Smith I/O Mag Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Magnetic lenses, 2 lenses included, great optics
Cons: Expensive, medium fit
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
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.
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.
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 other models have other tints like amber or rose.
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, 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.
We feel the comfort of the I/O Mag is right up there, but it is best for those with medium-sized facial structure. People with larger faces will probably find more comfort from one of the larger goggles we tested.
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 jargony, 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.
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.
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.
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. This magnetic system is quite easy to use but other options are available that are even easier to use than the I/O Mag. Some of these other options have 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 non-magnetic 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 the covering of vents are 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.
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 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. 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.
If you're looking for the boldest fashion statement, you may want to look elsewhere, but for those who prefer a more subtle style may be pleased with the I/O Mag. If you're into an even more traditional looking goggle, there are even more conservative options.
The I/O Mag is one of the most expensive models we tested. That said, they are a fair amount less expensive than our other magnetic lens competitors. 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.
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 due to things like even easier lens changing systems, integrated facemasks, and greater comfort. That said, the I/O Mag is one of our favorite goggles in this entire test, and should be on everyone's shortlist when looking for a new pair.
— Jeremy Benson