Google Pixel Buds: Sound great, fit well and have a decent battery life

New A Series buds have some smart features stripped out but overall perform well

Product name: Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Price: €99.0

Where to buy: store.google.com

Website: store.google.com

Mon, Jun 21, 2021, 16:59

   

The new Google Pixel Buds could have gone either way. The tech giant took a gamble when it stripped out some of the higher-end, smarter features of its Pixel Buds 2 and dropped the price. It was a strategy that seems to have worked for the Pixel phones, so why should the earbuds be different?

There is some fierce competition in the reasonably priced earbud market. Huawei has just launched its Freebuds 4i, and local company OneSonic have some decent earbuds at a cheaper price than the new Pixel Buds. So why should you go for the A Series?

A couple of reasons. Those smart features they’ve stripped out, well, they may not be as big a loss as you’d think. The Pixel Buds A Series tick the right boxes, especially for Android users. These aren’t just for Google fans, although users of that ecosystem will naturally get better features. You can pair them with laptop or Apple device, but Google users will get the best experience. EasyPair makes them a breeze to set up.

They sound great, fit as well as the more expensive buds and have a decent battery life. They also look as good as the more expensive Pixel Buds that we liked last year, including the compact case.

The A Series bring a new colour too, with white and olive green added to the mix. There are three interchangeable tips to ensure that you get a good fit in your ear, and a wing that keeps it firmly wedged in, even through some challenging movement.

The wings are part of the design, and not removable, which may or may not be to your liking. But they serve a purpose, making sure the earbuds stay put. I tried several exercise classes, ranging from the mildly energetic to the seriously bouncy, and at no point did the earbud shift. That’s not something you can say about all wireless earbuds; I’ve found that in some cases, one inevitably works its way loose during vigorous exercise. The last thing you want to do mid-run is stop and retrace your steps to retrieve an earbud that has bounced out (usually on to the road). So they stay put.

Sound quality is also good, despite the fact that the A Series are vented. That means no noise isolation, and traffic noise can leak through. In some situations, that will be a good thing but there is no active noise cancelling, unlike the Huawei rivals. Near very busy roads, it can be distracting, but it can also be a good if you need to be aware of your surroundings.

Overall, the earbuds perform well. You may lose a bit on the bass at the really low end of the scale, but for general use, these buds will suit most types of audio.

They also perform well on calls. There were none of the usual telltale signs of a handsfree call – muffled, low or echoing sound for the recipient – and volume at my end of the calls was also excellent, provided the background noise level wasn’t too high. You’ll get two and a half hours of call time out of a single charge, with five hours of listening to music. Combined with the charging case, you get up to 24 hours of listening. The case is USB-C charging only, with no wireless options.

The buds have some touch gestures, allowing you to play, pause and change tracks without touching your phone.

They are IPX4 rated, which means don’t go swimming with them in – as if you would – or drop them in water. However, you would be fine to get caught in the rain, or have an especially sweaty workout with the buds in.

The good

Easy to set up, thanks to Google Easy Pair, these buds will also work with iOS and Windows devices through Bluetooth 5. The smarter features are reserved for Google users, naturally, such as access to the Google Assistant. That is handy for volume control; you can instruct Google Assistant to turn the volume up or down, as there is no volume control gesture. The Bluetooth connection seems solid too.

The not so good

If you aren’t a fan of buds with wing tips to keep them in place, these aren’t for you; they can’t be removed. The A Series also sacrifices a few features: wireless charging; gesture control for volume; and attention alerts, which would give you a heads up if the buds detected a baby crying or other unusual sounds while you were wearing the Pixel Buds 2.

The rest

The IPX4 rating means these earbuds will handle a bit of sweat and rain, but not much more.

The verdict

For Android users, these buds deliver good performance and are great value.

store.google.com