Google Pixel Buds Pro vs Apple AirPods Pro: which is best?
Can Google's new ANC in-ears hope to challenge Apple's best 'buds?
When they land in July, the Pixel Buds Pro will be Google’s top in-ear offering. The true wireless earbuds promise the sort of features (and price) we’ve come to expect from any audio tech carrying a ‘pro’ label. But how do they stack up to the ‘buds that started the Pro trend, the Apple AirPods Pro?
We’re still waiting to get a pair of Pixel Buds Pro squeezed into our ears, but Google has drip-fed enough info that we can see how the two models stack up. Will there be a clear winner? Can you really compare them when each is optimised for a different operating system? Read on for the answers – and stand by for an official verdict once we publish our Pixel Buds Pro review.
Pixel Buds Pro vs AirPods Pro Price
Google is asking $199 for the Pixel Buds Pro in the US, which works out at roughly £165. Exchange rates don’t take things like import duty and VAT into account, though, so we’ll have to pay £179 for a pair in the UK.
It might not look it, but Apple has a slight advantage here. The AirPods Pro cost a pricier £239 / $249 if you buy them direct from Apple, but as they’ve been around for a few years, there are plenty of bargains to be found. The lowest we’ve seen recently is £170.
Google needs to pay close attention to retailers and price the Pixel Buds Pro accordingly if it wants to draw people away from Apple’s offering.
Design: equally iconic?
As soon as you see that trademark white stem, you know you’re looking at a pair of AirPods. Apple shortened them for the Pro version, so are a little more discreet than the regular AirPods – but no less noticeable in glossy white. The addition of silicone tips for a better seal also set them apart, as does the vent to relieve pressure on your ears. A capacitive sensor at the tip of each stem provides touch controls for playback and calls.
Google has settled on a more traditional ‘bud for its entire earphone line-up. The Buds Pro have the same outer shape as the cheaper Pixel Buds A-Series, but ditch the silicone ‘wings’ that keep them in your ears while moving about and have a more sculpted inner form that helps sit more flush to your ears. The Pro model continues to offer unique vents to reduce pressure, though the addition of ANC should help reduce ambient sound leaks.
If a splash of colour is a must, the Pixel Buds have the edge. You can only get the AirPods Pro in glossy white, but Google’s offering can be had in Fog, Charcoal, Coral and Lemongrass colours.
Sound: clarity is key
We can only go by our experiences with the AirPods Pro and the more affordable Pixel Buds A-Series here, as we’ve yet to listen to the Pixel Buds Pro. That still gives a good idea what to expect when they land, though.
The AirPods Pro are easily the best-sounding AirPods going, with great clarity and impactful bass. They have a fairly warm signature, with an expansive soundstage. It’s a pleasingly punchy sound that should appeal to most music fans, even if it falls behind pricier alternatives for precision.
The Pixel Buds A-Series cost considerably less and lack ANC, so it’s not fair to make a direct comparison, but they still sound great for the cash. There’s a great tonal balance, which leans more towards a neutral presentation than Apple’s effort. Bass can be a little on the weak side until you find a silicone ear tip that seals well.
At launch, Apple has the advantage of spatial audio, sound that tracks your head for a more immersive listen. Google is planning to bring support for it to the Pixel Buds Pro at a later date, but there’s no word on exactly when.
Features: Each to their own
Both sets of earphones are IPX4 sweat resistant, so will be fine to take to the gym. They also have two-stage ANC, with a transparency mode that lets in ambient sound.
Each supports touch controls, but you can only customise the AirPods if you’re on an iOS device. They also have their own fast pair function, but Google’s only works with Android, and Apple’s only works on iOS. Ultimately ease of use could be the main reason to buy one pair over the other, if you’re already rocking one company’s smartphone.
Each pair of ‘buds scores points on battery life. While the AirPods Pro can manage around 5 hours per charge, falling to four-ish with ANC, the Pixel Buds Pro promise 7 hours per listening session. However, Google’s case can only bring total battery life to 20 hours, whereas Apple’s version promises 24 hours.
Both the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro have cases that support wireless charging. Only Apple’s earphones play nicely with MagSafe accessories, though.
Pixel Buds Pro vs AirPods Pro Initial verdict: tough call
On paper, there’s very little in it between Apple’s well-established AirPods and the incoming Google challenger. Both promise good battery life, have distinctive looks and are well integrated with their respective operating systems.
The proof of the pudding will be in how the Pixel Buds Pro sound, and how effective its active noise cancellation is. Apple has set the bar high here, with little else to rival them for the cash. You’d typically have to spend more on a pair of Sony WF-1000XM4s for better noise cancelling.
Until we’re heard the Pixel Buds, we’ll stop short of declaring an outright winner – but it’s shaping up to be a very close battle.