Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses look cool and work well if you want a camera on your face

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The Ray-Ban Meta Headliner smart glasses.
Jake Piazza | CNBC

Meta released the second generation of its Ray-Ban glasses in October. I’ve been testing them over the last couple of weeks and I really like them, even after factoring in the premium you pay in comparison to regular Ray-Bans.

The $299 Headliner model I have feels identical to traditional Ray-Bans but with more smarts. Similar to the first model, they allow you to capture video, snap pictures, place calls through your phone and listen to music. The speakers also are 50% louder, according to Meta. There’s also a better camera that takes photos in portrait mode instead of landscape, which makes them better suited for social media posts.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which includes its wearable products such as the smart glasses and the Meta Quest, contributes less than 1% to the company’s revenue. Even so, its wearables represent Meta’s attempt at making headway in the devices space in addition to its massive advertising and social media presence.

Here’s what you should know about the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses.

What’s good

The Ray-Ban Meta Headliner smart glasses. 
Jake Piazza | CNBC

The Ray-Ban Meta glasses are marketed to show that they can be worn every day just like a regular pair of sunglasses. To do that, they need to be as comfortable, stylish and useful as your regular pair. Meta and Ray-Ban nailed that aspect.

They’re comfortable to wear and aren’t clunky. They weigh just a few grams more than regular Ray-Ban glasses. And, while I was testing out the glasses in the office, I was asked several times why I was wearing sunglasses indoors, so that gives you a gauge of how similar they look to classic Ray-Bans. They don’t look weird.

I wore my smart sunglasses without using any of the tech features, and they work just as well as a normal pair of polarized Ray-Ban sunglasses. For people who want to replace their corrective lenses, you can get prescription lenses just like you would with the pair you already use.

The Ray-Ban Meta Headliner smart glasses. 
Jake Piazza | CNBC

They’re convenient if you want to take pictures in the moment without having to reach for your phone. You just press a button on the right side of your glasses or say, “Hey Meta, take a photo.” I liked using them to snap pictures walking around New York City. Just check out this side by side of the same tree. The one on the left is taken with my iPhone and the one on the right is taken with my glasses.

The photo on the left was taken with an iPhone 14. The photo on the right was taken with the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses.
Jake Piazza | CNBC

It’s easy to import the pictures or videos to the Meta View app on a phone, and then you can save them to your camera roll.

It’s obvious to others when you’re taking a photo or video. The circle on the right side of the glasses flashes when you take a photo and it pulses when you’re filming, so it would be difficult to take a photo or video without someone noticing.

That’s an important feature for Ray-Ban Meta glasses to become engrained into mainstream society. People around you know when you’re recording. You can’t even block the light and take a photo. The glasses will refuse to snap the picture if you try.

An LED flash goes off when you take a photo with the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses.
Jake Piazza | CNBC

The audio and calling capabilities are my favorite part, though.

You can use the glasses in place of your earbuds. I walked around New York’s Central Park with them while listening to music and prefer the audio experience over earbuds in a setting like this. The sound is still full, but I was more attune to my surroundings, which was helpful when an unleashed dog ran up to me and when a biker sped through a red light.

Listening to music is sort of like having a soundtrack playing in the background, as opposed to an immersive experience that many new headphones provide. I’ll admit, I don’t have AirPods with the noise transparency option so it’s worth comparing that feature if you have the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max.

There is definitely more audio leakage with these than I found in my 3rd Generation AirPods, so I’d probably still go with earbuds on the train if you don’t want to bug your fellow passengers. But the glasses were quiet enough that they didn’t bother my roommate while I listened to music at home.

I liked that I could tap once on the right side of the glasses to pause and resume my music and could slide my finger to adjust the volume.

The Ray-Ban Meta Headliner smart glasses. 
Jake Piazza | CNBC

The glasses also work well for phone calls. I made calls with them, both in my room and in noisy areas, and the recipients had no complaints about the audio quality. The conversation on my end was clear and I liked that I could accept incoming calls by double-tapping on the right side.

They’re easy to charge. The glasses come in a hard shell case that charges the glasses when they are stored. You use a USB-C — which does not come with the glasses — to recharge the case, but you get roughly eight charges before you need to do that, which is a big step up from the three additional charges in the previous model.

What’s bad

The Ray-Ban Meta Headliner smart glasses. 
Jake Piazza | CNBC

My biggest knock on these glasses is that it’s difficult to take pictures if you’re wearing a ball cap. This isn’t an issue for someone who doesn’t wear hats, but it was annoying to have to push my bill slightly up whenever I wanted to snap a photo without the camera getting my hat in it, too.

Brims of hats get in the way when trying to take photos with the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses.
Jake Piazza | CNBC

While the glasses let you use voice commands to send messages or ask questions such as “What’s the weather?” it felt more like a novelty to me and I can’t see myself consistently using them. I’m also a big sports fan, and this voice assistant can’t tell you the score of the game from last night like other assistants.

If you use Siri or Google Assistant on a watch or phone often, then you may find some of the voice commands useful. I just don’t use them often.

The Ray-Ban Meta Headliner smart glasses. 
Jake Piazza | CNBC

The battery life isn’t great if you want to use these as your all-day, every day glasses. They get roughly four hours of battery life for mixed use, which is a combination of all the features the glasses offer, but that can vary depending on how sparingly or not you use them. My review unit charged from 7% to full in about 50 minutes, which is fast.

But if you need to wear them all day with prescription lenses, then you might run into some issues, at least with the full functionality, since you don’t really have the option to just take them off and let the glasses charge in the middle of your day.

Finally, the glasses are water resistant, but not waterproof, so you have to be cautious in rainy weather in a way that you don’t have to be with regular glasses.

Should you buy them?

The Ray-Ban Meta Headliner smart glasses. 
Jake Piazza | CNBC

I’d buy them. I really enjoyed the music, headset and photo features of these glasses, and because they still retain the comfort and style of classic Ray-Bans.

Normal black Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses cost $171. The Meta version of those costs $299. Is the ability to snap pictures and videos of your surroundings and use them in place of earbuds and a headset worth the additional money to you? It is for me.

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