Pixel Buds Pro review: The great Google AirPods Pro competitor for Android

JGoogle’s latest Pixel Buds earbuds have been given the “pro” treatment, with better sound, noise cancellation, multi-point Bluetooth and an ergonomic design meant to rival Apple’s AirPods Pro but for Android users.

The Pixel Buds Pro cost £179 ($199 / AU$299), which is higher than Google’s £100 Pixel Buds A-Series as a new model. They will work with any standard Bluetooth device, including PCs and iPhones, but they have special features designed for Android.

They’re larger than the A-series earbuds, but they have a similar low, sentimental look that doesn’t protrude far from your ear. A smooth, branded “G” plastic cap is all people see when they are in your ear.

Buds Pro’s thicker, stem-free body is designed to fit the contours of your ear without putting pressure on any sensitive parts. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The earbuds are held in place using a traditional silicone tip, three sizes of which are included in the box. They feel secure and comfortable to wear even for extended periods without feeling “plugged” on some similar models, but the lack of a stabilizing wing makes them less suitable for a workout.

The colored cover is touch sensitive for a combination of highly effective gesture controls. Tap once to pause or play, double and triple to skip tracks, or tap and hold to turn noise canceling on or off. Swipe forward and backward to control the volume as well, which is very welcome. Music pauses when the earphone is taken out and resumes when it is reinserted.

The Pixel Buds Pro's open case shows the charging pins on the inside.
The pebble-shaped case charges completely via Qi wireless or USB-C in 70 minutes. The soft white plastic looks nice but picks up marks and changes color easily. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Buds Pro lasts up to seven hours of playback with noise cancellation, longer than many competitors. It clips magnetically into a foldable battery case, which fits easily in a pocket and can recharge the earbuds just under three times for a total of 20 hours of playback. A five-minute quick charge of the earbuds adds an hour of listening.

Determine

  • Delivery: Bluetooth 5, SBC, AAC

  • Battery life: Seven hours (ANC) plus up to 20 hours with case

  • Chassis dimensions and weight: 63.2 x 50 x 25 mm; 50 g

  • Earphone dimensions and weight: 23.7 x 22 x 22.3 mm; 6.2 grams each

  • Water Resistant: IPX4 earbuds (splash); IPX2 status

  • Driver size: 11 mm

  • Shipping box: USB-C, Qi Wireless

Good sound and noise cancellation

The Google Pixel Buds Pro earbuds sit in the palm of the hand.
Pixel Buds Pro 11mm drivers produce big sound with plenty of detail and bass bags. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Buds Pro are Google’s best earphones to date. It produces crystal clear sound with excellent tonal separation even on complex tracks. The bass is accurate and amplified, reaching the deepest notes, the mids and highs are rounded out and very detailed, and sounds great in most types of music.

It’s fairly bass heavy and can sound pretty clean on some tracks, and lacks a bit of raw energy in grunge, but I think most will enjoy it. The equalizer enhances the low and mid-tones for better balance at lower volumes. Google is pledging to add a full equalizer and spatial audio for immersive surround sound for movies via updates later this year.

Overall, they’re excellent earbuds that take a step up from everyday listening, and they’re just below the best that Sennheiser and Sony have to offer.

Likewise, noise cancellation is able to reduce most low noise, road noise, and fan noise, matching the performance of Apple’s AirPods Pro. It’s not quite as capable as Sony’s best, and it struggles more with higher pitches like keyboard clicks, but it’s still pretty good overall. They do suffer from a bit of wind noise, and the awareness setting around them is good but not quite as natural as the best.

Finally, the call quality was very good, it sounded natural and clear even in noisy environments, although a little background noise from the street crept into the call.

Connectivity and Settings

The Pixel Buds app displays settings and controls on your Pixel 6a smartphone.
The Pixel Buds app on Android handles settings and updates, and shows the battery level on the earbuds, case, and other pieces. The app is not available for iPhone or iPad. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Buds Pro are standard Bluetooth 5 earbuds, supporting standard SBC and AAC audio formats and Google Fast Pair with Android. It can be used in mono mode, which is easy to make calls, and it also supports seamless switching between paired devices. They support multiple points to connect to two devices simultaneously, such as a phone for calls and a laptop for music.

They have Google’s new automatic voice switching system that connects the Buds Pro to any Android phone or tablet that takes a call or plays media. It doesn’t work with PCs, Macs, or other devices, so multipoint is generally more useful.

Google Assistant

The top of the Pixel Buds Pro earbuds in the charging case shows the Google logo
Tap and hold the “G” logo or say “Hey Google” to invoke the voice assistant, but only with your Android phone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Google Assistant is another advanced feature that only works with Android. Touch and hold an earbud or use the alert phrase “Hey Google” to have it read notifications or messages, send replies, control music playback, adjust volume, give you directions from Google Maps, translate in real time with Google Translate and other tasks.

Sustainability

Google does not provide an expected battery life, but it should last more than 500 full charge cycles at at least 80% of its original capacity. Like most wireless earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro are not repairable, which ultimately makes them disposable.

The case contains recycled rare earth elements. The company publishes environmental impact reports for some of its products, but not the earbuds. It will recycle old devices for free.

price

Google Pixel Buds Pro cost £179 ($199 / AU$299) in a selection of colours.

For comparison, the Sony WF-1000XM4 costs £199, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 costs £219.99, Beats Fit Pro costs £199, Apple AirPods Pro costs £239, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro costs £149, Jabra Elite 7 Pro cost £199, Bose QC Earbuds cost £209.95, Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 cost £99.

Rule

With the Pixel Buds Pro, Google has finally installed Bluetooth earbuds.

It’s comfortable, sounds great and has strong noise cancellation, and the battery lasts seven hours. The controls are excellent, as is the case in the pocket. They have useful features such as multi-point connection to more than one device at a time and good connection quality.

While some of the brighter features are limited to Android – I don’t recommend buying them if you don’t primarily use an Android phone – the basics also work with PCs and iPhones if you have a mix of devices.

The sound quality and noise cancellation have been beaten by the best, but for everyday earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro are great and underestimate their competitors in terms of price as well.

You can’t repair the earbuds or replace the battery, which eventually makes them disposable and loses a star.

Positives: Great sound, effective noise cancellation, long battery life, very comfortable, good condition, great controls, fast pairing, multiple points, great features of Google Assistant with Android.

Negatives: No high-quality Bluetooth audio formats, no cross-platform settings app, waiting for EQ and spatial audio updates, status flags easily, no suites installed for exercise, non-repairable.

The Google Pixel Buds Pro case opens and shows the hole for one of the earbuds.
The magnet ensures that the earbuds slot is in the right place on the case, and the lid closes with a satisfying touch. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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