Laptop Mag Verdict
Colorful, loud, and wirelessly powerful, the OnePlus Buds cater mostly to those who own a OnePlus smartphone.
Strong wireless performance
Audio better than expected
Great charging case
Gaming mode lowers latency
Customization and special features exclusive to OnePlus owners
Mediocre call quality
Touch controls need more work
Zero noise isolation
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After weeks of leaks, the OnePlus Buds are officially here. These wireless earbuds from the beloved Android smartphone maker blend intelligible controls and warm sound into an AirPods-esque design. OnePlus even took measures to ensure top-notch wireless performance by integrating Bluetooth 5.0 and the best quick charging we’ve seen on any model in the category.
All things said, the OnePlus Buds stand out as a work-in-progress that reserves their most practical features for OnePlus smartphone owners. This includes control customization and special modes, like Fnatic Mode that can be only accessed through the OnePlus ecosystem.
- Our expert picks for the best wireless earbuds, per budget and style
- Check out our Apple AirPods Pro review
- …and our Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review
Those with a OnePlus device won’t find a lot to complain about, especially for the conveniently low price, but everyone else may want to consider more feature-laden options.
OnePlus Buds: Availability and price
The OnePlus Buds are available for $79 directly from OnePlus. Whether there are plans to release this model at major online retailers remains unknown, although B&H Photo Video lists them as "coming soon." You can purchase these buds in three colors: White, Gray, and Nord Blue.
What's in the box?
OnePlus ships the buds with a charging case, USB-C charging cable, user guide, and warranty.
OnePlus Buds: Design
I won’t dismiss the OnePlus Buds as just another pair of AirPods fakes. Instead, I’ll give the company credit for doing what it could to polish up the mainstream design, though many with true fashion sense will still find it as unflattering as the AirPods. The color selection is attractive, and spectators will be able to spot the buds from afar. At the same time, they stick out like a sore thumb and White seems to be the only color available right now on the OnePlus site.
Basically, OnePlus took the long stem silhouette and sound port of the AirPods, along with the circular touch panels of Sony’s wireless earbuds, to create the OnePlus Buds. Each bud is coated with a matte finish. The “hard plastic” construction is IPX4 water-resistant and more durable than the AirPods, so you can breathe easy knowing these buds won’t break so easily.
On the ear, the buds are as light as a feather and weigh only .16 ounces per bud. The lack of ear tips will affect fit since the buds can’t form a proper seal on the ear. Then again, if you’re fine wearing AirPods, you might feel at home sporting these, but just know that lateral and quick head movements will knock them to the ground.
Another area where the OnePlus found inspiration from others is the charging case. Google was clearly onto something with the Pixel Buds 2’s pebble-shaped charging case, and the OnePlus Buds followed suit with a clone that feels nice in hand and is lighter than its competitor, but not as durable. The magnetic closure is strong and keeps the buds stored safely. It’s also easy to dock and pull out the buds.
OnePlus Buds: Touch controls and digital assistant
OnePlus programmed these buds with touch controls and on-ear detection, allowing you to pause and resume music automatically when removing or placing the buds on your ears. I was impressed by how well the motion detection worked, as the buds instantly responded to movement, while also showcasing their intelligible capabilities. The feature works with YouTube, too, and there was no lag when watching videos either.
Touch gesture accuracy is 50/50, one main reason being the touch panels. They are too small and frustratingly difficult to locate at times. That’s not even the biggest issue. You’re only given a small number of touch controls to use out of the box and unless you own a OnePlus phone (I don’t), there is no way to customize them. That meant all I could do was answer/end a call and skip a track (2x tap) or switch to the previously connected device (long press). Why there aren’t any one-tap or triple-tap gestures programmed into the OnePlus Buds is bewildering.
This also meant that for me to use the digital assistant, I had to manually pull it up on my device. How annoying is that? On the plus side, every verbal command I directed towards my Google Pixel 3XL and MacBook Pro were registered and executed quickly.
OnePlus Buds: Sound quality
Honestly, the OnePlus Buds sound better than what most critics are saying right now. It’s nowhere near as great as the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, but it’s surprisingly good for the price point. The bass-forward signature is clearly evident, but it doesn’t do a disservice to those who love some extra oomph in their sound, although highs and mids do take a hit.
You’ll get the most out of these buds when listening to EDM, hip-hop and rock records. The drum-and-bass assault on Outkast’s “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)” was impactful enough to stimulate some emphatic head-nodding. I was expecting serious distortion, but the low end held its own, allowing both rappers and the choir on the hook to be heard clearly. The iconic guitar riff on Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was reproduced well, although I felt vocal clarity dipped a little; Axel Rose’s screeching is crisper on the AirPods.
The OnePlus Buds aren’t engineered to handle complex orchestral recordings. I pulled up Eddie Palmieri’s “Vamonos Pa’l Monte” and was met with faint mids and highs. The singers and horn section at the beginning of the song lacked transparency and were outshone by the band’s infectious conga and drum play.
It’s a shame the OnePlus Buds only support AAC, especially after seeing the company’s previous releases, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 and Bullets Wireless, come with aptX streaming. Audiophiles aren’t too fond of the codec, but it’s not a deal-breaker. I noticed very little difference in sound when playing music on iOS/macOS and Android; my MacBook Pro provided a better bass response.
You will need to be in silent settings to enjoy the best sound quality possible because the OnePlus Buds provide zero noise isolation. In my office, I could hear whatever my fiancée was streaming on her iPhone, which pulled me away from Spotify-listening a few times. Common noises like keyboard clatter and doorbell rings have a loud presence as well, even when listening to music at high volume.
OnePlus Buds: App and special features
Extended functionality is limited on the OnePlus Buds. It’s also reserved for OnePlus smartphone owners, leaving Android or iOS users stuck with the default settings.
Those with a OnePlus device can personalize the controls on each bud to fast forward, play/pause or launch the digital assistant. Call me picky, but that seems like a short list of controls. On top of that, the long-press gesture cannot be swapped out for another function.
The one major feature worth checking out, Fnatic Mode, is available through the company’s Game Space app. In short, it’s a low latency mode you can turn on to improve audio and video quality when gaming on your OnePlus smartphone. It also works with Spotify and YouTube. Since I didn’t have a OnePlus device during testing, I couldn’t share any feedback on Fnatic Mode, but I'm hoping to update this section once a unit is made available.
That’s practically it for special features. No built-in EQ. No music presets. No ambient listening mode. No call quality enhancement options. You get the picture.
OnePlus Buds: Battery life and charging case
All that really matters these days is that your buds generate more playtime than any of the AirPods models. The OnePlus Buds achieve this with battery life rated 7 hours on a single charge, which is realistically 6 hours when factoring in high volume, streaming, and lots of Skype calls. I used the buds for 1.5 hours daily and didn’t require a charge until the fourth day.
The charging case holds 23 extra hours for 30 hours in total. By comparison, that is higher than the AirPods (24 hours) and Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (22 hours) charging cases. However, the real star is Fast Charge, OnePlus’ quick-charging technology that generates 10 hours of charge in 10 minute, which is shared between the buds and case.
If only the charging case was wireless. It's a missed opportunity given the company’s flagship headset, the OnePlus 8 Pro, supports the feature, along with reverse wireless charging to power up other compatible devices.
OnePlus Buds: Call quality and connectivity
As great as the mic system is for voice commands, it doesn’t offer the same experience for phone calls. According to my fiancée, my voice sounded muffled when taking her calls both indoors and outdoors, while friends noticed some dropout on video chats. Volume was loud on both ends, but I found voices on the opposite end lacked clarity.
Where the OnePlus Buds greatly make up for their weak call quality is connectivity. Bluetooth range was strong, offering up to about 40 feet of wireless listening before audio started stuttering. Pairing to devices was instant as well, and the switch device feature worked flawlessly, which made it a breeze to jump from my laptop onto my smartphone and vice versa.
OnePlus Buds: Verdict
For $80, the OnePlus Buds are an admirable debut and a no-brainer for OnePlus smartphone users. That’s about it. They provide enough performance to make any cheap wireless earbuds roundup but also come with trade-offs.
Audio is lively and suitable for modern music genres, although the bass can come on too strong and mask sonic elements on certain songs. The mics are great and demonstrate strong speech recognition, but non-OnePlus users have to manually enable the digital assistant on their mobile device to call up Siri or Google Assistant. The charging case is ridiculously powerful, yet lacks wireless charging, which is disappointing since the company’s newest smartphones support the feature. And while battery life is better than the AirPods, it isn’t by much.
I say the one category where the OnePlus Buds don’t compromise is connectivity, which is stable across all platforms. Unfortunately, the touch controls aren’t reliable and sought-after features like Fnatic Mode can only be accessed through OnePlus smartphones. But even with such exclusivity afforded to the OnePlus faithful, the OnePlus Buds require more to compete with the market’s best.