Smith Optics has often played second-fiddle in the past to Oakley: not quite as progressive or edgy in its styling, a half-step behind with its lens technology, perceived as more affordable and less premium. But with its new Attack Max, Smith Optics has not only closed the gap in many ways, but perhaps even surpassed its market nemesis.
Separated at birth?
One could be forgiven for thinking the Smith Optics Attack Max and Oakley EVZero Range were penned by the same designer. Although they’ve obviously not identical, both use a frameless design and a large-format lens with a raised center for maximum coverage. And just as Oakley does with its Prizm lens technology, Smith Optics claims its ChromaPop lens tints provide better color clarity and detail definition than a more conventional lens.
Oakley offers the EVZero in five different lens shapes, but in the case of the largest EVZero Range variant, even the lens and temple dimensions are within a few millimeters of each other: 125mm-wide, 53mm-tall, and 120mm-long for the Attack Max; 138mm x 55mm x 125mm for the EVZero Range.
On the bike, both provide similarly expansive fields of view, along with superb protection from flying debris, wind, and rain. I could barely see the edges of the lens on either set, and even at 80km/h, my eyes didn’t water from wind irritation. Both sunglasses are fantastically lightweight — 32g for the Attack Max, the EVZero Range even lighter at just 23g — and combined with the similarly gentle fit on my relatively narrow head, it doesn’t take long to forget that you’re wearing them at all.
Many riders considering either of these will likely make their choice based on aesthetics alone, and that’s something I can’t judge for you. But after using both, there are still some functional differences to consider.
So many lenses, but you have to pick one
I’ve stated before that I’m a big fan of Oakley’s Prizm lens technology. Nothing else I’ve used offers the same levels of heightened contrast, or makes the world look as sharply defined. As is usually the case with Oakley eyewear, clarity and distortion are also second to none.
But there’s no getting around the fact that Oakley only offers the road cycling-specific Prizm lens in a single version, and as good as it is most of the time, the 20% light transmission rating isn’t going to work all the time. Here in the high-altitude sunshine of the Colorado Rockies, for example, Prizm sometimes just isn’t as dark as I’d like. There’s still the same awesome level of contrast, but almost too much of it — sort of like a top-shelf sound system that’s turned up a little too loud.
On the flip side, that same 20% transmission rating is a bit too dark for heavily overcast days.
But why make such a big deal of a single lens tint when the Oakley has 25 different lenses from which to choose?
Oakley may offer the EVZero in versions to suit nearly any lighting condition (and don’t forget those five different lens shapes), but the lenses can’t be swapped after the fact since the temples are permanently fixed in place. The Attack Max, on the other hand, has a clever magnetic clasp setup that still allows for a frameless design, but also the ability to change lenses at will. The standard ChromaPop Sun Red Mirror lens of my test set is noticeably better in bright sunlight with its darker 15% transmission rating, and Smith Optics further hammers the point home by also including a ChromaPop Contrast Rose lens with a much lighter 48% tint that works well in lower-light conditions.
Granted, that flexibility literally comes at a cost since the Attack Max is significantly more expensive the EVZero, but it’s still cheaper than buying two sets of Oakleys.
That said, while both the Attack Max and EVZero deliver comparably impressive levels of clarity and similarly non-existent amounts of distortion, ChromaPop still just doesn’t provide as much, well, visual “pop” as Prizm. Colors aren’t quite as vibrant, details aren’t quite as sharp, and the world around you just doesn’t seem quite as amplified.
Other differences are more nuanced.
If you sweat heavily, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Smith Optics treats both sides of the lens with a hydrophobic coating that’s easier to keep clear; Oakley only treats the outside. In addition, whereas Oakley provides a second, thicker nosepiece with the EVZero to raise the lens higher on your face (or if you’ve got a less prominent nose and just need to give your glasses a little boost), the Attack Max’s nosepiece simply clicks into one of two positions: no swapping required. The Oakley nosepiece feels flimsier, too, and is much more prone to tearing (or loss) than the stouter construction of the Smith Optics piece.
Finally, riders who have difficulty finding sunglasses that don’t interfere with helmet retention systems may prefer the 5mm-shorter arms of the Attack Max, although that advantage is somewhat tempered by the fact that they’re mounted higher up on the lens than the EVZero. Pick your poison.
The challenge of choice
So with so many similarities between the two, which one would I recommend to buy?
Style preferences aside, the choice will likely come down to how well the individual lens options suit your particular conditions.
If you prefer the simplicity of having just one lens, the Prizm Road lens of the Oakley EVZero Range is the easy pick. While it doesn’t work for everything, it’s outstanding for most daytime conditions and offers visual acuity that truly has to be experienced to be believed. Oakley may be a brand surrounded by hype, but at least in this case, it’s believable.
However, if you prefer to have the more appropriate lens tint no matter what — and don’t feel like buying a second set of EVZeros — the Smith Optics Attack Max is the way to go. They’re more expensive, but there’s almost no daytime condition that one of the two lenses doesn’t suit well.
Price: US$249 / AU$369 / £N/A / €N/A (Smith Optics Attack Max); US$173 / AU$225 / £140 / €162 (Oakley EVZero Range)
Weight: 32g (Smith Optics Attack Max); 23g (Oakley EVZero Range)