Pros: Really stylish design; Impressive audio quality; Good control over your tunes
Cons: Unreasonably expensive for the 2GB version
Bottomline: The Oakley Split Thump proves that technology can be combined with eyewear without compromising style
Vista compatibility: Yes
There have been plenty of attempts at combining clothing accessories with technology, but they nearly always fall by the wayside by being, well, far too techie-looking.
Oakley’s Split Thump is the sunglasses company's attempt to crack it, offering a digital music player built into a typically well-designed pair of Oakley shades. They actually look very good, and if you didn’t know better wouldn’t be able to tell these from a normal pair of sunglasses.
This is mainly because the headphones themselves aren’t attached to the device by default; instead you need to slot them into the bottom of each arm when you want to listen to music, which is a far better way around the problem than wiring them in. The design of the earpieces means that it’s easy to achieve a comfortable fit and to make sure that there’s no danger of them falling out if you want to use them while running or exercising.
Perhaps the most effective part of the Split Thump’s design is the fact that the play and volume controls are cleverly disguised as the Oakley logos on each side of the wearer's eyes. Pressing the front or back of each logo will adjust the volume level or skip through tracks and by using combinations of buttons you can skip through playlists, blocks of 10 songs or adjust the equaliser and set it to random shuffle mode. All of this works very well: for the most part the controls are nicely responsive and just about tactile enough to operate by touch.
There’s a good range of file support that includes the Audible book format and protected WMA that were bought online (as well as MP3 and normal WMA). Music is copied across by connecting the device to a computer over the supplied mini-USB cable, which will also charge the battery for up to seven hours' playback. In Windows it's a case of dragging and dropping tunes across to the player which appears as a disk on the computer when attached.
We were impressed by the Split Thump sunglasses, despite the silly name, in terms of audio quality, style and the range of handy features. It's by far the most stylish product we’ve seen of this type and while it’s obviously of niche appeal (not to mention the fact that its use is essentially limited to the summer), it’s an excellent innovation that works well.