Silicon Microdisplay ST1080

June 2013

The Silicon Microdisplay ST1080 holds the title for highest resolution consumer HMD with dual 1920×1080 LCD panels over 39 degrees horizontal field of view. That’s 1.22 arcmin/pixel. Almost 20/20 Snellen visual acuity (1 arcmin/pixel). The ST1080 HMD provides HDMI 1.3a input along with USB power. There’s a control box which allows brightness control, flicker adjustment, stereo input selection, and volume control. There’s a volume mute button on the HMD itself and dual audio jacks near the arms for plugging in your stereo headphones. IPD adjustment is provided. The ST1080 also includes a 10% see-thru option by removing the sticker on front of the HMD. Extra stickers are provided to block out the see-thru.

The ST1080 can handle stereo 3D formats of frame packed, side by side, and above/below despite being HDMI 1.3a. These stereo formats are part of the HDMI 1.4a standard but not 1.3. Silicon Microdisplay initially wasn’t going to support them but added them with a firmware update very close after release.

There are a lot of issues with this HMD. Reading many of the forum comments on Silicon Microdisplays own website as well as independent reviews help me to conclude that build issues are to blame for reviews ranging from excellent to very poor for this HMD. The LCD panels of the unit I currently use are extremely low contrast with tons of light bleeding in from the edges. The backlight due to the bleeding is also very non uniform. You can see some examples below. The camera I’m using actually helps filter out some of the issues with the imagery. It looks much worse when I’m wearing the device. Some users report that fiddling with the exact tilt of the HMD with relation to your eyes can help contrast significantly. I wasn’t able to ever get a very good image.

The fit also isn’t very good. It wants to fall off your face constantly because its too front heavy so you have to use the included strap to keep it on. Users report playing with different variations of nose pieces to get a better fit. People are also modding this HMD to fit into things like hard hats, baseball caps, etc to get a better fit.

The low quality of the optics on the ST1080 completely negate any benefits of the high pixel count dual 1920×1080 microdisplays, in my opinion. This is a shame too because, at a price point of $799, this HMD is just within consumer reach. Hopefully Silicon Microdisplays build quality improves or the overall HMD improves in future iterations. Right now I’d stay away from this HMD. The Sony HMZ-T1 is a much better device for the same price.