Rating: ★★★★☆

Pros:

  • Shows GPS data, speed, temperature, and altitude on a crisp built-in display
  • High-quality construction and design
  • Lightweight feel when worn

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Controls on the wrong side for power sports (throttle hand)
  • GPS can be slow to acquire satellites

Goggles and sunglasses designer Zeal Optics has partnered with Recon Instruments to produce the Transcend GPS snow goggles. These are the first goggles to feature built-in GPS capability and an onboard display. The Transcend goggles provide real-time location, speed, and altitude data while you ski, snowboard, or snowmobile.

Out of the box the Transcend goggles are impressive. They feature Zeal’s contemporary styling, and have a substantial feel. Although they look a little bulky, the goggles do not feel heavy or too large when worn. They are well vented (I never had a fogging problem) and provide great visibility and optics.

But what really sets the Transcends apart from other goggles is the on-board GPS and data display. A small pod built into the lower edge of the right lens area contains a tiny color LCD display mounted behind a compact lens.

The quality of the display is impressively bright and crisp. The Zeal press materials claim the display creates a virtual image that appears to be about six feet in front of the user. However, don’t expect a heads-up-type display in which the data is superimposed on the view in front of you. In my experience, the display appears to be a foot or two away, similar to viewing a motorcycle speedometer or a GPS in your car.

I had a chance take a pair of Transcend goggles for a test drive. Since there is no snow on the ground in my part of the Northeast yet, I skipped the snowmobile and went for a motorcycle ride.

The Transcend goggles fit well in my MX-style helmet, and look like they would work equally well in a snowmobile helmet or ski or snowboard helmet. After I had the goggles adjusted to my face, I had no trouble viewing the display with a brief glance downward. The Transcends are comfortable, and do not make a lot of additional noise when moving.

Once under way I soon discovered a big drawback to the Transcend goggles for powersports use — the display controls are located on the right side. This means you use your throttle hand to change the display. The goggles are intended for action sports, so you would not want to mess with the controls in the middle of a run anyway, but the location of the controls makes changes while under way a no-go.

The controls themselves are three buttons located on the right temple area of the Transcend goggles. The buttons include up/forward, down/back, and select. The three buttons let you cycle through the display screens, change settings, and start/stop the stopwatch. The buttons are easy to use with gloves on, although sometimes pressing a button will push the goggles out of adjustment on your face.

On power up, the Transcend goggles attempt to synchronize with the GPS satellites. Compared to my Garmin Zumo, the Transcend GPS took much longer to achieve a lock. (To be fair, my test goggles had been shipped halfway across the country.) Once locked-in however, the Transcend never lost the GPS signal.

The control buttons easily move you through the data screens. Press the up or down button to scroll to the next screen; press select button to change any editable parameters. The available data screens include a dashboard showing speed, elapsed time for your run, and an optional parameter such as distance, altitude, or temperature. Other screens include a stopwatch/chronometer, vertical distance traveled, and others. You can also use the preferences screen to configure various display parameters.

When you set a new max speed or max altitude, the display pops up a notification screen. This is a pretty cool feature, although it gets a little distracting if you are, uh, constantly accelerating.

At the end of the day, you can connect the Transcend goggles to your PC using the included USB cable and download the data from your runs. You can view this data using the recon HQ application, which integrates Google Maps to visualize and play back your runs. I did find it a little confusing how the goggles determined what made up a “run”. The HQ software even lets you share your adventures to Twitter, Facebook, or Recon’s own online community.

The goggles have a lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Charging takes about 2 hours using the included AC adapter (they can also be recharged using USB). Zeal claims a run time of about 7 hours, which is supported by my experience. It is easy to leave the goggles on when you’re not wearing them, which will drain the battery faster.

The Transcend goggles come with a sturdy storage case, USB cable, AC power adapter, and a drawstring bag. The drawstring bag doubles as a quick-start guide, which is a nice touch.

The Recon-Zeal Transcend GPS snow goggles are available for order now from Zeal. Two models are available: the Transcend SPX with spherical polarized lenses (US$399) and the Transcend SPPX with spherical photochromatic polarized lenses (US$499).



Alan Brandon