Oakley RAZRWIRE Bluetooth Eyewear, reviewed | iLounge Backstage

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Oakley RAZRWIRE Bluetooth Eyewear, reviewed

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2005
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If you’ve been following Backstage for any length of time, you already know that we’ve been fans of sunglass maker Oakley for years. We were already strong believers in the build and optical quality of the company’s products before we had a chance to visit its design and primary manufacturing center last year, but that experience took our appreciation level up three notches. We’ll explain why in a moment.

After months of teasing us about its secret new products, Oakley had us over for another peek behind its curtains, and what we can talk about is the start of a very exciting time for the company - certainly bigger than last year, when it released its first digital sunglasses, Thump. Since then, Oakley has been working to expand its electronics portfolio, collaborating with Motorola and making some very smart decisions about its own upcoming products in the process.

The company’s new RAZRWIRE Bluetooth Eyewear package ($295) incorporate two key components - metal-framed sunglasses and a detachable Bluetooth earpiece. As you’ve probably guessed from the name, the earpiece is Bluetooth-compatible (1.2 and 1.1), and most appropriately (but not exclusively) paired with Motorola’s RAZR. You know the RAZR. It’s the phone we recently reviewed; the one that everyone’s loving and two out of four key cell companies are selling - or at this point, almost giving away if you sign a cell contract. And the one that is going to continue to have sequels (RAZR V3x) and related products (Q/RAZRberry) for the foreseeable future.

So Razrwire (minus caps from here on out) is well-timed. It’s also a legitimately excellent product. Our full review continues when you click on Read More below.

Background: Why Oakley?

Permit us a brief, but relevant aside. It’s one thing to read marketing talk about Oakley’s “Plutonite Lenses” and “XYZ Optics,” which essentially promise optical perfection from corner to corner of their curved sides. It’s another thing to own and love a pair (or three) of the awesome lenses, and get the sense that your eyes are feeling a lot better because of it. And it’s still another to visit the manufacturer and shoot projectiles at the lenses, project lasers through them, and witness how competing sunglasses fail in direct comparison tests. Jaws dropped, for instance, when the company showed how certain Nike sunglasses will actually cross your eyes rather than focus them on a single point, as Oakleys will. For a sunglass wearer, the experience is illuminating in the way that Galileo would have felt to actually walk on the moon. It’s one thing to see; another to know, and Oakley should have those comparisons running in its stores.

Since Oakley’s optics are great, and the company generally has a strong grasp on fashion, pairing Oakley sunglasses with other technologies is inherently a good idea. But there are three major hurtles: first, features; second, styling; and third, price. Last year’s Thump got number one almost entirely right, number two partially right, and number three - well, that depends on what you define as right. Oakley anticipated the growth of flash-based digital music players, picked a good chipset, good earphones, and made Thump easy to use. From a features standpoint, the worst thing one could say about Thump was that it was low on storage capacity (128MB or 256MB) at a time when Apple was just about to declare 512MB the lowest common denominator for digital music.

And visually, the Thump glasses were a bit of a fashion risk, a point we won’t rehash much beyond what many people said last year. Oakley makes some great looking glasses, but they also make some good and some decent ones. Personal taste dictates which of those categories you think a given pair falls into, but we’re generally fans of Oakley’s wires (original A Wire shown above), with a couple of plastic exceptions. Gascan, which gadget sites have widely reported is the basis of a forthcoming Thump sequel, is one of them.

Price? Well, that’s the trickiest one. $400-$500 for 128MB or 256MB of storage space was a way hard sell, even if you love Oakley’s sunglasses, as we did back then, and do today. When Thump released, that was enough to buy an iPod and a pair of Oakleys. These days, it’s enough to buy three iPods and a pair of Oakleys. Is that sort of pricing crazy? Depends on your manufacturing capacity and ambitions. Any undergraduate economics class will teach you that supply and demand are directly linked by price. If you can only manufacture a few of something, price them high and you’ll still sell all of them. But if you want to be a big player, selling millions of units, price low. Like the iPod shuffle, which devoured the entire flash player market whole by hitting the magic $99 number. Now you can get 1GB for $129, and very soon, much less. Pricing technology products is different from pricing other luxury goods, unless you’re Apple or Vertu, and even then, price adjustments are necessary.

That Brings Us to Razrwire

All of that build up leads to a critical concept: with the right technology, an appealing aesthetic design, and the right price, Oakley can become a huge player in the consumer electronics business. As a follow-up to Thump,  Razrwire has taken many steps in the right direction.

Why? After a long period of dormancy (read: only techies bought in), Bluetooth is finally becoming relevant. It’s now the wireless headset standard of choice for multiple mobile phones, and it works. With Bluetooth 1.2, it even works well. Motorola’s adopted it across virtually all of its phones, and released several HS series headsets - the HS810, HS820, and HS850 among them. (We’ve played with each, but prefer the HS820, shown below, which is apparently the most popular of all of the company’s headsets.) Each one mounts on the edge of your ear, positions a microphone in the general direction of your mouth, and includes buttons to change volume, disconnect calls, and so on.

Razrwire combines an HS series-class earpiece with a pair of Oakley metal frames - made from lightweight “O-luminum” - a set of Plutonite lenses, a custom-made earpiece, and a microfiber cloth bag. Thankfully, unlike Thump, it comes with a wall charger, so you can recharge the earpiece’s internal battery with ease. You just pop the Motorola-badged rubber lid off of the mini-USB port, connect the charger, and watch the unit’s single LED go red while it’s charging. An 80% charge takes 1.5 hours, while full charging takes 2.5 hours, resulting in talk time of up to 6 hours and standby time of up to 100 hours.

There are statistics, we were told, suggesting the prevalence of left- and right-ear wear of phone headsets, based first and foremost on majority user preference (right ear), and secondarily on scientifically demonstrated ability to perceive language and meaning (left ear). Razrwire’s detachable earpiece ships configured for the right ear, and converts easily - even more easily than Motorola’s earpiece - for the left. You turn its top 180 degrees and rotate its flexible earphone into the correct position. Simple.

Attaching the earpiece is even easier - turn the top 45 degrees, and the hinge lock pops open. It won’t open unless you want it to; and mounts equally well on either of the sunglasses’ stems. The one and only visual oddity of Razrwire is its lack of parallelism once the earpiece is attached to one side, but then, it’s far less odd than wearing any other pair of sunglasses with a HS820 dangling off.

But the real joy of the Bluetooth earpiece, and the critical selling point for us, is the earphone. Evolved from Thump technology, it pivots on one axis and rotates on two. Practically, that means that it would be virtually impossible to find an ear that it can’t fit comfortably. Wear it in the ear or outside - your choice. Slide it up or down the stem to find the right position. We found it to be extremely comfortable and natural - much more so than the HS series earpieces. And it sounds “very good” or “great,” too, both to us and to people on the other end, as expressed using those words. The only complaints we received during testing were attributable either to a weak phone signal or high wind conditions, which are going to screw up virtually all of the headsets we’ve tested, wired and otherwise. In blind tests with the HS820 and a separate cellular phone with a wired connection, we were told by multiple listeners that Razrwire sounded superior to both by at least a small margin.

The bottom of the Razrwire earpiece has three buttons. One closest to the earphone powers Razrwire on, activates voice dialing if your phone supports it, and establishes the Bluetooth connection - a process that was surprisingly fast and easy, even by Bluetooth standards. Our RAZR detected the headset as Oakley Razrwire on screen, guaranteeing that we weren’t paired accidentally with the nearby HS820. It was incidentally fairly easy to switch back and forth between them for our tests, though Motorola still needs some help with simplifying its interfaces.

The other two buttons primarily adjust volume up and down, but all three are actually multifunctional. You can transfer a call from headset to phone or put the phone on hold by holding down the volume up button, mute calls by holding the volume down button, and redial by holding the power button, in addition to connecting and disconnecting calls.

There’s only one primary way the Razrwire’s earpiece could be improved: it could be convertible into something wearable without the sunglasses. Yes, you can hang it from your ear (our thought, not Oakley or Motorola’s recommendation), but you really won’t want to do this. Admittedly, living as we do in Southern California (where sunglasses are a year round thing and cell phones bridge extended gaps (commutes, exercise, etc.) between being indoors), Razrwire more than makes sense. It’s what we’d wear in the car or at a park instead of one of those damned wired headsets that keep falling out all the time. But outside of sunny climates, it might not be as easy a sell.

Oakley has at least a partial solution to that. The Razrwires we’ve tested are the Mercury frames with “Light Grey” lenses and a Mercury earpiece - the frames and earpiece match the silver RAZR phone, and the Light Grey lenses are tinted only 40% rather than being opaque. Consequently, you can wear them indoors. And at night - though you probably shouldn’t if you’re driving. We tried them indoors and outdoors at night, and found them totally usable - certainly more than the flip-up Thumps we’ve tried. That said, we wish we had the Pewter/Black Iridium lens/Black earpiece Razrwires, which might go better with dark complexions, or one of the many custom versions the company will make for an additional charge upon request. Oakley also makes a Platinum/Gold Iridium lens/Rootbeer earpiece color combination for no additional charge, just in case we go blonde or Wesley Snipes.

Coloration aside, we really like these sunglasses. Love is too strong a word, if only because the ultimate Razrwire concept would be a headset compatible with any pair of Oakley wire frames (keep dreaming, right?), but we definitely like Razrwire’s style (inspired by Half Wire XL, it seems) more than Thump’s. Even with the earpiece attached, they feel lightweight - lighter at least in perception than our earlier pair - and minimally adorned with unnecessary curves. Spring-loaded hinges have a little less give than the A Wire 2.0s we’ve liked, but more than the original A Wires (none) and most of the company’s other frames, for that matter. And the lenses are typically excellent - optically correct, 100% UV protective, and cool to look at. The only Oakley branding is a single-word logo etched on the bottom of the right lens. It’s classy.

There are times when you don’t want to wear the earpiece. Detach it and just wear the sunglasses. Reattach it in a few seconds and take a phone call. It’s your choice. Unlike Thump, these are part-time technology sunglasses, full-time sunglasses. That’s a good idea.

Conclusions

The harshest thing we can say about Razrwire is that we wish there was a way we could use the earpiece more, and by “more,” we mean full-time. In a perfect world, we could link it into a home telephone system and use it instead of a cordless phone. Technology aside, it would need two physical changes to accomplish that - straight-to-ear convertibility, and/or a pair of lenses that would shift from transparent to opaque under sunlight, assuming you’d want to wear glasses indoors.

As it is, Razrwire is more than a good start in this category: on features, styling, and pricing, it shows that Oakley’s learning, and learning quickly. And on a personal level, we’ve really enjoyed using ours with and without the earpiece. More comfortable than Thump, more mass-market priced, and more versatile for the person who wants a part-time sunglass and technology solution, Razrwire deserves to be a success. If your phone supports Bluetooth, we strongly recommend that you take a test drive. Cingular’s stores are currently the exclusive vendors, and who knows, by this time next week, perhaps you’ll see something else there worth picking up at the same time.

And Oakley, if you’re listening, this concept really needs your help. Like, now. You know why.

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Comments

1

Great review, I am getting a custom pair of these because I have to wear perscription eyewear. I already have a pair of X-Metal Penny’s for my sunglasses and a pair if Why 3’s for my regular glasses. Just for people who may be interested in seeing them the local Oakley Authorized shops should be able to get them sometime in the middle of September.

Posted by Bobby Rogers on August 31, 2005 at 11:35 PM (PDT)

2

Interesting little gadget, and looks like it’s been well executed, but do you know if the earpiece will fit the Square Wires, cos I don’t think i can justify another pair of Oakleys, just for a BT earpiece!!

Posted by yinyang on September 1, 2005 at 4:52 AM (PDT)

3

To be honest, I’m not a fan of Oakley’s styling (across the board) in general, and that earpiece looks particularly ugly.
Optically, I’m sure they’re great. But as for having a strong grasp on fashion….

I’ll take my RayBan Aviators any day of the week.

Posted by Nathan on September 1, 2005 at 8:58 AM (PDT)

4

Really useful review.  I’m a huge fan of Oakley; I have two pairs of regular glasses and a pair of perscription sunglasses.  I couldn’t agree more that I would like to see a version that would attach to any wire-series Oakleys.  Hopefully, if this test works well, they will move in that direction.  Would be a very cool accessory.  Great to hear that the audio quality is so good.

Posted by Sterling Zumbrunn on September 2, 2005 at 8:36 AM (PDT)

5

Just bought a pair yesterday (Black) and they work as advertised wth my Blackberry 7100t. I did not like the Mercury and the Platinum/iridium were too flashy for me. It took maybe 10 minutes to set up, once I could follow instructions (operator error). The range is not bad at all. I estimate 30-40 feet, through about 3 walls before I noticed static. Callers on the other line could not tell the difference when in use. Excellent volume range so it should not be an issue in crowds, outdoors. My gripes: no padded case (extra $30 bucks), no way to use without sunglasses (maybe someone will come up with something). I would say cost is also a gripe, but it’s a business expense for me so less pain. I mean, how often can you claim a pair of Oakley sunglasses as a business deduction?

Posted by Ed L. on September 3, 2005 at 6:21 AM (PDT)

6

I don’t give a rat’s ### about cell phones, but make the earpieces in a *pair* that would fit my Half Jackets, so I can have BT wireless headphones for my iPod….and you’d have my undivided attention!

Posted by David on September 4, 2005 at 6:26 AM (PDT)

7

This isn’t really that impressive now if the lenses for the glasses were the LCD that would be hot. this way if you’re driving and you notice your phone is going off, you don’t have to kill the radio to listen for the ringtone before accepting the call on your earpeice.

Posted by Mike on September 4, 2005 at 4:54 PM (PDT)

8

hey i like the razrwire.  im a single 41 year old white caucasian male.  Since I’ve worn the Razrwires the ladies are loving me….. Last time i had a date was about 5 years ago…..  I’m now with a     !!! She says the razrwires caught her attention….Thanks Alot Oakley!!!!!

Posted by Dr.Harry R on September 14, 2005 at 9:42 AM (PDT)

9

Hi all, to the person who has already bought the Razrwire, do u know if the bluetooth portion can fit a pair of Oakley Juliets or Penny frame? Pls let me know. Thanks!!

Posted by Viincent on September 28, 2005 at 12:24 AM (PDT)

10

I haven’t personally tried them but I know a guy who’s an Oakley fanatic and owns several X-Metals. He says the earpiece fits well on both his Mars and Juliets so I’d imagine they’d fit on Pennys, too.

Posted by dan-E on October 4, 2005 at 9:22 PM (PDT)

11

i just got the razrwire…its beautiful. i only wish they made the lenses polarized…anyways, i own a pair of nike-framed prescription glasses, and the bluetooth module fits fine on both sides of my regualr glasses, the only issue is that the module’s hinge is triangular shaped so that it directly fits the razrwire frames…i’m not sure about any other oakley frames, but that’s that. my only gripe is that sometimes my razr seems to randomly lose connection with the razrwire, only to re-connect after i push any button on the razrwire…thanks oakley, and motorola!

Posted by shermanator on October 6, 2005 at 5:19 PM (PDT)

12

The razor wire is the perfect thing for someone who has all the gadgets! I Got these about two weeks ago and love them they are light and sturdy! I would recomend them to anyone and the best part is my perscription glasses I got creative and made a spacer for the clip and it fits on my normal glasses now! I have another pair on the way so I can test them right way in the feilds and on the bike I will keep you updated.

Posted by Troy J Livecche on October 14, 2005 at 2:13 PM (PDT)

13

David’s comment above, as well as a great idea (although it’s one I was going to mention if he hadn’t!) highlights a failing with this setup, even if (unlike him) you *do* want to use the cellphone feature. The problem is you can wander around with either this *or* an MP3 player, unless you want to listen to MP3 through only one earpiece. A combined cell/MP3 bluetooth option, with the cell overriding MP3 when a call comes in would be pretty fantastic. I’m going skiing soon and this would just be the dogs. Most players won’t have Bluetooth built in, so there’s another piece of kit for Oakley to flog (or you could get someone else’s).

Posted by Ian Turton on October 20, 2005 at 7:24 AM (PDT)

14

OK, so I’m sold on these specs, they are very classy. However I just want to know if I can listen to mp3’s off my phone through the earpiece. If anyone’s tried it, please post a reply!  Cheers.

Posted by Phil Tail on January 6, 2006 at 3:46 AM (PDT)

15

does anyone know if these will work with kyocera koi phone or just razor?

Posted by sean m on March 19, 2006 at 9:43 PM (PDT)

16

im in the same boat i want to know if you can listen to mp3 via RAZR V3. just wondering before i take more interest in theses glasses has anyone tried yet? the look awesome and the idea of being able to listen to mp3 thru BT has really caught my eye. I have read that mp3 ring tones for the razrwire wont work. (meaning that you wont hear your differnt ring tones, which is still leading me to) Would it work ? if anyone has the chance to try this out for me that would be awesome. THANxs

Posted by BP on June 23, 2006 at 10:37 AM (PDT)

17

Will the razor wire pick up the mp3 music from an ipod w/the icombi?

Posted by Rolando on December 17, 2007 at 12:50 AM (PDT)

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