Google's New Pixel Buds vs. AirPods and AirPods Pro
Google's new wire-free version of the Pixel Buds started shipping out in late April, and we picked up a pair to see how Google's wire-free earbuds compare to the AirPods and the AirPods Pro.
When it comes to price and feature set, Pixel Buds are more similar to the AirPods than the AirPods Pro. The Pixel Buds are priced at $179, in between the pricing of the standard AirPods ($159) and the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case ($199).
They're not as expensive as the AirPods Pro and that's because there is no Active Noise Cancellation included in the Pixel Buds.
Design wise, though, the Pixel Buds have a little more in common with the AirPods Pro than the AirPods, featuring silicone tips (with multiple size options) that fit into the ears. AirPods, of course, have no silicone tips and are unlike most other earbuds on the market.
Google gave the Pixel Buds a unique design with a matte white Mentos-shaped body that sits outside of the ears and provides a small surface for gestures. Google actually made Pixel Buds before, but this is the first version without a wire - the prior model had a wire between the two earbuds.
There's a little stem that sticks out of the top of the Pixel Buds that provides a tight but comfortable in-ear fit to keep them in place. We found the Pixel Buds to be comfortable to wear, but as with any in-ear headphone, ear fatigue sets in after long periods of use and there can be some ear pain. For shorter listening periods, the Pixel Buds were comfortable, as are the AirPods and the AirPods Pro for most people.
The little Mentos-like puck on the outside is useful. One tap for play/pause, double tap for the next track, and triple tap to go back. There's also an option to control the volume by sliding from left to right, a useful feature missing from the AirPods.
When it comes to sound quality, the Pixel Buds work well for music and videos. There's separation between the low, mid, and high frequencies, and different instruments can be heard clearly. Lack of bass has been a complaint with the Pixel Buds, but we thought they sounded better than the AirPods and close to the AirPods Pro.
Our Pixel Buds had a major issue, though, and it appears we may have had a faulty pair. With no music playing, there's a high-pitched hum coming from the right earbud. It cuts out when music is playing, but can be heard during calls. We'll be getting a new pair from Google and will provide an update here in this article on whether that pair is functional.
Like AirPods and AirPods Pro, Pixel Buds come with a wireless charging case that adds additional battery life. It's a little bit egg shaped and closer in size to the skinny AirPods case than the wider AirPods Pro case.
Pixel Buds are meant to last up to five hours before needing to be recharged, with the case adding up to 24 hours of listening time. The case charges over USB-C or a Qi-based wireless charging mat, while AirPods are limited to Lightning or Qi charging if the wireless case was purchased.
When paired with an iPhone, Pixel Buds are equivalent to any other Bluetooth earbuds with no special features, but when used with an Android, there's more functionality to work with.
There's a fast pair option for holding the case near the phone to pair, much like with the AirPods, and the Pixel Buds link to a Google account for management and tracking purposes. If Pixel Buds get lost, they can be tracked via the app, which also provides a toggle for Adaptive Sound and other settings that can be tweaked.
Adaptive Sound, by the way, is meant to tune the audio based on your surroundings and it's in lieu of noise cancellation, which is not a Pixel Buds feature. Pixel Buds also include real-time language translation, which is neat, and access to Google Assistant through a gesture, which is great for Google Assistant users.
For iPhone users, there's no reason to purchase the Pixel Buds over the AirPods or AirPods Pro just because the AirPods have so much more to offer in terms of quick pairing, device switching, range, and iPhone integration, but for Android users, Pixel Buds are worth considering.
With the Adaptive Sound, wire-free fit, charging case, gesture support, and fast pairing options, Pixel Buds are the closest thing to AirPods on an Android.