Back in February before the world fell apart, I was in an art gallery building in New York City, where Samsung gave the press an early look at its upcoming Galaxy S20 series. In the demo room, there were plenty of phones laid out in different filming sets, but Samsung had also placed a few of its new Galaxy Buds Plus in the room. Visually, they were pretty hard to tell apart from the original Galaxy Buds that I had in my pocket, but I was excited to see them nonetheless.
Fast-forward to when pre-orders of the S20 went live, and I took advantage of the promotional offers to score a free pair of the Galaxy Buds Plus with my S20+ order because, well, why not? I figured the audio would be a little better, and the improved battery life was enticing given how often I used the original Buds when traveling.
Since my Galaxy Buds Plus came in, I've also gotten a pair of Jabra's popular Elite 75t true wireless earbuds for comparison, which seem to have become the de facto golden standard for the product category. After spending months with both pairs, I have to say — I can't remember the last time I've charged my Jabras.
At a glance
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
Bottom line: The Galaxy Buds Plus offer a nearly perfect balance of sound quality, battery life, and ease of use that make them my go-to true wireless earbuds. I wish they offered active noise canceling, but given the affordable price and compact form factor, it's hard to complain.
- Excellent battery life
- Improved call quality over the originals
- Very good sound quality with the right fit
- Compact case that charges via USB-C or Qi
- Lots of configuration in the app
- Glossy case gets grimy quickly
- No active noise cancelation
- Gestures can be finicky while adjusting earbuds
Galaxy Buds Plus What's still great
I'll cut right to the chase and say that by far, my favorite thing about the Galaxy Buds Plus remains the ridiculous battery life I'm able to get between charges. Samsung quotes 22 hours of battery life on the Buds Plus, split between 11 hours internally and 11 hours of spare juice in the charging case. I definitely haven't worn these earbuds for 11 hours straight to test the veracity of that claim, but I can at least say that I've never had to worry about them dying on me mid-day.
The Galaxy Buds Plus are comfortable, compact, and long-lasting.
That's partially because of how you can recharge them. Of course, the case keeps the earbuds juiced up any time you store them, and I love that you can top up the case over USB-C. But even more handy (especially when I'm traveling) is that you can charge the case wirelessly. On business trips, rather than needing an extra cable and charging port, I usually just plug my S20+ in at night, flip it over, and sit the Buds Plus case on top with Wireless Powershare enabled.
Since my last trip in late February, I've actually switched over to the OnePlus 8 full time, which doesn't have wireless charging in either direction, so I suppose that workflow wouldn't really work for me anymore, but it was a wonderful system to have in place.
As for the earbuds themselves, the Galaxy Buds Plus are about as comfortable as it gets for my ears. The default sizing fits perfectly, and provides just enough of a seal to keep surrounding noise mostly out, even without active noise cancellation.
These have become my go-to headphones for meetings and phone calls.
I still love the winged tips that keep the headphones in my ears, even when I'm running, and the Buds Plus really do sound significantly better than their predecessors. I listen to everything from progressive metal to jazz, pop, hip hop, emo, fusion — I try to maintain some variety, and I rarely have a complaint with the sound profile of the Buds Plus.
In addition, my biggest annoyance the Jabra Elite 75t, the direct competitor to the Buds Plus, is that the left earbud is entirely dependent on the right one. I watch videos with just one earbud in all the time, and with the Elite 75t, you simply can't do that with only the left earbud. The Galaxy Buds Plus work independently of each other, giving you free will to divide your attention any way you see fit.
I think my favorite thing about the Galaxy Buds Plus over the original Galaxy Buds is the massive improvement in microphone quality. Last year's model was muffled to the point of being virtually unusable for calls, but the Buds Plus actually sound pretty great. They've become my go-to headphones for Android Central's weekly meetings, and the few times a month I need to make an actual phone call.
Galaxy Buds Plus What hasn't aged well
One thing I'd definitely change about the case is this gross glossy finish that replaced the previous Galaxy Buds' matte casing. It feels cheap, and it smudges like crazy — though I guess if anything, the light that it reflects makes the case easier to find. On the bright side, it still opens smoothly along the hinge, and closes with a satisfying snap. I wish the earbuds were a bit more magnetized to the case, which I think Jabra really nails with the Elite 75t, but that's hardly a dealbreaker.
It's also worth noting that the Jabra Elite 75t definitely sounds better for certain types of music. In particular, the Elite 75t has a more balanced low end response that works really well for bass-heavy music, but it can get a bit too tinny for my ears in the high end for genres like metal, which often put a lot of emphasis on cymbals and high, shrill notes. Ultimately, I trust either set of earbuds to work for the majority of what I listen to.
Samsung has also recently added a volume adjustment feature to the Buds Plus, but like The Verge's Dieter Bohn, I'm not having the most consistent experience with it.
I still wish the Buds Plus were able to pair to multiple devices at once; while it's nice that you can quickly switch between devices you've previously paired to without having to re-establish a Bluetooth connection, it'd be even better if you could just have multiple audio streams coming through at once.
And while we're talking minor complaints, I'd really love for a subsequent model of the Galaxy Buds to feature active noise cancelation. The passive sound isolation is enough that cabin noise doesn't really bother me on flights, so long as I've got the volume cranked loud enough, but I shouldn't have to blow my ears out just to listen to my music in peace.
The true wireless earbuds competition
There are other true wireless earbuds that handle specific things better than the Galaxy Buds Plus. The Jabra Elite 75t sounds better for particular genres, and has even longer combined battery life between the earbuds themselves and the charging case. But they're also more expensive, the case doesn't wirelessly charge, and I have a hard time overlooking the left earbud's dependence on the right one.
Sony's WF-1000XM3 earbuds are among the select few true wireless earbuds with active noise canceling, along with even better sound quality. The charging case is considerably larger, though, making them much less pocketable, and these are among the most expensive true wireless earbuds out there.
The Pixel Buds are yet another great set of true wireless earbuds worth looking into. Battery life isn't the greatest, but the Pixel Buds have touchless Google Assistant voice controls, activated with a simple "hey Google" command, along with niceties like intelligent volume controls that automatically adjust based on the noise levels of your surrounding environment.
Galaxy Buds Plus Should you buy them?
Who it's for
- If you need affordable, long-lasting earbuds
- If you need wireless charging in your earbuds case
- If you make a lot of calls over Bluetooth
- If you need headphones that fit in your pocket
- If you like touch-based controls
Who it isn't for
- If you need active noise cancellation
- If you need to connect to multiple devices at once
- If you want the absolute best audio quality possible
It's hard to overstate the importance of convenience and portability. Since I've gotten the Galaxy Buds Plus, I've used them almost exclusively over my Sony WH-1000XM3 over-the-ear headphones (with the exception of when I'm editing video, at which point I need wired audio), which offer better sound quality and active noise cancellation, because they're so much easier to carry around and pop in and out of my ears. They're significantly lighter on my head, and don't give me the dreaded "headphone hair."
Andrew gave the Buds Plus a 4.5 in our initial review, and I see no reason to change that. I'd absolutely love a pair of souped up Galaxy Buds that offered active noise canceling and best-in-class audio quality, even if it came at the cost of slightly weaker battery life. But in the meantime, these work great for virtually every use case I throw at them, and I haven't once reached for my other true wireless earbuds in the last few months.
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