- Great photo and video quality
- Lovely audio
- Just a classic pair of Ray-Bans
- Charging case is lush
- Wearing face cameras can be awks
- Few connectivity niggles
"Smartglasses from Facebook that stream to Instagram? Give me a break." Those were my thoughts before popping on the Ray-Ban Meta smartglasses. But I don’t think I’ve ever had my perceptions proven so wrong by a wearable before.
Not only are the Ray-Ban Meta glasses sleek, stylish, and premium – but they also produce excellent audio and video.
And far from a gimmick, they can be a life-enhancing addition – capable of capturing life's moments without pulling out your smartphone.
And these specs offer the best interpretation we've seen of what ‘smartglasses’ can offer.
Read on for our experiences:
Features and design
The Ray-Ban Meta smartglasses come in two styles: the classic Wayfarer (as seen on my face above) and an alternative, more rounded Headliner style.
You can also choose from a range of lenses and colors – from polarized sunglasses to even clear lenses and blue-light filters. We had a pair of classic sunglasses here, which obviously affects some of the use cases and opinions – but a clear glass finish could be useful if you want to use them inside.
The first thing to clear up is that there's no visual or AR aspect here. The main features of the Ray-Ban Meta specs are audio playback, calls and voice assistant use, and capturing video/images via the two 12-megapixel cameras placed on the front.
It also features enhanced virtual assistant capabilities, on-board calling, expanded storage of 32GB, and seamless integration with Instagram – including the ability to stream to the platform.
There’s a touch-sensitive panel on the stem, which responds to taps to control music playback, volume, and accepting/rejecting calls.
Meta has also refined its virtual assistant, triggered by the command 'Hey Meta,' which enables users to make calls and even get responses to queries. Used the voice assistant, and it worked pretty seamlessly. I asked it to call contacts from my address book on iPhone, and it was done without fuss.
The Ray-Ban specs feature five built-in microphones, an increase from its predecessor's three. This enables you to take phone calls while reducing background chatter in noisy environments.
I took several calls and each was fine – and every caller said they could hear me clearly too, even when walking outside.
The enhanced integration with Meta-owned apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and Threads allows for convenient sharing of photos without the need to first import them to a phone.
The Meta View app, compatible with both iOS and Android devices, streamlines the setup for this enhanced functionality.
We had a few hiccups with getting the Meta View app and glasses to sync, which connect via WiFi, not the standard Bluetooth you might expect. But otherwise, it was a slick experience.
Video and picture quality
The video and picture quality from the Ray-Ban Meta specs is excellent – surprisngly so. Dynamic range is handled with aplomb (as you can see from the cake picture below which also grabs the signs from the shops and an unfortunate passer-by) and indoor/outdoor quality exceeded expectations. You will see it struggle in low light, but these are sunglasses at the end of the day, so you might look a bit odd walking around in the dark.
To take a picture, you simply press the button on the top of the right stalk. To take a video, you long press it. Videos are capped at a minute – and when taking one, the status light glows on the front. It makes it obvious to people you’re talking to that they’re being filmed.
With a 12MP camera, the glasses can take both photos and record 1080p video – and both were impressive given the size of the sensor.
Images and video are taken with a slightly wide angle – which is helpful when you’re taking pictures from your face. Getting the subject central in the frame is more challenging than you’d think, and just framing a picture in general isn’t straightforward.
All your shots will have a slight wide-angle feel, and that’s much better suited to things like amazing vistas, more than a group of your friends on a day out. People shots can look good, but if you get the angle wrong, the wide-angle can end up with huge limbs or tiny heads.
Overall, the picture and image quality is excellent. And if you're a big Instagrammer, then being able to send content straight to the platform adds an extra dimension to the Ray-Bans.
There's also a societal point here. I captured a lovely video of my son blowing out his candles, and the best part, I didn't have to hold a smartphone to do it. This is a wearable that delivers on its promise to put us in the moment better. I did have to wear a pair of sunglasses inside a pub to do it. But it's a hint of what smartglasses should offer us.
Audio is delivered by open-ear audio, which uses directional sound so only you can hear what’s playing. Impressive stuff.
The audio quality surprised us in terms of the richness and depth – and it produced a much bassier sound than we expected. While it's certainly not built for audiophiles, we had no problem walking around town on a sunny day enjoying music on the Ray-Bans.
Obviously, if you opt for the sunglasses, you may end up wearing them in places that are slightly unsuitable, because you want to listen to your tunes. I did get some odd looks for walking my dog at dusk or sitting on the train on a cloudy day, while adorned with a dark pair of shades. That's the issue – you just don't want to take them off.
There is slight audio leakage, but when out and about, I’d be surprised if anyone noticed. In quiet environments, that could be an issue in theory. If you go for the clear lens option – you should be mindful that people might be getting annoyed by the almost-audible sound of your music.
The flip side of that is that background noise can make the audio seem quiet – and the Ray-Bans could be a little louder. In a noisy pub garden, we couldn’t quite get audio loud enough to drown out background chatter.
The Ray-Bans appear as a Bluetooth player in your preferred music service, so it was easy to get playing.
Call quality was good, but the quality did degrade slightly in loud environments – so again, it might not be right for your weekly team catch-up while sitting in the pub.
Ray-Ban/Meta claims 6 hours of use between charges – but it’s totally dependent on the features used.
I gave it to my niece to play with during my son’s birthday party and she depleted a full charge in under two hours of constant recording. She also had the best time doing it – and just shows how much fun the Ray-Ban Metas are to be creative with.
But you can also get hours of use strolling around town listening to music – so the six-hour claim certainly has merit.
The charging case (which itself charges via USB-C) is just incredible – a high-grade leather case that’s indistinguishable from a proper Ray-Ban one.
Inside are contact points for the glasses to sit on, and the “popper” for the case flap is an LED charging status. I
It’s so well thought through.
The Glasshole issue
The main downside of these smartglasses is – as always – privacy. Some people do take unkindly to spotting two cameras on your face – and if you inform people, you can tell they’re a little freaked out. People will instinctively take two or three steps backwards.
The implementation here is about as good as it can be – with status lights that can also detect if the lights have been covered.
But if you spend a lot of time around your kids, and other people’s kids, this might not be the right accessory for you.
That said, I used it at my boy’s 3rd birthday party and produced some brilliant video. When you can take a video of something special, and don’t have your phone in the way, it’s a powerful experience.
Should you buy it?
The Ray-Bans are fantastic smartglasses, which do music and video so well. They are straightforward to recommend.
Of course, they won't be your only pair of headphones and camera – so they are a luxury. But for summer days, they’re a cool accessory to own – and let’s not forget – just a damned fine pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers.
Privacy issues haven’t gone away, and there may be times when it's inappropriate to rock up wearing a pair of cameras on your face.
But at the same time, the stylish implementation of the Ray-Bans kind of helps shake off the Glasshole stigma.
How we test