Google Pixel Buds hands-on: True wireless earbuds with ambition

Google Pixel Buds
Google Pixel Buds (Image credit: Android Central)

I spent the least amount of time with Google's new Pixel Buds at the Made By Google event in New York City, and that was by design: the product isn't ready yet. No one is allowed to wear them, to hear how they sound, or to experience the machine learning-generated Google Assistant feedback, which promises to expand the voice assistant's integration into near real-time territory. And yes, they share the same name as their predecessor.

Pixel Buds

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Source: Android Central

Instead, the consolation was that I got to see the new Pixel Buds, which are truly wireless and live in a case that, when closed, looks like a distorted version of the onethat holds Apple's AirPods. And what I saw impressed me.

First, they're tiny. Google says that they're among the most compact true wireless earbuds (opens in new tab) on the market, though we don't have exact dimensions just yet. Anecdotally, I think they most resemble Samsung's Galaxy Buds (opens in new tab), but they're closer in size to Jabra's upcoming Elite 75t (opens in new tab).

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The case is magnetic, and Google says that each earbud has five hours of battery life, with an additional 24 hours afforded by the case, which is fast charged via USB-C or, optionally (and excitingly!) via Qi wireless charging. Go, Google!

Google's taking sound seriously, too: it was eager to show off the earbuds' custom 12mm metallic drivers, though it's unclear at this point their actual frequency range. Suffice it to say, that'll be the first thing we test when we get them next spring.

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The Pixel Buds reportedly come with three ear tip sizes in the box, a standard loadout in the industry, and when properly fitted offer a modicum of passive isolation — certainly more so than AirPods. But Google doesn't want to emulate the overwhelming isolation of other earbuds, outfitting these Buds with an ambient vent that lets in some sound from the outside.

There are still a bunch of question marks, though: is there an active passthrough feature using the built-in microphones? Is there an ambient sensor onboard to pause songs when an earbud is removed? They may be water and dust resistant, but do they stay in the ear while working out? And most importantly, how do they sound?

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Each Pixel Bud has a dedicated machine learning chip inside it, which facilitates on-device processing of voice input. At a minimum, Google intends to offer hands-free Google Assistant support, but the company is touting some additional features that are currently in development — hence the wait until next spring.

When they're available, they'll cost $179, a fairly steep price when the Galaxy Buds cost $50 less, but certainly in line with competitors from Apple, Jabra, Jaybird and others.

Are you interested in the new Pixel Buds (opens in new tab)? Let us know in the comments below!

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

7 Comments
  • Looks ugly compared to Samsung buds
  • Looked very compact as mentioned in the article. Hope they are not too heavy and sounds good. The design is superb.
  • Going against the general consensus, I am really like my current Pixel Buds. I live how they fit outside the canals, the sound is good with decent bass, I actually like the fact they aren't truly wireless as I can take one out and hang it around my neck while talking to someone. They aren't perfect but I'm not in the market for new ones any time soon
  • Knowing Google, the buds will only be available in the US
  • Well manicured hands. Says a lot about the buds.
  • I have the originals and love them. I'll probably get these too depending on the answer to my only gripe with the first. Will you be able to mute a phone call from the buds??
  • All I want too know is will larger earbud tips fit in the case?