The nu Dark Shadow 256mb MP3 sunglasses are a great example of the new innovations in accessories likely to result from the exploding popularity of the MP3 format. Although definitely not as stylish as the latest pair of Gucci or even Oakley sunglasses, as a new-age sports accessory, the Nu Dark Shadow delivers quite well.
The glasses are a snug fit and quite lightweight (only 50g) considering there is a built in MP3. The earplugs on the Dark Shadows sit snugly in the ear and the overall frame feels very comfortable to wear. The glasses fit nicely around the head are stable enough to exercise in, so they'd be particularly suited for running and cycling.
The lens quality is average when compared to most AU$150+ range sunglasses, although they compare favourably against models and brands in the sub AU$150 price range. The Dark Shadow comes complete with a very solid carry case (although it's a bit too chunky for a shirt pocket) and a spare set of lenses in a lighter brown colour.
The Dark Shadow connects to your computer via a USB 2.0 cable which plugs into the right hand side of the glasses. Loading music is easily accomplished by simply dragging and dropping songs from Media Player or the like. The Dark Shadow takes MP3/WMA and ADCPM files, however unfortunately it's not compatible with Apple iTunes. The review pair of glasses had 256MB of built-in memory which holds about 60 songs, more than enough for most exercise sessions. Currently Nu-Australia is distributing only the 256MB glasses, however in 2006 they expect to have a range of options from 128MB to 1GB.
The MP3 controls are all located on the right hand frame. Three small buttons on top include on/off, record mode and random/delete. Two buttons on the bottom control the volume and also serve as the forward/reverse skip control, which is very efficient although it can be confusing to get the hang of. The controls themselves are quite straight forward with the glasses off your head, however mid-run or cycle it's a little harder at first to determine which button to use to skip, pause or adjust volume.
The Dark Shadow glasses are voice recording-enabled although we're not sure what you'd want to record with your sunglasses - possibly a secret conversation with friends or more likely your fave band at the Big Day Out. Any recording is automatically encoded as a file which is then easy to transfer once connected via the USB to your PC.
You can crank the volume on the Dark Shadow quite loud - and definitely the sound quality is as good as most small MP3 Players such as the iPod shuffle or Creative MuVo. A nice feature of the glasses is the battery recharge via the USB port, so there's no need for fiddly battery changes. The manufacturer's claim of 4 hours of battery life before re-charging is required was confirmed in our testing.
The most unstylish part of the glasses are the blue flashing and red solid lights that operate while the music is switched on - this draws attention to the fact that you're wearing 'electric' sunglasses and may be a little embarrassing for the more fashion conscious. Also there is a warning against wearing them near water so being caught in a storm could be dangerous!