After a competitive review, the Smith I/OX proved itself to be a top contender for skiers and snowboarders whether they stick to the resort or venture out into the backcountry. It has a sleek, modern appearance in a smaller package than the Dragon NFX, with performance almost as high as our Editors' Choice Anon M4. With a number of different high-quality lens choices and frame colors, the I/OX is sure to please.
Smith I/OX ChromaPop Review
Cons: Fit isn't for everyone, lens change not as easy as some
Our Analysis and Test Results
The I/O series from Smith is a staple of their goggle line and has been around for several years. Both the I/O X and I/O Mag are upholding the I/O tradition with style. The I/OX is an all-mountain goggle with easily interchangeable lenses that performs well for both skiers and snowboarders. It performed well across the board and was one of our top scorers but was bested in this competitive field of goggles this time around.
Smith's lens quality is excellent, and both of the included lenses performed admirably in their intended environments. The double layer spherical lenses provide a clear and distortion-free view. Their "Chromapop" lens technology gives a crisp, defined view on bright sunny days with great surface differentiation, highlighting even the smallest irregularities. The Chromapop Storm lens is a solid performer on snowy, stormy days, providing great detail and contrast when low or flat light conditions can be challenging.
Among the top-performing goggles, it's a bit like splitting hairs to differentiate between their lens quality. Optics are generally distortion free, and lens technologies like Chromapop, Prizm, and SONAR all serve the same purpose of enhancing definition, and increasing contrast to help you see even better than normal. Smith makes some of the best lenses on the market and you can be sure that when you purchase a pair of their goggles that they will provide you with crystal clear vision and lenses that will work well in a range of light conditions.
Testers felt the lenses of the Anon M4, Oakley Airbrake XL, and Smith I/O Mag all performed relatively equally and were the best in our test. The most notable differences between them are primarily in their tints and that is generally a user preference as they all do a great job of increasing contrast and enhancing definition is all light conditions. Smith also makes a huge range of replacement lenses in various tints and VLT percentages to suit your needs or preferences.
The comfort level is high with the I/OX, influenced by the super soft brushed foam padding and flexible frame. Our testers with bigger, straighter noses tended to appreciate the fit more than testers with smaller faces, although one of our testers with a larger and more angular nose complained about pressure across the bridge of his schnozz (that being this gear tester). A noticeable gap was present at the bridge of our smaller testers' noses. Due to the broader appeal of the Smith Squad, a majority of testers preferred its fit versus the I/OX. The fit is described by Smith as large. Another choice for smaller skiers and riders the "Asian Fit" of the I/OX. The new I/O Mag has a medium fit and may also work better for users with small-medium faces.
The I/OX strap was comfortable enough but did tend to slip a bit more than Oakley's straps when used with a helmet, though not significantly. The Smith strap has one single, wider, silicone band integrated into the strap versus Oakley's three narrow bands. When used with a hat, the Smith strap stayed put, as did the Oakley Airbrake XL, Electric EG3, and Anon M4. Another nice feature included with the straps of the I/OX and Smith I/O Mag is a quick release buckle for easy on and off.
The I/OX kept us cool when we were hiking and sweating with ample ventilation through its thin open-cell foam both at the top and bottom of the goggle. The feel was, not surprisingly, similar to the Smith I/O Mag and Smith Squad. Testers found it to feel less drafty than the Oakley Airbrake XL, or the Julbo Aerospace with its pop-out lens capability.
For ordinary downhill use, the I/OX's breathability was excellent and we didn't experience any fogging or moisture buildup, or excessive airflow resulting in dry or watering eyes.
Ease of Changing Lenses
Due to the semi-frameless design and quick release tabs on the top of the lens, changing lenses on the I/OX is somewhat easier than many of the other goggles we tested. The lens has the typical notched cutouts that are common among many goggle designs, but at the top of the lens, the frame attaches with two quick release tabs that twist into place and secure the lens. Otherwise, the lens attaches with standard notches that fit into the nosepiece and also around the strap attachment point on either side of the frame. This lens system is easier to use than those found on the Giro Blok, Smith Squad, and Zeal Nomad to name a few. If you seek a quicker and more user-friendly lens change, then we suggest the Smith I/O Mag, Anon M4, or the Oakley Airbrake XL. Both the Electric EG3 and the Dragon NFX have slightly more user-friendly lens attachment systems than the I/OX as well.
Our test I/OX goggles look almost as good after testing as the day we unpacked them. Neither the strap nor frame show any signs of use even after several days of skiing, boarding, and being crammed in our backcountry ski packs. One day while backcountry skiing, we did find that the Chromapop Storm lens did scratch relatively easily when bumped against a granite outcrop while transitioning from uphill to downhill ski mode. We think that most of the other lenses would likely experience similar damage but chose to not purposely scrape every lens across the rock. We have to draw the line in our testing somewhere…
The I/OX has a contemporary style, almost a frameless design, although not quite as futuristic as the Electric EG3, Dragon NFX, or even the new Smith I/O Mag. With a modern, but not over the top modern, look, the I/OX should appeal to a majority of skiers and riders. They're also available in several different frame and lens color combinations to appeal to an even broader audience.
The I/OX is a great all-around goggle for skiers or snowboarders at the resort or in the backcountry. Due to the large fit we recommend this model to users with larger facial structures.
At a retail price of $200 we believe the I/OX is a pretty good value assuming this goggle fits you properly. They offer good protection, durability, and top-quality optics with 2 spherical lenses included. If you're looking for the best value in a pair of goggles we recommend the Smith Squad for half the price with a similar performance but a less modern looking style.
The Smith I/OX is a great all-around goggle for skiers or snowboarders who spend time at the resort or out in the backcountry. For riders looking for quality eyewear that performs in every condition, if the fit is right, this is an excellent choice.
— Jason Cronk