Back in 2017, Google released their first set of wireless earbuds called the Pixel Buds. The first-generation Pixel Buds had clunky hardware paired with super buggy software. You can read more about them here. The product was such a disaster that Google didn't mention the product at all when they replaced them.
Enter the Pixel Buds (2020), Google's first attempt at a set of true wireless earbuds, and they're better in every way. They're great if you live within Google's ecosystem and find yourself heavily using the Google Assistant. Or, you simply don't care for active noise cancelation (ANC) at all.
However, the AirPods Pro are better in a few key ways including comfort and microphone quality for phone calls and video chats. Of course, the AirPods Pro feature active noise cancelation (ANC), something the Pixel Buds (2020) lacks entirely.
A tougher choice than expected
So let's start with the elephant in the room. The AirPods Pro feature ANC while the Pixel Buds don't. ANC performance on the AirPods Pro is excellent and easily competes with the best ANC true wireless earbuds on the market. If you need ANC, AirPods Pro are the obvious pick here, if you're willing to pay the price premium for them.
The AirPods Pro feature ANC while the Pixel Buds don't.
Otherwise, both sets of earbuds are similar. For example, the Pixel Buds net you 5 hours of listening on a single charge and 19 hours with the charging case (24 hours total). The AirPods Pro net you 4.5 hours with the buds and 19.5 hours with the charging case (24 hours total). Both the Pixel Buds and AirPods Pro support Qi wireless charging but the Pixel Buds use USB-C for wired charging while the AirPods Pro use Apple's proprietary Lightning connector for wired charging.
In terms of comfort, the AirPods Pro come out on top. The AirPods Pro's ear tips use a proprietary locking mechanism that allows just the rubber ear tip to enter your ear canal. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the Pixel Buds are uncomfortable. They're actually quite comfortable, at least for shorter-term use. The earbuds are lightweight and the buds don't go that far in your ear. Unfortunately, the Pixel Buds have wings attached to them that are really stiff and often poke up against your ear. This makes them rather uncomfortable after several hours of use, forcing you to take breaks.
When it comes to call quality, the AirPods Pro win again. The AirPods Pro are fantastic for taking phone calls and are known for having some of the best microphones for calls out there. However, the Pixel Buds' microphones aren't bad and hold their own. The AirPods Pro are still the best set of true wireless earbuds for taking phone calls but the Pixel Buds are pretty decent at isolating your voice and reducing background noise. The Pixel Buds sound a bit compressed and callers will definitely know you're using earbuds but your voice still comes in decently clear.
|Google Pixel Buds||AirPods Pro|
|Battery life (buds)||5 hours||4.5 hours|
|Battery life (case)||19 hours||19.5 hours|
|Active noise cancelation||No||Yes|
Now let's discuss sound quality. The Pixel Buds pack a great punch on the low-end with excellent bass reproduction that's slightly elevated. The midrange is fairly balanced with no complaints there, and the treble errors on the safer side, lacking in detail and brightness on certain tracks.
If you can live without the Google Assistant and don't mind a more "basic" earbuds experience, the AirPods Pro are an excellent choice.
The AirPods Pro feature a more balanced sound signature with a slight emphasis on the midrange. Overall, the AirPods have a more balanced sound, but the Pixel Buds feature a more energetic and overall fun sound. Neither set of earbuds feature EQ of any sort, at least out of the box. Of course, you can always use third-party apps to EQ but having a first-party solution is always welcome.
Touch gestures are fairly similar between the two sets of earbuds with a single-tap to play/pause or answer/hang up a phone call, double-tap to skip forward, and triple-tap to skip back. The Pixel Buds have the upper hand here since you can control volume with a swipe forward or back on the earbuds' touch surface. The AirPods Pro don't feature any volume control and require you to pick up your device or summon Siri (iPhone only) to change the volume.
Both the AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds feature integration with their respective platforms and digital assistants. The Pixel Buds work best with Android and offer one-tap pairing to most modern Android phones. The AirPods Pro work best with the iPhone and offer one-tap pairing to most modern iPhones. You can tap and hold the Pixel Buds or say "OK Google" to summon Google Assistant, and you can say "Hey Siri" to summon Siri with the AirPods Pro.
Which earbuds are best for you?
In the end, it's a tough call. The Pixel Buds (2020) are Google's first attempt at a set of true wireless earbuds. They have a lot to offer, especially considering their lower price point versus the AirPods Pro. The Pixel Buds (2020) are for those who are deeply invested in the Google ecosystem and love the Google Assistant. However, if you can live without the Google Assistant and don't mind a more "basic" earbuds experience, the AirPods Pro are an excellent choice, albeit at a much higher price point.
With the AirPods Pro, you'll lose most of the "smart" features such as access to your digital assistant, automatic play/pause, the ability to use one earbud at a time, and downright any customizability on Android. However, the AirPods Pro are more comfortable and feature a superior mic for phone calls and video chat, a more balanced sound, and active noise cancelation.
Google all the things
Google Assistant on tap
The Pixel Buds (2020) are great for those who heavily use the Google Assistant. They also feature great battery life, good comfort and sound, and excellent integration on Android.
Apple all the things
ANC for a price
The AirPods Pro feature excellent comfort and ANC, great battery life, and a balanced sound. However, you'll lose all the "magical" features when you pair them to your Android device.
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