Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses are my favorite purchase of 2024

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

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

I’ve tried smart glasses in the past, but they have all been bulky and uncomfortable to wear for more than five minutes. The glasses always feel like I’m wearing a gadget on my face. But the Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses are different. These are sunglasses first and smart glasses second. The tech takes a backseat, not only in the design of the glasses but also in the charging case, which looks like a regular sunglasses case. 

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

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

Brilliant design and even better functionality

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

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

I went to Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles and couldn’t have been happier that I bought the Ray-Bans before traveling to the theme park for two specific reasons: video and sound.

Recording your experiences on rides is difficult, especially rollercoasters. I used the Ray-Bans to record the outdoor Harry Potter ride and created great footage. Outdoor shots have excellent stabilization for such a small form factor, so my walking shots around the theme park looked amazing too. 

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

The footage might not be as good as from a GoPro device 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 have been wearing sunglasses outdoors anyway. After all, I wore my “normal” sunglasses at Universal Studios Singapore last year. 

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Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses samples (left to right): outdoors in daylight, evening, and indoors.

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

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

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

I was impressed by the quality of lowlight video footage. I recorded the Sorting Hat in Hogwarts and the footage looked like something taken on a $400-level smartphone. 

The Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses also double as earbuds. These aren’t in-ear buds so sound leaks will happen, but that’s not a problem if there’s already plenty of ambient noise around you. I had to turn the volume to 100% in noisy areas and still needed more. But 90% of the time, I didn’t feel I needed a louder volume. 

The sound quality isn’t what you’d get in expensive standalone earbuds. But the sound on the Ray-Bans takes your theme park experience to the next level because the music feels like ambient sound that’s part of the environment. You can trigger 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 standalone earbuds, you also get mics — and these Ray-Bans are no different. They house multiple microphones and the quality is surprisingly good. I’ve received many calls on my smart glasses and callers said they didn’t notice much difference in sound quality from my usual earbuds (OnePlus Buds 3). 

The Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses last for about two hours on heavy use. This usage includes continuous music, a couple of calls, and a lot of camera footage. I’ve worn the glasses continuously for five hours with 10% battery as I wasn’t listening to much music and only using the camera moderately. The official figure from Meta quotes four hours of battery life, which includes “capturing and syncing 100 videos or up to 500 photos”. I’m glad the Ray-Bans still work as sunglasses with zero charge.

Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses case

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

Another important factor to consider when buying companion devices, such as a smartwatch or smart ring for your phone, is how they charge because you’ll be charging them often. It’s a hassle when I need proprietary charging on these devices. Thankfully, that’s not an issue on the Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses because the charging case requires the same wire as your phone — a Type-C cable. 

As for privacy, these glasses include a white LED light on the opposite side of the camera, which triggers when you’re recording a video or taking a photo. In public, it doesn’t attract attention. But if you’re recording someone, they’ll be aware.

This is the perfect AI form factor

Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses ZDNET

June Wan/ZDNET

Unlike recently launched AI-enabled gadgets, including the Rabbit R1 and Humane AI Pin, the Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses aren’t AI-first. These glasses have stayed with me because, instead of trying to replace my phone, they are a great companion device. 

The Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses also include the Meta AI assistant now, which was rolled out last month. I haven’t tried the assistant on my device yet but I’ve asked the glasses to place calls and music with the “Hey Meta” trigger, which works flawlessly.

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

I think these Ray-Bans are the perfect form factor for an AI device. The speakers are near my ears and that positioning creates more intimate feedback than announcing something on a speaker attached to your body or through a device held in your palm.

There is room for improvement

Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses case

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

I haven’t been irritated by a bug in the glasses but have been annoyed when the camera records in a 3:4 aspect ratio instead of 9:16. This switch wouldn’t have been a problem if there was a way to change the ratio in settings. However, there’s no way to set the aspect ratio from the Meta View app. The glasses are meant to record at 9:16, so it isn’t clear when the output on the app is 3:4.

The Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses don’t record actual point-of-view video from the line of your eyes but from a slightly right-angled view. For those of you who are used to mounting an Insta360 Go 3 or a GoPro on your head, and expect these smart glasses to capture a similar angle, you’ll be surprised. I thought I’d get used to the right-angled view, but my footage often has a lot of space to the left side. 

Also: Meta just gave its $299 smart glasses their biggest AI upgrade yet, and I’m beyond excited

While the glasses recharge quickly, I’d like better battery life on the next-generation Meta Ray-Bans. I use my glasses for playing music on my commute. This usage drains half the battery by the time I reach the event where I want to record a video. If you’re getting these glasses with transition lenses to wear them for most of the day, you won’t be able to. 

However, I use my Meta Ray-Ban Smart Glasses daily and consider them a good value-for-money purchase.

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