Almost a year after their release, the Google Pixel Buds are still one of the best options for those on Android wanting a solid pair of earbuds that compete well with Apple’s own AirPod series.
The big caveat is that if you don’t own a Pixel then you might not be as interested – and understandably so. It’s hard to deny that the Pixel Buds are made to be partnered with a Made by Google smartphone. You can still use them with any Android device though, as the dedicated Pixel Buds app still ensures you don’t miss out on anything. That said, if you just want a good, cheap pair of Bluetooth earbuds, then there is a growing list of options to choose from.
At just short of $180, if the best audio experience is your goal or if you want active noise canceling, we’d suggest taking a look at some of the other contenders. In real terms, ANC isn’t quite as important on earbuds, where you can get fairly solid isolation courtesy of a good ear seal and fit. But we can understand if you do want the noise-canceling feature, especially when you can pick up the Galaxy Buds Pro for $199.
But here are five reasons you may want to take a closer look at Google’s Pixel Buds should you be shopping for wire-free audio on your smartphone.
Video – 5 reasons the Pixel Buds should be your next earbuds
The Google Assistant is at the very core of the entire Pixel series and that includes the Pixel Buds. If you love being able to ask queries, control your smart home tech, and just utilize the Google Assistant on a regular basis, then this is core reason to consider the Pixel Buds.
It’s nice being able to control all facets of your device completely hands-free, and while the Pixel Buds do include touch controls, not having to fiddle with your earbuds when in your ear is one major benefit. For those with a Google Pixel 4, 4a, 4a 5G, or 5, then the on-device Google Assistant means you can use your device to completely control your smartphone via your earbuds.
When not within direct reach of your phone, this truly elevates the Pixel Buds above many other headphones or earbuds touting Google Assistant integration — which often ends up being pretty basic.
Design, fit and finish
Unlike many of the other Apple AirPods clones on the market, the dot-style Pixel Buds stand apart with a design that is completely independent. Each earbud is small and inconspicuous when compared to some of the bulbous stem-style earbuds you’ll see on the market.
The matte finish and playful colors that have become a Google signature are one of the reasons the Pixel Buds stand out in a sea of similarly designed earbuds. Despite being mainly plastic, the design feels premium and the fit and finish definitely indicate that. Each bud is solid but lightweight, which often is something cheaper earbuds can’t claim.
Because the Pixel Buds case is relatively small and also has a matte finish, it doesn’t pick up scuffs, dirt, and grime as easily. You can slip it into a pocket with relative ease, while there is the added bonus of wireless charging along with a USB-C port for charging.
Sound profile and audio experience
Now hear me out here (pun not intended). It’s true, the Pixel Buds do not have the best auditory experience you can get. They do, however, have a really nice solid sound profile that suits all listening tastes. I have yet to find a pair of earbuds that have such a consistent approach to all genres of music. Add in the bass boost feature and the 12mm drivers can do even the most intense DnB justice.
Arguably the best sounding earbuds of the past 18 months are the Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro. While the Pixel Buds don’t quite match the audio experience the Anker earbuds provide, it’s not a major step down and every genre is solid, with a wide soundstage, plenty of layered separation in tracks, while the bass has a real thump. Audiophiles will want to look elsewhere, but for those that just want a “good” listening experience across the board, they really are great.
Another notable is the little sound touches when connecting, tapping, and interacting with the Pixel Buds. These little intricacies are why the audio experience gets elevated even above earbuds that you’d ordinarily say are objectively “better.”
Google Fast Pair
Pairing Bluetooth earbuds and accessories can be a pain, even when using generic-branded buds. Apple’s fair pairing has been the envy of those of us here sitting on the Android side of the fence for some time. However, Google Fast Pair is fixing that.
The Pixel Buds were among the first to support the quick pairing feature that makes getting them connected to your devices an absolute cinch. Because you’re linking the Pixel Buds directly to your Gmail account and have the added bonus of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), new devices will know and be able to connect automatically when in proximity. This is a killer feature that isn’t as widely available as it probably should be.
A small pop-up will appear on your display that lets you instantly connect. Once you have paired, further notifications will appear when you reconnect to the Pixel Buds on your device. This is especially useful as you’ll get a little indicator of the battery percentage of each earbud and the case — saving you guesswork based upon when you need to charge.
Like the Pixel smartphone line, the Pixel Buds are in line to get “Feature Drops.” Think of these as a lifespan extender, and it’s probably the core differentiator between Google’s own true wireless earbuds and the rest of the market.
The first Pixel Buds Feature Drop brought with it some really neat features including Bass Boost EQ, which bumps up the low-tone response for better audio. Plus the Attention Alerts feature will ping you when the Pixel Buds detect audio such as a baby crying, a dog barking, or even an emergency siren blaring. In busy environments, this can be a really good way to ensure you’re not fully blocking out an important sound.
Find My Device integration has also been added, so should you misplace the Pixel Buds, you can find them just as you would if you lost your smartphone. Google can effectively keep upgrading the Pixel Buds over time with updates that add completely new features making it wise to hold on for a longer period.
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