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I expected the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses to be lame. I was wrong

If you chose Ray-Bans with dark lenses, it gets a little dim in the evening.
Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses
MSRP $300.00
“Despite not having a screen, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses are one of the most practical wearables I've tested.”
Pros
  • Lightweight and stylish glasses
  • Hands-free photo and video capture
  • Good 12MP photos
  • HD+ videos
  • Live-streaming capability
  • Good speaker quality
  • Impressive five-mic array
  • Meta AI chatbot
Cons
  • No display
  • 1-second shutter lag

The Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses surprised me by being much more useful than I expected. I’ve tested several types of smart glasses, but these are the first that are comfortable enough to wear all day. They feature an integrated camera and mics to capture first-person perspective photos and videos.

I assumed the novelty would wear off in a hurry, and I doubted the quality would be sufficient to satisfy my preference for high-resolution photos and video with good dynamic range. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Meta’s computational photography is good enough to deliver nice pictures despite the small size of the camera in the upper-left corner of the glasses frame.

For smart glasses, the new Ray-Ban Meta wearable I tested is lightweight, just 48 grams (1.7 oz), and has an IPX4 water -resistance rating. That means you can wear them comfortably all day without worrying about light rain or splashes. I popped out into a mild autumn rain with no worries — and if I may say, looked pretty stylish doing so.

Camera quality

I can take photos with a voice command or by pressing a button.
I can take photos with a voice command or by pressing a button. Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

Obviously, a significant appeal of these frames is in the design. Being partnered with one of the most iconic glasses brands in the world goes a long way toward making these feel like an ordinary pair of shades. Then again, that was true of the first-generation Ray Ban Stories too. The outer appearance hasn’t changed all that much, aside from being a bit slimmer all-around. The big upgrade in this second generation is what you experience with them on your face: the cameras.

The first-generation Ray-Ban Stories had two 5MP cameras in each corner of the glasses, allowing stereo 3D capture, but with a lower resolution than modern phones. That meant a trade-off in quality when using the smart glasses’ cameras.

The latest Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses match the 12MP sharpness of your phone and even add some AI magic to improve contrast and color. Most outdoor photos look great with no adjustments. Check out the beautiful harbor pictures I captured with these smart glasses.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses photos are crisp and colorful.
Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses photos are crisp and colorful. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

Meta’s algorithm is very good, but it made a few exposure mistakes in challenging lighting conditions. I wore a dark jacket against a bright waterfront. My face showed too much contrast in one photo and not enough in the next.

But overall, the picture quality is very good. If you happen upon a glitch, you can report it to Meta from the companion app to help identify problems to fix in software updates. Be aware that a stray hair might appear in a few photos. That’s not Meta’s fault.

A couple of photos had exposure errors.
A couple of photos from Meta’s smart glasses had exposure errors. Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

The 12MP images have enough resolution to allow cropping without losing detail. Below is a 3:2 crop of a Meta Smart Glasses photo that normally has a 3:4 aspect ratio.

There's enough resolution to crop a 3:4 photo into a 3:2 aspect ratio.
There’s enough resolution to crop a 3:4 photo into a 3:2 aspect ratio. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

Hands-free photos are possible with Meta’s voice assistant. If it isn’t convenient to say, “Hey Meta, take a photo,” I can press the button at the top of the right earpiece. To capture a video, I can hold the button until I hear a chime or say, “Hey Meta, record a video.” An LED lights up in the top-right corner of the frames to alert subjects you’re recording.

The hands-free option is convenient, particularly when driving, but the button activates the camera faster, with about a 1-second lag. Having a camera ready at a moment’s notice allowed my wife to get some great blue jay videos and catch a bald eagle soaring overhead, an opportunity that we otherwise would have missed while driving.

October 16, 2023

Video quality is good, though not as sharp as the 4K resolution that most modern phones boast. Stabilization smooths out walking and even running vibration nicely. Video resolution is 1552-by 2064 pixels, which is about 1.5 times 1080p.

It has a 3:4 aspect ratio, just like the photos, and is taller than it is wide. That works well for Instagram or Facebook, and the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses support live streaming to those social media networks.

Live streaming

Instagram glasses icon shows Meta Smart Glasses are available.
Instagram screenshots show a glasses icon when Meta Smart Glasses are available and an X to switch back to your handheld device. Digital Trends

The live-streaming feature is a unique and valuable addition for Instagram and Facebook influencers. You’ll see a glasses icon in the live stream preview on your phone and hear a reminder that you can switch to the glasses. Double-press the shutter button on the Ray-Ban frames to record with the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses or select the X below the glasses icon on your phone to switch back to your handheld.

You can tuck your phone in a pocket or bag and have both hands free to carry things, open doors, juggle, cook, and do any activity you’d usually do without a phone in your hand.

October 16, 2023

The camera has an ultrawide field of view that’s about the same as my iPhone 13’s ultrawide when held a foot from my body. It’s a bit like a GoPro without the extra gear needed to mount an action camera on your head or chest. There’s no barrel distortion in the photos and videos from the Meta Smart Glasses.

It’s also possible to start on the phone and switch to smart glasses with a double tap of the photo button. If you hand your phone or smart glasses to someone else, you’ve got a two-camera shoot with live switching capability. With the phone’s rear camera, you have three cameras to choose from.

Sound quality

Alan Truly wears Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasseswhile driving.
Alan Truly wears Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses while driving. Tracey Truly / Digital Trends

Sound quality is quite good for smart glasses. Meta has refined the small speakers in the earpieces and claims its smart glasses are 50% louder than the previous generation and supply twice as much bass. I never tried Ray-Ban Stories, but the new Meta Smart Glasses provide good volume with surprisingly little leakage.

When standing right beside me, my wife said she could barely hear any sound while I was playing music at a normal level. If I raise the volume to maximum, music is quiet, but audible to anyone nearby. Overall, the speaker design keeps audio as private as some earbuds.

As nice as the speakers are, the microphones impressed me even more. Meta’s improved five-mic array captures spatial audio and the quality is exceptionally good. I placed calls with the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses, and my voice came through clearly. My wife called me from the smart glasses, and I could easily hear her voice also, so it’s not a coincidence related to my voice.

Meta AI

Here are two more photo examples from Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses.
Here are two more photo examples of photos taken with Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

Meta AI is built into the Ray-Ban Smart Glasses, so you have access to a personal chatbot to help with common problems and questions. Internet access is coming, but Meta didn’t share a timeline.

The current AI seems knowledgeable about almost everything except current events. I asked it about the height of the Eiffel Tower, and after a brief pause, it told me the height with and without antenna in meters and feet. I could look that up on my phone, but it’s faster with the Meta AI in the Ray-Ban Smart Glasses that is just a tap away.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses will get a visual search in a future update.

It can’t tell me the location of the closest EV charging station, but the Meta Smart Glasses can handle translation and write poetry for me. Still, internet access will be a significant improvement, adding capabilities closer to that of Bing Chat.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses will get a visual search in a future update, something Google planned for its now-delayed AR glasses.

The camera will let Meta AI “see” what you’re looking at and answer questions. This function could potentially show the ingredients of food, display a warning about allergens, and highlight calories. Visual search could also help with shopping, so you can find matches for products. Meta doesn’t know when this game-changing feature will launch.

Battery life and charging

Ray-Ban's synthetic leather charging case has an LED in the snap.
Ray-Ban’s synthetic leather charging case has an LED in the snap. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

The charging case looks like an ordinary Ray-Ban case with textured synthetic leather on the outside and a brushed suede feel inside. As a vegan, I appreciate that no cows were harmed in the making of this product.

A snap on the front of the case holds an LED that glows orange when charging the Meta Smart Glasses and green when the battery is full. It extends the smart glasses battery life up to 36 hours. You can plug in a USB-C charger to the port at the bottom to top up the Ray-Ban charging case and Meta Smart Glasses at the same time.

The rated four-hour battery life is plenty for my usage since I have the tinted Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses for outdoor use. If you get the clear version, transitions, or spend many hours outdoors with sunglasses, that might seem a little short. I never ran out of charge since I stored the smart glasses in their case when they were not in use.

In my testing, the case charges the smart glasses quickly. Starting with a 50% charge, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses reached 75% in 11 minutes and fa ull charge in 34 minutes.

If you drain the smart glasses completely, they need 75 minutes in the case to recharge the battery completely. Unless you wear them for several hours with no break or forget to charge the case every few days, battery life won’t be a problem.

Should you buy Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses?

Tracey Truly looks good wearing Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses.
Tracey Truly looks good wearing Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses start at $300, which is more than you might spend mindlessly. But considering the hefty price of so many other smart glasses out there, it’s not too hard on the budget. The question is whether there’s enough value to justify the purchase. Since these smart glasses are multifunctional, so for the right person, the answer could very well be yes.

The specifications are good: 12MP photos, better than HD videos, a fast and efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 processor, 32GB storage, automatic syncing to your phone (iOS or Android), and up to 36 hours of battery life with the charging case. Unlike other leading smart glasses that serve primarily as a second screen, there’s no display in the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses.

There are two frame styles, a variety of color options, and a choice of clear, tinted, polarized, or photochromatic transitions lenses. I tested the Meta Wayfarer smart glasses with sunglasses shading, which worked well for outdoor daylight use.

The color lenses look appealing, but I fear my eyes would tire of seeing the world tinted amber, red, or blue. Clear and transitions lenses make the smart glasses suitable for use indoors, outdoors, and in the evening.

They’re already great, but will only get better from here.

You get a hands-free, always-ready camera for point-of-view shots at any time. Meta’s smart glasses have good sound quality and can replace standard earbuds. They don’t leak audio at normal volume, but lack noise cancellation, so you’ll want to keep your earbuds or headphones on hand for use in noisy areas.

If you have a thriving social media presence or want to build a following, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses might be an automatic purchase. The live-streaming option gives you a second camera with a unique first-person perspective of your experience.

Despite not having a screen, these are a surprisingly fantastic pair of smart glasses, especially if you’re mostly interesting for the photo and video capabilities.

Editors' Recommendations

Alan Truly
Computing Writer
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
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