screen TV or projector for your gaming experiences, however, and if you don’t have primary control of the content on the main screen in your home, this headset is a dream come true.
Connecting to my Samsung Galaxy S7 through Bluetooth was simple enough, and I chuckled thinking about how much better of an experience this is than Auravisor’s shoddy attempt at untethered VR.
Where Royole Moon really shined was connecting to my Hubsan Brushless FPV quadcopter drone’s controller and streaming the live FPV video stream. That’s where I found my sweet spot to justify ownership of this headset. The view was fast enough with a low latency that I could actually feel a cringe in the pit of my stomach when I took off into the sky. If only I had more time with it, but alas, it’s time to get it boxed up and sent on its way.
It may look like a VR headset, but Royole Moon is more of an immersive personal environment. Capable of everything except immersive VR gaming, it’s definitely a niche product meant for high-end A/V enthusiasts. Where it really belongs, however, is in the hands of professional FPV drone pilots, who would benefit greatly from the unique design.
Capable sound quality combined with noise cancelling, blacked-out view, and 3D capability makes this a handy headset to have. If you’re looking for the best of the best, I’m still in love with the Vive and PSVR (Rift if you have to). Moon can’t compete with those and never will – it won’t even have the AR capabilities of Microsoft’s upcoming $300 headset line.
It’s not meant for everyone, but those who have one won’t be disappointed.
Final Grade: B-