POC Aspire Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Great optics, versatile lens tint, durable lens
Cons: Heavy, only one lens included
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Since 2005, POC has been making high-quality safety equipment and apparel for snow sports and cycling. Since then, they have veered in alongside longstanding industry giants and become one of the biggest names in performance eyewear. We tried out the Aspire in Sulphite Yellow with a brown-tinted silver mirror lens and learned that it provides sharp optics and all-around solid performance in a modern, stylish package.
During testing, the Aspire's Cold Brown Clarity lens with Silver Mirror finish was one of our favorite cylindrical lenses. Made by the high-end camera, microscope, and glasses lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss vision, its 22-26% visible light transmission guards against 100% of harmful UV rays and is versatile enough for a variety of light conditions. The lens also features a durable nylon construction and POC's "Ripel" hydrophobic lens treatment.
Out in the field, the cylindrical Clarity lens' optics are fantastic. It can be incredibly difficult to differentiate between lens quality of high-end performance sunglasses, but the Aspire's lens definitely stood out. The Cold Brown tint provides razor-sharp clarity and good contrast while the Silver Mirror finish cuts down on glare. We found that the lens tint works well in a range of conditions, including dappled forest light, which can be a real problem for many lenses.
In addition to its near top-of-the-class optical performance, the Aspire's lens also stood up from a durability standpoint. Despite our rough, arguably-irresponsible treatment of these glasses throughout our testing, we found no noticeable scratches or imperfections on the lens when we were through.
Fit and Comfort
The Aspire is a comfortable pair of glasses with a relatively versatile fit, but it couldn't quite match the top performers in this metric. Our testers found that the frame is flexible enough that it will expand to fit most head sizes without pinching or causing discomfort at the side of the head over time. They offer no adjustment at the nose piece, but the arm tips are bendable to contour to any head shape. The hydrophilic rubber nose piece and arm tips aren't as soft and grippy as some of the other models we looked at, but they still do the job when things get sweaty.
Out in the field, these glasses don't quite disappear into the background as well as the most comfortable glasses in our test. None of our testers had any issues with head pain or discomfort, but, at 41 grams, the glasses feel a little bit heavy on your face. The weight, combined with the firm rubber at each of the contact points means that while these glasses aren't a nuisance by any means, they also aren't invisible. If you're in search of the most comfortable pair of glasses you might want to check out the Smith Wildcat.
In a test full of behemoth lens sizes the Aspire sits roughly in the middle of the pack. When compared the coverage and protection of traditional sunglass models, the 155mm wide by 55mm tall lens is huge, but in today's era of goggle-style sunglasses it doesn't stand out in one direction or the other. That being said, we think the Aspire provides ample protection for high-speed activities. The wide lens sits close to the face, and the thick arms protect from wind interference. The nylon lens protects the eyes from potential impacts and allows you to keep focused on what's ahead.
Despite the large lens and wide field of vision, we noticed that you can see a considerable portion of the frame at the periphery of your vision when wearing the Aspire. Maybe this was made more evident by the bright yellow frame, but it is noticeable compared to the competition.
Like some of the other top performers in our test, the Aspire features a Grilamid thermoplastic frame construction. Throughout testing we came to love the Grilamid-framed models. This material provides a relatively soft feel, high flexibility, and resistance to repeated stress failures over time. That said, POC's specific Grilamid formula is a bit more rigid than some of the other models we tested. It doesn't feel brittle by any means, but it doesn't have the same level of flexibility and softness as our favorite frames. Additionally, the hydrophilic rubber at the nose piece and arm tips is also a bit more firm than many of the other models we tested. The Aspire's frames are assuredly high quality, but the rigid material gives a somewhat harsh feel.
While the Aspire only comes with a single lens, the frame makes swapping lenses easy and quick if you were to buy spares for varied light conditions. The frame flexes easily enough to quickly pop out a lens and swap in a new one without any hassle.
Overall we were impressed with the Aspire's performance in the field, and had very little to complain about. When the going got rough out on mountain bike or gravel rides, the hydrophilic nose and earpieces did their job and kept everything right where it needed to be. We didn't have any issues with needing to readjust their position on our face.
We also didn't have any issues with airflow at low speeds. The small, 2mm gap between the lens and the center of the frame provides ample breathability to keep the lens from fogging up. Even when stopping immediately after hard efforts, we had no issues. Granted, we tested these glasses mainly in hot, dry summer conditions where fogging isn't typically a huge issue, but we're confident that they would perform well in any situation.
Our one complaint with this model was sweat management. Some of our sweatier testers had issues with sweat dripping down the front of the lenses on hot days. The upper portion of the lens contacts the brow for most people, making it easy for sweat to run down the forehead and roll over onto the lens. For the most part, POC's hydrophobic lens treatment lets the sweat roll-off, but over time, the leftover salt streaks necessitated a lens cleaning.
POC has always had a unique and distinctive modern styling to their products, and the Aspire is no exception. The frame has clean lines and a functional, minimalist style. Even with the bright yellow frame we tried out, we feel that this model far less loud and in your face than many in our test.
Much like its unique and modern glasses design, POC also thinks out of the box with their packaging and storage case. Unlike the rigid, zippered cases that many other brands offer, the Aspire comes in a half-white, half-clear hard plastic case. The white half of the case has a soft foam pocket while the clear half of the case allows you to see the glasses inside. If we didn't pull the case straight out of POC's packaging, we might have thought that somebody had just stuffed the glasses into whatever storage case they could find. The quality and fit of the case don't seem to match the quality of the glasses.
At retail, the Aspire sits on the higher end of the price scale. POC provides a quality, high-performing pair of sunglasses for the price, but if you're not completely sold on the style, there are other glasses in our test that provide more bang for your buck. Smith's Wildcat and Attack Max models were two of our favorites and offer two lenses each for a similar price to the Aspire. If you're looking for lens quality alone, however, the Aspire should absolutely be on your radar.
We appreciated the Aspire for its fantastic optics and solid performance. While it wasn't one of our favorite models, it's worth a look from anyone who values a quality lens and clean, minimalist modern style.
— Zach Wick