When the Pixel Buds first came out two years ago, the reception from tech reviewers was pretty cold. Various reviews mentioned how the earbuds were half baked. In 2019, after using the RHA MA650 wireless, Samsung Gear IconX 2018, and the Google Pixel Buds. Are these as bad as some people have said? Lets find out.
The Google Pixel Buds are Bluetooth earbuds that are not truly wireless. They cost $159 and come in two colors, “Just Black” and “Clearly White”. They have an earbud design as oppose to an in-ear design of most truly wireless earbuds these days. The device also comes with a carrying charging case and is rated at 5 hours on a single charge. Below are some detailed specifications:
- USB-C for charging
- 120mAh battery for the Earbuds
- 620mAh battery for the charging case
- Capacitive touchpad
What I like
The Felt Fabric Case
The first time opening the Google Pixel Buds left a great impression on me. The tactile feel of the soft felt fabric case was not something that I expected to like as much as I did. Compared to the cold hard feel of metal or the slippery feel of new plastic, it brought a feeling of warmth. I would love to see other manufacturers experiment with this type of material.
After a couple of months of using it, the case has held up well. I have not noticed any pilling on the case despite being rubbed against my jeans in both my front and back pocket very often. Overall I would say that the material is pretty durable.
Nice and Tidy
Now some reviewers have complained about the Pixel Buds being difficult to put back into its case. I have not found this to be the case. Sure, it definitely isn’t as straight forward as dropping them in any way you want. However, as long as you follow the exact way they want you to put it in, it becomes second nature after the third time. It also makes sure everything is nice and tidy, satisfying the slight OCD side of me.
Charges through USB-C
As someone who has wholeheartedly adopted USB-C, its great to see the Pixel Buds also using a USB-C connection to charge the case.
What I don’t like
Lack of noise isolation
As someone who takes public transportation to work, these are not good earbuds to use on the bus. The lack of good noise isolation makes these almost impossible to use in loud environments. The only saving grace is that the earbuds can get loud. However, I would not trade damaging my ears for being able to listen podcasts on my way to work.
The lack of noise isolation is not all bad though. In a quiet work environment, these allow me to hear my surroundings while listening to music. If a co-worker were to ask me a question while I was at my desk, I would be able to notice rather than having to rely on them tapping me on the shoulder.
This really comes down to personal preference and where you will be using these earbuds.
The Pixel Buds have one of the strongest Bluetooth connections I have used in a Bluetooth earbud. After using an RHA MA650 wireless which would often stutter even if the phone was just in my back pocket, these are absolutely wonderful. I have been able to still have a connection even being on the other side of a 4500 sqft house.
Battery life has been good for me. I consistently get 5 hours on a single charge. Being able to quickly charge back up also means that I can just pop these in the case in between meetings and not have to worry about it ever running out of battery.
I have yet to fully drain the charging case, but I usually connect it to a charger about every 4 – 5 days.
What I have mixed feeling about
Many reviews have mentioned very sensitive controls. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it is pretty annoying to accidentally pause or play music. By far the most annoying is when being connected to a Windows PC and accidentally triggering Cortana. On the other hand, the sensitive controls have made it super easy to change the volume as well as instantly trigger Google assistant. These are by far the fastest in triggering Google Assistant I have ever seen. Once you make contact with your right earbud you can immediately say a command and the assistant will pick it up perfectly. This instantaneous execution makes Google Assistant a joy to use on the Pixel Buds. Every device should have this degree of fluidity.
Live Translation Feature
When it first came out, this feature was a Pixel Buds exclusive. In 2019, the translation feature has been opened up to other devices. I have tested it a couple of times with French, Mandarin, and English. It works better than initial reviews have shown (most likely due to progress in the algorithm over the years). However, the translation and the speed of the processing are still sub-par. I would only ever use this if I were stuck trying to ask for directions in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. Other than that, it is just a cool feature that I have used only once. Given that this isn’t even a Pixel Bud only feature anymore,
At $159, these earbuds are pricey. A lot of truly wireless earbuds are around this price, if not cheaper, making the price tag hard to swollen.
Would I recommend them?
These are tough to recommend. There is not a lot the Google Pixel Buds does to justifies the premium price. A strong connection, premium tactile feel, and integration with Google products can’t make this a good value. Given the compromises with noise isolation and touchy controls, it is better to wait for Google to come out with version 2 or perhaps try out the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Buds.