Laptop Mag Verdict
The Pixel Buds Pro finally brings ANC to the mix, making them the best wireless earbuds in Google’s stable with comfort, endurance and performance.
Super comfortable and lightweight
Great audio performance
Long battery life
Still lacks a true equalizer
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The fourth time’s the charm. Google has finally crafted its ultimate pair of earbuds in the $199 Google Pixel Buds Pro. The new earbuds retain their stylish, yet comfortable form factor while adding active noise cancellation –– the feature that separates entry and mid-tier earbuds from premium buds. The ANC is powerful and hangs with the heavy hitters in the space. Plus, you get an estimated seven hours of battery life (ANC enabled) with rich, clean audio whether you’re listening to music or taking a call.
Although it lacks a true equalizer, there are few flaws to be found in the Google Pixel Buds Pro, the latest entrant to our best wireless earbuds page.
Google Pixel Buds Pro pricing and availability
Once you have “Pro” in the name, you know you’re going to pay some premium prices. The Pixel Buds Pro are currently available for $199, matching the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. It’s a far cry from the $99 Pixel Bud A-Series earbuds. Still, that’s less than the AirPods Pro original pricing of $249. However, these days you can currently find the AirPods Pro on sale for $159-$179. The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are the most expensive at $249 while the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are some of the cheapest premium buds at $149.
Google Pixel Buds Pro design
Coral is having a moment and it’s all thanks to the Pixel Buds Pro. The earbuds’ orangey-pink colorway is just what the summer order and it will blend right into the fall and brighten up the winter. If you’re looking for more subdued colors, the Pixel Buds Pro are also available in Charcoal, Fog and Lemongrass.
Aside from the colors, the Pixel Buds Pro sit somewhere between the original buds and the A-series. The buds’ earcaps retaining that Mentos flattened circle shape with the G stamped in the middle. But now the G is flanked along the sides by a pair of prominent mic vents. Similar to the OG Buds, the Buds Pro sport a two-tone aesthetic with the top of the matte plastic casing feature one the four colorways while the rear is colored black. On the back of either bud you’ll see either an L or R printed in G, a pair of silver charging connectors and the silicone eartip that protects the speaker mesh.
Once again Google chose to keep the charging case in a plastic matte white that looks like a thick, undipped York Peppermint Patty. A pairing button sits in the rear just a bit above the USB-C charging port. The indicator light resides in the front just below the lid seam. Pop open the case and you’ll find a matte black plastic interior with tiny protrusions to charge the earbuds.
The Pixel Buds Pro have a IPX4 rating which signifies water and sweat resistance. It’s the same level of durability found in the Sony, Apple and Bose earbuds. The charging case has a lower IPX2 rating which is a slight water resistance.
At 0.22 ounces, the 0.88 x 0.87 x 0.93-inch Pixel Buds Pro are middleweights in the category. The Bose QC buds (1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches) and XM4 are the heaviest at 0.3 and 0.29 ounces while the Galaxy Buds 2 (0.7 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches) and AirPods Pro (1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches) weigh in at 1.7 and 1.9 ounces, respectively.
The Pixel Buds Pro’s ovular case weighs 2.2 ounces and measures 0.98 x 1.97 x 2.49 inches. It’s nowhere near as heavy as the QC earbuds (2.7 ounces, 3.5 x 2 x 1.3 inches), but it’s still heavier than the AirPods Pro (0.2 ounces, 0.8 x 0.8 x 0.7 inches) and Galaxy Buds 2 1.5 ounces, 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.1 inches). The XM4 case weighs in at 1.5 ounces.
The Pixel Buds Pro ships with two additional pairs of silicone earbuds. Banking on the case’s wireless charging capabilities or the fact that you have a spare cable laying around, Google chose not to bundle a charging cord. And while it’s true, I’m lousy for cords, I still wish the company bundled one.
Google Pixel Buds Pro comfort
So far, I’ve worn the Pixel Buds Pro for four hours straight in absolute comfort. Even without the earwings of its predecessor, the earbuds sit snugly in my ear, resting on my ear’s concha. Even when I went to work up a sweat in my home gym, the earbuds held fast despite the perspiration dripping down my face. And when I used the tap controls, the buds stayed still and didn’t add any uncomfortable pressure.
In order to ensure the ideal fit, Google has built an eartip fit test into the companion app (more on that later). The test takes 20 seconds to run and involves a gentle tone playing through both buds. At the end, the app will either tell you that you have a perfect fit or recommend readjusting or switching out eartips.
And when Active Noise Cancellation is powered on, the earbuds have sensors that constantly measure the pressure in your ear canal so the earbuds can actively relieve it. That really comes in handy when you’re wearing the buds for hours.
Google Pixel Buds Pro setup
Setting up the Pixel Buds Pro is very Apple-like, which is a very good thing. Thanks to Google’s Fast Pair technology (found on any Android 6.0+ device), if you have an Android phone, a prompt will appear on the screen prompting you to pair as soon as you open up the charging case.
If you’re using a non-Android product, you have the pair the old-fashioned way by holding the rear-mounted pairing button for a few seconds while the charging case’s lid is open. From there, you’ll go into your device’s Bluetooth menu and follow the instructions.
And thanks to Android’s intelligent audio switching and multipoint connectivity ability, you can simultaneously be connected to two devices and seamlessly switch between them.
Google Pixel Buds Pro controls
Similar to most earbuds on the market, the Pixel Buds Pro are controlled by a series of taps with a swipe or two thrown in for good measure. A single tap plays or pauses media and answers incoming calls while a double tap skips forward on a track, rejects phone calls and stops the Google Assistant. Tap three times to skip backwards on a track.
A long press can either switch between ANC and Transparency modes or summon Google Assistant depending on how you set it in the app. Need to adjust the volume? Simply swipe back or forward to reach the desired level.
Google Pixel Buds Pro features
The Pixel Buds Pro wouldn’t be a Google product without some cool features to augment its usefulness via Google Assistant. As expected, Google Translate is back with its over 40 languages to assist when you’re traveling and want to converse with the locals. I tested the feature with a friend who speaks fluent Spanish and we held a fairly steady conversation.
Other Google Assistant-powered features include reading notifications, including messages, emails and calendar events. You can also command the assistant to send text messages, adjust the volume when listening to music as well as set timers and reminders.
Google Pixel Buds Pro app
Like any premium pair of earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro has a free companion app. The Google Pixel Buds app allows you to personalize the earbuds including renaming them. It’s here that you can enable/disable the touch controls, ANC/Transparency modes, audio switching and multipoint. The app also offers Volume EQ, which boosts the bass and treble at lower volume levels.
You can also run the Eartip Fit test. And in case you misplace one or both buds, there’s the Find device feature that will show you the errant bud’s location as well as play a loud tone to help you track them down.
Google Pixel Buds Pro Active Noise Cancellation
Finally, Google joins us in the big kids pool where everyone enjoys the world-muting pleasures of active noise cancellation. The Pixel Buds Pro employs a custom 6-core audio chip that uses Google-developed algorithms to deliver an optimal audio performance sans background noise.
To further ensure the sound of silence, the Pixel Buds Pro has Silent Seal. It adapts to your unique ear shape, creating a tight seal which increases the amount of noise blocked.
When I wore the Pixel Buds Pro in my house, it easily blocked out my central air conditioner system. It also completely muted my LG TV when the volume was set to 13 which is on a par with the AirPods Pro. The Sony and Bose earbuds were slightly better at 14 and 15. I wore the Pixel Buds Pro during a trip to my pharmacy and it did a solid job keeping out conversations and most traffic. Walking past a construction area, I heard the rhythmic noise of a jackhammer, but it was significantly dulled.
Although I tend to keep ANC enabled at all times, there are times when Transparency mode is the better choice. When enabled, the ambient noise of the outside world filtered in, allowing the siren of a passing police car to mix with Ari Lennox’s “Pressure.”
Google Pixel Buds Pro performance
Each Pixel Buds Pro has a custom 11mm dynamic speaker driver that paired with the custom audio chip and Google’s algorithms makes for some great audio. I kicked off my listening test with SiR’s “Satisfaction” on Tidal at Master quality. On the Pixel Buds Pro, the acoustic guitars oozed through the earbuds like molten honey while the artist’s tenor was warm and clear as were the backup vocals and the snare drum.
They had a louder presentation than the AirPods Pro with the Apple buds approximately 65% volume matching the Pixel Buds Pro’s 50%. The AirPods were on a par with the Pixel Buds Pro, but had a slight edge on the guitar as I heard the twang of the strings just a little bit clearer.
I punched things up with JID’s “29 (Freestyle)” and was instantly met by a deep, expansive bassline. The zither was easy to discern, as were the hi-hats. The rapper’s bombastic delivery was dynamic and had an almost hypnotic quality. The bass was more defined on the AirPods Pro, but otherwise the earbuds were evenly matched.
I closed out with “NYhlism” by Baby Got Back Talk. I got a lively guitar and strong percussion on the Pixel Buds Pro coupled with a robust vocal. The AirPods Pro did a better job of reproducing the delicate cymbals and the percussion was just a little crisper on the Apple buds.
And while the Pixel Buds Pro deliver great audio, it is missing one thing –– for now. Spatial audio, the technology that simulates 3D audio will be coming to the Pixel Buds Pro sometime in the fall so stay tuned.
Google Pixel Buds Pro Battery life and Bluetooth
Google gives the Pixel Buds Pro an estimated seven hours of battery life with ANC enabled, which jumps to 11 hours with the feature disabled. With the charging case, the battery life will extend to 20 hours (ANC on) or 31 hour (ANC off). I used the earbuds non-stop during my work day (10 a.m. - 6.p.m.) and the Pixel Buds Pro lasted 6 hours and 43 minutes before I started getting the low battery warning.
The Galaxy Buds 2 are rated for five hours with ANC enabled and 7.5 hours with the feature disabled while the Sony WF-1000XM4 are rated for 8 and 12 hours, respectively. The AirPods Pro have an 4.5 hour estimated battery life.
Using Bluetooth 5.0, the Pixel Buds Pro has a maximum range of 800 feet give or take a wall or two. I had no problem leaving my Pixel 6a upstairs while I went downstairs to work in my office. I also sat in my backyard, tending to my brisket that was slowly smoking without any problems. I only experience the music cutting out when I left my apartment building entirely.
Google Pixel Buds Pro call quality
I couldn’t hold the Pixel Buds Pro down. It didn’t matter if I was running meetings with my staff on my work MacBook or just chatting with friends via my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the earbuds’ beamforming microphones delivered great audio. My staff didn’t know I was even using earbuds until I mentioned it.
A friend called while on the way to an event, they heard a small amount of wind, but it was negligible in their opinion. However, they definitely heard the train running overhead in the background. I didn’t have any complaints from my side of the calls as everyone who I spoke to came through loud and clear. My staff, friends and family that called reported loud, clean audio.
Jackpot! After some great tries, Google has hit a winning formula when it comes to earbuds. The $199 Pixel Buds Pro are an excellent combination of comfort, endurance and audio performance. But it’s the active noise cancelling that brings the earbuds into the big leagues. And the Pixel Buds Pro’s ANC is on a par with its competitors, carving out a cone of silence or at least muted calm. If I had one complaint, I wish Google would create a few equalizer presets for those of us who want to do a little tweaking for a more customized listening experience.
But, if you don’t to keep a few degrees of separation between yourself and Google and snag better battery life and ANC in the process, you should check out the Sony WF-1000XM4. However, you’re paying a pretty penny at $279. And if you’re an Apple aficionado, there’s the $179 Apple AirPods. But if you’re looking for great audio with supreme comfort and powerful ANC, the Google Pixel Buds Pro are definitely worth a listen.
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.