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Hands-on: Gunnar gaming and 3D eyewear

7:00 PM on 08.18.2010 // Dale North

We had the privilege of giving a couple of Gunnar's eyewear offerings a test run in our office recently. Both the MLG Legend (Chrome) gaming glasses and the Phenom (Graphite) 3D glasses were worn in the appropriate situations, tested to the best of our ability.

Know that these "tests" involve web surfing, playing games and watching movies, so you're going to get our impressions of some very non-critical experiences. In other words, these glasses are supposed to make the things that you do at your leisure look a bit better. And I think they do.

Read on for our impressions of Gunnar's offerings.

Before we get into the specifics of each offering, know that my overall impression of Gunnar's eyewear was high right off the bat. Both pair of glasses are extremely well made, and both come in very nice packaging. You get the impression that each were made to a high standard. Granted, I've only used these two pair and one other, but know that if you do drop some change on a Gunnar offering, you're likely going to get something really nice. These look good and feel nice on your face, which isn't something I usually find myself saying about gaming wear.

MLG Legend (Chrome, amber lens)
MSRP: $99

Look and fit:

I've never looked cool in aviator-style sunglasses, so I didn't expect to look very cool in these Gunnar gaming glasses. Fortunately, they look really cool on my face, enough so that I found myself wearing them for no reason! The frames are very light, and the sides leave ample space for a headset. The temples are branded with the MLG logo, which I felt bad for wearing as I really suck at most games.

In use:

I cannot tell you exactly what these lenses do for your game and computer use, but I know they're doing something cool. Excuse my lack of technical terminology, but things just seem to look a bit cooler with these glasses on. Wearing the Legends in front of a computer screen gives the most pronounced effect. My less-than-optimal 26" monitor looks like a lot nicer of a model with the Legends on. On my too-reflective MacBook Pro screens, the glare is greatly reduced, and the overall look is way more contrasty and eye-pleasing. On both, text seems to be more sharp, and it feels like the screen itself is more set into my work space, making it easier to look at. There's definitely some kind of optical shift, almost as if the screen seems to flatten out, with a slight bowing in the center. I realize that this may not make total sense, so just know that the lens effect does seem beneficial.

I gave the Legends a full rundown over the course of a week in various games on a couple of different televisions. Naturally, this optical change would do the most for action games. It seems like spotting an enemy off in the distance when playing shooters is a bit easier with the Legends on. High-action, bullet heavy situations felt like they were easier to navigate in online matches of Resistance or Call of Duty. Gunnar says the glasses could give you reduced reaction time. I didn't feel that in my test time, but I did feel like I could see things a bit better, and that helped me get out of the way of bullets/projectiles/grenades a bit faster. Maybe that's what they meant. Racing in Forza 3 felt improved, but it would be hard to gauge how improved it was with the Legends on. I'd guess that I was seeing down the track a bit better with them on, and I suppose that helped in cutting down my time on the tracks I'm less versed on. In both types of games, you could definitely feel some kind of benefit from wearing the Gunnar glasses, though it is pretty difficult to quantify the benefits.

The benefit was less pronounced in the games I typically play, which are role-playing, light sports and puzzle games. Putting on the glasses to play Hot Shots Golf maybe helped me see my ball moving out into the brush a little better, but I don't know that it helped my game that much. In my ritual weekly match of Magical Drop on the Sega Saturn, I wondered if the lens tint would hinder my ability to see the colors of the different gems. It didn't at all, though the Legends didn't really help my terrible reaction time either. I didn't expect it to, mind you.


If you heard about Gunnar lenses and were expecting an effect something like what polarized glasses give you, I think you'll be surprised when you try a pair out. Again, they're doing something cool to your eyesight, though I'm not sure I could tell you what exactly without regurgitating some of the marketing speak that has been thrown our way. There's a marked difference when looking through them, especially if you play a lot of high-action games. It also seems like these would be good for those that spend a lot of time close to a computer monitor, as text and images seem to come of the screen a lot better. If you play games at any kind of competitive level, I could see these Gunnar glasses giving you an edge. For the rest, you'll have to ask yourself if you're wiling to drop the price of two new games on Gunnar's brand of improved clarity.

Phenom Graphite 3D glasses
MSRP: $99

Look and fit:

These are damned good looking glasses. While just about anything would look better than the glasses they give you at the theater at 3D movies, these make the others feel bad because of how great they look. Seriously: you'll feel so smug sitting in the theater, surrounded by all those idiots in plastic glasses.

The Phenom are really well made, too. These frames are offered in both the 3D and amber lenses, but they really look nice with the dark lenses for 3D, kind of like sunglasses. The ends of the frames have a small triangle of soft rubber that feels nice over your ears, and the frames themselves are really lightweight. These came in a nice storage box and included a soft sleeve for transport.

In Use:

It's going to be difficult to tell you how Gunnar's 3D offerings compare to the standard 3D theater glasses. They both give you the 3D effect as intended, and while it feels like the Phenom 3Ds give you a better experience, I couldn't honestly tell you exactly how they do. Naturally the optics are a lot higher quality than the cheap plastic freebies, and that has some effect on a movie's clarity in 3D. You'll get a crisp, clear and bright image right into your eyeballs.

You want the lenses to cover your eyes fully for a movie in 3D, and it seems like the Phenom really do that. They come around to the sides, closer to your temples, giving you better coverage. Gunnar says that this enhances the 3D effect, and I could see that, as getting light in at the sides of your glasses could hinder immersion.

One hang-up is that these particular lenses do not work with every 3D movie. People at the local Dolby 3D cinema tell me that the Gunnars won't work correctly there. Gunnar also says that IMAX is not compatible with these lenses, though they say they make a variant that will work. It's not a serious problem, as these glasses use RealD technology, and Gunnar says that 75% of 3D screens worldwide use this tech.

I was not able to try these glasses out in a gaming capacity, but the Gunnar 3D lenses are supposed to work with passive PC gaming solutions including offerings by nVidia. The iZ3D displays also work with Gunnar's lenses.

Note that these glasses will only work on polarized, passive 3D signals. Don't expect to wear these Gunnars with your new 3D TV at home if your set uses active shutter glasses, though I feel like home 3D would be a bit easier to sell if all the glasses looked this nice.


In the end I think you're paying to not look stupid in the theater in 3D movies. And you're getting comfort as a bonus, as the glasses are nice and light, and have nice nose pieces and padding over the ears. Plus, think of the germs from reused 3D glasses. Put all of this on top of improved clarity from the better optics and $99 doesn't sound so bad, especially if you frequent 3D movies. If you happen to have 3D PC gaming equipment, I'd imagine that these glasses are looking even more attractive to you. As for me, I'm just happy to go to the movies and not look silly.


Dale North, Former Dtoid EIC
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