Hands on: Zeal Optics iON smart goggle

Hands on: Zeal Optics iON smart goggle

What it is
The Zeal Optics iON is a unisex performance ski/snowboard goggle enhanced with a built-in high-definition camera that captures photos (up to 8 megapixel) and 1080p video.

The Good
•    Shoots high-quality, high-def video and pics
•    Good computer integration for file download and storage via USB connection
•    High-quality optics with spherical lens and a permanent anti-fog coating

The Bad
•    A mere three hours of battery life
•    Slightly heavy
•    Buttons require glove removal
•    LCD screen is not adjustable
•    Hefty pricetag at $399

The Verdict
The Zeal Optics iON is a good plug-n-play tech toy for the 2012/2013 winter ski and snowboard season, and certainly beats a pocket camera or iPhone at taking quick on-slope snapshots, and is easier to wear than a clumsy helmet cam. Its design comes up short on battery life (a mere three hours) and buttons that require glove removal. The goggle itself boasts top-quality optics and materials.

Tech Performance
The iON worked well, taking high-quality photos and videos with the push of a few buttons.

The control panel, consisting of four buttons (“Settings/Select,” “Up,” “Down,” “Power/Record Start/Pause”) is located on the right side of the goggle front—it was easy to reach but the closeness of the buttons requires taking off a glove to hit the right target.
The in-lens viewfinder that sits in the bottom right of the goggle is not adjustable and, thus, not able to be customized for the specific user.
The tiny display will also be a tough read for users who require reading glasses. I also found that the display occasionally moved out of view as the goggle shifted on my face.

Nice features included the camera’s automatic adjustment for light levels, plus the ability to replay footage and set up sequence or time lapse shots.

Ease of Use
The iON launches quickly (after the requisite charge-up time) with the assistance of Zeal’s Quick Start Guide.

I found the four-button control panel easy to reach but it was difficult to hit the right button with bulky ski gloves on; the buttons also required a harder push than expected. I typically ended up taking off my gloves off to work the controls. This is inconvenient on the slopes, although it’s much easier than juggling an iPhone out of a ski jacket pocket to take photos.

The iON runs for only three hours on a full charge (only about half a day on slope—a very disappointing battery life).

Off slope, it is also easy to use—a USB cord plug-in behind the control panel worked well upload photos onto our computer, right into iPhoto.

Fit & Comfort
In general, the iON fit comfortably. It hugged in all the right places both off and on a helmet; it has all the features of Zeal’s regular high-end goggle.

Still, carrying a camera on your face has its downsides. The iON’s heavier weight could be noticeable for a day on the slopes.

Optical Performance
With a spherical lens infused with an anti-fog treatment, the iON offered high-quality optics with crisp, clear vision. With hands working the next-to-lens control panel both while the goggle was on and off (for photo/video uploads), the lenses quickly became smudged and dirty. Users will undoubtedly put the cleaning cloth to good use.