TCL NXTwear S Review: The chameleon of smart glasses

TCL NXTwear S Review: The chameleon of smart glasses

TCL’s NXTwear S smart glasses include attractive tinted shades that emulate the look of sunglasses, hiding the projection bar and small lenses that display a large virtual screen.

While smart glasses are growing in popularity, I might draw unwelcome attention by wearing some models in public. People could wonder if I'm recording them or watching a movie while seemingly staring at nothing. Meanwhile, I might be happily watching the interesting Lex Fridman interview of Mark Zuckerberg as avatars after Meta Connect.

TCL’s NXTwear S smart glasses look like sunglasses from the front, which helps you avoid the stigma sometimes associated with pushing the boundaries of technology. The earpieces are thicker than normal, but the glasses really stand out if you remove the tinted shades that attach magnetically to the front.

I glance down and see below the large virtual screen in TCL's NXTwear S glasses.

I glance down and see below the large virtual screen in TCL's NXTwear S glasses. | Image: Tracey Truly

I don’t want to overemphasize the look because this is still technology. It’s more important to explore how sharp and bright the display is, compatibility with various devices, and ease of use. Smart glasses like the NXTwear S include displays but lack the sensors and processor needed for true AR glasses.

TCL NXTwear S review in a nutshell

TCL's NXTwear S matches the specifications of many other smart glasses while offering a few unique features that make them stand out. The small lenses make it easier to move around while wearing them. My peripheral vision and view of the floor are largely unobstructed. However, that feature results in an unusual appearance. I'm not trying to rewrite fashion, so it's nice to have the option of attaching the shades to cover the projector bar and half-height mirrored lenses.

Everything works easily with compatible devices, like a Samsung phone or a MacBook. For the iPhone and portable gaming consoles, an adapter is required. This same situation applies to other smart glasses. TCL's MiraScreen adapter works well with minimal setup, but does add bulk to an otherwise minimal solution. My Samsung Galaxy S 20 phone has Dex software that presents a 16:9 desktop on the virtual display of the NXTwear S.

TCL's smart glasses simulate a big screen experience for video consumption and gaming with a thoughtful design at an affordable price.

TCL NXTwear S is suitable for you if you ...

  • wish your TV was portable,
  • like watching stereo 3D videos,
  • own a phone with DP alt mode,
  • want a big screen but don't have enough room,
  • don't mind using an adapter with some devices.

TCL NXTwear S is less suitable for you if you ...

  • don't own a compatible device and don't like adapters,
  • expect a field of view as large as a VR headset,
  • need to use smart glasses outside often.

Video quality

The NXTwear S glasses display a bright and vivid screen that TCL says is equivalent to a 130-inch TV that’s four meters away. On TCL's RayNeo website, it's described as a 201-inch screen at six meters. Virtual screens are somewhat subjective, since the effect is similar to using a projection TV.

When looking toward a distant wall, the virtual image seems larger. If you look at something nearby, the virtual screen is still large but seems relatively smaller. The experience is that of a large TV that appears in the center of view. There is variation in perceived screen size between various smart glasses, but the difference is minor.

No need for the NXTwear S shade for heads up MacBook use indoors.

No need for the NXTwear S shade for heads up MacBook use indoors. | Image: Tracey Truly

Display resolution is 1920×1080, with good brightness when used indoors, and saturated colors thanks to micro-OLED technology. The pixel density is tight enough that you won’t see any screen door effect. It’s a nice picture quality for watching videos and playing games. The screen refreshes at 60Hz, matching the Nintendo Switch and SteamDeck.

Sound plays through speakers in the earpieces and volume is good. The audio isn’t as loud as wearing headphones, but it sounds much better than audio from a TV since you get good stereo separation.

Sharpness doesn’t match a 4K monitor, but for a lightweight portable screen that fits in your pocket, TCL’s NXTwear S glasses are a nice solution. If you have a compatible device, you just plug in the included USB-C cable and with adapters you can connect nearly anything.

NXTwear S compatibility

Like other smart glasses, you need a device that supports DisplayPort alt mode, which is also known as DisplayPort over USB-C.

Some smartphones work, most notably Samsung and Sony flagships. There are others, so it’s worth checking if your phone has this feature.

Every iPad and Mac that has a USB-C port will work with TCL’s NXTwear S glasses. Many Chromebooks and Windows laptops will also.

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Even if your preferred device isn’t compatible, you can use an adapter such as TCL’s MiraScreen Portable Adapter which supplies power to the glasses and provides a way to connect phones that wouldn’t work any other way.

TCL's MiraScreen adapter is needed for the iPhone.

TCL's MiraScreen adapter is needed for the iPhone. | Image: Tracey Truly

I was able to connect to my iPhone, which has a Lightning port. Via the adapter, the glasses mirror my iPhone screen and audio. I can play games or watch videos on the NXTwear S.

My Google Pixel phone has a USB-C port, but it doesn’t support DP over USB-C. With the MiraScreen bridging the gap and a free app to communicate to the device, it worked as expected, displaying the phone's screen on the glasses.

According to TCL, a Steam Deck works directly, but the Nintendo Switch needs an HDMI to Type C adapter.

Long-term comfort of NXTwear S smart glasses

The NXTwear S smart glasses have good comfort for eyewear that’s heavier than sunglasses. I can feel pressure on the bridge of my nose after an hour or two. The glasses come with alternate nose bridges, so you can find what works best for you.

Alan uses Samsung Dex on the TCL NXTwear S glasses.

Alan uses Samsung Dex on the TCL NXTwear S glasses. | Image: Tracey Truly

Most sunglasses weigh about 30g (an ounce). Prescription lenses can weigh twice as much. The Ray-Ban | Meta Smart Glasses, which have cameras and speakers but no display, weigh 50g. TCL’s smart glasses, like other smart glasses, weigh about 75g (2.6oz) and 89g with the tinted shades. That’s much lighter than a VR headset, but heavy for glasses.

What I sacrifice in nose comfort is excused since I can avoid neck strain that comes from looking down at a phone or laptop screen. You can also lay back and look at the NXTwear S without the need to hold a device up.

Unique features

TCL’s NXTwear S glasses are quite similar to the Xreal Air and Rokid Air smart glasses. While TCL has the MiraScreen, Xreal's Beam, and Rokid's Station serve similar purposes. The recently launched Rokid Max has a slightly larger and noticeably brighter image.

The chameleon-like ability of NXTwear S is unique. I can switch from futuristic short lenses to magnetic shades that look like sunglasses. Without the tinted shades, you get an unobstructed view of the floor and periphery. With the shades, the size of the lenses matches the height of normal eyewear.

The volume adjustment is controlled by a wheel, and the screen brightness uses a springy round switch. The controls are different than the buttons used by other manufacturers, but it only takes a moment to adjust. I don’t have a preference either way.

After holding an earpiece button for a few seconds, the glasses change modes, so I can watch 3D movies, and the effect is very nice. You need smart glasses, a VR headset, or some device with two displays to get 3D depth of this quality.

I love how TCL incorporated magnets in the NXTwear S.

I love how TCL incorporated magnets in the NXTwear S. | Image: Tracey Truly

The included USB-C cable has a magnetic connector for easy attachment and removal from the glasses. There’s also a magnetic lens frame to hold prescription lenses if you have myopia. I love magnetic attachment, so these details make me happy.

Overall, the TCL NXTwear S are nice smart glasses with some unique features at a reasonable price. The glasses originally retailed for $450, but are on sale for $350. The MiraScreen adapter adds $100 to the cost if your phone isn't compatible.

Buy TCL NXTwear S

You can get the TCL NXTwear S smart glasses at Amazon.

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