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

Oakley Airwave Review

Airwave
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Price:  $649 List | $350.00 at Amazon
Pros:  GPS and Bluetooth enabled, real time display of speed, vertical, and air time.
Cons:  Bulky and heavy
Manufacturer:   Oakley
By Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief  ⋅  Mar 7, 2016
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70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Protection - 10% 7
  • Breathability - 20% 7
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Lens Quality - 25% 8
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Style - 5% 6

The Skinny

The Oakley Airwave is the future of goggles. Like most hight end goggles it has great lens optics. But what makes this goggle stand out is its ability to show in real time; speed, vertical, and air time. It connects with smartphones to be able to read texts, see incoming calls, and operate music. It is possible to see your position on a map or find a friend. The Airwave is in a class of its own. In the review we begin with examining all this fantastic technology. We also dive into all the usual features of a goggle.


Our Analysis and Test Results

Hands on Comparison


The Oakley Airwave complete package; goggle  wrist remote control  and soft storage box.
The Oakley Airwave complete package; goggle, wrist remote control, and soft storage box.
Unlike the other goggles in our review, this one is much more than a piece of equipment that protects your eyes while sliding around on snow slopes. This futuristic apparatus supplies and records information in real time. If you are skier or snowboarder that prefers fewer distractions, then this isn't the goggle for you. On the other hand, look no further if you want to keep track of your day in real time, be in touch with friends, music, and the ski hill. This is exactly what you have been dreaming of.

We examined the Airwave for all our usual testing criterea. To find out more about the Airwave's protection, breathibality, comfort, lens quality, durability, and style, look at the bottom of this review. However, this review will begin with discussing the pros and cons of a GPS and Bluetooth goggle.

What can this goggle track?


- Speed GPS is used to accurately track how fast you travel down your favorite slope.
- Altitude Displays the current altitude above sea level.
- Vertical Calculates the vertical feet traveled per run, day, and season.
- Duration Keeps track of time spent recreating.
- Distance Mileage traveled on the slopes.
- Jumps Displays the total number of jumps and time spent in the air on each jump and daily.
- Activities Totals the number of times recreated, number of ski runs, type of runs skied, time spent on each type of run.
HUD display of speed  altitude  airtime  and vertical.
HUD display of speed, altitude, airtime, and vertical.

What can be seen in real time on the Heads Up Display (HUD)?


- Speed
- Altitude
- Vertical
- Distance
- Jumps
- Location on a preloaded map.

- Location of friends with the recon engage app.

What can be accessed, controlled, and seen on the goggle, when connected to a smartphone?

HUD notifications
HUD notifications
- Music Control music stored on a smartphone or using a music streaming app. (Streaming app will use applicable data from phone.) It is possible to play, pause, and skip songs. The volume can be increased or decreased, via the wrist remote control for the goggles.
- Phone Calls and Voice Messages Incoming calls are displayed with caller name or number. Voice mails show up with the name of the caller and time.
HUD notifications
HUD notifications
- Text Messages See complete incoming texts. (Texts with emoticons, symbols, photos, or videos are not displayed.)
- Social Media Interact with friends via social media like Facebook and Instagram.

- Control Video It is possible to control and view video from a GoPro or Garmin VIRB Camera.

Pros of a GPS goggle


It is easy to see the positive side of GPS goggles. Many of us live in an age with information constantly at our finger tips. Why should it be any different while skiing or snowboarding? Our testers found the benefits of GPS to be fantastic if not futuristic. Imagine driving a car without a speedometer. Or, imagine flying a plane without an altimeter. Similarly, most skiers don't actually know how fast, far, or high they are going. Most skiers probably don't think they need this information, but then neither did most early drivers or aviators. Knowledge brings possibilities. Faster and higher are not always better. With the Airwave these factors don't have to be subjective or delayed. Now it is possible to know the exact difference between runs or jumps. This tool has much potential yet to be realized.
Besides the information seen in real time, there are other advantages when the goggle is downloaded at home. Once the data is downloaded onto a computer it is possible to further examine a ski day. It is no longer necessary to remember exactly what runs you skied. All your runs are recorded on a map of the ski area. Names of each run are labeled. In addition, a summary of the difficulty of laps is calculated. The day is broken down in to time spent on green, blue, black, and double black runs. Your speed is also displayed graphically over time, distance traveled, and elevation.
Oakley Airwave's Heads Up Display (HUD)is in the bottom right hand corner of the goggle. With the HUD gives real time feedback.
Oakley Airwave's Heads Up Display (HUD)is in the bottom right hand corner of the goggle. With the HUD gives real time feedback.

Cons of a GPS Goggle


The negative aspects of a GPS goggle are not easily recognized. The foremost disadvantage is the possibility of distraction. The device reminds the user multiple times to pay attention while skiing and use the heads up display (HUD) only when stopped. This is good advice, but easily ignored. Some of our testers almost hit trees or snow guns while trying to see how fast they were traveling. The HUD should be used with caution.
The GPS requires extra hardware to function. This equipment adds weight and reduces the field of vision. The frame is also much thicker to encapsulate the HUD. This further blocks the peripheral vision.

Pros of a goggle connected to a smart phone


In this hi tech age it is hard to give up the phone even when skiing. We all have times when we need to stay connected. On a cold blistery day, this goggle takes away the painful step of fishing your phone out of your pocket. Being able to see a text or call can also reduce interruptions during a good conversation on the chair lift. No more need to take off your gloves to skip to the next song. Never bare your wrist again while trying to find out the time for that crucial link up. Please remember, only look when not skiing or boarding downhill.

Oakley Airwave remote control. This remote can be on your wrist or goggle. It allows full control of what you view in the goggle or on your phone.
Oakley Airwave remote control. This remote can be on your wrist or goggle. It allows full control of what you view in the goggle or on your phone.

Battery Life


Oakley states that the battery life of the HUD is 6 hours. This is possible in temperatures as low as 14°F. We found that this number to be fairly accurate. In order to track a full day of skiing we found it necessary to turn off the display and pause recording when taking breaks. While this can be extra work, it is important. Without saving battery life at non-crucial times, you will not be able to record The entire day.

Protection


This goggle worked well in the sun, wind, and snow. The frame was not very flexible. It is designed to be stiff because of the need to protect the hardware. The frame did a good job of applying even pressure across the forehead and cheek bones. However, at high speeds air entered from the sides. There was not enough air to dry our tester's eyes; only enough for a slight distraction. No sun light was able to enter. It should be noted that on very bright days the sunlight's reflection made it impossible to see the HUD at certain angles.

Breathability


The Airwave has plenty of room between the lens and the user's eyes. This helps to keep the sweat from fogging on the lens. The extra distance also allows for extra ventilation on the top of the goggle. Unfortunately, the added distance does not add up to better breathability. We found that the breathability is no better than most goggles. The anti-fog coating helped keep the fog at bay. However, high air flow was the only way to clear away the fogging completely. Especially after crashing in wet snow or on very humid days it was difficult to clear the lens. The vents are small and seem to be an afterthought. They fit just between the frame and the logo.

Profile view of the Oakley Airwave.
Profile view of the Oakley Airwave.

Comfort


This goggle was marginally comfortable due to the stiffness of the frame, overall size, and weight. It felt heavy and bulky on our tester's faces. It felt like more than just a goggle. However, the foam was comfortable. The fleece layer against the skin had a particularly nice feel and wicked sweat well. The other layers of foam did a good job of keeping the pressure consistent around the frame. We tested this product with a helmet. There was plenty of room to expand the strap to fit with or without a helmet. The outriggers did a good job of keeping the strap in place and lying flat.

Lens Quality

The lens removed from the Oakley Airwave. This is easy to do thanks to the Switchlock technology.
The lens removed from the Oakley Airwave. This is easy to do thanks to the Switchlock technology.
The lens quality of this goggle was really good. There was little to no glare or distortion from the lens. Like most Oakley lenses the Airwave lens was high quality. The frame is designed to allow for truly interchangeable lens. We tried changing the lens with good success. It was not as easy to switch as the Oakley Airbrake, but it was as easy as the Smith I/O series. This is a great option for those days where the lighting can change from run to run. Unfortunately, this goggle only comes with one pair of lens. Choose your lens wisely or be ready to buy a second lens.
The Switchlock technology allows for easily interchangeable lenses. Simply flip the lever on the top of the goggle and pull out the lens.
The Switchlock technology allows for easily interchangeable lenses. Simply flip the lever on the top of the goggle and pull out the lens.

Durability


The anti-scratch coating worked ok on the Airwave. We tested this particular goggle a lot of days, due to its unique characteristics. The lens did well warding off the incidental minor scratches and dings. Unfortunately it did not do too well against a fall on asphalt. But, none of the goggles are designed for that. The storage bag that comes with the goggles has an extra internal sleeve for storing an extra pair of lens. This goggle also comes with a thick storage tote. This storage tote is a great option when traveling in luggage to the snow. The tote has a compartment for a spare lens, the remote control, and the USB charging cable. Because the lenses are so easy to interchange, if you break or scratch a pair beyond use it is possible to buy new lenses and save the cost of a new goggle.

The frame feels fragile. However, when one of our testers face planted with this goggle, there was no damage. The durability of the electronic hardware held up for the duration of the test. There have been no issues with the battery in the remote control. The remote has also been extremely water resistant. It was worn on the outside even on rainy days.

Style


The style of the Airbrake is contemporary, but bulky. The look reminded many of our testers of the dark glasses our grandma's wore when they came out of the eye doctor. With all bulkiness aside, there are only two options for frame or strap color. There are six lens options. This goggle will wow your tech friends, but few others.

Best Applications


This goggle is best suited for resort riding. It does a fantastic job of integrating your riding experience with the ski resort. You will never be lost again or search for a wandering friend. This is the goggle you must have if you want constant feedback. It is also the essential tool if you like to analyze your day. It is too heavy and bulky to make it truly useful in the backcountry. Also, it is not as relevant for snowmobilers who already have a way to track their speed.
Front View of Oakley Airwave. These goggles give full protection.
Front View of Oakley Airwave. These goggles give full protection.

Value


This is not an entry level goggle. This is the goggle every tech savvy skier or rider wants. It is the future. With this goggle you get far more than protective eye wear. This is a mobile computer with a built in GPS tracking system. With all this in mind, you will pay the price literally to be one of the first few to have this futuristic experience. If you are the kind of person that has the latest everything, then this is for you and it is well worth the investment.


Chris McNamara