Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses Review

Ray-Ban and Meta are continuing their partnership, creating the next generation of ultra-stylish and sleek smart glasses. Incorporating several intriguing Meta-designed features and blending them with the iconic eyewear brand, the latest Ray-Ban Meta glasses piqued my interest upon their release in October 2023. The smart glasses couple the ability to capture photos and video with hands-free phone calls and the ability to listen to music.

In a way, enhancing the way we interact with technology by way of smart glasses felt like the golden path for many years. Companies, such as Google, have tried in the past. Amazon, Snapchat and XReal are all attempting to win consumers (and their eyes) over. I’ve been using the Ray-Ban Meta glasses for over a week and am starting to be won over by the prospect of smart glasses. While these specs lack any fundamental AR support, they do provide some useful perks for day-to-day use. As someone who wears glasses, I can see the inherent advantage of the tech advancements in these frames, which start at $369.99 in Canada.

Providing access to an improved 12MP camera, clearer speakers, and refined frames, the Ray-Ban Meta ticks many of the boxes I have as a prospective user. However, there are still several lingering pain points. One of which is the social stigma associated when walking around with a camera on your glasses. It turns what’s essentially a novel feature and raises security flags not only for the user but also for those around them when out in public.

Out of the box

Ray-Ban and Meta offer two styles of frame, seven colours, and multiple lenses, suitable for any user. Whether you like a thick black frame, tortoiseshell, or a specific colourway, there’s a good selection of Ray-Ban Meta designs to choose from. Users can also pick from clear lenses to transitional and many tinted options for UVA protection. They also ship in ‘Small’ and ‘Large’ sizes, to accommodate more users. Once shipped, they arrive in a small box in its charging case with an instruction booklet on how to set them up.

The smart glasses look nearly identical to any other pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer glasses. They feel sturdy. The hinges feel nice and strong so you don’t have to worry about bending or damaging them when taking the device out of the case. Visually, the biggest differences are the onboard 12MP ultra-wide camera and controls. While Ray-Ban has designed both to be discrete, they are noticeable. This is especially true for the camera lenses, which are located next to the actual lenses of the smart glasses. The built-in control suite includes an on/off switch, a small button for taking photos and video, and a hidden touch sensor to control video playback.

For calls and listening to music, Ray-Ban Meta features a five-microphone system. Built into the frames, there are two microphones on the left arm, two on the right, and one nestled in on the nose bridge. As for the speaker system, the smart glasses include two custom-built open-ear speakers. While offering exceptional clarity, they do fall short in a couple of ways. More on that in a bit.

Other notable features include a 32GB flash storage system built in. This gives way to the capacity to take 100+ videos of 30 seconds or less and over 500 photos. The Ray-Ban Meta glasses also support Wi-Fi 6. The smart glasses themselves provide up to four hours of use on a charge. The case increases the total charge time to up to 36 hours, which is more than enough time to take the glasses out for the day before needing to recharge the USB-C case.

Setup and music on-the-go

The Ray-Ban Meta is not designed to be used as a standalone product in any way. Instead, users must pair the glasses with their smartphone via Bluetooth and the Meta View app. This app acts as the hub, connecting other Meta-owned apps and services alongside third-party supportive apps such as Spotify. To pair the glasses, users essentially must keep the glasses in their case and hit the small ‘Pairing’ button on the back. Following the on-screen instructions within the app, I had the Ray-Ban Meta paired in mere moments.

It quickly became apparent how the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses could factor into my day-to-day life while out of my apartment. The pair I had featured tinted lenses so that did inhibit me from using them during the work day or keeping them on as I did chores around the house. However, once I had to leave to grab some groceries or take a walk for a coffee, the Ray-Ban Meta became the star of my walk. When putting them on, they emit a satisfying audible noise, indicating they are ready to use. The Meta View app allows my Spotify account to be linked to the glasses and spin an album or a podcast. The touch controls are available for easy-to-access volume controls. Swiping left or right helps control the volume while tapping the sensor will pause or play. It’s very convenient and intuitive to use.

Given that the Ray-Ban Meta doesn’t use over-the-ear headphones or buds, you rely on the open-ear speakers. The sound emits close to the ear, bridging a potential gap for a loss in audio. When the volume is cranked, you can get a lot of sound out of the smart glasses. However, there are obvious downsides to the open-ear solution. For instance, there’s a discernable lack of bass. You lose a lot of what would otherwise be punchy sounds and instrumentals. Depending on your surroundings, those sounds easily bleed into the audio from the smart glasses as well. Also, if you have the volume at a reasonable level, the audio can be heard while at a store or in a quieter environment. Be warned if you’re listening to those guilty pleasure tunes. While far from ideal, the volume control and base clarity of the glasses are welcomed.

Camera and video novelty

Having deep Meta integrations built into the smart glasses, the device integrates a 12MP camera with photo and video capabilities. Using a small button on the right arm, you can snap a 3024 x 4032-pixel photo, complete with a satisfying click akin to a traditional camera. Holding the button for a second or more will initiate the recording with its sound indication. The glasses will then shoot a 1080p video at 30fps. There is a slight fish-eye effect on both photos and video. Both are incredibly easy to take at the moment and the sound notifications do help. Video capture does take a toll on battery life. After taking roughly 2 minutes of video, my battery had fallen from 100 percent down to 85.

The camera has been upgraded from 5MP to 12MP, resulting in a decent offering for capturing content. Photos and videos have a nice contrast, maintaining quality colours and blacks. There is a bit of noise and visual distortion in low-light settings. It’s a very novel feature set as it gives your content a bit of a POV perspective that other video content from a smartphone lacks. There are a few quirks to using the camera, however. For instance, there is a noticeable lack of stability and motion smoothing in videos captured. I saw this become very apparent as I tried to shoot a video while running down my stairs. Ray-Ban Meta glasses also shoot content from a different perspective. Without a proper reference point from a smartphone or camera viewfinder, it’s nearly impossible to accurately frame your video. Video is taken using the left-hand camera so all content is slightly off-centre from your eye level. This led me to have to redo a bunch of photos and videos after reviewing them in the Meta View app.

Luckily, this is where the content pipeline shines the most. The Meta View app acts as the landing hub for photos and videos. Once content is taken, they’ll appear within the app. While connected to Wi-Fi, you can import the content to your gallery. Within the app, you can also adjust the camera settings. For example, you adjust the maximum length for videos taken, capping out at 60 seconds. Auto importing, auto delete settings, and more can also be found. Meta puts a lot of control into the user’s hands and integrates many tailoring tools into the app.

Hands-free living

A big draw to the Ray-Ban Meta glasses is the ability to take hands-free calls. The smart glasses can be paired to your phone’s contact list and cellular services. Via this integration, you can receive and answer phone calls without having to interact with your phone. Using the voice command “Hey Meta…” you can answer a call, call a specific person, etc. This extends to other uses like taking a photo, skipping a song, and even asking what time it is. The glasses can then fulfill the prompt with accuracy and speed.

While on a call, the audio comes in incredibly clear. I was surprised by how there is little to no distortion or loss in audio quality running through Bluetooth connectivity. Similarly, I was told my responses and voice came in clear, even while outside on the streets of Toronto. Despite traffic, construction, and others in my vicinity, the Ray-Ban Meta glasses could still pick up my audio quite clearly.

Naturally, as this is a Meta product, there are integrations with Messenger and WhatsApp. Similar to using your phone’s contacts, you can connect with Meta’s services and take advantage of calls and texts. I’ve been able to send voice messages to people on Messenger and receive them. While walking around, the Ray-Ban Meta glasses notified me that a message had come through and read it out loud.

Privacy inside and out

There are no two ways to shake it, privacy has been a major focal point for me during my use of the Ray-Ban Meta glasses. It’s hard to ignore the fact that I’m walking around with a sizable camera on my face, adorned with various microphones. The Ray-Ban Meta offers many beneficial features but they must come with built-in security features. Meta has built several key privacy settings to use if desired. For instance, voice controls can be turned off if you don’t want the microphone picking up your voice. Meta is also upfront in that it collects data. Additional data collection used to “improve the experience” can be controlled within the Meta View app. Of course, all microphone and camera features are rendered null when the device is powered down.

Outside of the privacy of the user, there’s also the social privacy and comfort of everyone around you. Depending on the setting and circumstances, people around you may feel uncomfortable when you’re wearing smart glasses. I certainly got several double-take glances while running through my local Starbucks and grocery store. We live in an age where recordings of all manners can take place. Meta tries to address these types of concerns. First off, the Meta View app does encourage users to keep the privacy of those around them in mind. As far as actionable strides Meta takes, there is a built-in outward-facing LED indicator that shines when photos and videos are being taken. If the LED indicator is blocked, the glasses will refrain from recording. It’s a good measure to prevent the Ray-Ban Meta glasses from being used maliciously while in public. At the end of the day, however, it’s up to the user to respect those around them.

Final thoughts

As wearables are becoming more common and innovative, smart glasses are broaching the edge of becoming normalized. Ray-Ban and Meta are at the forefront of this technological sector as far as their latest smart glasses are concerned. For $369.99, there is a decent array of features and uses to garner. The Ray-Ban glasses aren’t going to replace your phone’s camera or the need for a headset for music. However, as a functional pair of smart glasses to use while doing errands or strolling the city, it’s hard to ignore the novelty. Having hands-free voice options built into a pair of sunglasses has proven to be useful over the past couple of weeks.

As smart glasses do become more common, Ray-Ban and Meta are going to have to continue pursuing privacy measures to not only maintain peace of mind for the user but also for those around them. There’s still a social stigma that arises when the Ray-Ban Meta camera is pointed at whomever you look at. However, this may wind down over time as users are educated on the privacy settings

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