Of all the gadgets and gear on my desktop, the monitor happens to be the most expensive piece of equipment, which is followed by the graphics card and spectacles. Yes, you heard it right—spectacles. Just like the monitor and graphics card, they are equally crucial to witness every god ray, explosion, and arterial blood spray just like the good developer intended. Mind you, I don't place emphasis on good quality eyewear just because I need one for perfect eyesight. A good number of my acquaintances are blessed with 20/20 vision, but that doesn't stop them from using computer glasses treated with anti-glare and anti-reflective coatings.In fact, that's a good call considering how your average white-collar worker spends a good chunk of his waking hours staring into a glorified tube light that is otherwise known as the PC monitor. White-collar gamers have it even worse, as they spend even more time looking at fluorescent displays fragging each other after work. I belong to this category, especially since I end up playing games at work and home as well. For the longest time, spending a small fortune on imported spectacle lenses and specialised lens treatments was the only viable means to protect my eyes.However, when just one extra hour of gaming before bed time snowballs into a six-hour gaming marathon with an alarming regularity, that's my cue to seek a better solution to protect my eyes. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, because GUNNAR Optiks has now reached the Indian stores with its range of specialised gaming and computer eyewear. I have, in fact, heard a lot of positive feedback from Indian professional gamers who swear by the GUNNAR's ability to provide long, strain-free hours of gaming. I was, however, circumspect for two main reasons:(1) All the pro gamers I had spoken to received their gaming eyewear free from GUNNAR. For free.(2) Much of their marketing strategy relies on using fancy brand names for proprietary technology that's more or less similar to existing industry practices.With GUNNAR's gaming eyewear starting at Rs 4500 and the prescription (Rx) versions costing Rs 12,000 and upwards, the brand must offer much more than impressive sounding gimmicks. If you listen to its marketing spiel though, the gaming eyewear range promises to prevent eye strain, reduce reaction times, and generally offer a two-fold benefit of protection as well as performance. The best way to test this claim is a long-term test of the flagship Call of Duty MW3 model, and that's exactly what I did.Before embarking on the review though, there was one important bit of research to be done. You see, once you scratch past the clever veneer of marketing and elaborate terminology associated with the brand, what you're essentially left with are driving/shooting lenses characterised by a contrast-enhancing amber tint. This makes it crucial to check for a locally-made alternative offering similar levels of performance.A fair bit of ground work revealed that your average amber tinted driving/shooting lenses cost anywhere between Rs 1,500 to 1,800. Decent spectacle frames start at Rs 1,200 to 1,500. This brings the total cost of the glasses to Rs 2,700 to 3,300. However, the GUNNAR lenses feature anti-glare/reflective coatings, in addition to a scratch-resistant hard coat as well. Since these coatings—especially the former—are extremely crucial for eye protection, we must add another Rs 1,000 to 1,500 for the lens treatments as well. This brings the total price of locally-manufactured alternative to Rs 3,700 to Rs 4,800.In effect, the GUNNAR lenses will end up costing just as much, or even cheaper in some cases, if you were to buy an alternative on your own. Even then, the local alternatives won't be half as good as the GUNNARs. The Call of Duty MW3 eyewear reviewed here, for example, uses curved, wrap-around lenses featuring a relatively high refractive index of 1.51 that makes it thinner. Not only is such lens configuration extremely difficult and costly to achieve, but that reduces the VLT (Visible Light Transmission) value as well. Despite this, the eyewear touts a VLT value of 94% (prior to the application of tints/coatings), which—as my ophthalmologist and optometrist concur—is a pretty excellent figure.GUNNAR Optiks claims to pack in even more improvements to protect and enhance vision specifically for gamers. The wrap-around lenses, for example, are said to prevent air currents from drying out your eyes. The specialised lens geometry itself is supposed to help the eyes bring the screen into focus easier and with reduced strain. A major chunk of performance benefit is attributed to the proprietary tint, which is tuned to work best with standard LCD backlighting. Gunnar claims that its eyewear filters out harmful HEV (High-Energy Visible) light, which is counted as a major cause for eyestrain and premature macular degeneration in computer users.If you go by GUNNAR's claims, the eyewear seems to make a compelling case for itself. Unfortunately, I'm neither a qualified ophthalmologist nor an expert in optics to conclusively confirm or rebuff these claims. There is, however, one fool-proof means to put these claims to the test—with extensive subjective tests replicated over a long term. I know out of experience, and for a fact, that I suffer from irritation and redness of the eyes, as well as headaches whenever I indulge in all-night gaming marathons.Having worn the GUNNAR glasses, I experienced absolutely no headaches or irritation/redness of the eyes after about half a dozen all-night marathon gaming sessions. However, when I subjected myself to the same ordeal whilst wearing my regular spectacles, the aforementioned symptoms invariably crept back again. This conclusively proves that GUNNAR's fancy proprietary lens-making techniques and treatments actually do make a difference. The amber tint proved useful to enhance contrast and object detail, which is a boon for fast-paced competitive multiplayer games. Needless to say, the Call of Duty MW3 eyewear is highly recommended for professional gamers.Since I have spent a lot of money on a professional-grade monitor and took many pains to calibrate it using a colorimeter, you may have figured out that I am a sucker for colour integrity. Unfortunately, the amber tint on the eyewear throws colour fidelity right out the window. For this very reason, I personally cannot use it for anything other than regular web browsing and productivity work. This preference is subjective, of course, and your mileage may vary. When it comes to contrast and detail enhancement, as well as eye protection and strain relief, these glasses make a compelling case for themselves. You may want to check out GUNNAR's clear-tinted computer eyewear range, which is well suited for colour accurate work. However, you do lose out on HEV filtering properties of the amber tint in the bargain.The Call of Duty MW3 gaming eyewear exhibits impeccable build quality. The alloy frame material is extremely sturdy and lightweight at the same time. The brushed gunmetal finish looks downright stunning and bears tell-tale accents reminiscent of military hardware such as skeletonised frame and deliberately exposed screws as well as chassis gaps. Despite having a considerably larger footprint than regular spectacles and a metal frame to boot, the GUNNAR eyewear weighed in at just 29 grammes, which is right on par with much smaller plastic spectacles. The large lenses deliver a delightfully large field of view, whereas the frame itself is designed specifically to work unobtrusively with headphones. The hinge quality alone makes these glasses seem more expensive than they are.My only gripe is that the GUNNAR eyewear doesn't feel as comfortable when compare to my regular spectacles. To get subjectivity out of the equation, I procured another set of Call of Duty MW3 gaming eyewear and let someone else use it for an extended period of time. My test subject, however, experienced no discomfort. The perceived discomfort might largely exist due to the close, headphone-friendly fit of the frame and the fact that my own spectacles weigh 9 grammes, as opposed to the GUNNAR's 29 gramme heft. Actually, there's one more complaint. No matter what your face type is, these glasses tend to make you look like Bono. That just can't be good.Considering the stellar build and material quality, the excellent performance, and the great value on offer, GUNNAR's Call of Duty MW3 Gaming Eyewear comes highly recommended. Although professional gamers will benefit greatly due to the contrast and detail enhancement, the eyewear's ability to reduce strain makes it ideal for anyone who uses computers for long periods of time. That's everyone, to be honest. Only those who seek colour accuracy should stay away from GUNNAR's amber tinted variety. Those without perfect vision though will have to pay significantly higher (Rs 12,000 and upwards) for the Rx version, since it's made and shipped from Carl Zeiss labs in USA and attract shipping and customs duties. The regular, off-the counter version though justifies its Rs 6,500 asking price.
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