If you're looking for a featherlight pair of performance sunglasses for low to moderate speed activities in bright light conditions, then the Julbo Aero is a good option. These comfortable glasses are so light that you'll quickly forget you're wearing them, and the Grip Tech rubber on the arms and the adjustable nose pad will keep them securely in place. The polycarbonate Spectron 3CF lens has excellent optical clarity and is suspended in the frame, which was designed to maximize ventilation. Testers found them to have too much air movement around the eyes during higher speed activities. They've got a sporty Euro style, and their coverage is decent, although it is the least of all models in the test. The lens' 12% VLT is great in bright light conditions but lacks the versatility of some of the other models in this review. They are also the least expensive performance model tested, and a good value for the right consumer.
Julbo Aero Review
Cons: Less coverage, feel fragile, less wind protection
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|Price||$129.95 at Amazon||$249.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Super lightweight, good optics, less expensive||Excellent eye protection and coverage, durable design, great contrast with minimal color distortion, superb case||Excellent optics, good wind protection, 2 lenses included, easy lens changes, quality storage case||Great lens clarity, universally flattering style, surprisingly comfortable, durable build, good eye protection||Excellent optics, storage case, modern style, good eye protection|
|Cons||Less coverage, feel fragile, less wind protection||Heavy, large overall size and fit, expensive||Expensive, you have to take off arms to put them in their case||Not polarized, heavy, large, case not overly protective, expensive||Expensive, only comes with one lens|
|Bottom Line||The Julbo Aero is a quality lightweight sunglass, though with less coverage it is better suited to lower speed activities.||The Kahis are a high-performing pair of shades with great coverage and exceptional lens quality.||The Smith Attack Max checks all of our boxes and takes home our Editor's Choice Award.||These shades are protective, clear, and very cool.||The Oakley Flight jacket has a unique style, excellent optics, and good coverage.|
|Rating Categories||Julbo Aero||Maui Jim Kahi||Smith Attack Max||Vuarnet District Medium Round||Oakley Flight Jacket|
|Lens Quality (25%)|
|Frame Quality (15%)|
|Style And Versatility (10%)|
|Specs||Julbo Aero||Maui Jim Kahi||Smith Attack Max||Vuarnet District...||Oakley Flight Jacket|
|Lens Tested||Spectron 3CF||HCL Bronze||Chromapop Red Mirror||Brown Lynx||Prizm Road|
|Ideal Activity||running, mountain biking||everyday||road cycling, mountain biking, running||everyday||road cycling, mountain biking, running|
|Ideal Lens Light Conditions||Bright light||Medium to bright light||Chromapop Red Mirror: Bright light Chromapop Contrast Rose: Low to Medium light||Medium to bright light||Medium to bright light|
|Polarized||No||Yes||No||No, but it is available||No|
|Visible Light Transmission (VLT)||12%||15%||15%||9%||20%|
|VLT Protection Index||cat 3||cat 3||cat 3||cat 3||cat 2|
|HEV/Blue Light Protection||100%||95%||100%||97%||100%|
|Infrared Protection||0%||"infrared effective"||0%||93%||0%|
|Number of Lenses Included||1||1||2||1||1|
|Neutral/Contrast||Increased contrast||Increased contrast||Increased contrast||Increased contrast||Increased contrast|
|Lens Material||plastic - polycarbonate||glass - "SuperThin Glass"||plastic - Carbonic||glass - mineral glass||plastic - "Plutonite" polycarbonate|
|Protective Coatings||anti-fog & ripel coating||Anti-reflective on front and back||Hydroleophobic coating||Anti-reflective back, silver bi-shade mirror||Iridium coating|
|Can take prescription lens?||No||Readers only||No||No||No|
|Case Included||Soft cleaning/storage bag||Hard rigid clam case and soft/cleaning bag||Rigid zippered case and soft cleaning/storage bag||Semi-rigid flex case and cleaning cloth||Rigid zippered case and soft cleaning/storage bag|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Julbo is a lesser-known name in the sunglass industry, but this European brand has been producing sunglasses for over a century. They've been making distinctive mountaineering glasses since the 1950s, and nowadays they make sunglasses for everyone from babies to world-class athletes.
We put the Aero up against a stacked field of some of the best performance eyewear available to see how they would stand up. We took them on mountain bike rides, trail runs, and snowy fat bike rides to see how they perform during different activities and in a range of weather conditions. Read on to find out how they compare.
The Aero model we tested came with Julbo's Spectron 3CF lens. This lens has a 12% VLT and comes with a color flash reflective coating on the outside. Julbo recommends them for use in the mountains, around water, and in bright sun. The lenses are polycarbonate with a base six lens curvature, which seems standard among performance eyewear.
The spherical lens provides crystal clear optical clarity with no distortion that we noticed during testing. These lenses have the least coverage of all models in the test, but they still offer a very wide field of vision with little frame or lens edge visible. The reflective coating creates a bit of color pop in the right light conditions and appears to be durable as we didn't scratch or damage them during testing.
While the lens of the Aero does appear to be of high-quality, testers found the 12% VLT a bit dark for mixed light conditions. When going between bright light and shadows quickly, as you do when mountain biking, this lens proved to be a bit less versatile than other models with VLT's in the 20% range.
In more consistent bright light conditions this lens was far more at home and served our testers well. The Aero is also offered with Julbo's Reactiv photochromic lens, which reacts to the light conditions and provides a wide VLT percentage range. Overall, testers prefer the optics of the Oakley Flight Jacket, Smith Attack Max, and POC Do Half Blade but feel that the lens of the Aero is quality for the price.
The Aero is definitely a comfortable pair of glasses. This is largely due to their impressively lightweight, only 24g. You barely even notice that you're wearing them. The 3D Nose Fit nose pad is soft and flexible and can be adjusted side to side and fore and aft to dial in the fit to your preferences. The arms of the frame are long and relatively flexible with a very soft and pliable rubber material that grips impressively well.
Julbo has also engineered a sort of elastomer system with this rubber material on the arms that is intended to help absorb shock and stabilize the glasses. These glasses stay in place very well on your face, even during high impact activities like trail running. You don't need to readjust them regularly, if at all. Testers had no qualms with the fit and comfort of the Aero. In fact, they are one of the most comfortable performance models in this review.
The Aero offers a decent level of eye protection, although it is the least of the performance sunglass models in this test. This is mainly due to the smaller lens size and a shape that doesn't wrap as much as the competition. We measured the lens of the Aero at 130mm wide and 43mm tall, which isn't tiny by any means. It is visibly smaller than the other performance competitors though.
A good comparison is the 100% Speedcraft, with 145mm wide and 56mm tall lenses. All of the other performance models we tested have wider and taller lenses, which offer more protection from debris and wind. The lens shape is also less curved from side to side, which leaves a larger gap between the edge of the lens and your face.
The Julbo lenses provide 100% protection from harmful UV rays, and their 12% VLT lens is well suited to bright light conditions. The polycarbonate Spectron 3CF lens is also impact resistant. The Aero is designed with a thin gap between the frame and the lens to promote air circulation and reduce the likelihood of fogging. This design coupled with the smaller lenses results in more air movement around the eyes than any model tested. While this does help to prevent fogging, testers found their eyes were more prone to watering while using these glasses during high-velocity activities (aka, mountain or road biking). For these activities, testers preferred the larger coverage and increased protection offered by the competition.
The Aero's frame is lightweight with a unique design that is intended to maximize air circulation. The frame itself has traditional hinged arms and stretches across the top of the lens with a thin gap between the frame and the lens. The frame only makes contact with the single piece lens in a few spots, and it appears suspended from the sides and the nose piece.
The nose piece holds the lens from both the top and the bottom, and there are notched cutouts on both sides of the lens where a small arm fits in and securely holds the lens in place. This frame design is impressively lightweight, but overall testers found these glasses to feel a bit less sturdy than their slightly heavier competition.
Julbo used a soft rubber compound for the nose pad and along the end of the arms that effectively grips and hold the glasses in place. They've done a couple of unique things with the rubber, however, especially on the arms. The rubber extends about half the length of the arms, from the middle back, and parallels the thin frame with a gap in between. The rubber is super soft and pliable and conforms to shapes very easily and comfortably.
Julbo has also incorporated some of the rubber material into the hinge of the arms, which may work like an elastomer and absorb some shock from impactS. The rubber nose pad is attached to the plastic nose piece with two small screws at the bridge. The wings of the nose pad extend down from the bridge of the nose and are adjustable both side to side and fore and aft.
The Aero has a distinctive, sporty, and dare we say Euro style. They've got a flashy orange-red reflective lens that is suspended in the lightweight frame, giving them a more technical look than some of the competition. It depends who you ask, but according to our lead tester they scream, "I am a runner."
The look is far less subtle than the POC Do Half Blade we tested, which is less angular and has a much more subdued color scheme. The Aero has a very similar reflective lens to those found on the Smith Attack Max, Oakley Flight Jacket, and the 100% Speedcraft, but the smaller coverage and suspended lens design sets them apart stylistically. Depending on your style, you can wear the Aero just about anywhere, but our testers agreed that they would probably swap them out for casual shades once off the bike or the trail.
The Aero is the only model of performance sunglasses we tested that didn't come with a case. Instead, they only come with a relatively standard microfiber bag for storage and cleaning the lenses. This bag works as intended, though it offers very little in the way of protection for the glasses when not in use. If a storage case is a must to protect your sunglass purchase, then we suggest looking elsewhere. Or, purchase an aftermarket option with the money you saved by choosing the Aero over the more expensive competition.
All of the other competitors come with a hard case and a microfiber storage/cleaning bag. Both of the models that come with more than one lens, the Smith Attack Max and the 100% Speedcraft come with quality zippered hard cases that have a foam liner with cutouts to secure the glasses and extra lenses. The Oakley Flight Jacket comes with a smaller and somewhat more basic zippered hard case, while the POC Do Half Blade comes in a more unique but less practical hard plastic case.
Because the Aero glasses have less coverage and wind protection than their competitors, testers found them to be best suited to lower speed activities like running and trail running. It is also during low to moderate-speed activities where the benefit of their ventilation is more of a benefit than a hindrance.
During high-speed activities like road or mountain biking, testers found the reduced coverage and less wrap around shape resulted in watery or dried out eyes. That said, these glasses are very lightweight and stay in place impressively well during more impactful sports like running. The Spectron 3CF lens we tested has a 12% VLT, which is best suited for bright light conditions.
The Aero is the least expensive model in our selection of performance sunglasses, and by a fair margin. At their $130 retail price, they are a good value when compared to their $195-$260 retail priced competition. That said, due to the smaller coverage and consequent reduction in wind protection, testers feel they might not work for everyone or every application.
The Aero is a quality performance sunglass offered at a reasonable price. These lightweight glasses are very comfortable and stay in place on your face impressively well. They've got clear distortion-free optics and a relatively wide field of vision. Due to the smaller size of the lens and their high degree of ventilation, testers found them to be better suited to lower speed high-intensity activities, like trail running or hiking. If ventilation is a priority and you're looking for a medium coverage sunglass, we think the Aero is a good option to consider.
Other Versions and Accessories
Julbo makes a number of sunglass models for a variety of activities, from casual wear to mountaineering.
The Aero model we tested is also available with their Reactiv Photochromic lens ($190) which reacts to changing light conditions and offers a VLT range from 17-75%. The Aerospeed is another model with more coverage than the Aero, with a similar fit and lens technologies.
In addition to the Aero model we tested, Julbo makes the Aerolite which has less coverage and is designed for women or people with smaller faces.
— Jeremy Benson