Conceptually, smart glasses with displays are great. You get a giant screen that rotates to the center of your view and personalized stereo sound in a pair of glasses that you can fold up and put in your pocket. In practice, there have been some issues preventing this technology from becoming mainstream. Most notably, comfort has been a problem.
I tried out the next generation of smart glasses from industry leaders Xreal, Rokid, and TCL to find out if these new wearables are a better fit for your discerning eyes, attentive ears, and sensitive nose. And what I found was a pleasant surprise.
How wearable are smart glasses?
Table of Contents
The world’s most advanced hardware may be gathering dust on a shelf if it’s awkward or painful to use. This is an issue even for the best VR headsets, and the emerging AR and smart glasses market faces an even bigger challenge.
We want the glasses to look normal, be comfortable for hours, and display a huge screen with good sound. The latest smart glasses are surprisingly close to that ideal.
Early smart glasses fell short in some areas. The thick and bulky design with limited adjustability resulted in a product that was difficult to wear. The latest models weigh less, but the question is whether they are comfortable enough.
1-ounce sunglasses are fine for most people, and prescription lenses weighing 2 to 3 ounces may be a necessity, even if they leave marks on your nose and mess up your ears.
Since smart glasses are optional, people are less willing to accept the inconvenience. Every gram counts when a device rests on your face. Audio-only glasses and glasses with cameras but no display, like the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, are lightweight.
And it’s not just about weight; Better nose pads and earpieces can soften and distribute the load, so smart glasses feel lighter than they are. Manufacturers listened, and the next generation of glasses looked much better, making them more attractive for browsing and repeat viewings.
xreal water 2
That’s why Xreal is a leading manufacturer of smart glasses with displays. The Xreal Air Glass was the best solution when it launched in 2022, and the Air 2 upgrades every aspect of that technology and design.
At 72 grams, the Xreal Air 2 is the lightest smart glass available. The nose pads are soft and adjustable, and the flexible earpieces fit my wife better than the originals. The hinges also have a vertical adjustment to ensure that the entire screen is visible.
The displays are bright, and the intensity of 500 nits is enough for a bright room or outside on a cloudy day. The audio is good with minimal leakage thanks to the open-ear design.
I feel like I could wear the Xreal Air 2 forever. My wife, who is more sensitive to the comfort of smart glasses, found these to be the most comfortable so far.
If I add the insert colors, the weight increases to 79 grams, and the extra third of an ounce is noticeable after an hour or two. Thankfully, the Xreal Air 2 smart glasses are bright enough that I rarely use the shades.
tcl reno air 2
TCL took a different approach for its latest smart glasses, building permanent shades into the design. At 76 grams, the Reno Air 2 is the lightest smart glass that is suitable for outdoor use.
The built-in tint is great for watching movies, but it makes it harder to see your surroundings in a dark room. It’s like wearing sunglasses, which can cause harm if used at night.
The RayNeo Air 2 glasses have a soft, adjustable nose pad and vertical hinge adjustment, similar to Xreal’s design. I found these smart glasses to be as comfortable as the Xreal Air 2, but the rigid earpieces didn’t appeal to my wife.
A display brightness of 600 nits makes the RayNeo Air 2 one of the brightest smart glasses available. The sound quality is good, although I did notice some buzzing at maximum volume.
Rokid has been manufacturing smart glasses to meet industrial needs for many years. Rokid Max Glasses use that expertise to create a sophisticated solution that is one of my favorites.
The 75 gram weight and comfortable nose pads make these easy on the nose. Although the earpieces are stiff, the size seems to fit my wife’s as well as my small ears.
The included shades are opaque, providing full immersion, but bringing the weight down to 2.9 ounces. The bright 600-nit display makes a blackout cover unnecessary in most cases.
The Rokid Max smart glasses have a unique feature that helps keep the virtual screen super sharp – diopter adjustment of up to -6.00D on each eye. I have mild myopia, so this solution relieves all eye strain for me without the need for a prescription.
The sound quality is good, with very little leakage of my audio to those around me.
Some smart glasses include their own processors and can run apps natively, but the smart glasses I’m describing require video streaming from a phone, laptop, computer, or gaming console. To use any of these smart glasses you need a device that supports USB-C Alt Mode or an HDMI-to-USB-C cable or other adapter. If your phone isn’t compatible, you’ll need an adapter, and each manufacturer has a different solution to this problem.
Xreal provides Nebula software that extends virtual reality beyond the boundaries of the physical screen. When you turn your head, you can see more. On a Mac or Windows PC, you can add up to three additional monitors. This can make a big difference because it means you won’t need an ultrawide monitor or a multi-monitor setup if you use Xreal Smart Glasses.
On Android, the Nebula app is different, offering an ultrawide screen that acts as a launcher and multi-window browser. My phone acts as a pointer, projecting a beam to selected windows. It’s not as useful as Samsung’s DeX, but it’s an interesting way to see more within the limited screen size of smart glasses.
The Rokid Max has a similar Android app, and TCL has an Android app in beta testing for its Reno Air 2 smart glasses. Neither of them has a computer solution yet, but third-party solutions like GingerXR do exist.
Xreal’s Beam is compatible with the original Xreal Air and the new Air 2 smart glasses. This enables Wi-Fi connectivity so I can cast my screen wirelessly from my iPhone, Android, Windows, or Mac. It also adds spatial awareness with three degrees of freedom, similar to the Nebula app.
The beam accessory fits in a pocket or rests on a desk. The glasses still require a cable to receive video and power from the beam. The battery provides a runtime of approximately four hours.
The Rokid Station is a pocket Android TV that connects to the Rokid Max via a cable to watch videos and play games without any other devices. I can mirror my Android phone or cast YouTube and Chrome from an iPhone, computer or laptop to the Rokid Station.
You get five hours of battery life from the Rokid Station. If you buy the Rokid Station, keep an eye out for the included USB-C to Micro HDMI cable, as third-party replacements are hard to find.
TCL MiraScreen provides mirroring for devices that do not support USB-C Alt Mode. The device supplies enough power for 3.5 hours of usage.
The back magnetically attaches to the iPhone which supports MagSafe and some other devices that have magnetic backs. Two short cables are included to make it easy to connect to a USB-C or Lightning port.
Which next-generation glasses should you buy?
These next-generation smart glasses are more comfortable, but they have some important differences. You have to consider compatibility. It’s best to skip the adapter if it’s an option. If you have a device that doesn’t connect directly, review the compatibility section above to choose the best option.
If you’re nearsighted, the Rokid Max’s built-in diopter adjustment makes these smart glasses an excellent choice. You won’t need to order expensive prescription lenses to enjoy watching videos, playing games, mirroring your phone, or extending your laptop’s desktop to a virtual monitor.
The Xreal Air 2 is the best solution in every way and the most comfortable too. Xreal’s Nebula app for Mac and Windows makes these smart glasses ideal for work use, adding three virtual displays to your laptop or computer.
If you know you’ll be using your smart glasses outside often, TCL’s Reno Air 2’s built-in shades will never get lost and make video streaming more impressive.
Whatever solution you choose, it’s good to know that you’ll get the most use out of this new generation of smart glasses that don’t make watching videos on a virtual screen a pain in the nose.