We’re Not Ready for Smart Glasses Yet


Illustration for article titled We're Not Ready for Smart Glasses Yet

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

After the original Google Glass crashed and burned, consumer smart glasses were put on the back burner for a while. Theres no shortage of reasons why, which makes it a little baffling that in 2021, high-tech glasses have made a mini-comeback. Facebook, Apple, and even Samsung are all rumored to be working on a pair of mixed reality glasses, while Amazon and Bose have already put out open-ear audio headphones that also happen to be glasses. Razers $200 Anzu smart glasses are the latter, and I didnt love the experience.

My tepid feelings toward these smart glasses arent Razers fault. Razer wouldve had to craft a revolutionary breakthrough in both miniaturizing components and augmented reality for the Anzu to really knock it out of the park. Thats asking a lot of a company thats best known for its sleek gaming laptops, peripherals, and a penchant for RGB lighting. Razers also not trying to get you too hype about these glasses. Theyre positioned as part of Razers growing portfolio of home productivity gadgets. Specifically, these are glasses meant to help you work from home by reducing strain on your eyes via blue light filters and providing discreet headphones for your calls. (That also means no RGB lighting, sorry.) If you take all that into consideration, the Anzu glasses are actually about as good as it gets for consumer-ready smart glasses right now. Thats not saying very much.

Warby Parker-Inspired Design

The Anzu resembles your standard pair of Warby Parker-inspired glasses. You can opt for either square or round framesI chose the latter for my review unit. The lenses are coated with a filter that blocks 35% of blue light, and you also get the option of polarized sunglass lenses. The arms are quite thick, but thats par for the course with these kinds of smart glasses. The main difference with these bad boys is, unlike some other smart glasses, they dont run a wire through the hinges. This makes the arms super flexible, which is handy if you have a wider face.

The glasses are also compatible with low nose bridges. As I have both a wide face and a low bridge, I was appreciative that I was accommodated from the get-go. (Sometimes you have to pay extra, or have a smaller selection of frames.) I have terrible eyesight, so I had to wear contact lenses to test my review unit. However, you can use Lensabl to swap the default lenses for prescription ones. I cant comment on the process, however, as I didnt do it myself. This is typical for smart glasses, but that doesnt make it less irksome.

Style can make or break a pair of smart glassesand its one of the biggest reasons this particular product category has never taken off. So, its out of practicality here that Razer doesnt provide more than two options. I didnt hate how the round Anzu looked on me, a sentiment which was shared by my colleagues. My husband, however, wasnt a fan. Another friend said I looked like a dweeb. No one said they absolutely loved the way they looked on me, so take from that what you will.

Theyre not super terrible looking!

Theyre not super terrible looking!
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The Anzu was also comfortable enough for all-day wear, even with its large honking arms. I wore it for several 8-hour workdays and the worst I can say is the lenses get real smudgy. No matter how many times I wiped them with eyeglass cleaning solution and microfiber cloths, it always felt like I was looking through a haze. I found this annoying, but only mildly so.

How They Work

So did these glasses help me be more productive? Eh. Despite the marketing schlock, blue light-filtering glasses may not be much more than a placebo for digital eye strain. Anecdotally, I can say that colors looked mildly warmer with them on than offbut my eyes didnt hurt any more or less than usual. One big obstacle to my productivity, however, was the touch controls. The Razer Anzu companion app technically walks you through setting them up and programming the controls to your specifications (e.g., a double-tap on the right arm could pause a song, etc). It even lets you practice. But it didnt matter how much I tried, I could never get the hang of all the gestures. Double-tapping was fine, as was a single press. Triple-tapping only worked a quarter of the time, long presses never launched Siri, and lord, I never did manage the triple tap and hold the last tap for two seconds command on either the right or left arms. In any case, frantically tapping your glasses is ridiculous and earned me some judgmental looks from my husband and pets.

As for sound quality, you can tweak EQ settings in the Anzu app, but to be honest, its never going to sound that great. You definitely dont want to use these to listen to music, though the Anzus audio is fine for calls, or situations where you may not want to disturb an officemate. My husband appreciated not having to listen to my TikTok breaks and said he couldnt hear sound bleeding from them. As for microphone quality, my coworkers said the audio quality was fine. One noted that while he could tell it wasnt my laptops microphone, he had no trouble hearing me. Granted, these are all things you can already do with a pair of ANC headphones with ambient mode so you really dont need $200 glasses for this.

Thick arms! The touch control area is right by the Razer logo.

Thick arms! The touch control area is right by the Razer logo.
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the glasses automatically paired with my computer, however. While other smart glasses Ive tried sometimes require you to press a button to enter pairing, these just do it automatically once you unfold the arms. When you take them off or place them upside down, they power down. They do this when youve got them on for a while without listening to audio as well. (That can be a little cumbersome since you have to take them off and wake them up the next time you need them.) This is also great for battery life. In the two weeks Ive been testing the Anzu, I havent had to plug them in beyond the initial charge up to 100%. Both arms still have about 70% battery left. That said, I dont love that each arm needs to be charged because it necessitates yet another proprietary chargerand this one is certainly more finicky to use and harder to replace.

Are the Anzu Worth Buying?

Overall, I didnt hate the Anzu. Theyre just simply a reminder that the smart glasses everyone envisions definitely arent here yet. Glasses like this do provide the benefit of discreet audio without sacrificing your situational awarenessbut positioning these as a WFH tool is a corny marketing move. These things are not infinitely more useful than a good old pair of headphones, and frankly, the expectation for productivity-focused smart glasses is a lot higher than headphones that are also glasses. The Echo Frames, for better or worse, at least give you built-in Alexa. The Bose Frames deliver better sound quality and are focused on outdoors situational awareness, which is a use case where the glasses form factor makes way more sense. The Tempo version is also excellent for running. The defunct Focals by North delivered holographic notifications, supported text replies, had Alexa, and could order you an Uber. The Anzu barely counts as smart by comparison.

Not in love with this proprietary charger, but battery life is decent!

Not in love with this proprietary charger, but battery life is decent!
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Again, its really not Razers fault. Without investing a ton into research and development, this is about as good and as affordable as you can expect smart glasses to be. Believe it or not, these are on the cheaper end for audio smart glasses. The Echo Frames are $250, as are the Bose Frames. Focals by North? Those were a whopping $600 and required a whole process to even procure a pair. Thats the problemeven though something like the Anzu is as good as a company can produce at a price point the average person might buy, its just not compelling enough. Theres no killer use case. Its not a particularly beautiful pair of glasses. Its also not a great pair of headphones. Every which way you turn, youre compromising on something. Maybe a pair of smart glasses from Facebook, Apple, or Samsung might be worth the splurge, whenever it is these rumored devices launch. Were just not there yet.



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