The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Oakley Airbrake XL Review

A top performer in nearly every way and one of our highest rated models.
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Price:  $240 List | $132.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Excellent optics, durable, easy to change lenses
Cons:  Expensive, visible frame around nose, drafty
Manufacturer:   Oakley
By Jason Cronk ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 17, 2018
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84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 13
  • Lens Quality - 20% 9
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Ventilation and Breathability - 20% 8
  • Ease of Changing Lenses - 15% 8
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Style - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Oakley Airbrake XL returns as one of our top-scoring models despite tough competition from several other models. This very comfortable pair of goggles is awesome for lots of reasons without suffering any significant drawbacks. It performs very well across the board, landing at or near the top in every test metric. The latest Airbrake XL endured our rigorous testing well, through all weather conditions both at the resort and in the Tahoe backcountry. The durability, functionality, superior optical quality, and ease of lens swapping are sure to please even the pickiest of users, especially given the number of lens choices. It fits equally well with or without a helmet, providing great optics and protection for all scenarios. The price is steep, but we think it's worth it, especially since Oakley includes two lenses with each pair, one for bright light and one for low light conditions.

If you prefer to save money while still riding away with a solid pair, the Smith Squad ChromaPop might be for you. Although not of the Airbrake quality, two lenses come with the ChromaPop, and its strong durability increases its value. For resort riders who live and die by style points, check out the bold Electric EG3, which offers top-notch protection on top of trend-setting looks.

Airbrake XL Updates

The Airbrake XL is offered in some new color combos this season, like the one shown above. However, we have confirmed with Oakley that not all versions of this goggle come with the bonus lens. If you want to get two lenses up front with this goggle (which, for the price, you really should), make sure you are reading the description on the website you are purchasing from!

October 2018


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Oakley Airbrake XL
Awards  Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $132.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$266.06 at Amazon$240.00 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$119.99 at Amazon$64.95 at Amazon
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Pros Excellent optics, durable, easy to change lensesMagnetic lenses, magnetic facemask, 2 lenses included, great opticsMagnetic lenses, 2 lenses included, great opticsComfortable, easy to change lens, excellent opticsInexpensive, durable, multiple lenses included
Cons Expensive, visible frame around nose, draftyExpensive, larger fitExpensive, medium fitFit isn't for everyone, lens change not as easy as someMore basic styling, lenses aren't the easiest to change
Bottom Line A top performer in nearly every way and one of our highest rated models.The M4 may be expensive, but they are incredibly user friendly with excellent optics, innovative integration, and a great fitThis model carries on the quality and performance tradition of Smith's popular I/O line of goggles with a new user-friendly magnetic lens interface.This model features an excellent all-around design that proved effective for resort and backcountry users.An affordable goggle for all purposes and conditions, the Smith Squad is our Best Buy Award winner.
Rating Categories Oakley Airbrake XL Anon M4 Toric Smith I/O Mag Smith I/OX ChromaPop Smith Squad ChromaPop
Lens Quality (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
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7
Comfort (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
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8
Ventilation And Breathability (20%)
10
0
8
10
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8
10
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8
10
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8
10
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8
Ease Of Changing Lenses (15%)
10
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8
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9
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7
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6
Durability (15%)
10
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8
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8
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8
Style (10%)
10
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9
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9
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8
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7
Specs Oakley Airbrake XL Anon M4 Toric Smith I/O Mag Smith I/OX ChromaPop Smith Squad...
Number of lenses included 2 2 2 2 2
Lens tested Prizm Snow Torch Iridium, Prizm Rose SONAR Red, SONAR Infared Chromapop Sun Red Mirror, Chromapop Storm Chromapop Sun, Chromapop Storm Chromapop Sun, Yellow
Lens Shape Spherical Toric: mimics the curvature of the eye. Frame is compatible with both Cylindrical and Toric lenses. Spherical Spherical Cylindrical
Frame size Large Large Medium Large Med-Large
Layers of foam Triple layer Triple layer Triple layer Triple layer 2-layer Dri-Wix
Ventilation Dual-Vented Lens with F3 Anti-fog coating Full Preimeter Channel venting, Outlast Fog Management Face Fleece Anti-fog treated Dual ventilation Not specified
Warranty 1 year Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime
Unique? Switchlock lens system MFI: Magnetic Facemask Intergration, Facemask included. Magnetic lenses, frame can accomodate Anon Toric or Cylindrical lenses. Magnetic lenses

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Oakley Airbrake XL scored high marks in every category, edging out most competitors other than the new Anon M4 and Smith I/O Mag. The fit and comfort pleased all of our testers, no matter their size or shape. The Airbrake XL is highly versatile and is equally at home while skiing at the resort or touring in the backcountry with a solid and protective feel, along with one of the easier lens changing systems in our test. Not only do they feel good, our testers and other skiers thought they looked good too.

Performance Comparison


These goggles are true performers and can make even some of our goofy testers look good at times.
These goggles are true performers and can make even some of our goofy testers look good at times.

Lens Quality


Oakley has earned a reputation for excellent optics and the Airbrake XL, like the A-Frame 2.0, is no exception. We tested two different lenses, which were included for the base tint model we bought, one for bright light conditions, the Prizm Snow Torch Iridium, and a low light conditions lens, Prizm Rose. Both lenses performed superbly in their intended conditions and do have some crossover into conditions the lenses aren't specifically intended for. Finding variable conditions like this is common while backcountry skiing in the Tahoe area and light conditions are constantly changing, especially after dropping down to treeline. Aside from the great all-around performance, one additional plus is the ease of swapping lenses with the frame's Switchlock technology.

Looking through the Airbrake's Prizm Snow Torch Iridium lens.
Looking through the Airbrake's Prizm Snow Torch Iridium lens.

The optically correct, spherical, Prizm lenses provide a crisp, clear view with excellent contrast, even in varying light conditions while skiing at high speed through the trees. The Airbrake XL's lenses all utilize their HDO technology, which according to Oakley: "High Definition OpticsĀ® (HDO) is a collection of patented technologies that allow Oakley eyewear to meet or exceed the testing standards of the American National Standards Institute for optical clarity, visual fidelity, and impact resistance." Whatever those specific patented technologies are, we certainly enjoy the benefits of them! The P3 anti-fog coating did a stellar job at keeping the Airbrake's lenses clear, with only minimal fogging experienced while shoveling and sweating.

The Airbrake XL comes with 2 quality Prizm lenses for varying light conditions. They have some of the best optics in the test.
The Airbrake XL comes with 2 quality Prizm lenses for varying light conditions. They have some of the best optics in the test.

We do have a couple gripes with the visibility of the Airbrake XL, these are not specific to lens quality, but notable nonetheless. One issue we had is that the white frame color reflects off the inside of the lens and is occasionally distracting. This problem could be solved by making the inner portion of the frame a dark matte finished color, but we don't design goggles, we only test them. We also felt that there is a lot of frame visible, especially around the nose, and this was especially interesting considering the massive field of vision these goggles have, it also might be more noticeable because of the white color we tested most recently.

Comfort


As was the case with our other review criteria, the Airbrake XL held its own in the comfort category as well. The three-layer foam provides a great interface and cushion between the skier's face and the goggle frame. The outermost layer, like the Oakley A-Frame 2.0, is a soft, brushed layer that wicks moisture well. The frame shape also seemed to work well for users with all different size heads and facial structures. The Airbrake XL has a very wide strap which we found to be quite comfortable, with or without a helmet.

Nice soft triple layer face foam  a nice shape  a super wide strap  and three beads of silicone all help to make the Airbrake a very comfortable goggle.
Nice soft triple layer face foam, a nice shape, a super wide strap, and three beads of silicone all help to make the Airbrake a very comfortable goggle.

The integrated silicone strips in the strap helped keep the goggles in place even on a smooth helmet. For skiers and snowboarders with smaller faces, Oakley also makes the Airbrake in their "Asia fit." The Airbrake was one of the only pairs in our review that didn't receive any complaints regarding pressure points on the face and had among the most compliments regarding comfort. The Anon M4 is our other most comfortable goggle, scoring equally with the Airbrake XL.

Ventilation and Breathability


Like all of our test goggles, we wore the Airbrake XL while skinning uphill in varying conditions to test their breathability and were unable to steam up the dual-vented lenses. We decided to take this one step further and were finally able to fog the Airbrake XL's lenses during a wet, heavy snowfall while shoveling and snow blowing. We compared the POC Lobes at the same time and found the Airbrake XL fared better with minimal fogging, whereas the POC goggles had liquid dripping from the lens.

The anti-fog coating and great ventilation of the Airbrake lenses kept them from fogging up in the front and backcountry.
The anti-fog coating and great ventilation of the Airbrake lenses kept them from fogging up in the front and backcountry.

As they did with the A-Frame 2.0, Oakley uses their F3 anti-fog coating on the Airbrake's lenses with superb results. Breathability is excellent, and the Dual-Vented lens provided ample airflow while skiing resort laps top to bottom, even on warmer sunny days. One of our testers who wears contact lenses and has especially sensitive eyes found the Airbrake XL to feel a little drafty at high speeds resulting in slightly watery eyes.

Ease of Changing Lenses


Our testers all agreed the Airbrake XL's lenses are swapped more easily than most goggles. With the flip of a simple lever on the left side of the goggle frame, one lens is removed and replacing it is as simple as pressing the new lens to the frame, which is flush-fit, then flipping the small lever back into place. We replaced lenses several times, even able to do so on the chairlift with our ski gloves on! Only the Anon M4 and the Smith I/O Mag and their magnetic lens technology is easier to swap lenses.

The switch lock system on the Airbrake XL is really easy to use. Simply fold the strap wing out  flip the switch up and take the lens off.
The switch lock system on the Airbrake XL is really easy to use. Simply fold the strap wing out, flip the switch up and take the lens off.

Durability


Oakley's quality shows in the durability of the Airbrake XL. Since the Airbrake XL was immediately one of our favorites, it was used more than most of our other test goggles and didn't show any signs of premature wear. These goggles were crammed into several testers' ski packs and were none the worse for wear.

Through regular skiing abuse  the Airbrake didn't break  nor show any signs of doing so down the road.
Through regular skiing abuse, the Airbrake didn't break, nor show any signs of doing so down the road.

The Airbrake XL's Prizm lens didn't exhibit any mystery scratches on the inner lens and impressed throughout the entire testing process. At the completion of our review testing, none of the goggle components showed any signs of wear. This quality goggle seems like a good choice for the long haul and should provide years of use for even the most frequent skiers and boarders.

Style


The Airbrake XL is a proven and popular part of Oakley's goggle line, due in part to its distinctive style. This goggle has more of a modern look than other test goggles like the Smith Squad, Giro Blok, or Bolle Carve, instead, it's similarly space-age in appearance to the Dragon NFX or the Electric EG3. The lens is large, spherical, and brightly colored, wrapping nearly to the edge of the frame with an almost frameless look.

The front and side view of the Airbrake XL. These goggles are big with a somewhat futuristic look.
The front and side view of the Airbrake XL. These goggles are big with a somewhat futuristic look.

The Airbrake XL is available in numerous frame color and strap options. Oakley has also manufactured several Signature Models of the Airbrake based on pro riders' input.

Best Application


The Airbrake XL is the ideal quiver-of-one goggle for front, back, and side-country skiing and riding. These goggles performed well everywhere we wore them. We also think they are great for any snowsport adventure you take them on.

Value


There's no hiding the fact that these goggles have a premium price tag. Retailing at $240, they are among the most expensive models in this review. For the same price, you could get two Best Buy-winning Smith Squad ChromaPop pairs and still have money left over. Advanced skiers/riders will get the most value out of these goggles. Beginner skiers will find more value in going with a less expensive model.

Testing the Airbrake XL at the resort on a sunny day.
Testing the Airbrake XL at the resort on a sunny day.

Conclusion


The Oakley Airbrake XL is a stylish, quality, and high-performance goggle that appeals to both resort and backcountry skiers and riders, even the most advanced users. They have top of the line optics, a comfortable fit, and a cool modern style. These are one of our top performing models and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone.

The Airbrake is a premium pair of goggles  earning it one of the highest scores in our test.
The Airbrake is a premium pair of goggles, earning it one of the highest scores in our test.

Accessories


Oakley makes a full line of ski and snowboard lenses and replacement lenses. The Airbrake XL is offered in the regular fit we tested, as well as an Asian Fit. It is offered in a range of frame and strap color options and with different lenses.

Replacement lenses are also sold as an aftermarket purchase and come in a huge range of colors and VLT percentages. There are six Prizm lenses, all of which retail for $100 except for the Snow Rose (26% VLT) version which costs $70. The other Prizm options are Snow Torch Iridium (17% VLT) (tested), Sapphire Iridium (23% VLT), Black Iridium (5.5% VLT), Jade Iridium (13% VLT), and Hi Pink (46% VLT) (also tested). Two standard lenses are also available, clear, $50, (90 % VLT), and Fire Iridium, $80, (16% VLT).


Jason Cronk