Ric Peralta, the Optical Jedi
EDIT: UPDATED September 24, 2020 (see bottom of post)
Ok, let’s start with the big apology. I know it’s been eons since I wrote a full review here. I’ve been focusing on the Instagram and Facebook posts over the last year or so, but given some of my recent feedback I realize the longer format of a full blog post still has a place in my explanations of lens technologies.
About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to try the new Varilux Comfort Max lens. This is a new progressive lens design, created to improve the wearability of the mid-price point Progressive Adaptive Lens (PAL). This lens was not designed to compete or replace the flagship lens of Varilux, the X Design (and it’s family of Fit and 4D Fit lenses).
As you’ve heard from me before, I’ve heard marketing hype on new lenses before, and I have found that more often than not they don’t quite live up to the hype. Interestingly enough, this time I wasn’t presented with any big clinical trial information, telling me how much better this lens performed than other lens brands in the same price category. Instead I was presented with some more technical information about how they redesigned their classic Comfort lens to take advantage of the newer lens technologies they developed for the X Design.
Even with this, I always enter a new lens product with some trepidation, assuming that they will not quite live up to the hype. The only way to set my worries at ease, and to help all of you, is for me to wear the newest lens designs. What follows is my review after wearing this lens for a month…
First the How
The Varilux Comfort Max is taking a different approach to how it is managing the visual needs in the modern world. While still trying to maintain a slightly lower price point, it has implemented the latest lens innovations created for the X Design. Namely, better management of the peripheral vision “distortion zones” and the location/size of the near zones.
The Comfort Max is almost more like 9 new lens designs, rather than just one. If you’re a regular reader of my posts, you will know that I have pointed out how most progressive designs do not suit all patients. I’ve broken down how a nearsighted individual will have a different experience from a farsighted individual. This is in great part to what causes these different visual needs. The length of the eyeball for each power type is quite different, which means light is going to scatter differently on the retina. This lens design takes all of this into consideration, creating a different pattern for how the lens will bend light, depending on the overall prescription needs.
The new Comfort Max is designed to widen your channel, on a budget
Not to get too deep in the technical weeds, what this means for you, is that all prescription types can wear this lens with a very similar experience. The size and location of reading and intermediate zones should feel the same no matter if you need glasses to see in the distance, need glasses predominantly for near work, or are brand new to presbyopia and have never worn glasses for distance use.
Finally, they redesigned the progressive to give you a closer-than-reading zone at the bottom. After studying 1000s of wearers, they have come to realize the average person holds their phone closer than typical reading distance when they use it. So, when a progressive is usually made, it will not give you the near focus you desire on your cell phone for all your Facebook or YouTube time. This lens took all of this into consideration and provides a “bonus boost” to make phone time even easier!
The Wearing Experience
To give my new Varilux Comfort Max the true test it deserved, I set aside all of my Varilux X Design glasses and have not worn any of them while testing this new lens over the past month.
What I can say to you, is that I have found from the first time I put these lenses on, the experience was quite good. The distance vision zone feels very wide and crisp. It drops into the reading rather quickly with a very wide channel. In fact, they have found this lens is among the easiest for previously lined bifocal wearers to adapt to because of how quickly it drops into the near zone. In addition, that bonus boost for the phone zone really does make the cell use even easier.
I had read about these advantages before wearing, but was quite honestly concerned it may be at the compromise of the intermediate distance zone (think your computer screen or dashboard in your car). I’m happy to report I did not find any appreciable loss in these areas. I have even found that when my computer is higher than average (sometimes when working patients I have to lower my seat to get eye level with the patient, which puts my computer at an unusually high height), I was able to see with straining my neck. It’s incredibly forgiving to positional wearing experiences.
So far, after my wearing of this lens for a month, I’m quite honestly surprised to say I like this almost equally to the Varilux X Design. This is unquestionably a huge improvement over their previous mid-grade progressive lens designs. This lens can work for virtually any prescription type equally and will cost you less, whether you have insurance or not.
I would still say the X Design is the premium product and find it possibly the most comfortable lens I’ve ever worn (I’m up to 72 progressive designs experienced, with another one happening in the next two weeks). But if you have any budget concerns, you will not be giving up much at all by going with this lens.
UPDATE AS OF September 25, 2020:
I wanted to post an update after I went back to wearing my X Design lenses, and did a full comparison of the experience after wearing them for a full month. After comparing the lens designs again, I do see the subtle differences which really impact why the X Design is the premium product from Varilux. In particular, when using the lenses on a computer, the X Design is SIGNIFICANTLY wider, so you have to move your head around less to find your focus. Also, it does seem that when watching TV, things are just more crisp at the 10-15 foot range. In particular when I was looking at the chirons that appear in the bottom corners of most broadcast TV, that digital image was much better.
If you are more focused on phone use, and the clarity of a cell phone distance, then the Comfort Max is actually the better product for you.
So, to reiterate my earlier opinion. The X Design is the clear best design choice, but if you have to work with a budget, or you are switching from a lined bifocal design, the Comfort Max can be a very solid alternative for you.
As always, this OpticalJedi post was created entirely by myself, Ric Peralta, and I have received no paid consideration for testing any product.