GUNNAR Optiks try pretty hard. They use capitalization and deliberate misspelling more recklessly than an internet troll. Additionally, GUNNARs (capitalization required) make a lot of bold, eye-related claims from creating a micro-climate to curing the world of DEF (Digital Eye Fatigue) and CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome, not the drugstore). The materials assert that half of American adults and 90 percent of our kids are suffering with DEF and CVS, “eyestrain, blurred vision, dry and irritated eyes or headaches, caused by exposure to digital screens.” With stats like that, it’s time cancer took a backseat. After sifting through the press materials and generally self-important blarney, I’m left with hunting glasses for nerds – but that’s not a bad thing.
The Stylus from the Sphere collection with an amber tint, designed for indoor use, is the model I was sent for review. While the women and children’s line is still in the works, this is probably the most feminine-friendly of the options available. Priced at the top of the $99-$189 price range, they also prey on my Saks shopping tendency to believe that more expensive is better. Well-played, GUNNAR, well-played.
Let’s talk hardware: the purportedly amber tinted lenses are really more of a hunters’ yellow shade to us laypeople. Increased contrast is an immediate benefit, but does result in a loss of color (or, urine tint), which is a factor for graphics work. The frames themselves are very light, and if it weren’t for the scalp rubbing I encountered you would likely forget you were wearing them. Shipped in a sleek box with a lightweight cloth that protects from small scratches, but isn’t great for carrying in a purse, backpack, or anything where crushing is a hazard. Fortunately, GUNNARS are comprised of diAMIX lens materials: “Beating out polycarbonate on the toughness scale and rivaling the undisputed optics of ground glass” and “i-Fi lens coatings”, which “provides a protective layer that shields the lens from scratching, abrasion and oxidation damage.”
The power of i-Fi also wields “proprietary nano-filters help capture all of the good light coming from the computer screen while blocking out the bad reflective light and glare.” However, a brightly lit work environment seems to be a pitfall for the eye wear, perhaps they are anticipating all those darkened LAN parties. Perhaps because I like to work in a bright room, I did not notice reduced “glare/reflective light” from the computer screen but rather little flares on the lenses from lights in the room.
To help with all this jargon press materials are extensive, but while they go on tossing out bizarrely trademarked words and previously unheard of conditions, they never really delve too deeply into the symptoms they will be relieving. Fortunately for this review, I do spend the majority of my day looking at screens of some kind – computer screens, television screens, iPhone screen, DS screen, the usual – and I do suffer from eye strain for which I wear reading glasses (prescription GUNNARS are available). Touting “clearer vision” by “improving eye focus, reducing glare and blocking artificial light” I can attest that the glasses offer tangible benefit for computer work.
Here’s the science of the thing: The GUNNAR “fRACTYL” technology accounts for the slight perception of a magnification effect. Rather than magnification, however, the lenses are made to “pre-focus”, or bend the light and process it before it meets your eye thereby eases eye strain that results from near distance computer use. The near vision benefit means that when you look up for distance, things look worse, so they aren’t great for just wearing around. If your work calls for you to frequently shift between near and far distance viewing, you will find yourself with librarian face, glasses perched on the end of your nose as you alternate views.
If “fRACTYL” wasn’t enough for you, there’s also iONik lens tints, a “custom organic dye compounds condition and shift transmitted light into the preferred color spectrum, increasing visual contrast, detail and resolution.” By eliminating the blue tint of the screen the glasses increase contrast, but resolution? Maybe they mean the pre-pixel definition of resolution whereby their fRACTYL tech makes the world a little brighter, a little better, and a little prefocused, but for us nerdcore folks we hear “resolution” and think, “You can’t add pixels”. Unless they mean rESOLUTion, because that stuff is the shit.
GUNNAR’s tout “An immediate and profound visual advantage”, and while I’ll concede the first point, its profundity is up for debate. However, and I do think this is the critical point, the glasses do reduce eye fatigue and strain. Minor drawbacks in mind, I would really love these in a +1.25 (and perhaps from the women’s line of 2010). Design-wise, you’ll either love the look of them or you’ll love the benefits of wearing them too much to care. With prices from $99 and as high as $189, you won’t be getting any vision cure on the cheap, but GUNNARs do help with the eyestrain plague and for fellow sufferers the pricetag is worth the results.