A Comparison Review of Computer Progressives

March 17, 2021
Ric Peralta, The Optical Jedi

Over the last couple of years I have written about Computer Progressives, discussing some of the different brands with their relative advantages or disadvantages for your given work environment. But I’ve never really done a straight comparison wear for myself. So I felt it critical to address this shortsight on my part. Over the past two months I have take the opportunity to wear two popular brands, both with the same prescription, to give you, my readers, a detailed breakdown on the relative comfort and advantages of these designs. The two lenses I have been wearing are the Essilor Ideal Computer, and the Maui Jim Office.

Essilor Ideal Computer

I began my test of these lenses by getting the latest design from Essilor, the Ideal Computer. My previous article on this lens solution, discussed their original design, the Essilor Computer Lens. Since that time, Essilor developed a newer version of the lens. My contact at Essilor, Pete Hanlin, has explained to me that the overall pattern of the lens power layout hasn’t significantly changed between the original lens and the new Ideal. What has shift is that the lens is a Full Backside design now, versus the original being a frontside design. This shift creates a smoother transition from zone to zone and reduces peripheral blur issues. This change allows for the Ideal Computer to be available in thinner lens materials, and can also be had in Transitions (incuding the new Style Colors reviewed here). As of the time writing this article, I am awaiting an update on the relative comparison to the original Computer lens design from a design expert at Essilor.

What I can say about this lens, is that it is incredibly versatile. If the lens is fit directly on the pupil, as designed, it will give a great width for a computer screen straight in front of your eyes. However, if the pupil height is adjusted (that is to say if the fitting height is moved to be below or above the actual pupil placement) it can change the function of this lens. You see, one of the unique features of this lens is that is not just for the intermediate/computer distance and reading. It also has a full distance vision zone. Given the reality of my work environment, and wishing to be able to wear this lens all day long while assisting patients, I lowered my pupil height by about 3 mm. This opened up the distance vision in ways that frankly surprised me. While this lens is not designed to be used for full regular use (i.e. driving, etc.) I was able to wear these new lenses full time, including while driving with very little detrimental peripheral blur in the distance.

So, to digress a touch, the design concept for the Essilor Ideal Computer is that you have a narrow-width distance zone at the very top of the lens. This space was designed to be “hallway width” so you can get up from your desk without removing your glasses and will still be able to see. Then the primary zone in the middle of the lens is for that intermediate/computer distance. This is the widest part of the lens experience. With a slightly smaller reading zone at the bottom. As discussed in my previous article on progressive lenses, anytime you are wearing a “no-line” lens there are inherent blurry zones. the various lens technologies from the major lens companies are designed to minimize this as much as possible, partly driven by prescription and/or lifestyle of wearer.

My experience with this lens after wearing it frequently over the past couple of months was frankly surprising to me. I can effectively wear the lens full-time, all day long, with little noticeable difficulty with peripheral distance blur. The computer zone, as I designed this fit, works very well for me in my work environment, where my computer screen is closer than average (typical fit is at arms length away). As well, the reading/near zone is very comfortable to use at a normal reading distance with no blurriness or discomfort.

Now, for the drawback. Unfortunately, many of the insurance companies, in their infinite wisdom, have not added this lens to their formularies. This means, if you wish or need to wear this lens, you will have to pay out of pocket usual and customary prices. There have been recent battles between insurance companies and lens manufacturers. One insurance company in particular has lenses they make for themselves and they are now trying to force eyecare providers into fitting patients in those lenses (which in my experience are VASTLY inferior for most patients). They do this by either removing the competitor’s products from their formularies, or by setting up reimbursements to the doctor’s office to such an extent they literally lose money by fitting the proper lens solution.

Maui Jim Office Lens

For my second computer progressive lens, I chose to be fit into the Maui Jim Office Lens. All of the Maui Jim lens solutions require that they only be fit into Maui Jim frames. The Maui Jim Ophthalmic lens designs have solutions for almost every frame style desired. But their frames will be required to wear this lens technology. The lens documentation from Maui Jim indicates that this lens is a more traditional computer lens design. In other words, this lens is supposed to give roughly the top half of the lens for computer/intermediate distance, and the bottom half for near/reading. I fit my measurements accordingly. I did not adjust the pupil height measurement when fitting this lens.

When they arrived I was shocked to discover that these lenses do indeed provide a full distance vision as well. By sliding them about 1-2 mm down my nose I can also wear these lenses for driving. I would not recommend doing this. There is some distinct peripheral blur in the distance. But in a pinch, if you forgot your other glasses, you could survive driving a regular known commute route without much difficulty.

This lens also provides an incredibly comfortable computer zone. Virtually the full width of the lens at arms length can be used with little-to-no peripheral blurring. The same can be said for the near/reading zone. This lens is incredibly comfortable for all vision from about 10 feet away to full near, and by sliding down the nose a hair, or dipping your chin, can give you complete full distance vision.

In addition, to the comfort of the lens wearing experience, Maui Jim offers a High Energy Visible light (HEV) technology which is exceptional. Providing for a completely clear lens and blocking a whopping 78% of harmful blue light at 420 nm. While Maui Jim does not offer any photochromic lens solutions (believing that their polarized plus 2.0 sun lenses are the better option for sun protection), their Blue Light protection is truly exceptional dwarfing the industry standard of blocking approximately 20% of blue light at 420 nm. Finally, Maui Jim makes their HEV version of the Office lens exclusively in 1.67 Hi Index, providing less chromatic aberration and a thinner overall lens.

How To Choose the Right One

For most patients, both of these lenses will work quite well. However, there are some circumstances where the choice will lean more heavily towards one or the other. For example, if you need to change the height where you are looking for computer, or if you need to change which zones you need to emphasize (i.e. you need distance and computer only, or you don’t need any distance and only need near and intermediate), then the Essilor Ideal Computer is probably a better choice for you. If you primarily work on a laptop, you are particular sensitive to blue light, or the frame you choose is a Maui Jim, then using the Maui Jim Office is probably a better choice for you.

All of this being said, I have found that after having both pairs for a couple of months now, I tend to prefer to wear the Maui Jim Office lens for greater comfort during my work day. At home, I find them almost completely interchangeable for comfort for all tasks around the house, however, the Essilor Ideal Computer is better for watching TV in bed than the Maui Jim. I have taken to wearing both of these lenses almost exclusively, over my regular full-time wear progressives with the only exception being when I’m going to be doing more driving than usual, or driving on less familiar roads. Both of these lenses are truly exceptional and deliver beyond what they promise.

There are still plenty of other computer progressive designs out there on the market, Even the most antiquated can be a right fit, if your work/lifestyle match its function. But if you’re looking for balance and versatility it is very hard to argue against either the Maui Jim Office or the Essilor Ideal Computer. Both provide a surprising amount of comfort at every distance, including full distance. I love both of mine enough, that I wear one or the other almost every day at work.

7 thoughts on “A Comparison Review of Computer Progressives

  1. Interesting review–If near isn’t a concern, could the Essilor Ideal be tailored to Intermediate and distance to provide a pair that works well in the office and has enough distance to be worn for general daily use as well?

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    • Almost. The distance is quite comfortable if the segment height is adjusted about 3-5 mm down. But it’s narrow. The peripheral vision is far from ideal on the distance zone. I wouldn’t recommend it for regular driving use, especially in heavier traffic.

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      • Is the intermediate width significantly better than a premium lens like a Varilux X? Wondering if a second computer pair is worth it because my office is wide open so distance is helpful. Or if the different between it and a premium lens is close enough that a second pair isn’t worth it.

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      • It’s significantly wider in the intermediate and the intermediate starts basically at eye level, when the segment height is lowered. If you measure it straight at pupil height then intermediate is straight in front of you. It’s far more comfortable to view a desktop computer through these lenses. And I’m wearing them now as I type this one my phone.

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      • Thank you so much–any chance you know any opticians you recommend in the Kansas City, Missouri metro? (Includes Overland Park, KS and Leawood, KS)

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      • This is good to know. I had the thought because I’ve been using a full intermediate lens day to day to have a full view of my laptop. I haven’t suffered from not having a reading zone and it’s comfortable enough that I typically drive home in them. Distance is a bit fuzzy but not distorted so it hasn’t been a problem. But if the computer lens is distorted on the edges like a traditional progressive I could totally see why driving in it wouldn’t be a good idea.

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