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AirPods 2 vs Pixel Buds 2: How do they measure up?

Google sneakily unveiled the Pixel Buds 2 this week, but how do they compare to their best-selling rival, Apple’s Airpods?

The original Pixel Buds didn’t get much of a reception. Now, Google is hoping that its second shot at true-wireless glory performs a little better.

Many more players have joined the wireless earbud rush since the original Pixel buds, so there’s a lot more competition than there was previously. However, Google is well aware that competing with Apple is the ultimate prize in this field.

So, in light of what we’ve gleaned so far, how well do the Pixel Buds fare against the AirPods?

Related: Best Wireless Earbuds 2019

The 2019 update to the AirPods are practically identical to the first iteration. With a white finish, extended stem and a silver ring around the earbud; aside from the status light being moved, Apple hasn’t changed much.

The new Pixel Buds resemble their predecessor, but with a few key differences. The most obvious is the removal of the wire that connected each earbud, with Google going truly wireless this time.

Google Pixel Buds 2

From the outside the shape is similar – a large circle with a G for Google in the centre. Google also ditched its AirPod-like shape for what look like rubber tips that will likely offer a more customisable fit.

The Pixel Buds also come in four colours: ‘Oh So Orange’, ‘Clearly White’, ‘Quite Mint’ and ‘Almost Black’. Colour variation is something Apple has neglected so far, so it’s nice to see Google bringing a sense of individuality. You’ll only be able to get the white version to begin with, though.

Related: Google unveils new Pixel Buds true wireless in-ears

In terms of voice assistants the AirPods and the Pixel Buds have Siri and Google Assistant respectively, and we’re all familiar with the qualities of those voice assistants. Google hopes the new PixelBuds will make its assistant tech more functional, and readily available, than ever.

Also notable is the Pixel Buds’ real-time translation. On the original buds it only worked in a limited capacity – if the new iteration lives up to Google’s claims, the Pixel Buds will be able to take live speech and translate on-the-fly, making languages easier to understand.

new pixel buds

As far as wireless connectivity is concerned, the AirPods are famously stable. Google has already made bold claims about the Pixel Buds in this regard, claiming they’re capable of maintaining a connection from three rooms away and can stay connected across the length of a football field. As always, we’ll wait and see.

On the PixelBuds, nifty touch controls offer access to playback and volume (through swipes), and connectivity includes Bluetooth 5.0, as well as quick pairing to Android 6.0+ compatible devices via Google’s Fast Pair 2.0 functionality. Fast Pair 2.0 works by sending out a signal to nearby Android devices and offering one-tap connectivity.

That addition of fast pairing capabilities may be the real game changer that makes Pixel Buds a solid competitor for Apple.

That’s not the only area where Apple might be worried though, the AirPods’s design makes them less than great for workouts, and they’re neither sweatproof nor water-resistant. This is an area where the Pixel Buds best the AirPods, as the new earbuds from Google have IPX4 sweat and water resistance.

Related: AirPods 3 – what we know about Apple’s next true wireless earbuds

Sound quality is where the AirPods fall short. While they are a step up from the earphones Apple packages with their devices, improvements weren’t huge with the 2019 AirPods.

The original Pixel Buds weren’t ideal either, with a lack of noise isolation (much like the AirPods) leading to poor sound.

The Pixel Buds 2 feature custom-designed 12mm dynamic drivers which Google says they’ll assist in producing high-quality audio. As always, we’ll believe it when we hear it.

Google has said the Pixel Buds 2 have a more balanced sound, and recent reviews indicate that the sound quality is improved over the original, but the bass is muted, and the overall sound quality does not match more premium true wireless earbuds. We’re waiting to get our hands on a pair to make our own minds up though.

Related: Best Wireless Headphones

We only know US pricing for the Pixel Buds, and it bodes well for Google fans.

At $179 (current currency rates make that £140), the headphones could be cheaper than the original £159 Pixel Buds. That’s far less expensive than the 2019 AirPods which have an RRP of £199.

In this case, if Google aims to undercut both the £160 AirPods and the £200 AirPods, it could prove an enticing option.

The PixelBuds are stacking up pretty well on paper. They’re cheaper, better to work out in and offer more customisation options for different ears – so they could be a viable competitor for Apple.

However, we’re waiting to get our hands on a pair before giving our verdict. Also, who knows, there may be a new version of the AirPods out soon.

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