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Snapchat Spectacles review: Spectacles get more mature

So that means they’re expensive.

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Lexy Savvides
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Lexy Savvides

Principal Video Producer

Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.

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Spectacles have grown up.

snapchat-sunglasses-2-lexy-8063
7.0

Snapchat Spectacles

The Good

Recording and transferring clips is easy and quick, plus you can export non-circular video. The glasses don’t look as outlandish as the first version.

The Bad

They’re more expensive than before. Recording clips longer than 10 seconds means you have to keep pressing the button, which is annoying, and the glasses still work only with Snapchat.

The Bottom Line

Spectacles are fun to use, but the improvements aren’t enough to make Snapchatters pay more for version two.

Snap's new version of its sunglasses with a camera look similar to the first version, but some tweaks help make them feel more like actual sunglasses rather than just a camera for Snapchat. They're $150 (or £150 in the UK).

Here's a little refresher on what they do and how they work.

So what's new?

  • They now take photos (finally!).
  • They cost $20 more than the original (boo).
  • Frame colors are more muted: the bright coral finish is now known as ruby, while electric teal is sapphire. Onyx (basic black) is the third option.
  • No more yellow rings around the camera and light (I definitely didn't get as many funny looks while wearing them as I did with version one).
  • Water resistance. Snap hasn't quoted an exact rating, but you'll be able to take them into shallow water without issue.
  • Clips transfer in HD, and the Spectacles connect to your phone over its own Wi-Fi network (it's so much faster than before and takes about three seconds to import a single clip).
  • Miniaturized electronics makes the size of the temples smaller. The charging case is also smaller.
  • Dual microphones balance out audio so there's not as big of a volume difference when you speak vs. your friends (one of my biggest gripes with the original Spectacles).
  • Reduced field of view (105 vs. 115 degrees, so you'll get slightly less in the shot, but also less distortion).
  • Glasses wearers can now add prescription lenses (add at least $125 to the price).

Snap's also hoping to learn from the mistakes from Spectacles version one, because the company only sold 220,000 of them. Instead of pop-up vending machines, the new Spectacles are available from the website.

Like the previous version, the case also recharges the glasses and holds enough power to juice them up four times before the case itself needs a charge. Spectacles use a proprietary magnetic cable to charge either the case or the side of the specs themselves.

snapchat-sunglasses-2-lexy-8261

Spot the differences between the new specs (right) and the old ones (left).

Josh Miller/CNET

You can't adjust the fit of the Spectacles yourself. I found that after wearing them for a few hours, the nose bridge felt uncomfortably snug, and the pads started to collect makeup and sunscreen. There's a tiny cleaning cloth included in the case, but it's not for cleaning the frame, just the lenses.

They're still a snap to use ...

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Choose how you want to export your snaps.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Spectacles work just like before: press the button on the temple for a 10-second video; keep pressing to add more clips up to 30 seconds total, or press and hold for a photo. LED lights spin around to show others you're recording, and there's a small light that shines inward so you know what's going on.

Once you've recorded clips (up to 150 videos or 3,000 photos at a time), the syncing process to get them into Snapchat is all done over an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection to Android or iOS. There's also the option to let Spectacles automatically import when charging and connected to your home Wi-Fi network.

You can then export single snaps or entire stories from Snapchat. You get the option of exporting with a white or black background, as a square or as a widescreen view.

… But you're not taking cinematic masterpieces

Photo and video quality is fine if all you're doing is viewing in Snapchat. Once you export and view clips in a different context, that's when you'll start noticing issues. Colors are vibrant but details can get totally overexposed, especially if you're snapping something in a high-contrast situation like looking up at trees in the sky or a selfie against the sunset. In low light, images look grainy and lose detail -- then again, if you're wearing sunglasses at night, image quality probably isn't your no. 1 priority.

As with the first version, it gets annoying having to keep pressing the button to take multiple videos in one burst. Snap could easily add an option to take longer clips, maybe a setting that could be toggled on in the app.

It's also not easy to take selfies. Like the original, you'll have to record your clips into a mirror or hold the sunglasses pointing back toward you to take any clips with you in the action.

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A still exported from Spectacles with circular white borders.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Are they worth the money?

The new version of Spectacles carry over everything from the original that I loved and adds incremental but useful updates. But a year and a half after the original Spectacles, Snapchat's got a lot more competition for my attention from other apps.

With the original specs, I used them for about a month or two and really enjoyed it, then the novelty wore off. I went back to using my phone to capture clips because a) I had my phone with me more than my sunglasses, and b) I could share clips from my camera everywhere, not just within Snapchat.

With some negative responses to Snapchat's recent redesign, and Snap's latest earnings with slowing user growth, Spectacles could give the platform a boost. They are a lot of fun to use and give you a truly hands-free capture experience. With some fun AR experiences within Snapchat itself, like the Snappables games and Lenses, it's easy to see what future versions of the specs could hold.

But at $150, these new Spectacles cost the same as a really nice pair of sunglasses -- possibly even a pair of designer frames -- that you don't have to charge. If they weren't tied to Snapchat exclusively, they'd appeal to a much broader group than just Snapchat devotees.

Editor's note: This review was originally published on May 12, 2018. It has been updated to include details of exporting non-circular video, and the review score has been adjusted.  

snapchat-sunglasses-2-lexy-8063
7.0

Snapchat Spectacles

Score Breakdown

Style 7Features 7Ease of use 7.5