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January 21, 2013
First the gogs:
These are pretty quality goggles with good lens options (a small subset of the I/O lenses). I got it with the Red Sol X Mirror and Red Sensor Mirror. The gogs have never fogged and strap works well. Changing lenses isn't rocket science but it's not easy either, and can be rather frustrating. Your peripheral vision in the goggles suffers a little bit, not because of the Recon but because the gogs themselves stick out further on your face than typical, so you lose peripheral on your left and right. These aren't blinders like the Zeal Z3, and they're probably the best option right now if you want the MOD LIVE system. However, I do find myself having to turn my head more than most other goggles.
On to the GPS: Outstanding...and frustrating. The actual display hardware is cutting edge and fantastic. The edges of the screen do blur a tiny bit from the lens distortion, but for the most part the image is clear and readable in all conditions. I have owned the older MOD system and this product comes with the new MOD LIVE. If there is one thing you should take away from this review, do NOT buy the older goggles with the old system. Recon basically doesn't support the MOD HUD anymore. MOD LIVE is amazing and is based on android. It has a brand new UI for this season that looks 100x better than the old UI, and the features of MOD LIVE vastly outweigh the older system. The actual functionality of the system is so fun and awesome and packed with features and it lives up to everything you think it will be and more. I love the new notification screen that gives you stats from your previous run, incoming calls and texts (that you can answer/return), max stats, milestones, etc. If you live at one of the supported mountains (available if you dig on the Recon website) you also get a fantastic GPS navigation map and buddy tracking. Despite my high praise so far, there are a number of software bugs and glitches that Recon is aware of and hopefully trying to fix, and ultimately this will keep all the casuals away from this product for the time being. Early adopters ONLY.
- Engage software is basically crap. The idea is it lets you upload your run data and overlays the runs on google maps. Except it is pretty much featureless at this point, and half the time it doesn't work and won't upload your trip data. There is no way to view all the runs together on the map, you have to go through each individual run. The stats in Engage do not always match the stats in your goggles, sometimes to an extreme degree. One time my goggles told me I went 25 miles on the day but Engage only reported 9 miles and only half my runs were there. There are no social sharing options for your trip data yet. No facebook support or anything like that. There is a ton of room for improvement in the software here. There is also a HUGE MAJOR BUG that they haven't fixed yet - every time you update your firmware through Engage, IT DELETES ALL OF YOUR RUN DATA AND STATS! That means your all-time stats in the goggles get deleted and there's nothing you can do. They are working on a fix but still, that is unacceptable considering that's the main feature of the goggles.
- Some features on the goggles are currently not working. An example is the shuffle feature for music. You can't activate shuffle through the goggle interface, you can only do it through the phone app, which means you have to take it out of your pocket while you're on the slopes.
- The Android app often force-quits and has various bugs that make it not fun to use. Clearly the Recon android development team is writing garage-code and/or has very little mobile development experience. However, they do seem to be working on updates and fixing the outstanding bugs, so that is promising.
- Getting a bluetooth connection set up to your phone is like pulling teeth. You can do it, but it's painful. Usually I have to force-quit the existing Engage app instance. Then I have to pair the goggles manually in the android bluetooth menu. Then I have to open Engage again and pair the goggles to the app so I can use the music features. For some reason, you have to pair the goggles twice because even if your phone tells you the MOD LIVE is paired, Engage doesn't recognize it until you pair it through Engage itself. This is the process that seems to work for me but sometimes the bluetooth just won't connect properly. The goggles will only stay in bluetooth discovery mode for 2 minutes each time, but there were many times when the Engage app couldn't find the goggles in those two minutes. You can't play/control music from any old music app on your phone once you are paired, you have to specifically use the Engage app, which I already explained is buggy. I was also able to get my bluetooth audio headset to work with my phone, but if I accidentally press any of the buttons on my headset it drops the Recon bluetooth connection and I have to start all over again pairing the goggles. While it's possible to use a bluetooth headset and the goggles at the same time, I would advise against it. However, when you do work through tech issues and actually get to control your music in the goggles while you're shredding, it's one of the coolest things ever. You can quickly jump to the music controls from any screen in the goggles just by holding the select button, which works well.
I should also mention that you can turn the display off and allow the goggles to perform all the stat tracking but without draining your battery. This works well and properly using it can keep my battery from needing a recharge. With the screen on full brightness the battery does drain pretty quick, but turning down the brightness (especially at night) and using the display sleep works well enough. The biggest problem with using the display sleep mode is that stat tracking on the goggles means NOTHING if your stats are going to get reset on firmware updates and if you can't upload your data correctly to Engage. Let me be very straightforward when I say this is NOT an iPhone or Fitbit type of experience where everything is easy and intuitive. The goggles are not easy to set up and there are a number of things that just make you facepalm. Purely from that standpoint, this is NOT worth the money.
So with all the problems, why did I give this 5 stars? Simply because this is one of the coolest gadgets I have ever played with and I love messing with it on the mountain and playing with it on the lift hill. 5 stars represents the amount of enjoyment I get out of it, but if I were rating it on a practicality standpoint, it would only get 1.5 stars. It's just so unique and fresh and I have no doubt that it will catch on once Recon does a better job bringing down the high price, fixing the software/firmware bugs and getting more app developers involved. You can even make your own apps for the goggles if you download their special SDK. To the average snowboarder/skier I think this is just a superfluous gadget and probably way out of their price range, but if you are a tech geek that likes to be an early adopter of new gadgets, it's a must-buy.
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