Google Pixel Buds Review
True wireless earbuds. If you’re a tech reviewer, you get, I don’t know, about 25, 30 pitches a day from manufacturers who found ways to make them smaller, make them cheaper, and usually make them look just like Apple’s AirPods. Well, I don’t like the way Apple’s AirPods look. So when Google announced that it was making a sequel to the Pixel Buds, well, for once.
They’re my new favorite true wireless earbuds. Now my objections to AirPod aesthetics aside, Apple deserves credit for pioneering some of my favorite features that are also found on the new Google Pixel Buds. For one thing, pairing them to a Pixel 4 is as easy as flipping open the lid and tapping the notification that pops up. Of course, like any Bluetooth device, you can also manually pair them to something else.
Google Pixel Buds 2021 Hardware
Now if you’re not someone who cares about design, maybe you wanna go for one of those cheap AirPod knock-offs because I think a lot of the charm of this product is gonna be lost on you. That starts with the case which is almost more interesting to me than the buds. Visually it hues to Google’s minimalist industrial design without the kind of anonymous glossiness of Samsung’s Galaxy Bud’s pill or the suitcase-like AirPods Pro Carrier, and once you touch it, it’s really this grand slam of tactility.
It takes the matte finish of the Pixel 4 a step further into the eggshell territory. In fact, it really feels like an egg. Of course, it’s much thinner than an egg. You can even slot it into a coin pocket, and despite that small footprint, it packs a battery big enough to recharge the buds more than four times before the case itself needs a top-up. When you do recharge, you can do it through an included USB-C cable or with a Qi wireless charging pad, and LEDs on both interior and exterior tell you the charge status. The only other things you need are also in the box.
Google Pixel Buds 2021 Experience – Software and Sound
Three sizes of gels for different-sized ears. Comfort-wise, they’re, eh, about average. They’re simple rubber instead of the fanciful space-age foam of my longtime favorites, the Earin M2s, and like most buds, after about two hours, they start to get a little itchy or sore. Physically, I love how low-profile these are.
You can just barely see them from dead-on, and from the side, they just kind of look like someone put a Mentos in your ear. Each one packs a Google designed 12-millimeter driver, but, folks, I’m not gonna beat you over the head with reviewer cliches about warm sound stages and bright sound. If you want an audiophile’s perspective, there are great reviews out there for that. I’m like most people with my audio. I know what sounds good, (alarms wailing) and I know what sounds thin, and these are the former. They get rich, and they get loud, and they do incredible magic when it comes to voice calls. More on that in a second.
First, let’s jump back in time to before my intro roll and talk water-resistant. (air whooshes) This next bit of testing you’re not supposed to do, or it’s not really rated for, but I’m not supposed to do videos with my hair looking like this, so hm. So the deal with these is they have an IP X4 rating, and an IP X4 rating means it has no certification for any kind of dust resistance. Watch out for that, that’s the X part. The four-part means you can’t submerge them, but they should be able to withstand spraying water from any direction. Okay, well, I actually had two reasons for bringing these in here. It wasn’t just the water resistance, but for battery life.
I didn’t have enough time and to test these. So I’m having to run continuous music tests the whole time, and this spoiled that because now they can resume playback, but that’s it’s really muddled because these got pretty wet. So I’m gonna let them dry out for 20 minutes, get back to testing. The buds continued to work very well after the shower. They didn’t even need 20 minutes to dry out.
You shouldn’t get them wet repeatedly though. Google goes out of its way to warn that the water-resistance rating can degrade over time. My favorite discovery from that shower was actually a surprise to me. It was finding out how handy voice commands were. Google, volume up. As you’d expect, the Pixel Buds have the deepest possible level of integration with Google Assistant. That means you can use them for things like real-time language translation. I wasn’t able to test that for obvious reasons, but I did get a lot of texts to read to me by the assistant.
Mostly I just found myself asking the buds to adjust the volume or start a podcast or radio stream, which is really convenient in a time when we should all be minimizing touching things, phones included. Hey, Google, play WSHU. For those times when voice commands are impractical, each bud has the expected touchpad. You can swipe for volume, menu tap to skip tracks, or confirm commands.
Also like some other earbuds, these know when they’re in your ear and when they’re out, and they’re quite good at pausing playback when you take them out and resuming when you put them back in. One of the things that earbuds are almost always bad at is the voice call. Well, I took two phone calls on the Pixel Buds totaling two hours, and both callers did say that they’d heard a clearer version of me when just using a phone, but folks here’s the thing.
Both of those calls were conducted on an exercise walk outdoors on a breezy day while wearing a face mask. I didn’t expect my friends and family to be able to hear me at all, let alone well enough to talk for an hour apiece. I’m guessing this as thanks to the technology Google cooked up for these, a combination of beam-forming mics and accelerometers that detect when your jaw is moving. That lets the buds decide if you’re talking or not, which informs how the mics listen.
The only case I found where they worked against me was when I went back home on my roof and broke out some Doritos. To repeat your description, it is as though I dumped the chips out, took the bag, the crinkly bag, and I’m wrinkling it right in your ear when I chew. Is that correct? Before we finish with battery life, couple details. (Doritos crunch) I found the Bluetooth range to be very good indoors.
I could leave my Pixel 4 on the table and basically run around all three floors of my place without even a stutter in the stream even when I closed a door behind me, but when carrying the phone on my body, the sound sometimes got a little chop to it. It could also have been wind interference, but in any case, I had the most luck with front or chest-pocket carry.
Also, the buds can only maintain a connection to one device at a time, and at press time, there’s no automatic audio cue to tell you which device they’re connected to, and, folks, I was really hoping for acoustic noise-canceling on these, something I’ve grown used to on my overhear cans in which Apple does include on its Airpods Pro. Finally, how long do they last? Well, I found Google’s estimates to be surprisingly accurate namely five hours of continuous music between charges or two-and-a-half hours of talk time. On that walkabout day, I had a blend.
I managed two hours of voice calls and one and a half hours of music and podcasts before I ran out of juice, and the next day when I stuck to just music, I was down to around half charge after two and a half hours right in line with the estimates. Also, the case can fast-charge. Google says in 10 minutes of charging, you’ll get two hours of listening time. Now my review period was too short to test this claim, but I’ll follow up with more insights on Twitter and Instagram.
I admit that after the large disappointment of the 2017 Pixel Buds and my irrational resolve to never be seen in public wearing AirPods, I was perhaps hoping that Google would pull out a win with these, but those hopes and biases have nothing to do with this conclusion. For $179, (cash register chimes) the new Pixel Buds are a great buy. They’re a delightful combination of aesthetics, features, and just plain fun. Until Earin finally comes out with a sequel to my old favorites, the M2s, the Google Pixel buds are what I’ll be keeping in my coin pocket.
They’re available from Google now in white with more colors coming soon. To see my review of those old Earin buds, which in some ways are almost as technically impressive as the Google product, check out that video on my channel. Disclosure, this review was produced following five days with a set of 20/20 Pixel Buds provided by Google, I don’t do paid reviews though.
The company paid no compensation for this coverage and also didn’t get an early look or any copy approval rights concerning it. That means Google is seeing this for the first time right alongside you. Please subscribe if you’d like to see more videos like this in the future. Until next time, thanks for reading this article. Stay safe and stay home, but in spirit stay mobile, my friends.