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christos nicolaou

Hunter Bierce
PSIA Ski Instructor
Hunter Bierce is a PSIA Ski Instructor and multidisciplinary outdoor professional.

PRODUCT REVIEW

Smith I/O Mag Ski Goggles

For the last few years, I’ve rocked a Smith I/O in my personal kit. So I was beyond thrilled when I had the opportunity to try their new Mag version of the notoriously finicky I/O lens change system. It’s hard to pin down the Smith Mag I/O’s best use because they’re such a well-rounded option. For those in the market for a heavy-hitter ski goggle that isn’t egregiously oversized, the Smith Mag I/O is as good as it gets.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.3

Reasons to buy

  • Also available in an oversized XL version
  • Added security to the magnetic lock without over-complication
  • Pinnacle of high-contrast lens technology
  • Unobtrusive fit
  • Wider field of view than most medium frame goggles
  • Looks really good

Reasons NOT to buy

  • Only compatible with their most recent lenses
  • There are some visibility limitations inherent to medium-sized frames.
  • Could be better ventilated

Chromapop Lenses

I’ve rocked a pair of Smith ski goggles for the last few years, so I’m more familiar with Chromapop than other proprietary takes on high-contrast lenses. Because of this, I assumed that all goggle manufacturers were up to Smith’s Chromapop standard, but I was sorely mistaken.

I had the chance to try out the Sun Black (12% VLT) and the Everyday Violet (23% VLT) lenses. I’ve honestly put way more time on the Violet lenses just based on the often overcast conditions I find myself in. Trust me, I wish I had more of an excuse to wear the blackout lenses because I love the look.

Getting to ride the new I/O frames with a fresh pair of lenses was an awesome experience. I really noticed how much of a difference the Chromapop lenses made after making the switch from a pair of Oakley Flight Decks at lunch on a cloudy, iced-over day.

Read the complete list of the best Ski Goggles here!

Before, all of my focus was dedicated to avoiding people who were side-slipping erratically on scraped groomers. But after switching to the Smith lens, I could see where the slopes had been scraped clean down to ice, but also little piles of sluff that I could point myself towards. Chromapop tech worked wonders to counteract all of the moisture particles suspended in the air, so I could relax and have fun instead of squinting into the depthless flat light.

Though it’s less important than how they function, Smith’s Chromapop lenses also look pretty good. I like the less pronounced look that the medium-sized frames offer, and undeniably the mirrored lenses photograph better than more opaque options.

The Everyday Violet (23%VLT) is perfect for when you don’t know what to expect.

Smith Mag I/O Everyday Violet

Smith I/O Mag Ski Goggles: Key Specifications

  • Medium fit Frame
  • Smith Mag Lens Change system
  • Carbonic-X Spherical lens
  • ChromaPop Lens
  • TLT (Tapered Lens Technology)
  • ResponsiveFit Frame
  • Wide Silicone-backed Strap
  • 3 Layer Moisture Wicking Foam
  • 5X Anti-fog Treatment
  • Comes with two lenses
  • Microfiber carrying case and additional lens cover

Where to Buy:

Lens Change System

A functional and user-friendly lens change system is a major deciding factor in determining our favorite goggles, second only to comfort and vision quality. We’ve had the chance to test out a few other magnetic goggles over so far this season. Some, such as the Anon M4, offer an unprecedented take on the technology of plug-and-play ease. The Smith Mag I/O takes the same technology and adds a non-intrusive locking mechanism that keeps the lenses a little more securely fixed to your face.

Swapping lenses is still absurdly easy. It’s as simple as pressing a lever to unlock the lens from the frame and gently pulling the lens away until you break the magnetic tension. Reinserting it is just as simple. Just slide the tabs on the edge of your goggles into the frame’s slots, and push down until both sides click into place.

The only drawback of this is you can’t change your lenses while wearing your goggles, but I have literally never done that in all of my years of skiing. As a final note, Chromapop lenses are made from Smith’s Carbonic-X polycarbonate material, known throughout the industry for its impact and scratch-resistant nature.

Smith’s Sun Black (12% VLT) not only looks good, but protects your eyes on the brightest of days

Smith Mag I/O Sun Black

Quality of Vision

As a cohesive product, the Smith Mag Chromapop I/O delivers a top-of-the-line experience. I’m usually one to opt for a larger frame than the medium size due to my dome’s impressive heft. The only place that my vision was actually obscured was near the bottom of the frame.

While based on the merit of design, there are undoubtedly some limitations present in the Smith Mag’s field of view. But, I’m not one to look at my toes while I’m skiing, so it didn’t have any noticeable impact on my performance.

I can’t say enough about the lenses themselves. I’m a big fan of spherical lenses. My last pair of Smith’s were cylindrical, and I had a little bit of distortion around the edge of my vision. With these new Mag I/O’s, I can keep an eye on my flanks in the same way that I do with oversized spherical competitors.

Ventilation and Fog Mitigation

Ventilation is the one aspect where the Smith Mag series seems to fall short, for me. It could be attributed to the limited airflow capacity of my favorite helmet. If you have a Smith helmet with stackflow ventilation, it’s a perfect pairing to keep air moving and moisture flowing out.

Just by taking a quick look at the frame, you can see there are flat-out fewer ventilation channels than other competitive entrants to this season’s goggle lineup. The row of openings along the top isn’t enough to get the job done in a preventative sense.

Nonetheless, their 5x Anti-fog Treatment is adequate in dissipating moisture buildup after you work up a sweat. Particularly when combined with the moisture-wicking properties of foam layered around their frames. Even when I managed to really steam things up on the inside of the goggle, it wasn’t too long before they managed to clear up, and I was on my way once again.

Smith I/O Mag Quality of Vision

Frame Construction

While the Mag I/O may be a little smaller than the rest of our favored goggles from this year’s lineup, its compactness doesn’t mean it’s any weaker. If anything, it feels heartier than the competition. In a word, it’s stout.

The frame is stiffer than most other resort-oriented goggles. They feel more like a technical piece of equipment, more serious than a lot of the competition. But that’s not to say they’re uncomfortable.

Smith’s frames do have some give to them. They call this “Responsive Fit.” I found that despite wearing them for the better part of a ski day without taking a break with no discomfort. And for what it’s worth, the foam surrounding the outside of the frame is just as pliable as any other goggle on the market. You might even feel a little emboldened by the Smith logo emblazoned onto the foam’s forehead.

Durability

I can personally vouch for the longevity and heartiness of Smith’s goggles. My beloved pair of I/Os withstood a few seasons of neglect and abuse before finally succumbing to my brutish approach to skiing. Even after a nasty fall broke the hinged piece of plastic that connects the strap to the frame, I was able to milk a few more months out of them with a creative duct taping job.

The more contemporary “Mag” version of the goggle is the same principle with fewer moving parts when it comes to the lens change system. Simplicity usually means you’re less likely to break the small mechanical components. As mentioned above, the lenses themselves are constructed from a scratch-resistant, polycarbonate material.

Smith I/O Mag Frame Construction

Style and Fit

I have to mention that I ended up with the North Face/Austin Smith version of these goggles and also, how good they look. Putting them on makes me feel like the baddest dude on the hill, and that feeling of confidence really transfers to my skiing. “Look good, feel good, ski good.”

The yellow strap, prominent Smith logo, and the embroidered Himalayan Snowsuit on the inside of the strap are subtle touches that stand out. They’re evidence of the degree of detail that went into the finished product.

The frame isn’t the most comfortable. I definitely feel it slightly more on my face than the oversized style that I’m used to wearing. I personally wouldn’t call it a fault. If you’re sensitive to that kind of thing and hate the feeling of pressure on your face, take into strong consideration that they fit more aggressively than many alternatives.

The strap and buckles are my favorite part of the fit. The silicon-backed strap is wide with low-profile buckles. I usually opt to wear my goggles under my helmet, so having an unobtrusive rear buckle and sliding adjustment system was a huge boon in my book. This feeling was particularly noticeable when compared to the Oakley Flight Deck, where the straps and plastic buckles can feel unwieldy and awkward.

Smith I/O Mag Strap and Fit

Summary

When you’re comparing products like this, the industry’s very forerunners, it’s hard to reach an ultimate consensus. The Mag I/O is a very well-rounded product, and I would say one of the better options out there for split resort and backcountry use. Smith also has a 4D Mag goggle with a supposedly much-expanded range of view available for quite the premium. For my money, I’d go for the Mag I/O, which is more than serviceable.

I can tell you this much, though- I ski quite a bit in all different conditions, and I’ve had the opportunity to try out a lot of goggles throughout the last few years. If I could only pick one goggle out of the litany of products I’ve tested- it would be the Smith Mag I/O.

Read the complete list of the best Ski Goggles here!

What We Like

  • Also available in an oversized XL version
  • Added security to the magnetic lock without over-complication
  • Pinnacle of high-contrast lens technology
  • Unobtrusive fit
  • Wider field of view than most medium frame goggles
  • Looks really good

What We Don’t Like

  • Only compatible with their most recent lenses
  • There are some visibility limitations inherent to medium-sized frames.
  • Could be better ventilated

Where to Buy:

Where to Buy:

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about Smith I/O Mag Ski Goggles

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    🙋‍♂️What is a Chromapop lense?

    Chromapop lenses are Smith’s in-house take on a high contrast lens. There’s a lot of fancy terminology used to describe what they do, but essentially Chromapop lenses just filter out certain wavelengths on the color spectrum between blue/green and red/green light. The result is a more pronounced picture where the colors “Pop” in ways they wouldn’t in unfiltered lenses. Chromapop lenses also have a water-repellent coating to keep the slush out of your face.

    Our next favorite competitive high-contrast lens is the Perceive from Anon. You can check out our review of the M4 Toric, or our Goggle Guide to see how they stand compared to the rest of the competition.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    🤨Are Smith Mag goggles any good?

    Smith’s Mag series goggles aren’t just good, they’re among the best that the industry currently has to offer. Between their Mag I/O’s quick change magnetic lens system, the color-enhancing properties of their Chromapop lenses, and an all day comfort fit; they offer everything a serious winter sports enthusiast could want out of a pair of goggles.

    Main Features of the Smith Mag I/O
    • Chromapop lenses
    • 5x Anti-fog treatment
    • Mag lens-change system
    • Two included lenses
  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    🧐What is the I/O lens system?

    I/O lenses are Smith’s most water-resistant lens to date. The inside of the lens is coated with a 5x anti-fog treatment to help dispel any moisture that accumulates during your day of riding. But the biggest appeal of I/O lenses is their ability to be swapped out as conditions and lighting change. The newer Mag I/O is an even better version of this technology, and is among the best lense change systems in the industry. That being said, they’re pretty closely tied with the Anon M4 for our favorite goggles of the year.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    🤔How do I take care of my Smith Goggles

    Caring for your Smith goggles isn’t anything special. In fact, with the microfiber bag included with their Mag I/O, making sure your goggles stay safe is easier than ever. In general there are a few rules that you should follow to keep any pair of goggles safe.

    How to care for your goggles:
    • Never clean your goggles with anything but the included goggle bag
    • “On your face, or in the case” are rules to live by
    • Avoid getting the oils from fingers on your lens
    • Never wipe the inside of your goggles when they’re wet, and take care to spot clean only to avoid losing your anti-fog layer

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