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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 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
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 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 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 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.
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.
Safety 1st makes a few other infant style car seats with the one we reviewed here being their "middle of the road" option.
- 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,