Microsoft's Surface Earbuds vs. AirPods

Back in October, Microsoft decided to get into the wire-free earbuds market with the debut of the Surface Earbuds, designed to compete with Apple's AirPods, Google's Pixel Buds, and Samsung's Galaxy Buds.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

We picked up a pair of Microsoft's Surface Earbuds to check out the feature set and see how they measure up to Apple's ‌AirPods‌.

Priced at $199, the Surface Earbuds have a design that's rather... unique. There's an AirPods-style earpiece that fits into the ear, along with a circular exterior portion that's rather large and noticeable, designed primarily for touch gestures. The Surface Earbuds are not low-key, hard to see headphones -- it's obvious when you're wearing them.


When it comes to fit, the Surface Earbuds are relatively comfortable. The ‌AirPods‌ kind of rest on the outside of the ears, while the Surface Earbuds are designed to fit a bit deeper in the ear canal, though not as deep as the AirPods Pro.


Surface Earbuds come with small, medium, and large tips, so most people should be able to get a decent fit. We found them to be uncomfortable to wear at first, but after they settled in for a few hours, the Surface Earbuds were more comfortable to wear.


The design of the Surface Earbuds definitely looks a bit funky, but it's functional because of the simple and effective gesture set, which uses the large surface area of each earbud.


A double tap plays/pauses music, a swipe on the left earbud skips tracks, and a swipe on the right earbud controls the volume. ‌AirPods‌ don't have gesture controls for volume, which is one of the major negatives when it comes to ‌AirPods‌ gestures.

There are also controls for accessing voice-based help and answering/ending phone calls, plus several Microsoft apps can take advantage of Surface Earbuds gestures. On an Android phone, for example, a triple tap on either earbud opens up the Spotify app. On iOS, you can listen to, delete, and reply to emails with touch and voice using the Outlook app, and in PowerPoint, you can swipe to advance slides, enable live captions and subtitles, and have what you're saying be translated into one of 60 languages.

Sound quality on the Surface Earbuds was somewhat unimpressive. The low end was disappointing and on the whole, music playback had a tinny quality. There is an app that accompanies the Surface Earbuds for EQ adjustments, which helps improve the sound somewhat. There's no Active Noise Cancellation, so the only sound isolating comes from the fit of the Surface Earbuds in the ear.


The Surface Earbuds have a six to eight hour battery life, which is extended to 24 hours with the included USB-C charging case, which has a rectangular design reminiscent of a little coffin. The case charges over USB-C, and there's no wireless charging included.


When paired with a Surface device or a Windows PC running Windows 10, which is what the Surface Earbuds are designed to work with, there's a Swift Pair feature for fast pairing, but on iOS devices, the connection will need to be done through Bluetooth settings.


Surface Earbuds are fine if you plan to use them with a PC or a Surface device, but there's no reason to pick these up if you're planning to use them with a Mac or an iPhone because the full feature set is restricted to Windows. Given the $199 price point, these are best for those who are in Microsoft's ecosystem rather than Apple's.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
18 weeks ago
These things look like the stickers you put on cheap furniture to cover the nail / screw heads.....or a drywall filler applied to ones ear....
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
18 weeks ago
They look like those huge pierced earlobe earring/inserts that missed the earlobe.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
18 weeks ago
The touch gestures sound great; but for $199 it seems to me like a hard sell when the main feature - the audio quality - isn’t on par with competition.

And frankly, the design looks very ambiguous. At least with other earbuds an on-looker knows What you’re wearing, these don’t look like anything.

Give MS it’s due though, they gave it a go!
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
18 weeks ago
And once again, even in the absence of Steve Jobs, Apple has an unique, courageous product that it’s iconic, cool, and defines its own category, while producing metric tons of cash.

This comparison feels like Zune vs. iPod all over again.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
18 weeks ago
This is all I see when I look at them..



Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
18 weeks ago


"Looks like you have tampons hanging out of your ears"

And strangely EarPods, which look pretty much identical (just a bit smaller I think), but with wires, never produced that comment..

Honestly, I think people going about and wearing huge traditional Beat, Bose or Sony headphones etc. look even goofier than someone with relatively discreet buds in their ears.

These Surface ones do look weird though..

(but just wear whatever you want)
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

Hands-On With iOS 14 Widgets, Custom Icons, and Home Screen Setup

Tuesday September 22, 2020 3:25 pm PDT by
Apple with iOS 14 introduced widgets on the Home Screen, leading to unprecedented levels of customization for the iPhone. Combined with Shortcuts that let you change an app's icon, iOS 14 lets you create a whole new look for your Home Screen. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've been following along with some of the creative alternative Home Screen designs that M...

PSA: New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop

Monday September 21, 2020 3:26 pm PDT by
With the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced two new band options, the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. These new bands are unique because they have no clasps, buckles, or other fasteners, and instead use a stretch design to allow them to pull onto the wrist over the hand. Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person...

Apple's iPhone 12 Event Could Happen on October 13 Based on Rumors From Mobile Operators

Wednesday September 23, 2020 11:51 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone-centric event could perhaps be held on Tuesday, October 13, according to information shared with MacRumors by an employee at a UK cellular carrier. There's no way for us to confirm the dates at this point in time nor are we sure on the credibility of the source, but even without a rumor, Tuesday, October 13 is a good guess based on Apple's historic launch timelines, ...

New Images Leak of iPhone 12 Braided USB-C to Lightning Cable

Thursday September 24, 2020 2:37 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple's upcoming iPhone 12 models will ship with a new Lightning to USB-C cable that includes a braided fabric design. Images of the purported cables were leaked in July, and today leaker Mr White has shared new images that give us a closer look at what we might get included in the iPhone 12 box. The photos show a USB-C to Lightning cable with a clearly braided design rather...

Interest in iOS 14 Home Screen Ideas Helps Pinterest Break Daily Download Record

Wednesday September 23, 2020 4:37 am PDT by
Apple's introduction of widgets on the Home Screen in iOS 14 has driven a surge in interest among users looking to customize their iPhone, and that has reportedly had a knock-on effect for Pinterest, whose iOS app has seen record downloads as users flock to its content seeking design inspiration. As reported by TechCrunch, App Store intelligence firm Apptopia was first to note the impact of ...

Apple Releases First Public Betas of iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 With New Shazam Control Center Options

Monday September 21, 2020 10:34 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to its public beta testing group, a few days after seeding the first betas to developers and a little less than a week after releasing the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS‌ 14.2 updates over the air after ...

Apple Emphasizes That Solo Loop May Increase in Length Over Time, Updates Sizing Guide With More Specific Instructions

Wednesday September 23, 2020 8:26 am PDT by
Apple on Tuesday updated one of its support documents to emphasize that the new silicone rubber Solo Loop for the Apple Watch may increase in length over time, as mentioned in fine print at the bottom of the Solo Loop product page. Apple has also updated its printable Solo Loop sizing guide with more specific instructions, as noted by 9to5Mac's Michael Steeber. The guide now advises users to ...

Microsoft Announces Outlook for Mac Redesign, Improvements to iOS and watchOS Apps

Tuesday September 22, 2020 8:56 am PDT by
Microsoft has today announced plans to bring a new design to its Outlook for Mac app along with several other improvements and features for Outlook on iOS and watchOS. In preparation for the public release of macOS Big Sur, Microsoft has been testing a new design for Outlook on Mac. The design includes Microsoft's Fluent icons and several design cues from Big Sur such as rounded corners....