Google Pixel Buds (2020) Review: The AirPods of Android
It’s taken over two years for Google to release version 2 of the Pixel Buds and their new wireless pair was definitely worth the wait. With a minimalistic design, wireless charging and water resistance, they are the best buds that support Google Assistant released this year.
Almost every single technology brand is bringing out a set of their own earbuds, if they have not done so already. It’s become a heavily congested market where it seems logical to buy a set of earbuds that match up to the smartphone you’re currently using. iPhone users are pushed towards splashing out on a set of AirPods. Samsung, OnePlus and Huawei are just a few brands that have their own equivalents to entice their audience. What Google is doing with their latest pair is creating a product they hope all Android users will want.
The original pair of Google Pixel Buds look like an ancient artefact compared to the new model. Originally launched in October 2017, the first generation Buds had one major setback: they were still wired. Google has managed to make the Buds 2 lightweight and secure when put in your ears. The earbuds are remarkably thin, with three sizes of ear tips to suit the shape of an individual’s ear.
With their silicone tips, they have vents in the body that equalise the pressure between your ear canal and the outside world, making for a much more comfortable experience. I personally enjoyed using the earbuds as they fit very nicely. Sound quality was fantastic and I had no issues while using them for listening to all kinds of audio. Google has positioned these as the AirPods of Android and I think they do a fantastic job from day-to-day use.
One of the things I did find while using the earbuds for extended periods of time was that they started to feel uncomfortable in my ears. If I was using these earbuds during work, I’d find that I would start to feel soreness after a few hours. For commutes to work, listening to podcasts and taking calls in public they were absolutely fine to use. Because of Google’s breathable design, I was conscious while walking out and about that they were going to fall out of my ears. While they never did actually come out in public, I did find myself having to adjust them semi-regularly just in case they were going to fall.
If you read my Pixel 4a review, one of the things I liked the most about the product was how minimalistic the design was. The same can be said for these pair of earbuds. The Google branding is incredibly subtle and the earbuds themselves do not stick out. I found that people didn’t even realise I was wearing them if they were looking at me front-on which is something I’ve not experienced before.
Moving onto features of the earbuds, each piece has a touch panel which supports Google Assistant access, playback, volume, and call control. While it takes a lot of getting used to, the functionality of the pair is seriously impressive. Unlike with other pairs of buds, accidental taps are kept to a minimum. There’s also automatic ear detection with these, so playback pauses when the earphones are removed.
My favourite feature of the Pixel Buds how easily they pair to mobile devices. I used the pair on a Pixel 4a, finding the whole experience to be satisfyingly simple. Once opening the case of the earbuds, I received a notification on my device to pair the device, tap it, and you’re connected. Connecting earbuds to a device should always be this simple!
Battery life on the Pixel Buds matches rivals with three hours per charge and a total of 24 extra hours when put back inside the charge case between charges. The case charge is comparable to the Apple competitor and can also be charged wirelessly. I found that it took about two hours with the included USB-C cable to charge the case back up to 100%.
The earbuds come in a smooth white case that looks like something straight out of a science-fiction movie. I personally am a massive fan of the case, which is heavier than you’d expect but still easily fits into your pocket. Closing the lid of the case provides a very satisfying snap that I could play with for hours on end. The earbuds clip in place via magnets, having a status light for its own battery and a single LED that signals that both earbuds are changing. Again, this minimalistic design suits my personal tastes.
The final thing I wanted to touch on is the price. The Google Pixel Buds cost £179 in white, with a black version being made available at a later date. It’s currently positioned more expensive than the standard AirPods and the Galaxy Buds+, however it’s cheaper than the AirPods Pro and Microsoft Surface Earbuds for comparison on where it sits on the market. Having used these earbuds for a few weeks, I feel as if the price is justified, even if some of the cheaper options on the market do come with active noise cancellation, which the Pixel Buds don’t. In the US, there are also other colours currently available, including Oh So Orange, Quite Mint, and the Almost Black which is the only additional colour making its way to British shores.
Overall, I’ve found that the Pixel Buds are great for listening to music, hands-free calls and instant access to Google Assistant. They’re a significant improvement to the first-gen product with a minimalistic design that I love. If you’re able to look past the pain from continual use and the £179 price tag, you’ll find day-to-day use to be absolutely fine. Android users: If you’re looking to upgrade to some wireless earbuds, I would recommend looking into trying these.