Sofia Pitt wears Google’s Pixel Buds Pro
Sofia Pitt | CNBC
What is good
The Pixel Buds Pro are Google’s first headphones with noise-cancelling technology, just like Apple’s AirPods Pro. The audio quality is really good and almost on par with Apple’s AirPods Pro. Switching between my AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds Pro while listening to the first minute of Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes,” the bass on Google’s Buds seemed a little too loud, with the slightest hint of feedback.
The Pixel Buds Pro have an audio toggle feature that makes switching between devices like my phone, computer, and tablet seamless. Aside from the initial setup, I didn’t have to go through the hassle of pairing the earbuds to each device more than once, which was handy.
The noise cancellation is almost as good as the AirPods Pro. It helped block out noise. I couldn’t hear my editor asking me a question while I was listening to music. I haven’t tested it on an airplane, but this feature is usually good for deadening engine hum while flying. For this reason, noise-cancelling headphones are popular with frequent travelers. Google said it has developed sensors that constantly measure the pressure in your ear canal so the buds are more comfortable and users don’t feel like their ears are stuffed. It works out.
The carrying case uses USB-C charging, which is identical to most modern Android phones, so you only need to carry one cable. The case also supports wireless charging, just like the AirPods Pro case, meaning you can just drop it onto a wireless puck to charge.
I could wear the Pixel Buds Pro for hours without experiencing the slight earache that sometimes happens when I wear my AirPods Pro. That means these might be more comfortable for long plane trips.
They have longer battery life than the AirPods Pro, with seven hours of listening time on one charge when noise-cancelling technology is enabled. If the Buds Pro noise-canceling technology is not activated, they last up to 11 hours. Apple’s Airpods Pro last 4.5 hours on a single charge. That’s a big deal for a lot of people, and as an AirPods user, I’ve noticed the difference.
With the Pixel Buds Pro, you can easily converse with someone who speaks another language thanks to a Google Translate shortcut. I tested the real-time talk mode with my Brazilian stepmother whose native language is Portuguese.
First, I opened the Google Translate app on my Pixel 6a and tapped on “Conversation”. After a few minutes we were able to have a conversation with an almost perfect translation. I asked, “Would your family in Brazil use this translation feature?” To which my stepmother replied in Portuguese, “Yes. Is it affordable? How much does it cost?” The phone translated the conversation for me and I heard her answer in English about the Pixel Buds Pro.
I probably wouldn’t use the feature to ask someone for directions unless I was really desperate as it was a bit cumbersome and time consuming. But it would be useful if I’m shopping abroad and need to ask a question about what I’m buying.
The Pixel Buds Pro come in four colors: black, coral, gray, and lime green. I like that the earbuds are black instead of white. I know I’m not the only person who feels disgusted after looking at the buildup of earwax on white earbuds.
What is bad
The Pixel Buds Pro are overly sensitive to touch. The outside of the buds respond when you touch them, for example to pause a song. It comes in handy when you just want to skip a music track while walking. But I was listening to a podcast while resting my head on a pillow, and the slightest movement of my head made the podcast stop. I often fall asleep with my AirPods Pro in my ears and they’ve never just paused like that.
I asked Google if a software update could fix this, but a spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Finding a lost set of Pixel Buds Pro isn’t as easy as it is with AirPods. Google’s headphones need to be connected to an Android phone. But with AirPods, the Find My app will show you their last known location even if they’re no longer connected to your iPhone.
And the mics weren’t great either. My husband said it “sounds like you’re on the speakerphone” when I called him as a test. He said he could hear me pretty well, but I sounded a bit distant.
We also tried FaceTiming and video chatting on WhatsApp. I frequently adjusted the Pixel Buds Pro in my ears as the fit didn’t feel as natural as when using my AirPods Pro. As I fidgeted, he could hear uncomfortable feedback.
There are three different rubber bud tips that come with the Pixel Buds Pro, meaning there should be enough sizes to fit most people. But nobody suits me that well.
Should you buy them?
The AirPods Pro work just as seamlessly with an Android device as they do with an iOS device, so I prefer the AirPods Pro. But if you’re looking to save some cash, the Pixel Buds Pro are the next best thing. Battery life is great and the seamless transition when switching between devices makes the Buds Pro easy to use. The quality is almost as clear as Airpods Pro, but the chunkier design makes them feel a bit cumbersome.