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Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Which wireless earbuds are best?

Nothing ear (1) vs Apple AirPods Pro
Nothing ear (1) vs Apple AirPods Pro (Image credit: Future)

This big battle of the buds pits the Nothing ear (1) against Apple AirPods Pro to determine which one walks out as the ultimate winner.

Nothing ear (1) entered this market in a big way. So big, in fact, that the hype built around them got me nervous about the finished product. It turns out, I was wrong to be nervous; they sound great, offer good noise cancellation, and sport a striking transparent design that some of you will love (me included) and others will hate.

And, of course, there's the Apple AirPods Pro. We gave them a 4.5-star rating for their clear, balanced sound, decent ANC and a comfortable design over long sessions. Thanks to the seamless usability, these became the best choice for iPhone users.

But as I’m learning the hard way with every knee crack and grey hair in my early thirties, time can be cruel. Sure, Apple’s pro buds got a near-perfect review in 2019, but it’s been almost two years since they launched. OEMs have had a long time to catch up.

Does the old faithful still have enough fight, or can the newcomer topple the champ? Let’s get it on in our in-depth comparison of the Nothing ear (1) and Apple AirPods Pro.

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Specs

Nothing ear (1)AirPods Pro
Price$99$249
Wireless charging caseYesYes
ProcessorNot StatedH1
Driver size11.6mm11mm
Battery Life4 hours (ANC on), 24 hours (with charging case)4.5 hours (ANC on), 24 hours (with charging case)
DurabilityIPX4IPX4
Size and weight (buds)1.1 x 0.8 x 0.9 inches, 0.2 ounces1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches, 0.2 ounces
Size and weight (charging case)2.3 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches, 2 ounces1.8 x 0.9 x 2.4 inches, 1.6 ounces
Special featuresGoogle Fast Pair, Active noise cancellation, transparency mode, Fast charging, wireless charging case, customizable fit.Active noise cancellation, transparency mode, adaptive EQ, spatial audio, automatic switching, customizable fit, audio sharing, Fast Fuel charging, announced messages with Siri, “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, wireless charging case.

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Price

This is the easiest point that Nothing will score in the bout. AirPods Pro are rather pricey at a list price of $249, but you can find them quite regularly at $189. Your best bets are to look at the likes of Amazon or Best Buy.

However, that discount still gets nowhere near the $99 price of Nothing ear (1), which is an impressive value.

For more big savings, bookmark the best headphones deals page, but when talking specifically about these two, there’s no competition: Nothing wins.

Winner: Nothing ear (1)

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Design

You already know about the small stem design of AirPods Pro (1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches). After all, they’ve been around for a couple years. The subtle curves and bright white housing are classic Apple traits. This creates a stark contrast with the black vents and gives each bud a uniquely retro-futuristic, utilitarian look. Once you’re done with them, they stow away in a sleek, lightweight case with a snappy hinge (1.8 x 0.9 x 2.4 inches, 1.6 ounces).

AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Nothing, however, takes a different approach with its striking transparent design. The use of clear plastic lets you look at the electronics inside of the ear similarly-sized (1) (1.1 x 0.8 x 0.9 inches). And while the case sports a similarly satisfying hinge and a unique thumb-sized indent -- perfect for fidgety hands to play around with -- it is considerably wider and a bit heavier than the AirPods Pro case (2.3 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches, 2 ounces).

Nothing ear (1)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

This isn’t the only problem, though. While I personally like the see-through stylings, opinions were split across our team. Nothing ear (1) walk a very fine line between looking cool and unique, and appearing cheap and tacky. Some of you will love them. Some of you will hate them. That divisiveness alone gives this point to the more mutually agreeable AirPods Pro.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Nothing ear 1 vs AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Comfort and fit

Setting aside the visual differences in design, you may notice some similarities in the shape of these buds. Both sport a variety of ear tip sizes, pressure-relieving vents and in-app ear fit tests to ensure a secure seal.

Nothing ear (1)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Nothing ear (1) may have the edge with a slightly lighter construction (0.7g lighter, to be exact), but you won’t feel the weight difference and the curvature of the AirPods Pro’s sound port feels better against the concha.

AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Neither of them caused any fatigue over long listening sessions, so you have nothing to worry about regardless of which option you choose. Still, Apple takes it by the smallest of margins.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Controls

Both AirPods Pro and Nothing ear (1) sport automatic ear detection and similar suites of customizable touch controls.

The key difference doesn’t come down to the controls themselves as both pairs of earbuds are responsive and reliable. The difference is *how* you touch them and personally, I prefer the force sensors of the AirPods Pro to the taps and slides of Nothing ear (1). Beyond reducing the small risk of unintended touches, tapping the surface of a bud can be loud inside your head, whereas pinching the stems eliminate any inward motion.

AirPods Pro controls

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

I also noticed some slight latency in the ear (1)’s on-ear detection, which isn’t a dealbreaker, but given the competitive nature of this face-off, Apple takes the point.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Audio

AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I’ll start by sitting on the fence and saying that you’ll have a good time listening to music and podcasts on either of these earbuds. The AirPods Pro benefit from spatial audio, adaptive sound and a detailed soundstage.

Lows have warmth to them, while mostly ensuring the mids and highs have the room to shine through the 11-millimeter drivers. If I were to nitpick, bass-heavy tracks can blow out parts of a composition and there are some moments where some tunes lack a certain liveliness. 

Nothing ear (1)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Meanwhile, Nothing starts strong with 11.6mm drivers tuned by Teenage Engineering and enclosed in a 0.34CC chamber. The immersive listening experience on ear (1) is rich with detail and a purity that gives each frequency room to breathe. 

It’s difficult to choose, as the differences in audio quality are minor. But on the audiophile qualities such as tuning personality and texture density, the Nothing ear (1) manage to outshine Apple’s AirPods Pro.

Winner: Nothing ear (1)

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: App and special features

AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Apple gives you a standard set of software features for the AirPods Pro beyond the seamless integration with iOS devices. This includes battery life indicators, transparency mode, Hey Siri support, EQ settings and an ear tip fit test, and headphone accommodations to adjust audio levels for those with hearing difficulties. 

Nothing ear (1) benefit from similar features and more, including Google fast pairing and a greater customizability of touch controls.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Yes, AirPods Pro do have the competitive advantage when paired with Apple devices thanks to automatic switching, but we need to consider the rest of the market in this face-off. everyone here and for that reason, along with a small set of EQ settings, this one’s got to go to Nothing.

Winner: Nothing ear (1)

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Battery life

Battery life is a weak point for both the AirPods Pro and Nothing ear (1), falling short of the 6-7 hours average of better performers in this category.

Apple’s Pro earbuds offer 4.5 hours of listening time with ANC turned on, with an additional 24 hours in the case. Nothing matches the 24 hours of battery power in the case but the buds make it to only 4 hours.

Nothing ear (1)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

AirPods Pro have some additional battery management built in. Thanks to the H1 chip, they will learn your daily charging routine and refrain from charging past 80% until necessary.

Sure, they both support wireless charging for convenience, but I’d love for both companies to squeeze a little more life out of their next generation earbuds. 

Apple Airpods Pro

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

And while the Nothing ear (1) offer fast charging, Apple gets the win for an additional 30 minutes and smart optimizations to keep that battery healthy.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro: Call quality

On paper, the AirPods Pro takes a big swing with four microphones that help to block out ambient sound and emphasize your voice. This is one more than Nothing ear (1), which has only three, but the superior AI-powered environmental noise cancellation proves that it’s not all about how many you have that counts, it’s what you do with them.

Nothing ear (1)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

They’re both awesome for call quality. AirPods Pro have always been a gold standard, but Nothing edges ahead with a little better voice definition and better noise isolation when conditions get windy.

Winner: Nothing ear (1)

Overall winner: Tie

Nothing ear (1) vs AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

I know what you’re thinking: ties suck! After all of this, we’re still nowhere near deciding a winner. The thing is, both of these earbuds are fantastic but they excel in different areas. Apple comes out on top in design, wearability, controls and battery life, while Nothing excels with better sound quality, call clarity, app features and, most importantly, price.

That means you can buy a pair of true wireless earbuds that are comparable to AirPods Pro at half the price. Nothing ear (1) technically ties the Apple AirPods Pro, but given its lower price, this feels more like a victory for Nothing.

Nothing ear (1)AirPods Pro
Value (5)52
Design (15)912
Controls (10)810
Active Noise Cancellation (20)1717
Audio (15)1312
App and special features (13)1312
Battery Life (10)67
Call quality (10)98
Total score (100)8080

One thing is for certain. Apple needs to hurry up and release AirPods Pro 2. It’s been nearly two years and I can’t in good conscience recommend them when far cheaper options are just as good.

Jason England

 Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He specializes in finding the best deals to make sure you never pay more than you should for gadgets! Jason takes a particular interest in writing and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.