In-depth reviews guided by a Pediatrician

Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air 360 Review

Best Value that is a good bang for the buck
The new Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air 360
Best Value Award
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Price:   $170 List | $170 at Amazon
Pros:  Budget-friendly, tested SIP, easy install without base
Cons:  Hard to install using LATCH, heavy, limited stroller use
Manufacturer:   Safety 1st
By Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz  ⋅  Jun 3, 2019
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 14
  • Crash Test - 20% 7
  • Ease of Install - LATCH - 20% 6
  • Ease of Install - Belt - 10% 8
  • Ease of Install - w/o Base - 5% 8
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Comfort / Quality - 15% 6
  • Weight / Size - 15% 6

The Skinny

The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air is seat that offers exceptional bang-for-the-buck, coming in with above average crash test performance at an affordable price. It performed above average in almost every test and impressed us with its ease of installation without the base and using a belt instead of the LATCH system. It offers an average weight and good ease of use scores with good marks for comfort, quality, and better crash test results. In short, this cheaper seat managed to stand out in comparison to more expensive products. While it may not be the best thing going, or have all the bells and whistles parents think are snazzy, it proves it has what it takes to run with the high-end products, and it won our Best Value award for offering all of this at a below average price. We think parents can feel good about buying this seat no matter what their budget.

Product Updated
The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air has been discontinued. The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air 360 (pictured above) is taking its place and this review of the 35 Air now links to the new Air 360 version. You can read more details on the 360 below.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Value Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award 
Price $170.00 List
$169.99 at Amazon
$300.00 List
$279.98 at Amazon - 7% off
$320.00 List
$247.00 at Amazon - 23% off
$350.00 List
$349.99 at Amazon
$280.00 List
$279.99 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Budget-friendly, tested SIP, easy install without baseBetter crash test results, anti-rebound bar, easy installBest crash results, easy LATCH, additional safety features, comfyLoad leg, easy belt install with and without baseSuper easy LATCH install, easy to use, nice comfort and quality
Cons Hard to install using LATCH, heavy, limited stroller useHeavier, harder to install LATCH system, few strollers are compatibleHigher price, hard to usePrice, heavy carrierHeavy, only compatible with Chicco strollers so far
Bottom Line Best Value that is a good bang for the buckA great all-around seat with good crash test results, but limited stroller optionsCompelling, quality seat with additional safety features and the best crash test scoreImpressive performance but somewhat heavy and more money than mostEasy to install and use seat made with quality materials, but has limited stroller options
Rating Categories Safety 1st onBoard... Peg Perego Primo... Cybex Aton 2 Peg Perego Nido Chicco Fit2
Crash Test (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
Ease Of Install LATCH (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
10
Ease Of Install Belt (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
Ease Of Install W O Base (5%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
5
10
0
10
10
0
8
Ease Of Use (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
7
Comfort Quality (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
Weight Size (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
2
Specs Safety 1st onBoard... Peg Perego Primo... Cybex Aton 2 Peg Perego Nido Chicco Fit2
Minimum Passenger Weight 4 lbs 4 lbs 4 lbs 4 lbs 4 lbs
Max Passenger Weight 35 lbs 35 lbs 35 lbs 35 lbs 35 lbs
Max Passenger Height 32" 32" 30" 32" 35"
Belt Routing Style American European European European American
Seat Weight 9.5 lbs 9.6 lbs 9.3 lbs 10.2 lbs 12.1 lbs
Recline Positions 3 Infinite 4 Infinite 5
Shoulder Harness Positions 4 6 3 6 7
Crotch Strap Positions 3 1 1 2 2
Built in Lock Off Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Anti-rebound Device High Base Back Yes High Base Back Yes Yes
Load Leg No No Yes Yes No
Locking Handle Positions 4 5 3 5 4
Allowed Handle Positions For Auto Travel Any 1 for Base Install (even with the top of the seat),
1 for Seat Only Install (all the way forward)
Carry Position 1 for Base Install (even with the top of the seat),
1 for Seat Only Install (all the way forward)
Stage 1: Any
Stage 2: Base Storage Position (behind the seat)
Head Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newborn Insert No Yes Yes Yes Yes
No Rethread Harness No Yes No Yes Yes
Onboard Manual Storage Clips under the seat towards the toe of the seat. Stores in a hard flip down pocket on the back of the seat. Stashes in a pocket under the bottom of the seat. Stores in a hard flip down pocket on the back of the seat. Slot in head of base
Level Indicator On Base None Bubble Vial Ball In Tube Bubble Vial Bubble Indicator
Level Indicator On Seat Ball In Tube Line On Decal Line On Decal Line On Decal Level Line On Seat Label

Our Analysis and Test Results

onBoard 35 Air vs the onBoard 35 Air 360


The Air 360 and the regular Air have very similar features and functionalities with only a few marked differences. Safety 1st claims the 360 has been tested in more crash safety tests than the regular 35 including a rollover simulation where it passed the European Rollover Standard. The 360 also includes GCell HX race car foam, a reinforced handle, deeper seat structure, and additional soft foam in the seating area. The 360 has a slightly higher list price, but the upgrades may justify the minimal difference. We will be reviewing and crash testing the 360 in the near future, for now, the review of the 35 Air below should give you some idea about the 360 features. Below is a photo comparison of the onBoard 35 Air 360 on the left and the onBoard 35 Air on the right.

The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air

Hands-on Review of the onBoard 35 Air


This graph shows a quick comparison of every seat tested in this review ranked in order of overall score. The Safety 1st is shown in blue.


Details in the sections below explain how the Safety 1st performed in our tests for each metric. Metric scores were used to calculate the overall score and rank for each seat.

Crash Test


The Safety 1st crash test results indicate a higher margin of protection compared to many of the other seats we tested.


The chart below shows the results of the onBoard 35 Air from the crash test dummy's head force sensor, compared to the Chicco Keyfit 30 which had the best results for the head sensor. The onBoard 35 Air head force results suggest it offers significantly better head protection than the Federal safety standards.

This chart shows the comparison of crash test results for the head sensors in the crash test dummies during the sled crash test between Safety 1st and the seat with the best results in the group  the Chicco Keyfit 30
This chart shows the comparison of crash test results for the head sensors in the crash test dummies during the sled crash test between Safety 1st and the seat with the best results in the group, the Chicco Keyfit 30

The chart below shows the onBoard 35 Air's results from the chest forces (in black), and the green line showing the Cybex Aton 2 which had the best chest sensor results. Regarding the chest sensor results, the onBoard 35 Air exceeded the Federal requirements by a significant margin.

This chart shows the comparison of crash test results for the chest sensors between Safety 1st and the seat with the best results in the group  the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40
This chart shows the comparison of crash test results for the chest sensors between Safety 1st and the seat with the best results in the group, the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40

It is important to note that all the seats for sale in the US offer a basic level of protection by meeting the requirements of the standard.

Safety 1st has a comfortable soft-foam layer between the baby and the energy-absorbing hard foam. On the side wings  they have built in additional energy absorption pockets which they claim provides additional side-impact protection.
Safety 1st has a comfortable soft-foam layer between the baby and the energy-absorbing hard foam. On the side wings, they have built in additional energy absorption pockets which they claim provides additional side-impact protection.

The Safety 1st marketing claims this seat has been crash tested to assess the "Air Protect" side impact technology, which consists of an air cushion system in the head region of the seat. This potential protection consists of an additional cushion housed inside a thin plastic cover that allows air to escape upon impact and absorbs some of the energy from a crash. Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain any test data from that shows how much additional protection this feature provides. We like the idea of features designed to help reduce the risk of injury and death, but without quantifiable results, it is hard to say what if anything this feature provides.

Ease of Install - LATCH




The Safety 1st earned its lowest installation score for the LATCH method with a 6 of 10.


The onBoard isn't too challenging to use with LATCH connectors, but several options were easier in our opinion. We frankly were disappointed with this score, because Safety 1st marketing highlights "one-click" LATCH installation, yet our tests showed other seats are easier.

The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air installed using the LATCH system
The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air installed using the LATCH system

This seat sported the easier to use push button style anchor connectors as opposed to the simpler clip style.

We prefer the click-in connectors for LATCH anchors like these on the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air. They function much like a seat belt  and are easier to use than the clip style anchors used on seats like the Graco.
We prefer the click-in connectors for LATCH anchors like these on the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air. They function much like a seat belt, and are easier to use than the clip style anchors used on seats like the Graco.

Connecting the anchors is relatively easy, but far easier on the vehicle anchor points that can be readily seen. Those that can only be "felt" were harder to connect to because the anchors are sort of thick and are harder to maneuver through dense cushions. Once connected the straps are harder to tighten and loosen than a lot of the competition. The major downside is the seat does not feel stable when installed this way and we think it should feel more stable with a method that is supposed to be easier to use.

Operating the recline foot on the Safety 1st is easier with the base not fully installed
Operating the recline foot on the Safety 1st is easier with the base not fully installed

This seat has an adjustable foot for recline located on the bottom near the foot end of the base. It is operated by a handle located near the head of the base.

Installation of the Safety 1st using a seat belt is fairly easy and earned an 8 out of 10
Installation of the Safety 1st using a seat belt is fairly easy and earned an 8 out of 10

Ease of Install - Belt



This seat is one of the top scorers for ease of install using a belt on the base.


It earned an 8 of 10 in this metric.

The belt lock off on the Safety 1st is easy to use and makes installation with a belt simpler  but the belt can get curled or folded underneath so care should be taken during installation
The belt lock off on the Safety 1st is easy to use and makes installation with a belt simpler, but the belt can get curled or folded underneath so care should be taken during installation

This seat has a belt lock-off that keep the vehicle belt in place when using it for installation. The belt is a little difficult to thread and the lock off harder to use than some of the competition. We had difficulty getting the belt to lay flat inside the lock off and struggled when using a shoulder/lap belt combo. However, it is more stable and secure than most of the competition and the lock off means we didn't have to assess our seat belt retractor type.

The belt threading "hooks" on the onBoard 35 Air are easy to use
The belt threading "hooks" on the onBoard 35 Air are easy to use

Ease of Install - Without the Base


The Safety 1st also scored well for ease of installation without the base, earning an 8 of 10. For those living in an urban environment where travel in a taxi, Uber, or airport shuttle is common, this is an important criterion.


It tied with a few other car seats in our tests but didn't quite match the high score of 10.

The Safety 1st seat uses the American belt path method that goes across the lower portion of the carrier only
The Safety 1st seat uses the American belt path method that goes across the lower portion of the carrier only

This seat uses the American belt path and it is not color coded. The Safety 1st is easy to thread the belt through the lower portion of the seat, and it did not require a towel or pool noodle to obtain the right angle. We prefer the European belt path because it feels more stable to us, but the installation of the Safety 1st is a quick process that goes smoothly. It feels relatively stable installed without the base.

Ease of Use




The Safety 1st earned a 6 of 10 for ease of use, scoring higher than several seats in our tests.


This score is above average for the metric.

While the buckle on the Safety 1st might be stiffer than some and the chest clip edges might drag when disengaging  they are both still easier to operate than about half of the competition
While the buckle on the Safety 1st might be stiffer than some and the chest clip edges might drag when disengaging, they are both still easier to operate than about half of the competition

Harness


The buckle is only average. It is a little stiff and not the easiest to operate, but it isn't the worst and only requires 1 thumb so there are harder options in the group. The chest clip is also average; the button itself is stiff and the two sides drag when sliding apart. The two sides are easy to mate up, but the sliding together to connect is also stiffer than the competition.

The release button on the Safety 1st is hidden under padding  but is still easy to find and use
The release button on the Safety 1st is hidden under padding, but is still easy to find and use

The Safety 1st is about average for tightening and loosening of the harness. The harness tightens by pulling on the strap at the foot of the carrier, which is somewhat difficult to pull compared to the competition. The release button is also located at the foot under about 3 inches of padding; it is easy to find and depress with one finger.

The harness height adjustment is a rethread style that uses a T splitter in the back for shoulder strap attachment. The loops on the straps are medium-sized and fairly easy to get in and out of the slots and reattach to the T splitter. There are 4 shoulder height options and 3 crotch strap positions that help parents get the best fit possible. The crotch strap isn't as easy to adjust as the shoulder straps, and we had a little bit of trouble getting it threaded through the slots. We prefer the non-rethread harness height adjustment like the one found on the UPPAbaby.

The Safety 1st has large handle release buttons on both sides. It allows you to use more fingers which makes operating it easier
The Safety 1st has large handle release buttons on both sides. It allows you to use more fingers which makes operating it easier

Handle


The handle is operated by squeezing the levers on both sides near the pivot joint, then it rotates to the desired position. The handle has 4 positions and any are acceptable when traveling in the car. The handle rubs on the canopy a little when it is down, but we didn't have any trouble with canopy/handle collision when both are up.

The release handle on the back of the Safety 1st carrier is easier to use than the release buttons on some of the other product's bases
The release handle on the back of the Safety 1st carrier is easier to use than the release buttons on some of the other product's bases

Carrier and Base Connection


The carrier part of the seat fits seamlessly into place on the base and normally needs no adjustments or maneuvering to get it to attach. There is no visual indicator to ensure connection, but we were able to consistently install the seat with no connection problems, though giving the carrier a good tug can prevent thinking you have installed it when you haven't made a good connection. Releasing the seat is also easy and only requires squeezing the handle on the back of the carrier to disconnect it from the base. The release handle can also be used to help lift the carrier off the base.

LATCH Anchors and Manual Storage


There is a dedicated LATCH strap covered storage compartment on the base of the seat to keep the straps from interfering with the carrier attachment. The compartment is located towards the front of the base and the belt slips under some retaining tabs to keep them out of the way. There is a chance the straps could escape, but we don't think it is likely.

The Safety 1st is a relatively comfortable seat with soft fabric and additional inserts for baby
The Safety 1st is a relatively comfortable seat with soft fabric and additional inserts for baby

Comfort/Quality


The Safety 1st earned a 6 for comfort and quality tying with 3 other seats.


The padding is thin but feels nice. The fabric is very soft, but we do wonder how well it will wear over time as it looked like it might be prone to snagging. The shell quality and fabric fit and finish are relatively average and look about right for the price point. Alternatively, the handle on this seat is nicer than average, works well, and is easy to hold.

The canopy on the onBoard Air works well and doesn't really conflict with the handle  but it isn't the best looking canopy in the group
The canopy on the onBoard Air works well and doesn't really conflict with the handle, but it isn't the best looking canopy in the group

The onBoard 35 has a large canopy that works well but only looks about average. It does not have a peek-a-boo window, but most of the seats in this review don't.

The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air is close to the average weight of the 15 car seats we tested with a weight of 9.46 pounds
The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air is close to the average weight of the 15 car seats we tested with a weight of 9.46 pounds

Weight


The Safety 1st seat weighs in at 9.46 lbs, which is almost the average for the review.


How much a seat weighs is definitely a consideration when it comes to making a buying decision, but we caution parents about making it the number one factor as many of the lightest seats failed to perform well in our tests. Instead, we suggest you use the weight of each seat to help break up a tie.

Stroller Compatibility


This car seat is not compatible with many strollers and it does not work with any of the award-winning options in our search for the best baby stroller. We think if the Safety 1st is your car seat of choice you will be happier pairing it with a baby carrier than a stroller. This is an option some parents choose and are very happy with. It helps increase baby bonding time and most of the carriers leave your hands free for other things. Anecdotally, we feel that babies are happier being carried close, and we experienced fewer crying moments with a baby in a carrier than a stroller.

Manufacturer Video




Other Versions


Safety 1st makes a few other infant style car seats with the one we reviewed here being their "middle of the road" option.
The onboard Air 35+ offers improved side impact protection over the non + seat in our review
  • They also have a Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air+ that does not have side impact "air" protection and costs about $30 less than the one in this review,


Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz