Of all the gadgets and gear on my desktop, the monitor happens to be the most expensive piece of equipment, which is followed by the graphics card and spectacles. Yes, you heard it right—spectacles. Just like the monitor and graphics card, they are equally crucial to witness every god ray, explosion and arterial blood spray just like the good developer intended. Mind you, I don't place emphasis on good quality eyewear just because I need one for perfect eyesight. A good number of my acquaintances are blessed with 20/20 vision, but that doesn't stop them from using computer glasses treated with anti-glare and anti-reflective coatings.
In fact, that's a good call considering how your average white-collar worker spends a good chunk of his waking hours staring into a glorified tube light, otherwise known as the PC monitor. White-collar gamers have it even worse, as they spend even more time looking at CCFL/LED-backlit displays, fragging each other after work. I belong to this category, especially since I end up playing games at work and home as well. For the longest time, spending a small fortune on imported spectacle lenses and specialised lens treatments was the only viable means to protect my eyes.
The only downside is that the eyewear makes you look like Bono, or serial killer Bono in this case
However, when just an extra hour of gaming before bed time snowballs into a six-hour gaming marathon with an alarming regularity, that's your cue to seek a better solution to protect your eyes. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, because GUNNAR Optiks has now reached the Indian stores with its range of specialised gaming and computer eyewear. I have, in fact, heard a lot of positive feedback from Indian professional gamers who swear by the GUNNAR's ability to provide long, strain-free hours of gaming. I was, however, circumspect for two main reasons:
With GUNNAR's gaming eyewear starting at Rs 4,500 and the prescription (Rx) versions costing Rs 12,000 and upwards, the brand must offer much more than impressive sounding gimmicks. If you listen to its marketing spiel though, the gaming eyewear range promises to prevent eye strain, reduce reaction times and generally offer a two-fold benefit of protection as well as performance. The best way to test this claim is through a long-term test of the flagship Call of Duty MW3 model, and that's exactly what I did.
Does it Make Sense Over Locally-Made Alternatives?
Before embarking on the review though, there was one important bit of research to be done. You see, once you scratch past the clever veneer of marketing and elaborate terminology associated with the brand, what you're essentially left with are driving/shooting lenses characterised by a contrast-enhancing amber tint. This makes it imperative to check for a locally-made alternative offering similar levels of performance.
The frame sits snugly for maximum comfort while wearing headphones
A fair bit of ground work revealed that your average amber tinted driving/shooting lenses cost anywhere between Rs 1,500 to 1,800. Decent spectacle frames start at Rs 1,200 to 1,500. This brings the total cost of the glasses to Rs 2,700 to 3,300. However, the GUNNAR lenses feature anti-glare/reflective coatings, in addition to a scratch-resistant hard coat. Since these coatings—especially the former—are extremely crucial for eye protection, we must add another Rs 1,000 to 1,500 for the lens treatments as well. This brings the total price of the locally-manufactured alternative to Rs 3,700 to Rs 4,800. That's, more or less, similar to GUNNAR 's entry-level range.
In effect, the gaming eyewear will end up costing just as much, or even cheaper in some cases, if you were to buy an alternative on your own. Even then, the local alternatives won't be half as good as the specialised lenses. GUNNAR's entire range, including he Call of Duty MW3 eyewear reviewed here, employs curved wrap-around lenses featuring a relatively high refractive index of 1.51 that makes them thinner. Not only is such lens configuration extremely difficult and costly to achieve, but that reduces the VLT (Visible Light Transmission) value as well. Despite this, the eyewear touts a VLT value of 94% (prior to the application of tints/coatings), which—as my ophthalmologist and optometrist concur—is a pretty excellent figure.
GUNNAR Optiks claims to pack in even more improvements to protect and enhance vision specifically for gamers. The wrap-around lenses, for example, are said to prevent air currents from drying out your eyes. The specialised lens geometry itself is supposed to help the eyes bring the screen into focus easily and with reduced strain. A major chunk of performance benefit is attributed to the proprietary tint tuned to work best with standard LCD backlighting. Gunnar claims that its eyewear filters out harmful HEV (High-Energy Visible) light, which is counted as a major cause for eyestrain and premature macular degeneration in computer users. That's quite an impressive laundry list of features, but does that really translate into real-world performance?
Putting the Claims to the Test
If you go by GUNNAR's claims, the eyewear seems to make a compelling case for itself. Unfortunately, I'm neither a qualified ophthalmologist nor an expert in optics to conclusively confirm or rebuff these claims. There is, however, one foolproof means to put this to the test—with extensive subjective evaluation replicated over a long term. I know out of experience, and for a fact, that I suffer from irritation and redness of the eyes, and even headaches at times whenever I indulge in all-night gaming marathons.
Build quality is impeccable
Having worn the GUNNAR glasses, I experienced absolutely no headaches or irritation/redness of the eyes after about half a dozen all-night marathon gaming sessions spread over a month's worth of testing. However, when I subjected myself to the same ordeal whilst wearing my regular spectacles, the aforementioned symptoms invariably crept back again. This conclusively proves that GUNNAR's proprietary lens-making techniques and treatments actually do make a difference, no matter how fancy they may sound. The amber tint proved especially useful to enhance contrast and object detail, which is a boon for fast-paced competitive multiplayer games. Needless to say, the Call of Duty MW3 eyewear is highly recommended for professional gamers.
There is, however, a chink in GUNNAR's armour. Since I have spent a lot of money on a professional-grade monitor and took many pains to calibrate it using a colorimeter, it's no secret that I am a sucker for colour integrity. Unfortunately, the amber tint on the eyewear throws colour fidelity right out the window. For this very reason, I personally cannot use it for anything other than regular web browsing and productivity work. This preference is subjective, of course, and your mileage may vary. For accurate colour reproduction, you may want to check out GUNNAR's clear-tinted computer eyewear range. However, you do lose out on HEV filtering properties of the amber tint in the bargain. On the bright side, these glasses make a compelling case for themselves when it comes to contrast and detail enhancement, as well as eye protection and strain relief.
Is it Worth the Price Though?
The Call of Duty MW3 gaming eyewear exhibits impeccable build quality. The alloy frame material is extremely sturdy and lightweight at the same time. The brushed gunmetal finish looks downright stunning and bears tell-tale accents reminiscent of military hardware, such as skeletonised frame and deliberately exposed screws as well as chassis gaps. Despite having a considerably larger footprint than regular spectacles and a metal frame to boot, the eyewear weighed in at just 29 grammes, which is right on par with much smaller plastic spectacles, which range between 27 to 32 grammes. The large lenses deliver a delightfully large field of view, whereas the frame itself is designed specifically to work unobtrusively with headphones. If you're concerned about the price tag, fret not because the hinge quality alone makes these glasses seem more expensive than they are.
My only gripe is that the GUNNAR eyewear doesn't feel as comfortable when compared to my regular spectacles. That's why to get subjectivity out of the equation, I procured another set of Call of Duty MW3 gaming eyewear and let someone else use it for an extended period of time. My test subject, however, experienced no ergonomic issues. The perceived discomfort on my part might largely exist due to the close, headphone-friendly fit of the frame and the fact that my own spectacles are incredibly light at 9 grammes, as opposed to the GUNNAR's 29 gramme heft. However, there's one more complaint though. No matter what your face type is, these glasses tend to make you look like Bono. That just can't be good.
Oversized lenses offer exceptional peripheral vision
Another reason for procuring an extra pair of lenses was mainly to differentiate between regular off-the-counter and the more expensive Rx lenses. The latter employs better and deeper layer of tints and treatments that feel visibly richer. Even the quality and accuracy of surfacing is demonstrably better since the process is done separately in the Carl Zeiss labs. Procuring the Rx eyewear involves filling up a form and waiting for around 30-45 days. The end result is worth the wait and the price though, as it's nigh impossible to achieve this manner of quality and precision in India. What surprised me the most was how I was asked to provide IPD values (Interpupillary Distance, or the distance between your eyeballs) so that the lenses precisely conform to my eye structure.
Nevertheless, that doesn't mean the off-the-counter lenses aren't good enough. In fact, independent optical evaluation revealed that these lenses carry a dioptre of +0.25. When I quizzed GUNNAR Optiks about the reason behind this optical correction, I was told that it's designed to overcome what's described as the “lag of accommodation”. It's especially evident in computer users after about three hours of viewing. The idea purportedly is to let the eyes focus better, which in turn relaxes the ciliary muscles and reduces eyestrain. Although I'm no ophthalmologist, this is a claim I won't dispute because these lenses indeed are demonstrably easier on the eyes.
Considering the stellar build and material quality, excellent performance, and great value on offer, GUNNAR's Call of Duty MW3 gaming eyewear comes highly recommended. Although professional gamers will benefit greatly due to the contrast and detail enhancement, the eyewear's ability to reduce strain makes it ideal for anyone who uses computers for long periods of time. That's everyone, to be honest. Only those who seek colour accuracy should stay away from the amber-tinted variety. Those without perfect vision though will have to pay significantly higher (Rs 12,000 and upwards) for the Rx version, since it's made and shipped from Carl Zeiss labs in USA and attracts shipping and customs duties as well. The regular, off-the-counter version though easily justifies its Rs 6,500 asking price.
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