If you’re reading this in an office there’s a good chance it’s on a computer screen. A big, bright display projecting harsh, artificial light straight into your retinas. And you’re staring at it for upwards of eight hours a day.

Although the consensus that your eyes are not caused any permanent damage by digital displays is unanimous, they do take strain. Bright or dim office lighting, flat surfaces, air-conditioned offices, and a variety of other factors all take their toll on your eyeballs, making life uncomfortable in the long run. Personally, fatigue already sets in for my eyes by around 6pm. I’m at home, surfing the web and watching some TV, and everything just goes blurry. I’ve found it doesn’t happen when I’ve spent the day out and about, and it’s the worst when I’ve had an extra long day in front of the computer. Even just closing my eyes brings immediate relief.

So when we were sent a pair of Gunnar Optiks glasses to review, I jumped at the opportunity. With the company’s claims that they will “enhance, protect, and optimize (sic) your vision”, my worn out corneas would make the final call on whether or not they’re selling snake oil.

overview

Slip them on, and immediately there’s a change. Not just when looking at the computer, but for any nearby object. After closer examination I conclude that the curvature and design of those yellow-tinted lenses magnifies everything. Well, that’s why on-screen text is nice and clear now: it’s all bigger. It also means that objects further away, when seen through the glasses, don’t look quite right. These are optimised for looking at things that are closer to your face, such as a phone or a computer screen. Naturally.

There’s also the matter of the colour of those lenses. Gunnar’s claims are that your eyes take strain from the high-intensity blue light from computer displays and glare from the surroundings. Yellow lenses filter out the harsh blues, and the anti-glare coating helps with the other part. In reality, yellow lenses filtering out blue light just helps create more contrast. And that means less eye strain.

And just in case you do work that relies on seeing accurate colours, Gunnar does have the option of getting (more expensive) glasses with crystalline lenses. They’re clear and not tinted, so your expensive colour-matched monitor still does its job, while your eyes (presumably, as we haven’t tested these) remain less stressed.

A more questionable claim from Gunnar is that the curvature and design of the lenses helps create a microclimate around your eyes, preventing them from drying out. All the literature suggests that eyes drying out happens because of air-conditioning in offices and, more likely, because people who stare at computer screens – and thus don’t look around a lot – don’t blink as often. I’ve never had a problem with my eyes drying out, and I sit in an air-conditioned office. In fact, I sit closer to the cool breeze than anybody else, and all that’s done is screw up my sinuses. I wonder, are there are dyed nose plugs that would help?

Spurious claims and marketing hype aside, here are the facts: after two weeks of wearing the Gunnar glasses, I can say that they helped. My eyes feel less stressed when I’m wearing them, likely due to the magnification. In conjunction with that, the contrast brought on by the yellow lenses reduces strain throughout the day and by the evening when I sit down in a dark room (or a well-lit lounge) with a laptop or to watch TV, I don’t have blurry vision.

frame

As a product, these are actually superbly built and designed – at least that goes for our review pair, the RPG (one of many style options the company offers). They are comfortable; the rubber pads that rest on the bridge of your nose are soft enough and don’t give in to any normal external forces. The arms squeeze the side of your head, but not too harshly – a day of wearing these didn’t leave me with a headache, which is more than I can say for my polarised sunglasses. Build quality is tremendous. The metal allow frame doesn’t feel at all fragile, and both arms have hinges that flex. Twisting them reveals just how sturdy they are, and the struts for those nose pads are not going to give way in a hurry. In fact, as far as industrial design goes (styling aside) Oakley and Ray Ban could probably learn a few things here.

gunnardetail

They even come with a nice, white cleaning cloth. Well, it remains nice as long as you don’t end up staining it. And you’ll need to use it often, because the slightest finger touch to those yellow lenses will immediately create oil smudges and blur your vision.

These help, but there are also other good practices to follow for reducing eye strain. I wouldn’t recommend relying on these, but if you do spend a lot of time in front of a computer they’re going to be worth investing in – as long as you can find a set you like, and don’t feel too goofy wearing them.

Verdict

Design: 5/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for Money: 3/5

Overall: 4/5

Detail

Price: Approx R799

Extras: Cleaning carry bag

Web: www.gunnars.com

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.