Why Meta’s Ray-Ban Smart Glasses Are My Favorite Tech Buy This Year

Prakhar Khanna wears meta-ray ban-smart glasses

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

During CES 2024, I went to Sunglasses Hut to try a pair on Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses feed my curious mind. I didn’t expect to buy a pair, but I did, and five months later, these glasses are my favorite purchase of 2024 so far. The best part is that the device has gotten better over time.

I’ve tried smart glasses in the past, but they were all bulky and uncomfortable to wear for more than five minutes. The glasses always feel like I have a gadget on my face. However, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses are different – ​​they are sunglasses first and smart glasses second. This technology is embedded not only in the design of the glasses, but also in the design of the charging case, which looks like a regular sunglasses case.

Also: I tested a lot of technology – the Meta Ray-Bans were the biggest surprise

When you look at the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses, they look and feel like sunglasses instead of a gadget. That subtlety is a standout feature for me. I bought the $329 Headliner variant that fits my style and I haven’t worn sunglasses since. You can get Ray-Bans with transfer lenses for indoor wear, but that option is only available in the Wayfarer style, which starts at $299.

1. Brilliant design and even better functionality

Prakhar Khanna with meta-ray ban-smart-glasses.

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

I couldn’t be happier that I bought these Ray-Bans before heading to Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles for two specific reasons: video and sound.

Capturing amusement park ride experiences is difficult, especially on roller coasters. I got some great shots when using Ray-Bans to record an outdoor ride on Harry Potter. Outdoor shots have excellent stabilization for such a small form factor, so even my shots from walking around the theme park looked amazing.

Also: How these $400 XR glasses cured my Apple Vision Pro FOMO

The footage may not be as good as the GoPro, but I got good point-of-view shots without attaching another camera to my body or cap. I didn’t count my smart glasses as an “extra device” because I would wear sunglasses outside anyway. After all, I wore my “normal” sunglasses at Universal Studios Singapore last year.

meta-ray-ban-samples-1-3

Swatches of Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses (left to right): outdoors in daylight, at night, and indoors

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

meta-ray-ban-samples-1-4

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses sample shots (left to right): on a train in low light, a morning selfie and a shot in bright daylight

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

I was also impressed with the low-light video recording quality. I recorded the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts and the footage looked like something shot on a $400 smartphone.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses also double as headphones. These aren’t in-ear headphones, so there will be some sound leakage, but that’s not a problem if there’s already a lot of ambient noise around you. I had to set the volume to 100% in noisy areas and still needed more. But 90% of the time I didn’t feel like I needed a higher volume.

The sound quality on the Ray-Bans isn’t what you’d get in expensive stand-alone headphones, but it still takes your theme park experience to the next level because the music feels like ambient sound that’s part of the environment. You can launch Spotify or Apple Music by tapping and holding the touchpad on the right arm of the glasses.

Also: Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses just got another useful feature for free (and a new style)

With separate headphones, you also get microphones – and these Ray-Bans are no different. They house several microphones and the quality is surprisingly good. I received many calls on these smart glasses and the callers said they didn’t notice much difference in sound quality from my usual headphones (OnePlus Buds 3).

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glass will last approximately two hours with intensive use. My usage included continuous music, a few calls and lots of camera footage. I also wore the glasses continuously for five hours with 10% battery because I didn’t listen to much music and only used the camera lightly. The official figure from Meta claims four hours of battery life, which includes “taking and syncing 100 videos or up to 500 photos.” I’m glad Ray-Bans still work as zero charge sunglasses.

Case for Meta Ray-Ban smart glasses

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

Another important factor to consider when purchasing companion devices such as a smartwatch or smart ring for your phone is the charging method, as you will be charging them frequently. It’s a problem when these devices require proprietary charging. Fortunately, this is not a problem with the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, as the charging case requires the same cable as your phone – a Type-C cable.

For privacy, these glasses include a white LED light on the opposite side of the camera that turns on when you’re recording a video or taking a photo. It doesn’t attract attention in public, but if you’re recording someone live, they’ll be aware of it.

2. This is the perfect AI form factor

Meta Smart Glasses Ray-Ban ZDNET

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Unlike recently launched AI gadgets, including Rabbit’s R1 and Humane’s Ai Pin, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses are not AI-first. I’ve kept these glasses because instead of trying to replace my phone, they’re a great companion.

Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses now also include the Meta AI assistant, which was launched last month. I haven’t tried Assistant on my device yet, but I’ve asked the glasses for calls and music using the “Hey Meta” trigger, which works flawlessly.

Also: Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses can identify landmarks and tell you about them

I think these Ray-Bans are the perfect form factor for an AI device. The speakers are close to your ears, and this placement creates a more intimate feedback than announcing something through a speaker attached to your body or through a handheld device.

There is room for improvement

Case for Meta Ray-Ban smart glasses

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

The bug in the glasses didn’t bother me, but it did bother me when the camera records in 3:4 aspect ratio instead of 9:16. This switch wouldn’t be a problem if there was a way to change the aspect ratio in the settings, but there is no way to set the aspect ratio from the Meta View app. The glasses are supposed to record at 9:16, so it’s not clear why the output in the app is 3:4.

Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses don’t record actual video from your eye-line perspective, but from a slightly angled perspective. For those of you who are used to mounting an Insta360 Go 3 or GoPro on your head and expect these smart glasses to capture a similar angle, you’re in for a surprise. I thought I would get used to the rectangular view, but my shots often have a lot of space on the left side.

Also: Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses get hands-free Apple Music integration and more

The glasses do charge quickly, but I would have liked better battery life with the new Meta generation Ray-Bans. I use my glasses to play music while commuting. This usage drains half the battery by the time I get to the event where I want to record a video. Also, if you’re getting these glasses with transition lenses to wear most of the day, you won’t be able to.

Despite these shortcomings, I use mine Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses daily and I consider them to be one of my best recent investments.