You are likely most familiar with the brand TCL from their TV lineup, which offers a great mix of quality and value to customers. They have taken many of the learnings from their display technology and taken that experience into the TCL NXTWEAR G glasses.
First off, that name is not great, but we’ll let that fly, particularly forgivable once you experience the display quality of two high-resolution OLED displays from Sony, just cms from your face.
The idea here is to deliver a cinema-like viewing experience, that you can take anywhere, be it a long-haul flight, laying on the couch, or even in bed.
TCL says this creates a display surface that is an equivalent of a 140″ display. In practice, there’s basically no way to confirm the scale of how big this feels, but after using it, it certainly is substantial and much more impressive than watching a movie on your smartphone.
After using the glasses for around a month now, I have plenty of thoughts on the glasses, so lets get into a full review.
Curves in all the right places
When it comes to design, the TCL NXTWEAR G smart glasses initially look like fairly regular, modern, frameless sunglasses, with a stylish design. When you open the arms to the glasses, you immediately notice they are actually quite a bit thicker than regular glasses.
Understanding that the electronics have to be integrated somewhere, it’s obvious we need to accept some extra size for a new experience. Thankfully the decision to got with a wired solution removes the need to have an integrated battery, helping to keep the weight down, important for anything on your head or face.
Inside the frames lies the technology to power those dual 1080 OLED displays, as well as audio that is produced from small speakers integrated into the arms of the glasses, emitting next to where your ears are. While this audio is surprisingly good for something that isn’t an earbud squashed down your ear canal, they could have gone also opted for bone conduction for better transmission.
While the integrated speakers make for a slim design to the frames, it does have a serious drawback, which is that the private visual experience you’re having, is now a very public audio experience as the people around you can absolutely hear the audio from the glasses.
For people walking past you, it’ll be obvious that these are no ordinary glasses by the distance at which these sit off your face. Perhaps this is where display technology is today, that your eyes need a few cms of space to focus on the display (or displays) in front of them.
I want future generations of these glasses to consume my whole field of view, as the light leaking in is distracting, although on the upside, does allow you to look below the glasses out to the real world. If you’re trying to see food or drinks in front of you, this does help with those challenges and avoid having to remove the glasses, but in the best case, I’d like to reach up and tap the side of the glasses, to switch between opaque and transparent mode when I need to see the real world, which would pause playback temporarily.
From the right arm, a USB cable emerges and is cleverly designed to exit the glasses, run down your neck and down your shirt, making it fairly hidden to the casual observer. Depending on your specific fit, the location of where this cable exists, may land exactly where your right ear is, so may also be something that should be repositioned in future iterations.
The USB cable is connected to either your phone, which TCL hopes is a supported TCL smartphone model, but can also be run like an external computer monitor.
What’s great about this design is that the glasses themselves don’t actually contain a battery, meaning they have as much battery life as your device does. Given we charge our phones and laptops each night, this basically makes the glasses an option at any time during the day. Could you wear it all day? Probably not, with the longest session, I managed was just a few hours before I wanted them off my face.
What TCL has create here is one of the best implementations of smart glasses we’ve seen to-date. I remember years ago when I first tried Google Glass for the first time.
Being transparent, the display was visible, but certainly not easy to read against objects of a lighter colour. Thankfully these glasses don’t suffer the same issue, the displays are easy to see in a variety of lighting conditions.
What I don’t love about the design is just how rigid they are. There is zero adjustability. The instant I connected them and saw the displays, I went to tilt them, but there is no option to adjust the angle of the displays. Given these are expected to be worn by a wide variety of people with a vast array of face shapes, I think it is ambitious to imagine the 1 size would work for all.
For at least one of the suggested use cases, I do see a design issue. If you’re seated upright on a plane and looking straight ahead, then they’ll probably work fine, but anyone who has flown knows that you’ll eventually get tired, want to rest the side of your head against the headrest and at this point, they aren’t comfortable, so that’s something to keep in mind.
How does it perform ?
TCL also provided their flagship TCL20 Pro 5G smartphone along with the glasses for review. Using these two devices together really helped me understand what TCL’s first-class experience looked like.
Once you connect the glasses to the phone, there’s no loading, no waiting, the display immediately comes to life.
Launching the Smart Glasses app on the phone, enables you to select from two modes of operation, as well as control options like brightness.
On that topic, it would be handy to have hardware buttons to control the brightness, particularly when using these with a PC that does not have the same software controls.
The first mode is PC mode, which works very similar to the experience many phones offer when you connect them to a USB-dock, allowing you to use peripherals like keyboards and mice to control the interface.
In this mode, your phone switches to become a full-screen, multitouch trackpad. In this mode, you’ll have access to most of the apps on your phone, but the key ones are entertainment apps like YouTube. You’ll control the cursor on the interface, using your phone to select objects, tap buttons, and drag and drop items. This supports common gestures like two-finger swipes to scroll.
In my mind, once you launch an entertainment app like a YouTube, you should be able to lock your phone’s screen and place it in your pocket. This would also save battery on the device, but unfortunately doing this, the display in glasses goes to sleep, even though the audio continues.
That issue aside, when you are playing a game, watching a video or browsing the web on the glasses, it is impressive just how clear the video is, given how close these 1080p displays are to your face.
I think I imagined the experience may be similar to the image quality of the Oculus Rift, but it’s far better and I was really impressed by the experience. The displays are plenty bright enough and at one point I even turned down the brightness to see if I could save some power, I could.
The performance between the phone and glasses is virtually instant, which makes navigating around the interface or using the phone as a multi-touch control surface for gaming works great.
The second mode is a Mirror mode of your phone’s screen, which is fairly straightforward and predictable, working in both vertical and horizontal orientations.
Stand out features of this display.
Truly Portable Cinematic Experience
TCL NXTWEAR G smart glasses create a stunningly expanded view, which is the equivalent of watching a 140-inch screen, 4 meters away. Explore a crisp and clear cinema-like feeling delivered by 47 pixels-per-degree resolution and dual 1080p Sony FHD Micro OLED panels while stereo speakers bring ultra-rich sound.
Lightweight and Portable Companion
Smart glasses weigh just 100g. USB-C cable adds only 30g, ensuring a steady connection with your smartphone, tablet, or laptop without additional charging needed. A display follows your motions, so you can move freely to enjoy your private viewing anywhere, anytime.
Get the most from your smart device while TCL NXTWEAR G immerses its viewing in the next-level experience. A transparent display gives you full privacy, yet allows you to see the real world around you safely.
Comfort yourself with a foldable, frameless, skin-friendly design. The deep black and durable exterior reflects a futuristic look and feel.
Not everything’s perfect
Easily the biggest issue I have with these first-generation glasses is the lack of adjustability. There is a chance that if you try these, they fit your face perfectly and you’ll wonder what I’m talking about. If however you buy these and then find there’s no adjustability and that makes them uncomfortable to use, then you’ll be pretty annoyed.
Given how rare these are, it’s not easy to find a friend who’ll let you try before you buy.
I’d also like to see better support for more phone models as the reality is, not everyone has a TCL smartphone. I attempted to use them with Google’s flagship, the Pixel 6 Pro, but the glasses simply don’t do anything.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The TCL NXTWEAR G Smart Glasses are available from just 2 retailers, MobileCiti and Harvey Norman.
While the standard price is A$899.00, MobileCiti currently has a Special Price of $877.00.
Given this is such a unique product, it is hard to get a good comparison to evaluate if this price represents good value. The practical reality is that nobody needs these glasses, but some may love the idea of using them while travelling to upgrade their regular audio experience to a visual one.
How much someone is prepared to pay for this experience is a really personal choice. I think for what’s on offer it is a fairly decent price, given the features and quality of the display.
Even after reading the information around the release of these glasses, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. I suspect many who have visited the TCL website are similarly keen to understand what the experience of using them is actually like. Hopefully, this review goes some way to clarifying that.
The TCL NXTWEAR G glasses represent the company’s first venture into the wearable space and for that, I’ll give them a lot of credit. It feels like the designers heavily prioritised the display quality and they absolutely nailed that.
Where the product really lacks and needs to focus on in version 2, is adjustability. I want to pick the angle of the displays on my face and I also want the ability to have them sit closer on my face to look more natural and at the same time, remove the outside world and let you focus on the content if you choose.
Overall these aren’t for everyone, but those who travel are likely the strongest candidates for these. If you buy these and pop them on while sitting on the couch with the family, you’ll send a very clear message to them that you don’t want to talk to them for a while.
For the price, you could pick up a 55″ 4K TCL Android-powered TV. While the pitch here is that you’ll end up with a 140″ display, these clearly don’t offer the same functionality and you’ll need to decide which offers better value for money and utility for your family.