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Verdict: 
Smart eyewear with great range of included lenses and quality prescription insert; unusual strap option for other sports
Weight: 
33g

Optilabs is a Croydon-based specialist sports optician which offers a range of eyewear from brands such as Bollé and Cébé, plus a growing range of exclusive styles that they've sourced direct from manufacturers in the far east, all of which are available with prescription lenses. The Switch is a new design from a Taiwanese manufacturer called Olink which comes with a range of six lenses and can be supplied with a prescription insert which sits behind.

Unusually, you can also unclip the arms and fit a strap; a feature which has been seen on shades aimed at motorcyclists for a while. I don't see the need for it on a bike but it means that they could adapt well for other winter or water sports. Pricewise the Switch sits somewhere between the high-end eyewear brands and the budget options, but with a wide range of lenses, a good quality case and the strap included, you get a lot for your money. The price shown here is for the package including prescription inserts - if you're lucky enough to have perfect vision then you can buy without the inserts for £89.95. Optilabs can provide bifocal or varifocal lenses too, at a higher price. You can also upgrade to high-refractive lens material to make high-prescription lenses thinner and lighter.

I've previously bought lenses from Optilabs. They were able to fit lenses to a couple of wraparound Oakley frames, despite my prescription (-6.75) being higher than Oakley are willing to fit. I was consistently impressed with their customer service. On one occasion it turned out that the local optician who'd done my eye test had made a mistake, and the lenses weren't right. Even though this wasn't at all the fault of Optilabs, they insisted on replacing the lenses at their own cost once I'd had another eye test.

These are the first glasses I've used with a prescription insert. Lenses are made to suit your prescription and fitted to a small transparent frame which clips behind the main shield. This is a popular approach with this style of sports eyewear where it would be difficult to fit the lens in the conventional fashion. Difficult but not impossible - Oakley do it with their Shield Implant Technology (you knew there'd be a fancy name for it and a price to match) on some models. This involves cutting a hole in the shield and bonding the lenses into it. While Oakley's approach means that you do away with the insert behind the shield, it means it would be very expensive to have a range of shield colours, as each would need its own insert.

Not having used prescription inserts before, I found they worked well. The transparent clip-in frame is slightly noticeable in your peripheral vision, so you're conscious of having something extra in front of your eyes but not to the extent that it's distracting or annoying. If you're a sometime contact-lens wearer, this is a great system as you can remove the insert if you're using your contacts.

Due to the special-needs strength of my prescription, my other sunglasses have fairly thick lenses, and the smaller lenses used in the inserts here meant that the overall weight was actually less - this was noticeable and made them more pleasant to wear for long rides. The downside of having an extra set of lenses is that you have four surfaces instead of two which can get dirty, sweaty or steamed up. In practice I found it wasn't a major problem in the dry, and was only marginally more hassle in the wet - not that big a deal. It helps that the insert is made with anti-mist and scratchproof coatings as standard.

One word of caution regarding the insert - treat it with care. The thin transparent plastic frame is unsurprisingly a bit less tough than the (heavier) metal insert frames favoured by the likes of Rudy Project. I dropped it once on the kitchen floor when changing shields, and the frame cracked at one end. It went back to Optilabs who had a replacement with me in 48 hours - their customer service is really excellent.

The range of included shields is really impressive here, especially at the price. You get three different mirrors, a yellow lens for low light conditions, a clear lens and a grey polarised lens which cuts reflections and works well on wet days. All of the shields are made of tough polycarbonate and very well made. I found that the clarity of vision was as good as those from the big O. Optilabs say that the all of the shields offer 100% UV protection, and I found that they are well-shaped to provide good protection from the wind, insects and so on.

Changing shields is relatively straightforward - you unclip them from the sides and then coax them out in the centre (Optilabs have a video showing how to change lenses and fit the strap). I found it was best to remove the prescription insert first and this is how Optilabs recommend doing it. The insert clips into two small recesses in the nose bridge - at first look this doesn't seem hugely secure but I never had any issues with it coming out in use, and in reality there's nowhere for it to go while you're wearing them.

The Switch has a modern style, bearing something of a resemblance to the Radar range from Oakley. The vent hole in the arm in particular is a bit derivative, and it's perhaps unfortunate that the silver button which releases the arms to fit the strap has such a similar shape to that O. Nevertheless, they are handsome sunglasses and I had several other riders commenting favourably on the looks. They are an awful lot better-looking than the range that Optilabs had a few years ago. You can have the frame in a range of colours beside the white that we tested - black, red and a TdF-tastic yellow are the other options.

During testing I compared the Switch to some Oakley Radars. The Radar frame is more rigid and has a more engineered feel to it. Despite also being made from plastic, it definitely does feel more premium. There's less flex in the frame, and the hinges also seem more robust. This isn't that surprising - a non-prescription Radar starts at £145; if you add a similar range of shields it would be around £400, compared to £90 here. With prescription lenses, the difference increases further still. At the other end of the market, the cheapest I could find for sports glasses with a couple of lenses and a prescription insert was about £80. However the quality and styling of these budget options appears well short of the Switch.

When riding with the Switch glasses, they stayed in place well and didn't interfere with my helmet at all, something that can be a problem with some glasses. There are rubber pieces in the arms and rubber nose pads which are simple but worked ok in wet and dry conditions. The range of six lenses gives something to suit any conditions - having this included in the package is really good. If you're someone that already spends half an hour trying to decide what to wear for a ride, this will give you another decision to make before heading out, though. Optilabs have another new model aimed at cycling, the Max, which comes with just one set of photochromatic lenses, if you can't cope with choices.

The only time I found the insert somewhat annoying was when riding at night-time. You get an extra set of reflections where the light bounces between the lenses, so each bright light gets duplicated. This would be an issue with any glasses using a prescription insert, so it's certainly not unique to the Switch.

The ability to fit a headstrap in place of the regular arms is an unusual feature. I didn't find it was really compatible with wearing a cycle helmet, but I would anticipate using it for snowboarding, to keep the glasses securely in position. When not in use, the headstrap is stored with the other shields in a large clamshell case, which is solid and well-made. There's a protective wrap for the spare shields, a cleaning cloth and a neck lanyard if you want to go for the librarian look.

In summary, you get a lot for your money here. Given the range of lenses and overall performance, £90 is a great price if you don't need prescription inserts. If like me you need prescription lenses, then the price is still competitive, and much cheaper than the big brand options. Yes, you can buy cheaper, but not with such a wide range of shields. I like the styling, derivative or not, and I found that the Switch works very well on the bike. I'll be using them with the strap on the slopes this winter too. Couple that with the excellent customer service that Optilabs offer, and you've got a winner. If you order before Christmas, Optilabs have £20 off too.

Verdict

Smart eyewear with great range of included lenses and quality prescription insert; unusual strap option for other sports

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Optilabs Switch glasses

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Frame:

NEW style – everything you need in one sports pack!

4 different frame colours - black, red, yellow or white

Innovative frame design allowing arms to be unclipped and replaced with an adjustable headstrap. Perfect for skiers, rowers, watersports, fishermen, off-road cyclists

Made from shock resistant thermoplastic

Amazingly lightweight and flexible whilst still being ultra-rigid and durable

Anti-slip rubber arms and bridge

Quick and easy interchangeable lens design

Supplied with a FREE clamshell-style case which holds your frames, spare shields, headstrap, adjustable lanyard and cleaning cloth.

Lenses:

Pack includes 6 interchangeable polycarbonate shields – 3 different coloured mirrored shields, a yellow shield for low light, a clear protective shield and, unique to Optilabs, a hi-definition grey polarised shield. The polarised shield will reduce surface glare from sunlight on water, snow, wet roads or even just a really sunny day

For prescription wearers, the sport pack will also include an optical insert (made from virtually unbreakable polycarbonate or CR39), which we make to your individual prescription

100% U.V. protective

Inserts made with anti-mist and scratch coating as standard

Bifocals and varifocal inserts also available

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10

Tinted shield and lenses are of really excellent quality. The frame doesn't feel as premium as some more expensive options but holds the lenses securely and stays in place perfectly. Be careful with the prescription insert, though, as its frame is a little fragile.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

Other than when I managed to crack the insert frame, there weren't any issues. The lenses have resisted scratches very well. Even the most expensive sunglasses can break if you're careless, as I've found out over the years. I've had much better experiences with Optilabs than with Oakley when it happens, though.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
9/10

The lightest prescription sports glasses I've used - inserts work out lighter than direct-glazed if you have a strong prescription like me.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

There are cheaper prescription and non-prescription options, but for the money this is a great package. Stacked up against similarly-looking options from you-know-whom, it seems like a total bargain. Optilabs have £20 off across their range until Christmas, making them even better value.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well, good clear vision and comfortable for long periods in the saddle. Only at night-time did I find the insert sometimes bothersome. The strap isn't really ideal for cycling, but it's a good thing to have if you plan to use them on snow or water.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The range of really high quality shields that are all included, rather than sold as expensive aftermarket options. Styling. Was surprised at how little the insert bothered me.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Not a lot - just need to treat the insert with care.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 36  Height: 190cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute  My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

 

Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels.  His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding. 

17 comments

Avatar
Vili Er [287 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

"The Switch has a modern style, bearing something of a resemblance to the Radar range from Oakley. " - no kidding! I don’t expect this Taiwanese company to be around for too much longer and Optilabs must know they’re putting lenses in knock off frames.

Avatar
KiwiMike [1410 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
iamelectron wrote:

I don’t expect this Taiwanese company to be around for too much longer

Why?

Avatar
Geordie Simon [26 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Interesting review but I have a couple of queries, I'm amazed the opticians could sort out Oakleys with your prescription, mines even worse and, despite gong to multiple sources direct glazing has never been an option.

Also the option of a strap is nothing new Adidas have been doing it on certain models for many years. They've also been my go to brand for shades for a long time, the RX inserts look like very basic plastic but have been used and abused for various sports for about 8 years and are still going strong despite me breaking a couple pairs of shades. Also being so old it didn't come with an antifog coating, fogging hasn't been an issue as the Adidas shades are engineered to allow some airflow behind the lenses.

My current shades are Evil Eye Halfrims, I've found them to be excellent, better visibility than the Evil Eyes I replaced them with. Also the costs work out similar when you take advantage of deals such as Wiggle is running. Yes I'm a big fan of the Adidas but they work.

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shonen [18 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I have a couple of pairs very similar to this from china bought on ebay, the first pair were even labelled as Oak£ys. cost about 7 quid delivered and then 16 quid glazed by "Cilliary Blue" who are great for glazing real Oakleys too....

someone is making a nice profit  16

Avatar
a_P [18 posts] 4 years ago
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So, you have "special needs" eyes. Quite how strong is your prescription then?
Maybe you should be looking at manufacturers like Rupp+Hubrach who design and manufacture lenses for high base frames.
I think I'll still go to my opticians who have been and talked to lens manufacturers for me so that I can still buy and wear sports frames for my -11.5 prescription the frames of which currently are Rudy Project Maya. Maybe you should try a pair of them particularly as they come with the excellent ImpactRX clear photochromic lenses.

Avatar
KiwiMike [1410 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
shonen wrote:

I have a couple of pairs very similar to this from china bought on ebay, the first pair were even labelled as Oak£ys. cost about 7 quid delivered and then 16 quid glazed by "Cilliary Blue" who are great for glazing real Oakleys too....

someone is making a nice profit  16

Any chance you could post some piccys? £23 is much more attractive than £169  1

Avatar
usernameforme [53 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

These guys won't be around for too long... they look like rebranded rockbros glasses, which can be had for $9... Is their customer service really worth THAT much?

Avatar
Vili Er [287 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
KiwiMike wrote:
iamelectron wrote:

I don’t expect this Taiwanese company to be around for too much longer

Why?

Seriously? Calling your café ‘Roubaix’ is one thing, but actually ripping the $hit out of a major company’s design is another. The Big O will no doubt go down like a tonne of bricks on this lot (if they haven’t already).

Avatar
KiwiMike [1410 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
iamelectron wrote:
KiwiMike wrote:
iamelectron wrote:

I don’t expect this Taiwanese company to be around for too much longer

Why?

Seriously? Calling your café ‘Roubaix’ is one thing, but actually ripping the $hit out of a major company’s design is another. The Big O will no doubt go down like a tonne of bricks on this lot (if they haven’t already).

I have had a bagfull of cheap glasses over the years, from various brands including Lidl, Aldi, Decathlon etc. all of them look basically like these ones. Which you say look like Oakleys. I don't buy the logic that anything roughly looking like a single frame with plastic arms means you are infringing their IPR and will be sued out of existence. These things don't have Oakley written on them.

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Jez Ash [243 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

There are obvious influences in these and countless other glasses but they are not a simple copy of any Oakley model I could find, so I rather doubt there's any copyright case to answer.
Having recently been in the Panjiayuan district of Beijing (where there are literally hundreds of opticians all on top of each other) I can confirm that you can buy lots of similar styles (many of which do say Oakley on them) for less than this. Here you're paying for UK made lenses and brilliant customer service (much better than my experiences of dealing with Oakley direct). For me that makes the price more than fair.

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bikeandy61 [551 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

My brother in law was praising Optilab at the weekend. he has been battling to find anywhere that could do any type of sport glasses with varifocal lenses. He couldn't praise these highly enough and that from Pete is high praise. They provided sample frames to try with free return postage (multiples) and were very helpful and efficient. Recommended.

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bikeandy61 [551 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

And by the way, my B-in-L didn't spot that his recent eye test only had his distance vision prescription and omitted the close. Optilaabs realised he had been asking about varifocal so got back in touch and queried the prescription. This meant he was able to get the correct one from his optician and send. Savings made for both him and optilabs but the sort of mistake that all too often companies don't spot until it's too late.

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shonen [18 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

ebay number 351138540719 will give you a similar pair for £10.30 posted. Search for sports glasses worldwide and lots of the chinese ones come with inserts. As I said the online optician Ciliary Blue is great for cheap glazing of these or real specs.

Noticed the other day that fake jawbone types are around cheap, was thinking of a pair as they could be glazed without inserts.

I have bought real Okes before off ebay, getting cheap ones with scratched lenses and then having my own prescription lenses fitted, the type with individual left and right lenses obviously.
Or you can buy cheap Bolle safety glasses in the UK and have lenses fitted  1

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andyp [1599 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

'then 16 quid glazed by "Cilliary Blue" who are great for glazing real Oakleys too....'

I bet the quality is just the same.

Oh, hang on. No, No I don't. They'll be shit.

Avatar
Vili Er [287 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Optilabs might be a UK based optician, well known for cycling glasses and RX type inserts (I ‘ve used them back in the day) but they’re now known as a UK based optician who also trade in Chines Oakley knock offs.

Will road.cc be reviewing Chinarellos next or how about one of those lugged but not actually lugged See-59’s?

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prefontaine123 [1 post] 4 years ago
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I guess a lot of the above is personal opinion most however in my opinion is misplaced or worse misinformed. The insert technology is the favoured technology by most opticians this is because 8 base compensatory lens manufacture(direct glaze) is extremely difficult to achieve and any thing outside a low - or + range is thick on the outer edge and is difficult to achieve.
If you look at the frame it actually has a very good adjustable nose piece. This kind of nosepiece is relatively expensive to manufacture and often is almost as expensive as the frame itself. As usual you have the negativity of price (I can get it cheaper!) well bully beef and chips! but this is an accomplished UK based lab trying to offer a functional medical device which enables cyclists and all sports people improve their sporting performance without paying the price.

In point of fact, to all those sceptics this is a very credible and inexpensive product it may look like a 'knock off' as somebody put it however, has that person ever factored in the branding, packaging, massive overhead from Oakley and when you strip one down how much the product is actually worth? Where it came from? No, I guess not, what I would however mention is that an enormous amount of that RRP you pay is simply in marketing and not in the product itself! Do you think these athletes come cheap. I guess for all those amateur designers out there are only so many designs you can come up with and did you ever think that actually they COULD have come from the same factory its not unknown!

Brilliant Optilabs for offering an alternative that most people can afford, works and looks great! and good luck to those have kidded themselves in to expensive 'Kings new clothes!'

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Kadenz [112 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
bikeandy61 wrote:

My brother in law was praising Optilab at the weekend. he has been battling to find anywhere that could do any type of sport glasses with varifocal lenses. He couldn't praise these highly enough and that from Pete is high praise. They provided sample frames to try with free return postage (multiples) and were very helpful and efficient. Recommended.

Like your brother in law, I've been buying Optilabs cycling classes with variofocal prescription lens for some years. The ones I've had from them have been very good indeed, quite apart from the excellent after service they provide. I'd recommend them to anyone who needs prescription lens.