Many decades ago, Smith Optics was one of the brands that helped develop and popularize goggles for the sport of skiing. Fast forward to today, and Smith is still at the forefront of the industry, making some of the highest quality and highest performance goggles on the market. They've been producing several models in their I/O line for the past several years, and the I/O Mag is the newest addition. Mag stands for magnetic and refers to the lens attachment system that features nine small magnets that hold the lens onto the frame and make for especially easy swapping of lenses. We put the I/O Mag through its paces against a stacked and competitive field of the best goggles on the market. Read on to see how they compare.
Hard at work testing the Smith I/O Mag.
Smith has been making quality lenses for a long time, and the I/O Mag comes with two spherical Chromapop carbonic-x lenses with their TLT technology. Let me break that down for you. Smith's spherical lenses are based on a 6x4 toric shape which is intended to match the curvature of the eye to help decrease distortion. Their TLT technology stands for Tapered Lens Technology, and they taper the lens from the optical center out towards the periphery in an effort to decrease light refraction as it passes through the lenses. Chromapop is Smith's proprietary lens technology that is meant to increase contrast and enhance definition so that you can see better in all but especially challenging light conditions. Carbonic-x is the material used in the outer lens, which is claimed to offer the highest level of scratch and impact resistance. Smith also has a small "Porex filter" built into the lens that is intended to help allow pressure to equalize between the two lenses during changes in elevation that may otherwise distort their shape.
Testing the low light capabilities of the Chromapop Storm lens of the Smith I/O Mag while skiing in a cloud.
During testing, we found the lenses of the I/O Mag to provide excellent, distortion-free visibility. The Chromapop lenses provide a very clear view with enhanced contrast in varying light conditions. The Chromapop Sun Red Mirror bright light lens was best on sunny days, yet performed well in the shade and when it became overcast. The Chromapop Storm low-light lens is excellent in stormy and especially dim light conditions and helps to brighten things up and provide definition in the snow. Peripheral vision is excellent, and there is very little frame visible at all.
Taking the lens quality assessment seriously with some back to back comparisons while riding the chairlift on a cloudy flat light day.
All of our top-rated goggle models have outstanding optics and lenses. There are subtle differences in their colors and tints, but for the most part, they all offer incredibly clear and distortion free vision. In the lens combinations we tested, the I/O Mag lenses have a little more of a greyish hue, while the Oakley Airbrake XLs Prizm lenses tend to be a bit rosier, and the Anon M4's SONAR lenses have more of a warmer amber thing going on.
Assuming the medium fit of the I/O Mag works with your facial structure, these goggles are incredibly comfortable. Smith claims the fit to be medium, as opposed to the large fit of their I/OX goggle, and we found this to be an accurate assessment. Testers with medium to small sized faces found the width of the I/O Mag to be most appropriate for them, while those with large faces could still make them work, but it wasn't ideal. The triple layer face foam is soft and plush with moisture wicking DriWix technology to help pull moisture away from your face. The strap is nice and wide with a single thick bead of silicone along to the inside to help keep the goggles in place on your hat or your helmet. The goggles have a good shape that is compatible and comfortable when used with a helmet. The strap also has adequate adjustability to fit around most helmets, plus a QuickFit strap with a clip buckle at the back.
Assuming the medium fit of the I/O Mag works for you these are a very comfortable set of goggles no matter type of skiing you're doing.
We feel the comfort of the I/O Mag is right up there, but it is best for those with medium-sized facial structure. The fit is similar to other competitors like the Electric EG3 or the Oakley A-Frame 2.0. People with larger faces will probably find more comfort from one of the larger goggles we tested like the Anon M4, Oakley Airbrake XL, or the Smith I/OX.
Ventilation and Breathability
The I/O Mag is relatively well ventilated and we never experienced any fogging issues while testing them. According to Smith, the inner surface of the double lenses are coated with an effective 5x anti-fog treatment and their Fog-X hydrophilic etched surface so that the lens treatment can't be wiped off. That all sounds a little jargon-y, but we found it work as well as advertised in the real world. The perimeter of the frame is also covered in a thin layer of open cell foam which allows for good ventilation and breathability when things start to heat up. The triple layer DirWix face foam also helps to absorb and wick sweat away from your face.
The I/O Mag has ventilation all the way around the frame, these goggles are unlikely to fog under normal circumstances.
We found the ventilation and breathability to be on par with most of the other high-end models we tested. Premium quality goggles all perform quite well in this regard, and you are hard pressed to get any of them to fog up unless you wear them while aggressively hiking uphill for an extended period. The Editors' Choice Anon M4 performs equally to the I/O Mag. The Oakley Airbrake XL is also well ventilated but feels more drafty around the eyes which may be a good or bad thing depending on the sensitivity of your eyes. We found the unique pop-out lenses of the Julbo Aerospace to offer the most ventilation of all models tested.
Ease of Changing Lenses
The "Mag" in the name I/O Mag stands for magnetic and refers to the lens attachment system used in these goggles. The I/O Mag is one of several magnetic lens systems currently on the market, and Smith's first foray into this relatively new technology. The lenses are attached to the frame with nine small but powerful magnets, plus a small clip on both sides of the lens by the strap attachment point. To remove the lens from the frame, you need to depress a tab on either side of the lens right beneath where the strap attaches to the frame, then pull the lens away from the frame. It takes a little force, but the lens pulls off with relative ease. Replacing the lens involves lining it up with the frame, starting on one side, allowing the magnets to do their thing while also making sure the clips on both sides re-engage and lock the lens into place.
Magnetic lens systems, like that found on the Smith I/O Mag, make changing lenses quick and easy.
Changing lenses on the I/O Mag is very user-friendly and fantastically simple when compared to most non-magnetic lens systems. This is one of the easiest lenses to change that we've ever experienced. The Anon M4, however, also has a magnetic lens interface, and theirs is significantly easier to use than the I/O Mag. The Anon M4 has no tabs that lock onto the lens, so removing it is as simple as pulling it off the frame and it can be done while the goggles are still on your face. Every other goggle we have tested has a more difficult lens attachment system.
We didn't go easy on the I/O Mag goggle during our testing. We stuffed them repeatedly into our backcountry packs and took them for countless resort laps in a range of weather conditions. They emerged from our testing unscathed, with absolutely no damage to speak of. Both lenses are completely scratch free and look as good as the day we got them. The face foam and that covering the vents is all in fine condition, and the goggle strap has maintained its full elasticity with all of the silicone bead intact. The magnets all appear to be functioning properly, and we can see no separation of the lens from its small magnetic frame. We have seen one report online of one of the small plastic clips on the side of the lens breaking from normal use. However, we haven't experienced this issue ourselves, and that connection point appears plenty durable to us.
After lots of time testing at the resort and in the backcountry, the I/O Mag seems plenty durable to us, on par with the other Smith goggles in this review.
The apparent quality of the I/O Mag scores them among the best in the test for durability. We feel these goggles will provide you with several years of dependable service if taken care of and used properly. The Anon M4, Oakley Airbrake XL, and Zeal Nomad all score similarly high regarding durability.
The I/O Mag is a good looking goggle and its style is sure to please a broad range of skiers and snowboarders. It is almost entirely frameless, except for a tiny bit showing by the nose and on the top and bottom of the lens where you grab it to pull it off. They strike a good balance with this goggle, as they look big and modern but don't look massive like other frameless models such as the Electric EG3 of the Dragon NFX. They are also offered in a huge range of frame and strap colors and designs, plus an array of lenses tint and reflective coating options.
The I/O Mag has a good style, nearly frameless but not quite as massive as some of the other competitors.
If you're looking for the boldest fashion statement, we think the Oakley Airbrake XL, Electric EG3 and the Dragon NFX have some of the largest and loudest looks. Those who prefer a more subtle style may be pleased with the I/O Mag, I/OX, or even the Zeal Nomad. If you're into a more traditional looking goggle, the Smith Squad and the Giro Blok have got you covered.
We think the I/O Mag is a great option for skiers and snowboarders whether you ski the resort, backcountry, or both. This is great do everything goggle that comes with two lenses for bright and low light conditions with a simple magnetic lens changing system, a goggle quiver of one.
At a retail price of $240, the I/O Mag is one of the most expensive models we tested. That said, they are a fair amount less expensive than our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Anon M4, the other magnetic lens competitor. We feel the I/O Mag is a good value for a quality, high performance, and stylish goggle with magnetic lens technology and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend these to anyone who can justify the expense. If you're looking for the best value in a pair of goggles, we recommend the Smith Squad which come with two lenses and cost less than half the price of the I/O Mag.
Goggle testing is serious business, fortunately it involves significant amounts of time in the field.
We think the I/O Mag is an excellent goggle and a great addition to Smith's I/O lineup. They come with two quality lenses with excellent optics, a great fit, good style, and an easy magnetic lens change system. They were a contender for our Editors' Choice Award, but in the end, they were edged out of the top spot by the Anon M4 with their excellent magnetic lens system, facemask integration, and supremely comfortable fit. That said, the I/O Mag is one of our favorite goggles in this entire test, and should be on everyone's short list when looking for a new pair.
Smith Optics makes a full line of goggles, replacement lenses, and helmets for skiing and snowboarding. The I/O Mag we tested comes in the regular/medium fit we tested, and it is also offered in an Asian Fit. It comes in a total of 17 different color options, 5 of which are designed by their professional athletes.
Smith makes 12 different replacement lenses for the I/O Mag which can be purchased separately. Ten of these lenses are Chromapop and cost $105. These come in Everyday Rose (36% VLT), Sun Black (12% VLT), Storm Rose Flash (50% VLT) (tested), Everyday Red Mirror (25% VLT), Everyday Green Mirror (23% VLT), Sun Platinum Mirror (13% VLT), Sun Red Mirror (16% VLT) (also tested), Sun Green Mirror (9% VLT), Everyday Violet Mirror (23% VLT), Storm Yellow Flash (65% VLT). They also make a clear lens (85% VLT) which is available for $45, and a Chromapop Photochromic Rose Flash (20-50% VLT) which adjusts to the light conditions for $155.