Apple's Beats brand in April unveiled the Powerbeats Pro, a redesigned wire-free version of its popular fitness-oriented Powerbeats earbuds.
Powerbeats Pro vs. Powerbeats 3
Today, we're taking a look at whether it's worth upgrading to the Powerbeats Pro if you've already got the Powerbeats 3, or if it's worth spending the extra cash if you're trying to decide between the two.
Powerbeats 3 have been around for a few years now, and are available at prices as low as $90, making them much more affordable than the $250 Powerbeats Pro, but feature wise, the Powerbeats Pro pack in a lot of functionality for that extra price increase.
When it comes to design, the Powerbeats 3 and the Powerbeats Pro look rather similar as both feature earhooks to keep them in place along with in-ear earbuds that block out ambient noise, but the designs aren't quite the same.
The Powerbeats 3 have an earhook that's angled upwards and an earpiece that's slightly shorter, while the Powerbeats Pro have an earhook that better contours to the ear. The biggest design difference is, of course, the cable that connects the Powerbeats 3 as these are not wire-free headphones like the Powerbeats Pro.
A wire-free design is unquestionably better than a wired design in most situations, but a wire does make sure you're not going to lose a single earbud because they're tethered together. That might be preferable for some people.
Both Powerbeats 3 and Powerbeats Pro are comfortable thanks to the four eartips in different sizes, but we preferred the fit and the feel of the Powerbeats Pro. The new angle just gives them a better fit in the ear, but there's not a huge amount of difference between the two. The earhooks on the Powerbeats Pro seem durable and more sturdy compared to the earhooks on the Powerbeats 3, and we didn't get the impression that they're going to be prone to breakage.
Powerbeats 3 have a single physical button to power them on and off and they come with a remote on the wire for controlling media playback. Powerbeats Pro have no wire, so there are physical buttons on the earbuds themselves for controlling media and changing the volume.
Powerbeats Pro come with a battery case that provides extra power, and while the Powerbeats 3 have a case, it's a flimsy little silicone thing that's only meant to give you a way to carry them around. Powerbeats 3 boast 12 hours of battery life while Powerbeats Pro are limited to nine hours, but you do get up to 24 hours of additional battery life with the aforementioned battery case.
Powerbeats 3 have a W1 chip, much like the original AirPods, which allows for simple device pairing and switching, but it's not as simple as the Powerbeats Pro pairing. With Powerbeats Pro, you just open the case near an Apple device and the pairing process is initiated, but with Powerbeats 3, you need to hold down the power button for five seconds.
Powerbeats Pro have an updated H1 chip that allows for faster pairing than with the W1, hands-free "Hey Siri" support (you need to push a button to use Siri on Powerbeats 3), and improved range, plus the Powerbeats Pro support Bluetooth 5 so you're going to get a better connection and longer range.
As for sound, we thought the Powerbeats Pro sounded better than the Powerbeats 3 because they're more balanced. The Powerbeats 3 are bass heavy and that muddies the sound in some songs, a problem the Powerbeats Pro don't have. Powerbeats 3 don't sound bad, but they don't sound as good as Powerbeats Pro.
Sweat and water resistance is going to be a major question, and it's not something that can be addressed properly without longer periods of testing and moisture exposure over time. Powerbeats Pro have an IPX4 water resistance rating, which means they've been tested and can hold up to splashes of water, while the Powerbeats 3 have no specific Ingress Protection rating.
That suggests the Powerbeats Pro are going to better hold up to moisture than the Powerbeats 3, but it's going to take more testing and exposure to sweat over time to get a clearer picture of how durable these new earbuds are.
There have been a lot of complaints about Powerbeats 3 failing due to sweat exposure, so hopefully this is a problem adequately addressed by the sweat and water resistance Apple promises in Powerbeats Pro.
Overall, the Powerbeats 3 are fine headphones, but the Powerbeats Pro are better in almost every way. There's a huge price difference between the two, but if price isn't much of a factor and you're aiming for convenience, the Powerbeats Pro are the clear winner and are worth the purchase or the upgrade.