Laptop Mag Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is a top choice for Android users who want bigger battery life, sound, and wireless features than the AirPods.
Best-in-class battery life
Dynamic audio performance
Useful companion app
Multi-purpose wireless charging
Seamless Spotify integration
Touch controls need work
No active noise cancellation
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The all-new Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus welcomes several improvements across the board, making it the ideal pair of wireless earbuds for Samsung Galaxy devices and all other Android phones. You get neutral sound, exclusive features like Spotify integration, and the highest-rated battery life of any model in the category (per charge) for a relatively affordable price.
However, Samsung’s buds aren’t without their faults. The touch controls struggle at times, and the built-in mics are sensitive to both contact and ambient sounds. Not to mention, those who want active noise cancelation must look elsewhere.
All that being said, the pros still outweigh the cons, and the $150 Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is an enticing purchase for music lovers who want elite performance at a lower cost than the AirPods Pro.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus are currently sold for $149.99 and come in five colors: Cloud Blue, Cosmic Black, White, Red (US exclusive), and Pink (South Korea exclusive). Those who preordered the Samsung Galaxy S20 or S20 Ultra in advance received the product for free.
What’s in the box?
Samsung ships the Galaxy Buds Plus with a Qi wireless charging case, USB-C charging cable, user guide, and three pairs of silicone tips and wingtips.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Design
The Galaxy Buds Plus retains the same sleek, minimalist design as its predecessor, falling somewhere in-between casually chic and ultramodern. A unique shape contributes to the buds’ coolness factor, as the circular form and high-gloss triangular touch panels give them a distinctive presence. I’m also fond of how discrete they look when worn; the same can’t be said about any AirPods models.
There is another element that makes the Galaxy Buds Plus edgier than the AirPods: color variety. The latest model comes available in five bold and vibrant shades, though some are exclusive to certain territories. Knowing Samsung’s track record with partnerships, it wouldn’t surprise us if the company had a special edition version in the works for the 2020 Summer Olympics before the event was officially postponed to 2021.
Samsung’s pill-shaped charging case still looks cool. I’m feeling the shiny effect it produces when exposed to sunlight, plus the embossed Samsung and “Sound by AGK” logos on the top are sophisticated touches. The magnetic lid does a noteworthy job of keeping the case shut and the buds secured. On the inside is where Samsung flexed its creative ingenuity, as the charging stations are slightly angled to beautifully showcase and dock the buds. It’s another facet those with a fine eye for detail will appreciate.
Regarding their construction, both the buds and charging case are composed of a solid plastic material that’s pretty durable, but also very slippery. This can sometimes make it difficult to place the buds on your ears or even remove them from the case.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Comfort and fit
At 0.2 ounces per bud, these are some of the lightest and comfiest wireless earbuds out there. They may feel a bit heftier than the AirPods Pro, but truthfully, you won’t notice the difference when sporting them. And don't worry about carrying around the charging case, which is featherweight at 1.4 ounces and lighter than the AirPods Pro case (1.6 ounces).
Regarding fit, I can see where some people might have an issue with the integrated tips being too small. Samsung does provide extra sets in different sizes to help listeners achieve the proper on-ear placement and stability. The wings are also integral here and easily mold into your ear to keep the buds locked in. They also have a soft-touch feel to them that won’t irritate your ears after long listening sessions. I could wear the buds for about 1.5 hours daily before any fatigue set in.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Touch controls and digital assistant
Some companies have gotten touch controls right on their wireless earbuds (Apple) and others have completely misfired (Sony). Samsung is somewhere in the middle. The Galaxy Buds Plus have a semi-responsive touch panel on the side of each earbud that responds accurately to single taps, but struggles to register multiple-tap commands at times, and often confuses them.
There are three tap options to work with: tap once to play/pause a track, twice to skip a track or answer a call, and three times to play the previous track. You can perform these on either earbud, though the results, in my experience, were 50/50. There is lag present when trying to employ multiple taps, which causes the buds to misinterpret intended commands; I ended up skipping tracks instead of playing previous ones on many occasions.
You can also assign volume controls to each bud (up on the left and down on the right), as well as the Ambient Sound mode and digital assistant. This can be done through the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app (iOS has its own Samsung Buds Plus+ app). Laying your finger on the touch panel enables the assigned command, which works accurately, though you’ll notice some lag when trying to increase or decrease the volume levels. Unfortunately, there is no way to swap out the playback or call management controls.
Those who want to indulge in hands-free functionality will find solace knowing Siri and Google Assistant work great on the Galaxy Buds Plus. Samsung’s dual-mic system demonstrated superb speech recognition that made pulling up calendar events and Google Music playlists a breeze.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: App and features
Samsung programmed some cool features into the Galaxy Buds Plus that extend past audio personalization. The most unique and serviceable of the batch is Spotify integration for Android devices, which not only lets you use the touchpad to manage playback, but also provides instant access with one long press. It’s pretty sweet and eliminates the extra steps required to jump right into your favorite tunes. I also love how opening the app automatically plays what you were listening to last. You can assign either bud this command in the Samsung Wearable app.
The other standout feature, which isn’t entirely new to the series but is still a fan favorite, is backward wireless charging, aka PowerShare. That means you can power the charging case (if necessary) by placing it on the back of your Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Galaxy S20 or Galaxy Fold device. It’s simple, resourceful, and you’ll be glad to have it when you leave behind your portable charger.
Jumping into the companion app, you’re met with several options that enhance the listening experience, be it for music or phone calls. The equalizer comes with six different presets – Normal, Bass Boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear, and Treble Boost – each one catering to different music genres and selectable with one touch of the screen. I would have loved to see a customizable EQ here to create different music profiles; Jabra Sound+ offers this and it makes a huge difference. Still, the presets are useful for those who want to fine-tune audio output to their preferred hearing.
Samsung’s Ambient Sound mode can use some tweaking. I wasn’t sold on the amount of the ambient noise it allowed in while listening to music. It took me lowering the volume and adjusting the ambient level to high in order to hear my fiancée speaking from several feet away in our living room. That’s not good.
Even more interesting are the “experimental features” that Samsung has hidden in the Labs tab all the way at the bottom. One is called Double Tap Earbuds Edge to control volume by performing double-tap gestures on the top edge of either bud, while the second is called Extra-High Ambient Volume to increase the amount of ambient sound heard. Neither has been advertised much, which makes me think these were in prototype phases and added for feedback purposes. On the plus side, both features work surprisingly well.
Other notable features include a Find My Earbuds setting, battery indication levels for each bud and the charging case, firmware updates, and enabling Ambient Sound during calls.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Audio quality
I never got around to testing the original Galaxy Buds, but I can tell you that the audio quality on these Plus models is impressive. AKG’s drivers are well-engineered and produce crisp audio at safe volume levels. Cycling through the different presets in the app will also enhance the sonics, depending on the genre selection.
The first thing that caught my attention was how detailed the sound is on these buds. Older jazz recordings like Ahmad Jamal’s “Dolphin Dance” sounded intimate, as each instrument was distinct and blended beautifully over the musician’s serene piano play. It was surprising to hear just how consistent the hi-hats were throughout the song, along with the mellow, toe-tapping bass lines.
Bass is much tamer on the Galaxy Buds Plus than on competitive models; lows are punchier on the Beats Powerbeats Pro and Jabra Elite Active 75t. I still got some nice bounce out of them, especially on boom-heavy productions. The monstrous drums on Jay-Z and Kanye West's “No Church in the Wild” were invigorating to hear while exercising at home. I shared the same vibes when indulging in my alternative rock playlist and blasting Green Day’s “Warning,” as the circling guitar riff had me pumped heading into phase 2 of my workout.
If you’re someone who draws energy from reverberation, then switch the preset to Bass Boost or Treble Boost for stronger bass response. The latter is preferable since it does the better job of balancing lows and mids. However, you’ll get the best audio performance out of Dynamic, which leans more towards the neutral side of the sound spectrum.
Listening in Ambient Mode does more harm than good because the mics are very sensitive to contact and environmental noise. I wondered why there was this scraping noise coming from the buds whenever I turned my head, then realized the mode was enabled and the mics were picking up whatever sound the buds made when brushed up against my hoodie.
Sonically, I like what the Galaxy Buds Plus have to offer, but still prefer the Elite Active 75t as my go-to buds for music. Bass is emphatic and the ability to tweak lows, mids or highs manually makes personalizing sound more rewarding on Jabra’s buds.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Battery life and charging case
Samsung placed an even bigger emphasis on battery life this time around, giving the Galaxy Buds Plus a category-leading 11 hours of playtime on a full charge. The only pair of wireless earbuds I’ve tested that even come close to this is the Powerbeats Pro, at 9 hours. Keep in mind, this is also more than double the playtime of the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours).
After a full week of testing (approx. 1.5 hours daily), the buds still have enough juice for an extra day of listening. Ambient Mode and volume don't affect battery performance too much. Also, it’s worth noting how superb the battery management is on the Galaxy Buds Plus. When first receiving the product, I had the buds stored in the case for over a week, untouched, and they remained at 99%. The case remained fully charged as well.
Speaking of which, the charging case holds 22 hours for two full charges. It may sound like a lot, but it’s not compared to other models. The Jabra Elite Active 75t and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 cases both feature 28 hours, whereas the AirPods Pro case also holds a bit more playtime, at 24 hours. Luckily, a single charge is enough to keep you entertained for several days with moderate use, so you won’t have to spend much time recharging the case.
The Galaxy Buds Plus’s charging is also wireless, a major bonus for those who want to power up without being tethered to a charging cable.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Call quality and connectivity
The Galaxy Buds Plus is a decent headset for making calls. Despite most calls sounding low on my end, Samsung’s two-mic array delivers a boost to clarity. At least, that was the impression I got from speaking with several friends over Skype. Many of them could hear my voice loud and clear. The low volume didn’t bother me much as long as there wasn't a lot of background noise, though my fiancée wasn’t too thrilled about it when she was trying to watch TV. Talking outside wasn’t too bad either, but I was also walking through empty New York City streets (thanks, COVID-19), so there was no way to test call quality in rowdy settings.
Wireless performance is never a problem for these buds. I was able to maintain a stable connection during phone calls and when paired to different devices. The Galaxy Buds Plus was supposed to support multipoint connectivity, but sadly, it’s absent here, so you can only pair to one device at a time. However, Bluetooth 5.0 is very strong and makes connecting to iOS and Android devices seamless.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Bottom line
Whether you’re an Android, iOS or even a Windows user, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus performs equally great across all platforms. Granted, Android-philes get the better end of the deal, thanks to exclusive features like Spotify integration and PowerShare; the latter only applies to current Samsung Galaxy smartphones. You also get the best battery life around, as well as strong audio and connectivity for quality overall performance.
But as solid of an upgrade as they are, these next-gen buds still have some issues that need attention. The lack of noise cancellation gives the AirPods Pro a stronger selling point, while the Galaxy Buds Plus’s sensitive mics and weak noise isolation can hinder audio. Many will find the touch controls to be finicky as well.
Nonetheless, Samsung’s newest release is worth the listen if you want elite wireless earbuds that outperform the AirPods Pro in major areas like battery life and sound, and for $100 less.