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For Comparison’s Sake: Hottest Shades, Head-to-Head

Living and boating in Florida year-round gives us a head start when it comes to testing anything sun-related. We’ve had the latest sunglasses on our faces every day since January. Here’s how we see them.

June 7, 2010
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Switch Vision Cortina Full Stop $249; switchvision.com

Heady Info: Switch Vision is a new player in the sunglasses arena, with a background in prescription optics, but this debut is all the buzz in our office. The frames have hidden magnetic strips, allowing you to switch (get the brand name now?) to three types of lenses when the light changes.

In Our View: The idea of switching lenses sounded gimmicky. But when a low bank of clouds settled over the water, I pulled off the 90 percent light-blocking lenses and snapped in the low-light ambers — a half-minute pit stop. The benefit was immediate, allowing a clearer look at the gauges than with full-tint lenses. Caveat: You have to commit a pocket to the extra lenses.

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Be sure to check out our sunglasses comparison video!

Kaenon Arlo With C-12 Lens $199; kaenon.com

Heady Info: Big is still in style, and the Arlos have as much eye-to-ear mass as we’ve found. Light doesn’t sneak through the sides, which is a big plus in an open cockpit. We dropped them twice on a parking lot, and the copper lens didn’t scratch (but we wouldn’t recommend a third drop).

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In Our View: For total protection these belong among the head of the class. They not only protect the biggest eyes up to the brow, but the extra-wide frames also cover up boaters’ temples, which are so often sun-damaged. For the size of these shades, they’re light — though the girth does make them look like scuba goggles on small or thin mugs. They earn an A+ for clarity and for the recessed nose pads that prevent slippage.

Be sure to check out our sunglasses comparison video!

Costa Del Mar Flamingo $189; costadelmar.com

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Heady Info: These combine an aviator look (and protection down to the cheekbone) with heft. Costa is among the dominators in eyewear among anglers because of the 580 lenses, which in our testing warded off direct light and glare better than any others , while maintaining the optimum clarity of glass.

In Our View: Don’t let the name fool you: These are for the manly boater who doesn’t mind a little weight on his face — and it takes prominent cheekbones to make the style work. The Flamingos have more individual pieces than wraparounds have and could become too heavy for bony-bridged noses during a long day. That said, of all the sunglasses tested, these feel as if they’d be the most durable.

Be sure to check out our sunglasses comparison video!

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Maui Jim Big Beach $299; mauijim.com

Heady Info: The big difference here is the wiry temples. They flex like graphite fishing rods. Maui Jim says they’re titanium-based. Whatever the reason, there’s no need for hinges — they fold into a wrap position on their own and are by far the lightest of the group because of the thin frames.

In Our View: They felt as vulnerable as a foil ignition key at first. I twirled them, rested my leg on them, pulled them in and out of pockets, and they retained their shape. A little extra lens toward the ear gives them the wraparound protection that’s lacking from most thin frames. The clarity of the PolarizedPlus2 lenses is hard to beat. They’re so light you might forget they’re on top of your head — or not notice that they fell off.

Be sure to check out our sunglasses comparison video!

Wiley X Rout With LA Lens $140; wileyx.com

Heady Info: The big deal with these was the lightadjusting (LA) lenses. They become darker or lighter, depending on the sun intensity or glare. They also come with Wiley’s climate control gasket, a removable foam strip that fills the gap between the frame and your face — a nice way to keep salt spray out of the corners of your eyes.

In Our View: They look like Gen Y shop glasses until the sun hits, and then the lenses darken. This is more convenient than physically changing lenses, but the transition can be slow. Still, this eliminates the all-or-nothing decision of “sunglasses on or off,” which can be tricky just before dusk or when you’re in and out of cloud cover.

Be sure to check out our sunglasses comparison video!

Bollé Venom $129; bolle.com

Heady Info: The Venoms are the latest additions to Bollé’s marine lineup of polarized shades. Ours had the offshore blue lenses (left) for deepwater boating, though gold is also available for freshwater guys. Those options, and the price, will appeal to a broad spectrum of boaters.

In Our View: Seems simple and natural enough to curve the frames to surround faces just right, and the Venoms do this as well or better than all the others. They use rounded corners rather than mass to eliminate gaps where light tends to penetrate. Next to the Maui Jim Big Beach, this is as light as any model tested, and the cost is just as light on the budget.

Be sure to check out our sunglasses comparison video!

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