Nyko Zoom for Kinect Review (X360 Kinect)

Nyko

The biggest problem with the Kinect is easily the amount of space it takes to work properly. Not everyone has a huge living room with 10 feet of open space in front of the TV. For those with normal houses instead of mansions, or the multitudes that live in small apartments, there is finally, hopefully, a solution. Nyko's Zoom for Kinect can significantly cut down the space required to use Kinect. The only problem is that by solving one problem, it introduces a bunch of new ones.

It is a great idea, but poorly executed. We have all of the details right here.

Game Details

  • Kinect Sensor Required
  • From: Nyko
  • Genre: Kinect Accessory
  • Pros: Works as promised ... sometimes
  • Cons: Works better in some games than others; can scratch your Kinect; constant need to re-calibrate

The Nyko Zoom for Kinect is essentially a pair of Coke-bottle nerd glasses for your Kinect. It literally is nothing more than some thick lenses that fit over the cameras on Kinect. You see, Kinect can normally see you great when you're 8-10 feet away, but any closer and it's tracking really suffers. With the Nyko Zoom, you can stand closer - 4-6 feet away from your TV.

At least, that is the idea behind it. In practice, it isn't quite so easy.

Setup

Setup is extremely simple - you just line the lenses of the Kinect up with the lenses on the Zoom and snap it on. It goes on and off very easily, and when it is on it is very secure.

There are a couple of caveats, though. First, putting the Zoom on and off can and will scratch the lenses of your Kinect. The Zoom comes with little clear stickers that you put on your Kinect in order to protect the lenses, and it is highly recommended that you use them. Second, the Zoom doesn't work properly if your Kinect is located on top of your TV.

This is a bit of a problem because in our tests we have found Kinect normally works better placed on top. For the Zoom, you absolutely have to use it with the Kinect below the TV instead. Why is this? Well, for some reason Kinect can't see the floor of your room with the Zoom installed if it is too high, which means you can't calibrate it. Move it down below the TV, though, and it works better.

Performance

A bigger problem with the Zoom, however, is that it works better in some games than others. Games that don't require super-precise tracking - sports games like Kinect Sports, for example - work okay and you can definitely stand much closer than you can without the Zoom. Games that need more precision, though, like Child of Eden or The Gunstringer really suffer when you try to play them with the Zoom. Because the camera view is so zoomed in (and has a sort of fisheye stretch effect) your hand motions are interpreted as being more exaggerated and wild than you may want them. This also causes games that track distance between you and the TV to behave strangely as well - it thinks you are moving further / faster than you really want.

By having such a difference in performance between different games with the Zoom, you'll need to take it off and put it on a lot depending on what you want to play.

Control differences aside, sometimes you don't want to play certain games standing 4' in front of your TV, but you can't move back to a normal distance because, with the Zoom connected, Kinect literally can't see you past about 6' or so. So you take the Zoom off. Then put it on for games it works with. Then take it off later. That means potentially scratching your Kinect. That means having to re-calibrate Kinect every time you want to use it. For us, that wasn't really worth it.

For the record, our setup is pretty well ideal for Kinect. I have a long, skinny apartment that has plenty of room for Kinect to work without the Zoom.

I have great lighting. And Kinect has worked fine from day 1. I wanted to try the Zoom (and bought it with my own money), however, because I have fairly spectacularly crappy eyesight and standing 8-10 feet away from the TV is a bit too far for me to see games with lots of text to read (Rise of Nightmares was the most recent offender). I had hoped I could use the Zoom to stand 4-5 feet away instead so I could see better. For some games, it definitely worked. For other games, the loss of control was bad enough it wasn't worth using the Zoom. The whole point behind Kinect is accurate motion controls, so snapping an extra accessory on it that actually screws up the control in many games is just a bad idea. Whatever benefits it does bring to certain games, the drawbacks in the poorer controls and additional setup hassles just aren't worth it. I'll be using Kinect without the Zoom in the future.

Bottom Line

In the end, the Nyko Zoom for Kinect is a great idea to solve Kinect's biggest problem, but the execution just isn't up to par. Once you get it set up and calibrated, it does exactly as promised - it cuts the space Kinect requires down by 40% - but the trade off is less accurate controls, which pretty much kills the fun in most Kinect games. The added annoyance of it not working right with all games, and having to calibrate and re-calibrate you Kinect constantly, makes the Zoom rather un-appealing.

It isn't surprising, really. Microsoft has gone on record saying it did not endorse the Nyko Zoom and told CVG at E3 "Kinect has been tested for performance, accuracy and environmental conditions thoroughly. Any modification can impact the overall performance of Kinect.". Kinect is a finely tuned device, and simply slapping extra lenses from a third-party company on the front of it to make it zoom in just isn't going to work properly. If it could work properly at closer range, Microsoft would have done it already.

So, sad to say for current or potential Kinect owners with small living rooms, the Nyko Zoom isn't the solution you were hoping for. It kinda sorta works, but at too high a cost in terms of control and calibration annoyance that it isn't really worth it. For the price, just $30 or less, though, you might give it a try if you are desperate. It can work in certain situations, but not well enough overall to get a recommendation from us. Skip it.