Sophia Pitt wearing Google’s Pixel Buds Pro
Sophia Pitt | CNBC
What is good
Pixel Buds Pro are the first headphones from Google with noise canceling technology, just like Apple’s AirPods Pro. The sound quality is top notch and pretty much on par Apple’s AirPods Pro. When I switched between my AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds Pro while listening to the first minute of Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes,” the bass seemed a little too loud on the Google Buds, with the slightest hint of feedback.
The Pixel Buds Pro have an audio switching feature which made switching between devices like my phone, computer and tablet seamless. Aside from the initial setup, I didn’t have to deal with pairing the headphones to each device more than once, which was handy.
Noise canceling is almost as good as AirPods Pro. This helped block out the noise so I couldn’t hear my editor when he was asking me a question while listening to music. I haven’t tested it on an airplane, but this noise-blocking feature is usually effective in helping to drain the hum of the engines while flying. This is why this type of headset is popular among frequent travelers. Google said it created 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 blocked. I have to say this was true for me.
The earphone carrying case has a USB-C charging port — the same one that most modern Android phones use — meaning you only need to carry one cable with you. The case also supports wireless charging, just like the AirPods Pro case. This means you can simply drop it on a wireless puck to charge.
I was able to wear the Pixel Buds Pro for hours without even feeling a slight pain in my ears, which sometimes happens when I wear my AirPods Pro. A promise of such comfort would be welcome on long plane journeys.
They boast a longer battery life than the AirPods Pro with seven hours of listening time on a single charge when the noise canceling technology is activated. When this technology is not activated, they last up to 11 hours. Apple’s AirPods Pro last four and a half hours on a single charge. This is a big deal for a lot of people, and as an AirPods user, I noticed the difference.
Pixel Buds Pro let you easily chat with someone speaking another language thanks to the Google translate connection. I tested the real-time chat mode with my Brazilian stepmother, whose first language is Portuguese.
To start, I opened the Google Translate app on my Pixel 6a and tapped on Chat. After a few minutes we were able to carry on a conversation with 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 is it?” My phone translated the conversation and I heard her answer in English through 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 awkward and time consuming. But it would be useful if I was shopping overseas and needed to ask a question about whatever I was buying.
The Pixel Buds Pro come in four colors: black, coral, gray and light green. I like that the tips of the ears are black instead of white. (I know I’m not the only person who can get pissed off after watching earwax build up on white earplugs.)
Pixel Buds Pro are ultra-sensitive to touch. The outer surface of the buds reacts if you touch it to pause a song, for example. It’s handy if you just want to skip a track while you’re walking. But I was listening to a podcast while lying with my head on a pillow and the slightest movement of my head made the podcast stop. I often fall asleep with AirPods Pro in my ears and they have never performed like this.
I asked Google if a software update could fix this problem, but a spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
It’s also not as easy to find a lost set of Pixel Buds Pro as it is with competing AirPods. The Google headset must 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 that good either. My husband said it sounded “like you’re on speakerphone” when I made a test call to him. He said he could hear me pretty well, but I sounded a little distant.
We also tried FaceTiming and WhatsApp video chat. I often adjusted the Pixel Buds Pro in my ears because the fit didn’t feel as natural as my AirPods Pro. When I moved, he could hear unpleasant feedback.
There are three different rubber tips that come with the Pixel Buds Pro, which means there should be enough sizes to fit most people. But none of them fit me that well.
Should you buy them?
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 between devices makes the Buds Pro easy to use. The quality is almost as clear as the Airpods Pro, but the bulkier design makes them feel a bit awkward.