- Chris Velazco, Engadget
They're a $159 experiment that doesn't live up to the hype.
- Vaughn Highfield, Expert Reviews
Google’s shot at the future of earphones is admirable, but misses the mark.
|Size||2 x 2 x 2 cm (0.8 x 0.8 x 0.8 in)|
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As more phones, including Google's own Pixel 2, forgo the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, wireless headphones are slowly shifting from premium accessory to must-haves. Google's latest offering, the Pixel Buds, offer a wireless experience with a couple additional perks for those already in the Google ecosystem.
Unlike the AirPods or Bragi The Dash Pro, the Pixel Buds aren’t completely wireless. There’s a cable that connects the two earbuds together. For some, this additional piece of cable proved to be a hindrance as it got caught on their clothes. To make matters worse, there's no clip on the cord to attach it to your shirt or another article of clothing to keep it out the way.
The buds themselves are unassuming with their small form factor and black color. Rather than sliding into your ear canal, these rest in the outer ear. This means they won't block outside noise as well as in-ear buds. Although this might be useful while walking around, it’s not so great if you want to concentrate on the music or podcast you're playing.
The right bud offers touch controls to control volume and playback without having to find an inline controller or look at your phone. A tap can pause, play, or pick up a call. A forward or backward swipe will raise or lower the volume.
You can even trigger Google Assistant by holding your finger to the right earbud and talking. It’s a fun and easy way to do things like skip songs and respond to messages. Sadly, not all apps support voice control playback, such as the Apple Music Android app.
According to reviewers, the touch controls work almost too well. They often experienced accidental taps and swipes when trying to control their music.
The biggest oversight they found was that the buds don’t recognize whether they are in your ear.. So there they would often trigger touch controls when trying to stow the buds in the case or when it was dangling from their neck.
In terms of performance, experts found the sound profile good overall with a warm presentation, rich tones, and good depth when listening in a quiet room.
Unfortunately, when in louder locations, the background noise seeped in and required reviewers to crank the volume thanks to the earbud's open-air design. Even at max volume, they often struggled to hear their music.
However, audio quality isn't Google's focus. The earbuds include a unique feature—real-time translation. In theory, you can tap the buds and speak. The earbuds will then will read your words back in another language.
While great in theory, it fell short due to Google Translate’s own shortcomings in real-world use. Although it handled basic sentences and conversations, the translations often came off very simplistic and lacked nuance.
Good enough for use in a pinch or for basic tourist functions. But you'll sound far from fluent.
Battery life impressed with the buds lasting through 5 hours of continuous usage on a single charge. With intermittent use, reviewers found they'd last about 8 hours before needing to top up again.
Reviewers appreciate the forward-thinking features of the Pixel Buds, but have a hard time recommending it due to its drawbacks. Engadget states, “At best, they’re decent; at worst, they feel unfinished.” The Verge adds, “... this is a first-generation product in the bad kind of way, and it looks even worse when you compare it to Apple’s growing success with the AirPods.”
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