Tobii eye-tracker 4C review | Should I buy the Tobii 4C eye-tracker?

Tobii’s EyeX eye-tracker took the gaming world by storm when it was released, offering gamers an alternative way to interact with their favourite PC games. While the EyeX was impressive, Tobii recently launched the Tobii 4C, the second-generation peripheral that boasts all-round improvements, as well as head- as well as eye-tracking technology. Is it worth investing in the second-generation eye-tracker, or is it a gimmick with no support from game developers? Here’s our Tobii eye-tracker 4C review. Read next: Best gaming mouse of 2017

Tobii eye-tracker 4C review: Pricing and availability

So before we get into what exactly the Tobii 4C offers gamers, let’s first discus the UK pricing and availability. Following a late-2016 launch, the Tobii eye-tracker 4C is now available to buy not only from the official Tobii website for €159, but also Amazon, setting you back £139. When you consider that the SteelSeries Sentry offers eye- but not head-tracking and costs around the same price, Tobii’s 4C is decent value for money.  

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Tobii eye-tracker 4C review: Design and build quality

The Tobii 4C is a fairly sleek eye-tracker that sits either directly on your laptop, or attaches to your external PC display, depending on your setup. It’s unassuming, measuring in at 17 x 15 x 335mm, and shouldn’t distract users from whatever is happening on-screen. Due to the fixed length, the Tobii 4C can only support 16:9 displays up to 27in and 21:9 displays up to 30in – those with larger displays are out of luck this time around!

The company provides users with two magnet strips, allowing the Tobii 4C to be affixed to two different monitors, with the 4C snapping into place with little effort. Despite the inclusion of magnets for desktop PC users, we feel that the Tobii 4C was designed with use with laptops in mind. Why? One major clue is the attached USB cable.

Unlike the first-generation Tobii EyeX eye-tracker that came with a 1.8m long cable ideal for use with PCs, the Tobii 4C comes with an integrated 0.8m (80cm) cable. While this means that laptop users won’t have a long cable to deal with, it also means that it’s incredibly hard for PC users to attach it to the display and plug it into the rear of their PCs – something we can attest to. It’s just too short for the average setup, with us needing to re-arrange our entire setup to accommodate (and still the cable is taut).

According to Tobii, the company is “working to address the needs of desktop users who will need a longer cord” but as the 4C uses limited amounts of power, most USB extension cables aren’t supported. You can use a powered USB hub like the D-Link 7-Port USB 2.0 Hub (powered) if required though – and if your setup is anything like ours, it’ll definitely be required.

Despite the unassuming look, users might notice the infrared LEDs embedded within the tracker when it’s in use. Don’t worry too much though, as the LEDs are extremely dim and don’t cause any kind of eye irritation over long periods.

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Tobii eye-tracker 4C review: Features and gameplay

At the time of writing, the Tobii 4C is the only eye-tracker on the market that features not only eye-tracking tech, but also head-tracking technology, allowing for deeper immersion and more intuitive controls when gaming and generally using Windows 10. The addition of head tracking isn’t the only difference between the EyeX and the 4C either, as the 4C also includes an on-board processor (ASIC) dubbed the EyeChip that provides huge improvements not only in terms of tracking, but also power consumption and most importantly, CPU load.

The inclusion of the EyeChip means that the accessory requires less processing power from your PC to run and should allow games to run normally with no frame-rate drop. However, while the eye-tracking is handled by the EyeChip, head-tracking still requires a little bit of power from your PC’s CPU, although not enough (in our experience) to have any negative effect on gameplay.

So, let’s get down to it – which games offer support for the Tobii 4C, and what does it bring to supported games? Unlike with rivals, the Tobii 4C boasts an impressive roster of 4C-supported games including recent AAA releases including Watch Dogs 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Tom Clancy’s The Division, along with other popular games like Elite: Dangerous (where the 4C works particularly well) – a full list of 4C-supported games can be found here.

Before we go into more detail, it’s worth noting that the Tobii 4C isn’t meant to be a replacement input, nor is it meant to provide something similar to a VR experience. Instead, the 4C should enhance your traditional gaming style – whether it be keyboard and mouse or controller-based.

We spent most of our time with the Tobii 4C playing Elite: Dangerous, a long-time favourite of ours offering a 1:1 scale universe ready for exploration. You spend the vast majority of your time in Elite: Dangerous in the cockpit of your ship, which the developers have spent a lot of time developing so that each individual screen displays live information about your ship, and can actually be used to control the ship’s various features.

In the standard game the in-cockpit displays are all mapped with keyboard shortcuts, allowing quick access with the press of a button when needed. However, with the Tobii 4C, you need only glance at the computer in question and it’ll come up full-screen, ready for interaction. It’s not a dramatic addition, but small things like glancing at computers and turning your head (while keeping your eyes on-screen) to watch enemy fighters fly past your ship’s windscreen really improves the overall experience.

Both the eye- and head-tracking was incredibly accurate in our experience, even when wearing glasses and with light streaming in from a window behind us – two factors we imagined would have had some effect on the tracking capabilities of the 4C.

It’s not just being able to glance at screens in Elite: Dangerous either, as the functionality depends on the game in question and can offer much more. Playing a shoot’em up? Simply look at the enemy to lock onto and shoot them, or look at cover to dive towards it and avoid the incoming barrage of bullets. How the technology is utilised depends on the developer, but the fact that there’s already an impressive roster of supported games available makes the future of the Tobii 4C look promising.

There are also benefits beyond the world of gaming, as the Tobii 4C comes with a handful of features that should make operating your Windows-based PC a lot easier. The main attraction is the ability to instantly move your mouse to wherever you’re looking on-screen – especially handy for those that use laptops and trackpads. While it does take a little bit of getting used to, it sped up our workflow and we can only imagine how helpful it could be for those that aren’t physically able to use a keyboard and mouse. It also offers several smaller features, such as dimming the display when you’re not looking at it, again, a feature more focussed on laptop users with finite battery power.

Tobii eye-tracker 4C: Specs

  • Head- and eye-tracking
  • Built-in ASIC
  • Supports up to 30in displays
  • 17 x 15 x 335mm
  • Designed for Windows
  • Head- and eye-tracking
  • Built-in ASIC
  • Supports up to 30in displays
  • 17 x 15 x 335mm
  • Designed for Windows

OUR VERDICT

The Tobii 4C eye and head-tracker is impressive, and could be the best consumer-facing eye-tracking tech available on the market at the moment. Boasting incredibly accurate head and eye tracking, a built-in eye-tracking ASIC that improves tracking and negates CPU load on the PC and an impressive number of AAA games offering support, the 4C really is a winner. That’s without even mentioning the extra functionality it provides for Windows users, and the potential it has to help those that are currently physically unable to use a PC. The only downside? An incredibly short USB cable, which required us to shuffle our PC setup to plug it in.

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