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W 3D Gaming Smartphone Tracks Your Eyes

LAS VEGAS - Snail Games first Android gaming smartphone is a doozy, combining a bright glasses-free 3D display and eye-tracking software. The W 3D offers a hard-to-resist set of specs and features that could make it a viable choice for gamers who want to play more challenging titles on their phones. Now, if it would just come to the U.S.

Design

The first thing you'll notice about the W 3D are the elongated panels surrounding the 5.5-inch display. On the right, you'll find a camera, four glossy face buttons and a single analog stick. The left panel has another analog stick as well as a directional pad. Overall, the W 3D looks like a slimmed down PlayStation Vita.

There are some noticeable differences however. The Vita employs a pair of clear plastic shoulder buttons at the top of the device while the W 3D has two pairs of rather small buttons. Silver buttons for volume and power sit towards the middle of the setup. You'll find two microUSB ports and a headphone jack.

The rear panel is comprised of a dark gray matte plastic gray finish. It's slightly rubberized for a sturdy, comfortable grip. The smartphone's rear camera can be found towards the top of the panel above one of the dual speakers. At the bottom, you'll find the second speaker below a tiny silver chrome snail.

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Gaming

I didn't have the opportunity to play a game on the smartphone, but the buttons and d-pad delivered firm, clicky feedback. While I'm not a fan of flattened dual analog sticks, I'll reserve judgement on accuracy until I play an actual game on the device. The same thing goes for the most worrisome feature of the W 3D - the miniscule shoulder buttons at the top of the device.

At launch, the W 3D will feature a smart adaptive control scheme that enables the device to automatically recognize button setups and control adjustment for installed games. Gamers can also employ the preloaded key mapping software to create custom control configurations for the buttons or the touchscreen.

Glasses-Free 3D Display

At first glance, the W 3D's 5.5-inch display looks like your average smartphone screen. As I explored the device's interface, the 1920 x 1080 display delivered accurate, rapid response along with vibrant color and sharp detail.

What makes the W 3D stand out from the crowd is the implementation of a Liquid Crystal lens (LC-Lens). Used in conjunction with the front-facing infrared camera, which employs eye-tracking, the W 3D is able to deliver a glasses-free 3D effect in real-time, taking into account the person's viewing angle.

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I got a taste of what the W 3D had to offer on a trailer of the "Penguins of Madagascar" trailer. A small gray box appeared in the lower left corner appeared as the clip began to play. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the infrared camera was scanning my face, as evidenced by the white lines outlining my eyes, nose and mouth. After several seconds, the 3D effect kicked in, offering plenty of depth. Thanks to the eye tracker, the effect remained consistent even as I moved my head from side to side.

Interface

The W 3D has your standard Android 4.4 (KitKat) setup. There are a number of colorful homescreens that you can quickly swipe through. A downward swipe from the omnipresent status bar at the top of the display reveals the Notifications shade. However, I did notice one key difference versus other Android phones: the Home, Back and Menu buttons live along the right side of the device which is accessed with a quick swipe to the left.

Flicking through the homescreens, I came across an icon for a Snail Games store. Although it wasn't populated on the demo device, our Snail rep said that the company is planning to launch the device with a robust catalog of games, including TaiChi Panda, a Snail exclusive currently available for PC.

Specs

Powerful features such as eye-tracking and glasses-free 3D require some beefy specs. The demo unit of the W 3D smartphone features a 2.2-GHz octa-core MediaTek 6595 processor with 2GB of RAM with 16GB of onboard storage. Not enough room for your games? You can expand the storage to 64GB via a micro SDXC card.

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Availability

As promising as the W 3D is, Snail isn't certain if the smartphone will ever come stateside. The company is currently trying to field U.S. consumer interest for the handheld/smartphone mashup. If it does become available in the States, consumers can expect a smartphone running 4G LTE.

Bottom Line

Snail Games' W 3D smartphone is an intriguing piece of hardware. It takes tech that is currently employed as an eye-catching gimmick and melds them into a presentation that is equal parts fun and practical. I'm hopeful that Snail will make a foray into the American gaming hardware market, if for no other reason than I want to watch my favorite movies in 3D without using dorky-looking glasses.

Sherri L. Smith is a Senior Writer at Tom's Guide. When she's not testing out the latest headphones and speakers, you'll find her gaming on her Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or PC. Follow Sherri at @misssmith11. Follow us @TomsGuide and on Facebook.