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Hands-on Gear Review
Smith I/OX ChromaPop Review
Cons: Fit isn't for everyone, lens change not as easy as some
Bottom line: This model features an excellent all-around design that proved effective for resort and backcountry users.
After a tough review, the Smith I/OX proved itself 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 Oakley Airbrake. With a number of different high-quality lens choices and frame colors, the I/OX is sure to please.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on 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/OX and I/O7 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, but was narrowly defeated by our Editors' Choice, the Oakley Airbrake.
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 similar to the Oakley Airbrake, only slightly less breathable, likely due to Oakley's addition of two vents on the front of the Airbrake's frame. Both goggles give adequate airflow without drying the eyes, like the Bolle Carve.
For ordinary downhill use, the I/OX's breathability was excellent and we didn't experience any fogging or moisture buildup.
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 Oakley Airbrake, a majority of testers preferred its fit versus the I/OX. The fit is described by Smith as medium to large. Another choice for smaller skiers and riders the "Asian Fit" or the Smith I/O7.
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 and Flight Deck. Another nice feature included with the straps of the I/OX and Smith I/O7 is a quick release buckle for easy on and off.
Smith's lens quality is excellent, and both of our supplied lenses performed admirably in their intended environments. The I/OX's lenses are two layer like Oakley's offerings. The Chromapop lens gives a crisp, defined view on bright sunny days with great surface differentiation and even small irregularities are obvious. The Chromapop Storm lens is a solid performer on snowy, stormy days, providing great detail when lighting is challenging. Testers preferred the Chromapop Storm lens to Oakley's Persimmon lens on low light days, but preferred the Oakley bright light Iridium lens on brighter days.
Depending on your usual ski conditions, this could be a purchasing factor. Neither lens showed any significant scratches, inside or out, and definitely outperformed the Oakley Flight Deck Prizm lens with its easily scratched inner surface. Swapping lenses out is quite easy with Smith's quick release system, though not as easy as Oakley's Airbrake Switchlock system. The I/OX's quick release is actually two small levers at the top of the lens, along with small inserts on the sides. While changing lenses, we did occasionally have to reposition the lens as a result of the multiple contact points. One tester also noted the visible contact point, a black foam strip, between the inner and outer lenses, saying: "I didn't like the black line on the bottom edge, but once I was actually skiing, I didn't really notice it".
Our test I/OX goggles look almost as good after testing as the day we unpacked them. Neither the strap nor frame showed any signs of use even after several days of skiing, boarding, and being crammed in our 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 provided all of our testers with excellent protection from the elements, high winds, bright sun, pounding snow, and pouring rain. Like the Oakley A-Frame 2.0 and Oakley Airbrake, Smith provides buyers with two lenses for varying light conditions, and both provide solid UV light protection.
The three layer DriWix foam keeps winds out, even while skiing at high speeds. Testers with smaller faces noticed gaps that allowed wind penetration around the goggle, especially at the bridge of the nose.
The I/OX has a contemporary style, almost a frameless design, although not quite as sleek as the Oakley Flight Deck or Dragon NFX. With a modern, but over the top modern, look, the I/OX should appeal to a majority of skiers and riders. They are also available in several different frame and lens color combinations to appeal to an even broader audience.
Smith's I/OX is a great all-around goggle, at home whether at the resort or out in the backcountry. For riders looking for solidly performing eyewear that performs in every condition, if the fit is right, this may be your choice.
— Jason Cronk
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