Engo 2 smart glasses Review
Here’s a summary review of the new Engo 2 smart glasses followed by in-depth details further below.
Over the years I’ve been somewhat cynical about the usefulness of heads-up displays in endurance sports, Engo 2 changed my opinion.
Price when reviewed: €329.00 Engo Eye Wear
Verdict: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Good! and surprisinlgy useful. Let down only by the price and it needs a photochromic lens option.
Engo 2 Review - Summary
Engo 2 is a smart, configurable heads-up display for your Garmin Edge, Garmin Watch, Suunto or Apple Watch. No need to carry a smartphone.
It connects reliably to your main sports device, shows clearly your key performance metrics and will delight the kind of runner or cyclist who just has to have the latest tech.
- Great for pacing efforts
- Decent battery life
- Mostly easy to operate
- Price will be OK for early tech adopters, perhaps too much for the ‘mass’ market
- Needs a photochromic lens (coming)
- Navigational features need to work wider than the Suunto platform
- No support for lap data
Engo 2 Aesthetics
Engo 2 looks like regular sunglasses from the front or side.
If you look at the inner side of Engo 2 then it’s pretty obvious that there is a chunk of tech there.
However, anyone else probably wouldn’t realise that you are wearing smart glasses. You can’t say that of the FORM Swim goggles which look bulky.
Part of the improvement from Engo 1 to gen 2 was the aesthetics. I’d say these are pretty normal-looking, trendy-enough sports glasses. I’d wear them.
How Engo 2 Works
Engo 2 only links directly to one thing at a time – either the app, a sports watch or your bike computer.
Engo 2 does NOT need a smartphone when you exercise. You only need the ActiveLook smartphone app to set up the glasses. But, if you like, you can use the same smartphone app to exercise, rather than a watch or bike computer.
You will also need to download and install the free ACTIVELOOK app on your sports device from Google Play, Apple App Store, Garmin CIQ Store, or the SuuntoPlus Store.
In normal use during a workout, Engo 2 is simply a display for some of the data already on your watch or bike computer. It uses Bluetooth to link to the Activelook device app and it’s that app which gathers the native data from sensors already paired to the watch or bike computer.
So the number of available Bluetooth channels should not be a problem as you should already have paired your sensor to your watch/bike computer.
Your Garmin Edge bike computer will send GPS information (speed, distance) to the Engo 2. But if you use a bike speed/cadence sensor Garmin Edge gives that information priority and sends it rather than GPS.
Similarly, heart rate from a chest strap will normally have priority but if your battery ran out during the workout, then the optical HR on your watch should instead start to be broadcast to Engo.
Stryd is an unusual exception, treated differently by different watchmakers. Stryd is a standard power meter, a standard footpod and can also be used in a proprietary way by 3rd party apps.
Note: Developer data from other developers within Garmin CIQ cannot be accessed.
- Any bike power meter linked to your Garmin by BLE or ANT+ should be visible in Engo 2.
- You should see Garmin Running Power in Engo 2.
- If you have correctly paired a footpod, like Stryd, on a Garmin watch then the displayed pace and distance originate from Stryd, not GPS.
- When using the Stryd app on a Garmin watch, you will not see Stryd running power in Engo 2.
- When using the Stryd Zones data field on a Garmin watch you will not see Stryd running power in Engo 2.
- However, if you have paired Stryd as a power meter on a Garmin watch (which is usually incorrect) then ActiveLook should display power
Basically, Engo 2 will display the same kinds of data as in the Apple Workout app
- Pace, distance, Apple running power and running dynamics come from the Apple Watch only.
- Bike power is not supported
- The ActiveLook app for SuuntoPlus is not configurable
- Thus pace, distance and power will come from whatever the Suunto watch is set up to use.
- I assumed that Engo 2 would use the screen configuration from iOS/Android app but it seems to not be configurable.
I’ll update this when I get clarification from ActiveLook. there were too many combinations for me to test what should be documented.
Confusing, I know.
Finally, Engo also has a central sensor on the front of the glasses. Lightly touching or waving at the sensor causes the display to move to the next page. A page can be configured to place the glasses on standby and save battery.
Supported Watches & Bike Computers
There is good compatibility with a wide range of popular connected sports devices.
- Garmin Edge – Explore, 530, 830, 1030, 1030+, 1040
- Garmin Watch – 245/645 and newer, Fenix 5plus and newer and variants, Marq, Venu 2/2+/2s/SQ2.
- Apple Watch – watchOS7 and newer ie Apple Watch 3 is supported
- Smartphone – iOS 13.0 and Android 6.0 and newer
- Suunto – 9 Peak Pro (Nov 2022, others will follow very soon #Today)
Getting Started With Engo 2
Engo 2 comes with a good onboarding tutorial on the app. As well as the glasses you get a proprietary USB charging cable, a cleaning cloth, a durable case and an elasticated strap to fasten to the arms of the glasses to prevent accidental loss.
The nose bridge can be adjusted for comfort. But the app also has the ability to move the position of the image.
Looking at Engo from the rear you will see that a small projector points upwards and this sends the image to a smaller mirror which in turn reflects it onto the inner surface of the right-side lens. You can use the smartphone app to finetune the apparent position of the image, the app subtly moves the mirror and the image can be shifted up/down and left/right by 20 ‘points’ in each direction. Our face morphologies are all different and this adjustment is mostly used to ensure that the image is not obscured by your nose. The approximate position of the image will always be on the leftmost side of the right eye, kinda like it’s above your nose and right a bit. This position was deliberately chosen to be glanceable and to avoid obscuring your field of vision.
I think the image size and placement work well. I’ve spoken to another Engo owner who didn’t like either the position or size of the image!
Changing the display
You configure a different set of screens for running and cycling which also work together for multi-sport. Then there are up to 6 metrics per screen and a total of 5 screens one of which is a special screen that turns the display off to save battery.
There is a reasonable choice of metrics covering pace/speed, hr, cadence, duration, distance, elevation and power. These can be shown as instant values, workout totals or averages with a few other unusual ones thrown in. But not every combination is available.
Thankfully changing what Engo 2 shows you when working with Garmin is a one-off task. It’s not easy.
The display layouts are saved inside the CIQ data field and so you change those in either Connect IQ smartphone app or Garmin Express as shown below. Each number corresponds to a particular metric and the 3 numbers in brackets correspond to three metrics displayed on a single screen. You can see a different set of screens for running and cycling. Screen (0) is the one which places the display on standby
Eesh! Take this example : (1,2,4)(1,2,12)(10,18,15)(0) which will display :
- Screen n°1 : (1 = Elapsed Time, 2 = Distance, 4 = Heart rate)
- Screen n°2 : (1 = Elapsed Time, 2 = Distance, 12 = Speed)
- Screen n°3 : (10 = Power 3″, 18 = Cadence, 15 = Pace)
- Screen n°4 : (0 = empty screen, display Off.)
You can mix and match any of these:
- 0 : Empty page = display off
- 1 : Elapsed time
- 2 : Distance
- 3 : Distance To Destination
- 4 : Heart Rate
- 5 : Max HeartRate
- 6 : Average Heart Rate
- 7 : Power
- 8 : Max Power
- 9 : Average Power
- 10 : Power 3s
- 11 : Power Normalized
- 12 : Speed
- 13 : Max Speed
- 14 : Average Speed
- 15 : Pace
- 16 : Fastest Pace
- 17 : Average Pace
- 18 : Cadence
- 19 : Max Cadence
- 20 : Average Cadence
- 21 : Altitude
- 22 : Total Ascent
- 23 : Total Descent
- 24 : Average Ascent Speed
- 25 : Total Calories
- 26 : Energy Expenditure
Apple Watch Display
Setting up a display works well on Apple Watch.
Only metrics that are native to the Apple Watch can be displayed. Thus Apple Running Power and Running Dynamics can be displayed but neither a bike power meter nor Stryd can be used.
The Watch display only allows 3 metrics per screen and a total of 3 screens but, unlike Garmin, it’s easy to re-configure even during a live workout.
Suunto Watch Display
Suunto watch offers no display customisation possibilities. The ones displayed are the same as you set on the iOS/Android app.
Running & Cycling With Engo 2
During a workout, you can flick from one screen to the next with either the Apple Watch or Engo 2 glasses and changing either one will change the other.
It’s not the same with Garmin or Suunto when the watch screens and Engo display are not linked. Despite that, the in-workout experience is very good, I like the size, placement and clarity of the screen plus the available metrics are plenty for me.
I would say that for either running or cycling, safety is slightly enhanced rather than compromised by the addition of an always-visible screen. There was no distraction at all.
From a performance perspective, the glasses were surprisingly useful. I imagined they might be somewhat gimmicky (which is true to an extent) however if you have either a run or ride where you want to precisely target a speed/pace or power then the heads-up display helps you to focus. Many of you will be very good athletes and able to quite precisely gauge your efforts without tech like this, however others of you won’t be like that and my days of intuitive pacing seem to have passed me by! It’s not that glancing at your wrist is an onerous task, clearly, it isn’t, it’s just super-super-simple glancing very slightly to the left, the reality is that you will do that FAR more often than you would look at your wrist or bike computer. Thus you are more frequently made aware of your effort level and theoretically, you will pace more consistently.
Q: How big is the display
A: The apparent size of the display is about the same as the size of the display on your watch when held about 50cm from your eye…so a nice, sensible size.
Q: Can you display alerts or any kind of colour changes?
Q: How do you start/stop the glasses?
A: You turn them on. They automatically start to display your workout data once you start your watch/bike computer. Stopping is also automatic.
Q: What is the gesture sensor
A: It is a forward-pointing sensor that detects hand movement in front of the glasses. A wave of your hand changes the display from one page to the next (and other actions).
Q: Will I be able to read the display if I have a prescription for reading glasses
A: It seems that way. I probably have a +2 prescription and Engo is perfectly fine to read.
Q: Is Engo 2 avaialble in more than one size
A: Yes Engo 2 is available in 2 sizes
Navigating With Engo 2
Don’t get your hopes up. The functionality here is minimal and at the time of writing, what little navigation there is only works with Suunto watches.
The one navigational feature you get is a countdown alert at about 70m before a turn with an indication of which way to go.
I suppose one day we will have full-colour, highly detailed maps beamed into our sports glasses. Today is not that day. And tomorrow won’t be either.
Actually, I don’t quite know what else I expected here. This feature is really an alert to tell you to look at the map on your bike computer (or watch) to work out precisely what next to do. Of course, if you are coming up to a simple T-junction then a simple left/right instruction is perfectly fine. Thus Engo 2 works pretty well for most road navigation but is less useful when any degree of uncertainty or complexity is involved in the route.
Caveat: You must navigate a pre-loaded route and you must enable TBT instructions for that route via the Suunto app.
Engo 2 – Other Benefits & thoughts
A handy feature for me as a sports tech reviewer is that I can now assess instant pace simultaneously from two devices more accurately. I only have to raise one wrist into my field of view while the other watch beams straight into the glasses.
The safety benefits are perhaps also worth expanding upon. I tend to get my more stupid injuries when I’m not paying attention, be that from a hole in the road, the edge of a kerb or a slippery tree root. Rather than distracting you, my opinion is that Engo 2 enables you to keep a better focus on the way ahead.
Cyclists who use the newer Di2 buttons have control of the bike head unit without the need to change hand positions. Engo 2 for cyclists gives broadly analogous kinds of benefits. The more dangerous tasks to undertake whilst moving on your bike computer are probably around fiddling with route selection or trying to figure out why a sensor is not working – neither Di2 nor a pair of smart glasses will help you with that, nor should they.
Engo 2 Specifications
The battery life is a decent 12 hours. I’d say that’s a generous claim. Maybe the capacity will also degrade over time but you get a decent battery life that will cover several workouts, similar to what I’m getting from my Varia rear smart bike light.
It’s more the 3-hour recharge time that I would take issue with and prefer to be faster.
|Device Type||Standalone AR/Lightweight HUD|
|Display Type||Single AMOLED monocular|
|Subpixel Layout||No subpixel layout. Monochrome, each pixel has 16 brightness levels|
|Visible FoV||12° diagonal|
+5g for headstrap
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.2 LE|
|Battery Life||12 hours|
|Charge Time||3 hours|
Meta/Facebook seems to be taking us towards a virtual reality world at some point in the not-too-distant future. I’m as sceptical as you about that. However, interest in visual augmentation of varying forms will be spiked as billions of dollars are thrown at R&D to make smaller, lighter, and technically better products. And that can only be a good thing for sports tech.
Some definitions first
- Virtual Reality – Zwift is more akin to virtual reality. We all know what that is. People like it.
- Augmented Reality – is adding some digital aspect to your real-world experience. People seem sceptical of visual augmentation. There appears to be a reluctance to accept augmented imagery in our eyes yet many are happy with a computerised voice to augment a workout with audio alerts or even haptic feedback on Apple Watches might count as augmentation as other senses are stimulated by tech.
- Reality – is looking at the running watch on your wrist or bike computer on your handlebars. People like this. Or at least, that’s what the sales figures show.
The Opportunity For Smart Sports Glasses
There will be a marginal gains argument somewhere that will shave tents of a second of the pros’ times by never having to look at a bike computer. However, the commercial opportunity is to get you and me to buy this genre of tech. Maybe to convince us that we get pro-level benefits in races or that safety might be enhanced when cycling and when navigating. Maybe also there are lots of people who like techy toys (ahem! #Me)
We’ve already seen FORMSWIM smart Goggles from a couple of years ago. Its proprietary goggles beam your pool or open water stats straight into your field of vision. The stats come from your Garmin/Apple Watch plus an inbuilt accelerometer. The use-case for swimming is exceptionally good because it’s the one sport where the tech on your wrist is really only a glorified timer and workout logger. Tech beaming into a swimmer’s eye offers many real-time opportunities. However, swimmers seem to be more reluctant to accept tech than runners or cyclists, at least from a commercial perspective that’s the case. And the technical implementation of the Goggles by FORM is good but you are limited to their goggles and you only have a very rudimentary and highly pixelated image. But…it works.
Reusing the same tech for running and cycling is not quite the same. Runners and cyclists have alternative ways to get information and longstanding preferences linked to their technology of choice. Thus for smart sports glasses to work they have to integrate with however the athlete currently trains. As an example, let’s say we target Ironman athletes…these guys are going to have invested thousands of pounds/dollars in tech and training platforms. There is ZERO chance that a new company’s ‘wonder app’ for smart goggles will get Ironman athletes ditching their Garmin and sticking an iPhone on their $12,000 TT bike. And these kinds of people are one of the true target markets as they are the ones proven to splash the cash.
Smart glasses also have other challenges. They have to be able to handle different light conditions and the fact that many athletes need prescription lenses. The athletes that tend to splash the cash are the older, more affluent ones who, inevitably, have deteriorating eyesight…it’s just the human condition.
The other challenge and opportunity are how best to serve the athlete’s true data needs. Some athletes will be looking for navigational cues, others will want real-time performance stats and others might be looking at more general progress stats (lap, ride/run durations). I’m not sure of the relative importance of each of those markets but the navigationally focussed markets have quite different needs to the other two. Perhaps only 3 or 4 metrics at most can be simultaneously displayed in a way that won’t distract the athlete…we’re not fighter pilots who need complex information shown on HUDs.
Bear those points in mind and we’ll look at the brief history of smart glasses in sports tech.
A Brief History of Smart Sports Glasses
EverySight RAPTOR dates back to 2018. This product aimed to entirely replace your bike computer. This gets around the objection that ‘oh why can’t you just look at your bike computer’ but it adds bulk and complexity to the final product. Plus, even in the best-case scenario, smart glasses are only going to be a niche product so trying to sell an expensive-to-develop, expensive-to-buy (>$500), catch-all product to a small number of people is a difficult ask. And what happens on a rainy day or a dark evening or a bright midsummer day? Changing lenses is a necessity in order to capture that all-important ride data, but leaving your bike computer/Raptors at home is not an option.
We see another class of products perhaps exemplified by Garmin’s Varia Vision (2016). Varia Vision gets data from your Edge/Fenix/Varia Radar and doesn’t itself need to pair directly with sports sensors. That’s handy because the complexity of pairing to those sensors is handled elsewhere and Varia Vision also has the benefit that it clips onto ‘any’ pair of glasses. Its downsides are a £350/$400 price tag and less-than-flattering aesthetics with a bit sticking out to the side and front of one of your lenses. You have to question why Garmin has not updated this 8-year-old tech.
Recently we’ve seen the latest generation of display tech from MicroOLED’s ActiveLook platform as used by the smart glasses companies Engo, Julba and Cosmo. This technology is considerably smaller & lighter than what came before and produces a decent display resolution. Couple that with smaller, better batteries and, to me, the tech now starts to make sense.
Garmin Varia Vision vs Engo 2 – What’s the difference
Varia Vision is a clip-on product. This is great as you can switch the Varia between glasses. However, its aesthetics are not great. Varia Vision definitely looks ‘unusual’, whereas Engo 2 appear like a completely normal pair of sports glasses
Engo 2 uses the Bluetooth-based ActiveLook platform to connect with sports devices and thus is proprietary. Garmin’s Varia Vision has an 8-hour battery life and connects with ANT+ using a standard EXTENDED DISPLAY profile. Varia Vision also supports the BIKE RADAR profile and has a rrp of GBP350.
Engo 2 Problems
The biggest problem for me was the lens darkness.
Engo needs to make a version that has a photochromic lens, ie one which darkens in the sun and lightens in the shade. Engo 2 was too dark for all-day use in November (UK) and I’d have to take them off 30 minutes or so before sunset when riding.
A less significant issue was configuring sensors and screens. I was a bit confused by the different methods used to configure the screens between the smartphone app, apple watch, Garmin and Suunto, though you won’t have that problem as you will only have one piece of tech to get used to. That said the way to configure the display for Garmin requires you to enter some codes into either Garmin Express or the Garmin CIQ app, and that will take you 5-10 minutes to figure out. OK, it’s a one-off task but at this price level, I expect something to be more seamless and easy to use.
I was kinda annoyed by the last screen which turns off the display (standby). That is certainly useful in some circumstances but not that I would encounter and my solution was to disable that screen entirely!
There were only 2 bugs I noticed which will probably be fixed by the time you buy one
- When you come quickly to a stop. Metrics like POWER show the last constant value until you get moving again.
- Battery %age mysteriously only shows sometimes
Is Engo 2 worth it?
If you like your sports tech then whether these glasses were priced at $600 or at their actual price of over £/$Eu330, I suspect would make little difference to you and the likelihood that you might buy a pair.
But I suspect that Engo is looking for a larger volume market and I further suspect that they are priced at $100-$150 above a volume-inducing price level for this kind of tech.
Anecdote: My partner is generous and knows I like a nice bit of tech. But wouldn’t pay this sort of price for a surprise present that I might not like. At $150-$200, it would be very different.
A counter-argument put forward by the brand is that Engo 2 is the cheapest-ever HUD device for sports.
Would I buy them? Would I use them?
OK, these are a freebie from the manufacturer and I suspect that I’ll use them again. Certainly not all the time but I will use them. Take that as a recommendation if you will!
I do appreciate the ever-present display when trying to execute precise power or pace levels and that definitely would be useful for me sometimes. Perhaps most suitable for interval or tempo work.
Engo 2 Review Summary
The price would have put me, the athlete, off buying them. Had I bought them I would be happy with my purchase.
They are a surprisingly good tool to aid pacing but less useful for navigation.
Engo 2 Review – Price, Availability and Discount
Sorry, I’ve no discounts to offer on this one nor do I get a commission if you buy one!
You can buy the standard or large size direct from Engo
More: Engo Eye Wear €329.00
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