Compared: Pixel Buds versus AirPods and AirPods Pro

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in iPhone
Google has released its latest set of wireless earbuds, the second-generation Pixel Buds. We've taken them for a spin to compare against Apple's AirPods and AirPods Pro.

AirPods Pro (left), Pixel Buds (center), and AirPods (right)
AirPods Pro (left), Pixel Buds (center), and AirPods (right)

Pixel Buds and Apple AirPods

The second-gen Pixel Buds aren't Google's first attempt at wireless earbuds -- Google previously launched the original Pixel Buds in 2017. In the original iteration, there was a wire that connected the earbuds that rested behind your head. With the 2020 release, they are now entirely wireless, similar to Apple's AirPods and AirPods Pro.






Google kept a similar style to older versions on the exterior of the buds, but removed the wire and added the stabilizers. The still look like circular discs in your ears, though they fit very close to the ear surface and don't protrude as much as AirPods do.

Pixel Buds earbuds
Pixel Buds earbuds


To control the Pixel Buds, you can tap and swipe on the large external surface. Tapping once can play or pause your media, taping twice will skip to the next track or chapter, and a triple tap will go backward. Swiping adjusts the volume up and down. The controls are intuitive and easy to manage thanks to such a large area.

Whenever a new set of earbuds come across our desk, we immediately compare them and their case to AirPods. Apple nailed the "fidget factor" including the perfect lid of the AirPods case -- it easily snaps open, has a solid hinge, doesn't wiggle, and snaps perfectly closed.

The case of the Pixel Buds is nearly as good as the AirPods charging case. Google has delivered a product with excellent build quality, in the second-generation Google Buds.

Pixel Buds case
Pixel Buds charging case


The case feels great with its matte finish and subtle colorways -- something we wish Apple would steal -- and the attention to detail is spot-on. The earbuds are easy to grab as you open the case, which gives them a sense of presence and makes them easy to remove. There are very clean lines, a nice curved shape, and no unnecessary branding or labels.

Even the USB-C port is well-designed. It has a clear opening and sharp edges that complete the simple aesthetic of the Buds.

AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds in Nomad Horween leather cases
AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds in Nomad Horween leather cases


AirPods have a similar aesthetic though it doesn't feel as polished as the Pixel Buds. Apple still has regulatory information stamped on the back and unsightly lines from the hinge.

Standard AirPods are controlled via a tapping gesture while the AirPods Pro upgraded to the new force stems that can be squeezed for physical control when not using Siri hands-free.

AirPods Pro support both wireless charging and Lightning whereas AirPods support Lightning unless you upgrade to the model with the wireless charging case or choose to pick it up extra later.

How Pixel Buds are better than AirPods or AirPods Pro

Google has done a great job outfitting the Pixel Buds with features, adding more functionality than Apple's base AirPods but not nearly as much as the AirPods Pro.

Google's second-gen Pixel Buds in their charging case
Google's second-gen Pixel Buds in their charging case


Compared to AirPods, Pixel Buds are more technologically impressive with wireless charging by default, real-time language translation when paired with a compatible device, more controls, water resistance, passive noise cancellation, and a more secure fit.

Some of those features are better than AirPods Pro as well. Real-time translation is a standout, allowing you to get translations in your ear as you are speaking with someone in a different language.

How AirPods and AirPods Pro are better than Pixel Buds

Basic AirPods offer no degree of noise cancellation, which in and of itself is both a benefit and a negative. Some people like the open nature of AirPods which allows them to easily ear around them while wearing them and find them very comfortable since they don't create a strong seal.




Pixel Buds offer passive noise cancellation with its gel tips that help block out external sound, as compared to AirPods Pro that offers true ANC. Apple is even using an internal microphone to listen to the anti-noise from the noise cancellation to be sure that the sound you hear is correct. This is a feature called Adaptive EQ and it tunes the audio to your ear as well as monitors the ANC.

AirPods also have many iOS-specific features. You can toggle listening modes from Control Center, adjust them via Siri, find them with the Find My app, and customize them within Settings. One of the best features is iCloud sync. This syncs the Bluetooth profile across all your Apple devices signed into the same Apple ID. Once you pair with your iPhone, you can move to your iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, or even Apple TV.

Apple also designed its own chip for AirPods -- the H1. The H1 chip enables Bluetooth class 1 audio which has a far more robust signal and increases the range from the industry standard 33 feet to around 100 feet.

Which should you buy?

AirPods ProPixel Buds
Noise Cancellation Active Noise CancellationPassive Noise Cancellation
Pass-Through AudioYes,transparency modeNo
One-tap setupYes *on iOSYes *on Android
AssistantSiri *on iOSGoogle Assistant *on Android
TranslationAsk SiriReal-time *on Android
Auto-pauseYes Yes *on Android
ControlsForce stemsSwiping and tapping gestures
Water ResistanceIPX4IPX4
Wireless ChargingYesYes
Battery4.5 Hours (5 with ANC off)5 Hours
Unique FeaturesLive Listen,Find My app,iCloud syncing,Lightning,adaptive EQ,Apple H1 chip with 100-foot range,audio sharing,integrated into iOS Control CenterUSB-C,multiple colors,stabilizer arc
Price$249$179
Typically, when we set out to compare two sets of headphones, they are on rather even footing, but there is no way to put these on even footing. All of the smart features of each are sequestered to their own operating systems, never to cross paths.

Just as AirPods aren't nearly as impressive on an Android device, Pixel Buds don't quite live up on iOS.

Pixel Buds' adaptive audio isn't active on iOS, nor is the ability to auto-pause audio when the earbuds are removed from your ear. This is odd considering many other earbuds -- like the recent Jabra Active Elite 75t manage to do just that.

You can't find them with the Google Find My Devices app, you can't use the translation features, Google Assistant, nor fast pair.

Pixel Buds and AirPods Pro
Pixel Buds and AirPods Pro


AirPods drop their Siri support, lose their customization features, many of their unique features such as Live Listen, and more fall flat when used on Android.

So when it comes to our recommendation, it is easier than ever. If you have iOS -- grab yourself a set of AirPods or AirPods Pro. And conversely, if you have an Android phone, then absolutely pick up the Pixel Buds.

Both of these sets are outstanding and set the bar in their respective ecosystems, just don't try to mix and match.

Pixel Buds vs AirPods Pro: which has better deals?

Google's Pixel Buds Gen 2 sell for $179 at popular retailers like B&H Photo and Best Buy.

Meanwhile, Apple AirPods Pro are currently on sale for $224.99 at Verizon Wireless. This is one of the best AirPods deals we've seen on the wireless earphones.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,634member
    Well at least they're not complete knockoffs. Just give it some time though and they'll adopt Apples "ugly" design and toss the Mentos.
    bloggerblogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 16
    KITAKITA Posts: 382member
    The Jabra Elite / Elite Active 75T look to be the best option for earbuds without paying too much. It looks like Google still has some work to do.

    Otherwise, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 seem to be the best to beat if budget isn't too much of an issue.

    Beats said:
    Well at least they're not complete knockoffs. Just give it some time though and they'll adopt Apples "ugly" design and toss the Mentos.
    Apparently anything not made by Apple is a knockoff according to you. This character you're playing, it's not very amusing.
    CloudTalkinBeatsmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 3 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,300member
    KITA said:
    The Jabra Elite / Elite Active 75T look to be the best option for earbuds without paying too much. It looks like Google still has some work to do.

    Otherwise, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 seem to be the best to beat if budget isn't too much of an issue.

    Beats said:
    Well at least they're not complete knockoffs. Just give it some time though and they'll adopt Apples "ugly" design and toss the Mentos.
    Apparently anything not made by Apple is a knockoff according to you. This character you're playing, it's not very amusing.
    Liberty Pro 2's have excellent sound at a reasonable price. I like them. A lot.

    They, of course, don't offer any of the special sauces that Airpods and Pixel Buds bring, and that's what the higher prices are for. If you only want 'em for music those extra features probably aren't worth the extra cost. FWIW I am buying the Pixel Buds (2 pair, one for me and one for clients owning Android phones, service not available for iPhones) primarily for the on-the-fly translation. The other stuff is just bonus. 

    Since the first of the year it's become more common for me to deal with clients whose first language is not English, a market I've been dealing with connected to the pandemic. Spanish regularly of course but also French and Slovak. I'm hoping this will ease the language problems. We'll also be using the Nest Hub in the lobby for translation services (Interpreter Mode). 
     
    If the Pixel Buds don't assist as much as I hope they do they'll still serve a purpose but not as clearly worth the premium cost, tho they aren't what I'd consider expensive anyway. 
    edited May 2020 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 4 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,634member
    KITA said:
    The Jabra Elite / Elite Active 75T look to be the best option for earbuds without paying too much. It looks like Google still has some work to do.

    Otherwise, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 seem to be the best to beat if budget isn't too much of an issue.

    Beats said:
    Well at least they're not complete knockoffs. Just give it some time though and they'll adopt Apples "ugly" design and toss the Mentos.
    Apparently anything not made by Apple is a knockoff according to you. This character you're playing, it's not very amusing.

    I didn't say it was a knockoff, reading comprehension is also terrible among those who give everyone but Apple a pass.

    Is the case a complete ripoff? Yeah, duh. Doesn't take a 3rd grader to tell you that. White, same snapping lid, same indicator light, even the same damn position of earbud placement. The average person will think they're AirPods with the lid closed.

     Where it's unique is the Mentos earplugs. Give it some time and they will adopt Apple's design that iKnockoff users criticized, and the same memers who bashed AirPods will say how great Googles AirPods look.

    BTW I was giving Google praise for having an ounce of originality. But there's types like yourself who refuse to call out anything not made by Apple.
    edited May 2020
  • Reply 5 of 16
    KuyangkohKuyangkoh Posts: 757member
    KITA said:
    The Jabra Elite / Elite Active 75T look to be the best option for earbuds without paying too much. It looks like Google still has some work to do.

    Otherwise, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 seem to be the best to beat if budget isn't too much of an issue.

    Beats said:
    Well at least they're not complete knockoffs. Just give it some time though and they'll adopt Apples "ugly" design and toss the Mentos.
    Apparently anything not made by Apple is a knockoff according to you. This character you're playing, it's not very amusing.
    Well, they looks likes apple...in case and color so folks might think they are knock offs...or look alike
    bloggerblogBeats
  • Reply 6 of 16
    Sound quality? Let's not enquire about such irrelevances. Especially as Apple iTunes still has such a crappy idea of high quality audio encoding. I was stupid enough to register my interest in subscribing to Apple Music and Apple Music Cloud only to find a month or so later that following a new, fresh OS install, Apple iTunes Store loaded every single music file in my iTunes Library with a data reduced 250Kb file Provided by Apple. Seven years burning hundreds of CD's using lossless algorithms and every single track was replaced with low quality junk because Apple did not make the instructions to subscribers of its new "improved" services clear. I read that 100's of iTunes Libraries fell foul of their cock-up.
    KITA
  • Reply 7 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,300member
    Kuyangkoh said:
    KITA said:
    The Jabra Elite / Elite Active 75T look to be the best option for earbuds without paying too much. It looks like Google still has some work to do.

    Otherwise, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 seem to be the best to beat if budget isn't too much of an issue.

    Beats said:
    Well at least they're not complete knockoffs. Just give it some time though and they'll adopt Apples "ugly" design and toss the Mentos.
    Apparently anything not made by Apple is a knockoff according to you. This character you're playing, it's not very amusing.
    Well, they looks likes apple...in case and color so folks might think they are knock offs...or look alike
    Absolutely identical as anyone can see. 
    Apple's are glossy white rounded corner boxes, and the Pixel Buds come in a smaller egg-shaped matte white with colorways. 
    They'd like identical twins, plainly a rip-off of Apple. /s


    AirPods Pro left Pixel Buds center and AirPods right

    edited May 2020 CloudTalkinKITArevenantmuthuk_vanalingamavon b7
  • Reply 8 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,634member
    gatorguy said:
    Kuyangkoh said:
    KITA said:
    The Jabra Elite / Elite Active 75T look to be the best option for earbuds without paying too much. It looks like Google still has some work to do.

    Otherwise, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 seem to be the best to beat if budget isn't too much of an issue.

    Beats said:
    Well at least they're not complete knockoffs. Just give it some time though and they'll adopt Apples "ugly" design and toss the Mentos.
    Apparently anything not made by Apple is a knockoff according to you. This character you're playing, it's not very amusing.
    Well, they looks likes apple...in case and color so folks might think they are knock offs...or look alike
    Absolutely identical as anyone can see. 
    Apple's are glossy white rounded corner boxes, and the Pixel Buds come in a smaller egg-shaped matte white with colorways. 
    They'd like identical twins, plainly a rip-off of Apple. /s


    AirPods Pro left Pixel Buds center and AirPods right


    When you have to nitpick at details like iKnockoff users do for Android, you just prove the point. The main difference is the earbuds themselves. The average person wpould be fooled with the lid close but you have to be a moron to confuse the earbuds to AirPods.

    I'm not even an engineer and I drew up an original design in less than one minute (will scan it in if I can get my scanner to work).

    You're delusional if you think Google's casing and even color are an accident.
  • Reply 9 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,634member
    Sound quality?

    The weird think about the GoogleBuds is I can sometimes hear my voice echo. It's almost as if someone's listening on the other line.
  • Reply 10 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,300member
    Beats said:
    gatorguy said:
    Kuyangkoh said:
    KITA said:
    The Jabra Elite / Elite Active 75T look to be the best option for earbuds without paying too much. It looks like Google still has some work to do.

    Otherwise, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 seem to be the best to beat if budget isn't too much of an issue.

    Beats said:
    Well at least they're not complete knockoffs. Just give it some time though and they'll adopt Apples "ugly" design and toss the Mentos.
    Apparently anything not made by Apple is a knockoff according to you. This character you're playing, it's not very amusing.
    Well, they looks likes apple...in case and color so folks might think they are knock offs...or look alike
    Absolutely identical as anyone can see. 
    Apple's are glossy white rounded corner boxes, and the Pixel Buds come in a smaller egg-shaped matte white with colorways. 
    They'd like identical twins, plainly a rip-off of Apple. /s


    AirPods Pro left Pixel Buds center and AirPods right


    The main difference is the earbuds themselves. The average person wpould be fooled with the lid close but you have to be a moron to confuse the earbuds to AirPods.

    I'm not even an engineer and I drew up an original design in less than one minute (will scan it in if I can get my scanner to work).

    You're delusional if you think Google's casing and even color are an accident.
    What part of even the closed Pixel Buds case would "fool the average person" into thinking they were AirPods? Serious. What about it is the least bit similar to Apple's charging case?

    Not the egg shape which matches and complements the design of the buds themselves, or the smooth soft-touch matte finish which again follows the finish of the buds (Apple''s glossy white hard plastic is original?), or the twin LED's indicating the buds themselves are charged and separately that the case is too. Not the more compact size, or the color band highlighting the lid opening. So that leaves "well... um... it's white"?

    By the way I really would love to see your "original design in less than a minute" that nicely matches the design language of the Pixel Buds themselves and allows for the same features.

    You do understand how silly you sound, right? That's why so many members don't take you seriously as once again you couldn't possibly mean what you said. You're not really an unapologetic fanboy making true and honest fans of Apple products sound obnoxious. You just play one on the forum.

    You don't do other Apple fans any favors by being the caricature.

    Google Pixel Buds 2020 true wireless earbuds case
    edited May 2020 avon b7KITA
  • Reply 11 of 16
    kbeekbee Posts: 23member
    From https://support.google.com/googlepixelbuds :
    "Do not attempt to remove the batteries. Contact Google or a Google authorized service provider to replace the batteries."

    So it seems that batteries of the PixelBuds can at least be replaced by an authorized service provider. Why doesn't Apple care?
    And why doesn't AppleInsider care when AirPods and PixelBuds are compared?

    AirPods can be used for ~18months (that is my experience and the experience of some friends). After that period of time AirPods start to slowly become unusable cause they don't hold the charge. Can you replace the battery? No! Recycling is also hard for other companies than Apple?
    I know stories from NY where thrown away or lost AirPods cause massive problems.
    https://www.idropnews.com/news/lost-airpods-have-become-a-massive-problem-in-nyc-mta-to-take-action/116206/

    So when you consider our environment and given that the battery of PixelBuds really can be replaced - there is only one winner: PixelBuds!
    Shame on you Apple! Where is the battery replacement program for AirPods? When does Apple change the design of the AirPods so that the battery can be replaced?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=167&v=HDTZ_yaYIAc&feature=emb_logo
    KITAgatorguy
  • Reply 12 of 16
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,956member
    kbee said:
    From https://support.google.com/googlepixelbuds :
    "Do not attempt to remove the batteries. Contact Google or a Google authorized service provider to replace the batteries."

    So it seems that batteries of the PixelBuds can at least be replaced by an authorized service provider. Why doesn't Apple care?
    And why doesn't AppleInsider care when AirPods and PixelBuds are compared?

    AirPods can be used for ~18months (that is my experience and the experience of some friends). After that period of time AirPods start to slowly become unusable cause they don't hold the charge. Can you replace the battery? No! Recycling is also hard for other companies than Apple?
    I know stories from NY where thrown away or lost AirPods cause massive problems.
    https://www.idropnews.com/news/lost-airpods-have-become-a-massive-problem-in-nyc-mta-to-take-action/116206/

    So when you consider our environment and given that the battery of PixelBuds really can be replaced - there is only one winner: PixelBuds!
    Shame on you Apple! Where is the battery replacement program for AirPods? When does Apple change the design of the AirPods so that the battery can be replaced?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=167&v=HDTZ_yaYIAc&feature=emb_logo
    A valid criticism and one I agree with although I myself own a few pairs of battery powered earbuds without replaceable batteries.

    I dearly hope manufacturers pick up on what Google seems to have designed here and make it the norm. 
  • Reply 13 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,300member
    So here's a plus regarding the Pixel Buds: 
    They'll be getting future "feature drops" ala Pixel smartphones, adding new functions and features. Cool stuff that buyers should appreciate.  My guess is the first might add customizable EQ?  That should be an easy one. 
  • Reply 14 of 16
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,956member
    gatorguy said:
    So here's a plus regarding the Pixel Buds: 
    They'll be getting future "feature drops" ala Pixel smartphones, adding new functions and features. Cool stuff that buyers should appreciate.  My guess is the first might add customizable EQ?  That should be an easy one. 
    That would be useful and if they went one step further some cool things might be possible. Two examples.

    1. I have a particular dislike for cymbals and some tracks are ruined by them to my ear. It would be awesome if some kind of AI could offer to reduce the impact of certain sounds without having to fiddle with equalisation.

    2. Sorry to any Big Bang Theory fans who may have their experiences ruined by this observation. On the show's canned laughter there is a woman's voice buried in there which utterly irritates the hell out of me when I hear it and it gets repeated over and over. Once you've heard it you cannot unhear it and your attention gets drawn to it every time. Having AI search for that sound and suppressing it would be a godsend.

    Just reducing the impact would help a lot. Perhaps the processing power isn't there yet on the buds themselves but what if it were carried out on the phone when the source of the audio is local.

    Perhaps wacky ideas but that is what I would like. 
  • Reply 15 of 16
    jeffmr4jeffmr4 Posts: 3member
    Kind of funny. This article is supposed to be comparing audio earbuds, the primary use of which is music (or phone) and there is no mention of sound quality.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,300member
    jeffmr4 said:
    Kind of funny. This article is supposed to be comparing audio earbuds, the primary use of which is music (or phone) and there is no mention of sound quality.
    "None of the above" if music and music alone is your intended use. There's earbuds producing better sound, and at a lower price.  

    With that said, in general reviewers and purchasers are saying Pixel Bud 2's sound subjectively better than AirPods and equivalent to Airpod Pros which means very good but not amazing.
    edited May 2020
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