Powerbeats Pro vs. AirPods 2 Buyer's Guide
Apple's Beats brand in April 2019 announced upgraded wire-free Powerbeats Pro earbuds that are quite similar to Apple's recently released second-generation AirPods, but with a focus on fitness and working out rather than every day use.
Powerbeats Pro Design vs. AirPods 2 Design
AirPods are made for casual use and feature a one size fits all design with a rounded bulb-like earpiece and a microphone-equipped tail that extends out of the ears. There's no additional hook or other mechanism to keep them in the ears.
Powerbeats Pro are designed for fitness and have a design similar to prior Powerbeats models with earhooks that fit over the ears to secure them in place along with four ear tips in various sizes for a customizable fit.
Powerbeats Pro are meant to stay in the ears during vigorous activity and Apple tested more than 20 configurations before arriving at a design that fits most people.
Both the Powerbeats Pro and the AirPods come in charging cases, but while the AirPods charging case is small, compact, and the size of a dental floss container, the Powerbeats Pro charging case is much larger, clamshell-like, and not as pocketable.
Sound Differences and Noise Isolation
Powerbeats Pro use rubber ear tips in four sizes similar to traditional earbuds, which means they're designed to create a tight fit in the ear to isolate ambient noises. There is no feature for adding in ambient noise, which is something to be aware of if you plan to use these in situations where you need to hear what's going on around you.
AirPods have no similar ambient noise filtering because they are not designed to fit tightly in the ear canal.
Apple says sound was a focus when designing the Powerbeats Pro, with the new earbuds offering powerful, balanced audio with pure sound reproduction, enhanced clarity, and improved dynamic range.
Apple makes no similar claims about the AirPods and instead describes them as having "rich, high-quality sound." We'll need to wait for hands-on reviews for more specific details about the sound differences between Powerbeats Pro and AirPods.
You can tap on the AirPods to do things like activate Siri or change the song track, but there are no actual physical buttons.
The Powerbeats Pro is larger with more available surface area, and it does feature physical buttons for adjusting the volume, changing the song track, and accepting or declining a call.
There is no off button on the AirPods and there is no off button on the Powerbeats Pro. The Powerbeats Pro come on when taken out of the charging case and turn off when put back in, and will also go into a sleep mode after a period of inactivity to preserve battery life. The AirPods work the same way.
According to Apple, the Powerbeats Pro are sweat and water resistant with an IPX4 water resistance rating, which means they're certified to hold up to water splashing against the enclosure from any direction, but have the potential to fail when immersed or exposed to jets of water.
With an IPX4 rating, the Powerbeats Pro should be able to survive sweat exposure, but should not be exposed to rain, swimming pools, or other excessive moisture. The AirPods have no specific water resistance rating and should not be exposed to water or sweat, though anecdotal reports have suggested they're able to hold up to some moisture.
We did a series of water resistance tests on the Powerbeats Pro and they held up well to both splashes of water and 20 minutes of submersion.
Powerbeats Pro Colors vs. AirPods 2 Colors
AirPods only come in white, but Powerbeats Pro come in Black, Ivory (an off white shade), Navy, and Moss (an olive green). AirPods also feature a white charging case while all Powerbeats Pro models ship with a black charging case.
Apple's AirPods are priced at $199 for the version with a Wireless Charging Case or $159 for the version without one, while Powerbeats Pro cost $250. That's almost a full $100 over the base model of the AirPods.
Processor, Sensors, and Siri Support
The Powerbeats Pro use the same H1 chip that's in the AirPods 2 for faster connections to your devices, faster switching between devices, lower latency, and support for hands-free "Hey Siri" activation.
Powerbeats Pro have all of the same sensors and features that are in the AirPods, including ear detection that plays/pauses music appropriately based on position.
As with the AirPods, you can use just one Powerbeats Pro earbud or use both at the same time.
AirPods have a speech-detecting accelerometer and beamforming microphones that filter out external noise when you're making a phone call or a Siri request, and the Powerbeats Pro have the same feature.
The Powerbeats Pro actually have two beamforming microphones on each side to make up for the lack of a stem like the AirPods have. Phone calls on both the AirPods and the Powerbeats Pro are designed to sound crisp and clear. In our testing, the Powerbeats Pro worked well for calls. People had no issues hearing what we were saying, nor were there any issues with disconnects.
We have occasionally run into issues with poor sound quality on the AirPods, with people having a difficult time hearing us, but this is not a problem we've had with the Powerbeats Pro.
Each Powerbeats Pro earbud offers nine hours of listening time, which is a full four hours longer than the AirPods promise. AirPods offer five hours of battery life, but the battery life of both the AirPods and the Powerbeats Pro is extended to over 24 hours with their respective charging cases.
The Powerbeats Pro and the AirPods both support the Live Listen feature for using the earbuds as a directional microphone.
The AirPods and the AirPods Wireless Charging Case can be charged using either Lightning or Qi-based wireless charging. The Powerbeats Pro case does not feature support for Qi-based wireless charging and must be charged with a Lightning cable.
The Powerbeats Pro have a Fast Fuel feature that adds 1.5 hours of music playback after five minutes of charging and 4.5 hours of playback after 15 minutes of charging.
Apple's AirPods have a similar fast charging feature but it's not quite as good due to the smaller battery, offering three hours of listening time with a 15 minute charge.
Here's an at-a-glance comparison chart that gives a quick overview of the differences between the AirPods 2 and the Powerbeats Pro.
Apple's AirPods 2 and new Powerbeats Pro earbuds are clearly aimed at different target markets. While the AirPods 2 are for casual listening on a day to day basis, the more expensive Powerbeats Pro are designed for physical activity including sports, workouts, and more.
The AirPods are smaller and more convenient to carry and offer more convenient wireless charging methods, while the Powerbeats Pro offer longer battery life, superior sweat resistance, more color options, sound isolation, and potentially a different sound profile.
Choosing between AirPods 2 and Powerbeats Pro will depend on how the AirPods fit in your ears - some people can't get a good fit with the one size fits all design -- and your budget. The Powerbeats Pro's earhooks and ear tips in multiple sizes will potentially offer a better fit and will certainly be the better option for people who need earbuds for physical activity.
For more details on the Powerbeats Pro, make sure to check out our full Powerbeats Pro guide.
Have questions about the Powerbeats Pro or AirPods or know of details we've left out? Let us know in the comments or Send us an email here.