Gunnar Optiks are one of those things that a lot of people have heard about, but most people don’t know what to make of. Paying $100 for some tinted glasses to reduce eyestrain while gaming or working with computers looks like an over the top luxury item to most people. And to add insult to injury, when you search for reviews on the web, what you find is a near 50/50 ratio of people saying they work, or they are complete bull. This assessment is very telling, because in simple terms, I think they are just not for everybody, and in order to find out, you need to try them for a week. When I met the Gunnar people at PAX this year, we had a chat about their product and explained that I did not fully understand how their glasses were supposed to work, and I tried some on, and got the PR stuff from the reps at the booth. I decided then that they only way to satisfy my curiosity would be to get a review pair sent to me later, and actually suss all this out myself. Gunnar sent me a pair of shades, and I have been wearing them on and off for the better part of a week now, and I here are my thoughts on the subject.
Gunnar Optiks is a strange business, and one that has to thrive on image to survive. Their marketing is sexy, their business cards are clear, and their packaging for their $99 glasses is pretty nice. You get a box inside a box. Everything is black, gun-grey, and red and it even comes with a microfiber bag if you don’t want to lug the case around. They do this because they are trying to sell something that people don’t inherently “need”, so they need to try to make you “want” it, in order to give it a shot. It makes sense. The glasses I received, pictured here, are from the Catalyst Collection, Style: Shredder, with Espresso colored frames. The lenses are the standard Amber, and I will get to that in a minute, and are the Neo-scopic glasses. Neo-scopic means that these are the glasses designed for very close viewing of monitors, ie, computers and handheld devices. They also make glasses designed for more distance such as couch gaming.
Now, to the issue of the lens color. Science has apparently proven that blue light is the hardest light for our eyes to deal with, and doing so puts them in the most strain. It is also true that computer monitors have a lot of blue light in them. It makes sense then, that Gunnar would tint their glasses yellow to offset this, and bring comfort to the eye. In my experience in wearing them, let me say that this feature is by far the most obvious the fastest. Your eyes feel more “open” let’s say since it is hard to describe the sensation. They feel like you can just keep them open more, for longer because of the reduced strain. You get used to it, and if you start working, or gaming with them on you won’t even know what you are missing. However, this feature is easily the most problematic for buyers because many people, like graphic designers, artists, and video editors need to work in true color. Gunnar has a line of glasses that are not tinted, and I have certainly not tried them, but I am sure the effect of the glasses is severely reduced without that feature. Frankly, I should have purchased a pair of yellow hunting glasses and compared them, but sadly I did not have the time.
Other features of the glasses technology include, a slight (barely noticeable) magnification, some sort of lens coating, and supposedly the angles of the lens are carefully made to deal with air currents around the glasses, and keep your eye hydrated. I can’t speak technically about these claims, but I did notice that I was blinking even less than usual while gaming with them on. And as stated previously, the lens type is different depending on the activity you are buying them for, so when I tried the Neo-scopic pair on the couch for console gaming, it actually hindered my vision. Supposedly the other type, the Tran-scopic variable viewing glasses can be used for both distances, but this does not work the other way around. I was also told that you can get them made with your prescription if you wear glasses, but I am sure this raises the cost significantly.
To conclude, I found the glasses to be somewhat useful. They made my eyes feel more open (which may mean hydrated) and comfortable during use, and were especially helpful for handheld gaming or cell phoning, which has always given my eyes the most trouble in the past. If you have problems with eye strain and are willing to sacrifice some color for higher contrast and more comfort during long sessions, then I would suggest looking into a pair of Gunnar glasses. However, in my opinion the cost of the glasses is a bit too high. If Gunnar Optik’s mission is to help people see better in the new technology ridden lives we lead, making such a seemingly unnecessary purchase for all those without a serious problem so expensive, is not a good way of going about it. If they were 50-75 dollars even, I think a lot more people could justify it. But that being said, I was surprised to actually feel a difference, since I went in assuming it was all BS.