I must admit, reviewing the new Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses is something I never thought I would be doing. I was excited to give them a try though, and hey, they do have a camera in them after all.
To clarify, this is the second iteration of the Ray-Ban Meta glasses. I never tried the originals but word on the street is that they weren’t very good. The first thing that struck me about the latest pair is how stylish they are. I suppose I expected the glasses to be heavy and overly bulky. In reality, they feel like the other Ray-Ban glasses that I wear daily. The glasses are available in a myriad of frame styles and lens choices, but the pair I tested have the G15 transitional lenses mounted in Matte Black Wayfarer frames. I like these for most users as they can be worn both indoors and outside on bright days without issue.
The Ray-Ban smart glasses are designed to combine many different pieces of tech into one. First, let’s discuss the camera. The glasses can shoot both 1080 30P video and 12-megapixel stills. I find the overall image quality to be similar to a phone from a few generations back, which is to say that the results are fine for memories or social media output. The video shows fairly heavy compression when dealing with busy scenes and motion. One thing to note is the five microphones located around the glasses. This is a big upgrade from the originals and provides spatial audio in all your video recordings.
Regardless of what mode you use, the composition is always vertical. Being glasses, any chance of shooting horizontally is completely impractical. The camera unit is located off your left temple and is aimed slightly to the right. Although this means that arms-reach subjects will be centered on the glasses, I had to remember to aim my vision slightly to the left to keep farther objects composed correctly.
Taking photos and videos is an easy affair, either using the button on the right arm or by using a voice command. However, I noticed a significant delay when taking pictures. Also, I have to keep my head perfectly still until I hear the artificial shutter click, or else my shot will be blurry, even in brighter conditions.
Okay, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. Having a camera located in glasses creates an “opportunity” for discreet image-taking. There is an LED light that flashes whilst recording stills and video. To be fair, it is quite bright but I still feel that most people won’t notice. If the LED is obscured the glasses will not record but a video can be started and will continue to record if the LED is covered afterwards. I’ll leave it up to you the reader to determine how and when you feel comfortable shooting.
Any images and video clips are stored right on the glasses and then imported directly to your smartphone via built-in WiFi. Perhaps in order to help with limited storage video clips are limited to one minute maximum per clip. For most social media applications this is perfectly acceptable. For casual shooting or as a pseudo-action cam I found the glasses quite acceptable. But what about the other features?
The Ray-Ban glasses work as headphones and speakers all in one. These can be used to listen to music, live stream to Meta-only streaming services, or take phone calls. The aforementioned quintuplet of microphones provides wonderful clarity for live streaming and phone calls.
The built-in speakers are surprisingly easy to hear even in noisy surroundings. They might lack deeper bass notes, but otherwise sound very nice. One of the best features of using the smart glasses is that awareness of your surroundings is unhampered. You can still hear important noises, for example, while driving or walking around busy traffic intersections.
There is an invisible action bar on the side of the right armature that works as a pause button and lets you dance music tracks forward and backward. Of course, you can also use basic “Hey Meta” voice commands to control your glasses and cycle through voice messages and texts.
I have to say though that I don’t personally like using open speakers around other people. Although I wouldn’t say the speakers are overly loud, any nearby people will be privy to your musical tastes and personal calls. Call me old-fashioned but I don’t like putting that burden on others.
Battery life was acceptable with around five or six hours of power under normal use. Heavy use of photo or video recording will be almost half that, but we are talking about constant use. The provided glasses case will recharge the glasses very quickly back up to full and has a USB-C port to recharge with.
Personally, I was impressed with the benefits that these glasses can provide. I can see them being a useful alternative to earbuds and I especially find them useful as a hands-free action camera while fly fishing. Still, I don’t see them being something I would personally invest in and I think that is because they are a very lifestyle-dependent purchase. If you want a hands-free solution to earbuds and don’t want to pull out your phone to take pictures and record memories it could be a fun piece of gear to consider. Otherwise, your phone and earbuds are something you already have and the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses are a luxury solution in search of a problem.