Google Glass review

Explorer Edition has ceased production, but its legacy lives on

Google Glass review
Google Glass review

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Google Glass in its current prototype form is an unfinished trailblazing avant-garde piece of tech. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around. I worried about whether I'd be able to tell if it was really the next big thing or a huge waste of time and money.

Glass sure wrapped itself around my brain though, and with considerable comfort. I was able to test it easily in my everyday life and that's what Google Glass is all about: putting one's smartphone down, yet still being able to share pieces of your life with your friends and family through a unique first-person perspective.

Google Glass model

Google Glass is comfortable, even if it make you look like a cyborg

We liked

The excitement surrounding Google Glass made wearing the invite-only prototype a thrill, but you have to be the right sort of technology-loving visionary to benefit from people's curiosity. I couldn't go a day without a half dozen people asking me about it. Explorers should expect the same.

In between all of the welcomed questions, I found taking hands-free photos, uploading them to Facebook and Twitter and adding captions with my voice to be the most entertaining part. Receiving and replying to work-related Hangout messages while cooking dinner and then getting walking directions at the spread-out CES 2014 venues made it productive.

Google Now is by far the best app of the 64 available with flight information, weather, and sports scores available based on what I've searched recently. I also habitually take advantage of being able to Google any question that pops into my brain, leaving no answer unknown with my smartphone still in my pocket

Google Glass model

Google needs to focus on price, battery and camera

We didn't like

Using Google Glass doesn't always go as planned, especially when it comes to a full day of use. The battery life is abysmal and tethering to anything but an Android is less than satisfying. Text message replies and directions are sorely missed when using it with an iPhone.

The camera's low-light performance could be better and the microphone, while surprisingly strong, often took a couple of attempts to properly add captions in moderately noisy situations.

Price and privacy are two issues that are of concern right now. As a consumer, $1,500 (£1000, about AU$1,593) plus tax is too much to pay for most any gadget, especially one that's still in development. You do get offered beer during the Google Glass appointment, which helps ease the pain.

Google Glass appointment

Glass guide and TechRadar reader Frank made the fitting a great experience

Final Verdict

There's nothing like Google Glass, so upon being "invited," I jumped at the chance to empty my Google Wallet for what my bank account poorly categorized as "Glass - Home Improvement." It did nothing for my home, but it did provide conversation-starting "improvement" in social settings outside of the house.

Its hands-free photo taking capabilities encouraged me to seek out more adventure that required two hands but still warranted capturing. I put down my smartphone for a record amount of time. Instead, I searched Google Now, used hands-free Google Maps navigation and responded to Gmail and texts through the built-in microphone.

The 5-megapixel camera isn't nearly as good as what you'll find on a current smartphone, especially the iPhone 5S and Galaxy Note 3, and the voice recognition software doesn't get everything entirely right. The battery life and price get everything wrong - one is too small, one is too big; it would be great if they switched.

Google Glass invite

Are you going to act on that Google Glass invite?

But when you think about it, Google Glass is the first of its kind - at least with a major company behind it. The first iPhone with its pre-installed apps and novel touchscreen had the same "is this worth it or just hype?" question surrounding when Apple launched it in 2007.

Owning Google Glass is even more reminiscent to a previous generations' owning the first TV on the block. No one has seen it in person before and everyone want to come over and try it out. The intense public interest is entertaining, but not worth the Explorer Edition price for most consumers.

It's still more fun than functional right now with the promise of becoming the next big thing.

First reviewed: January 2014

Matt Swider