Compared: Pixel Buds versus AirPods and AirPods Pro

Google has released its latest set of wireless headphones, the second generation Pixel Buds. We tried them to compare with Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro.


AirPods Pro (left), Pixel Buds (center) and AirPods (right)

Pixel Buds and Apple AirPods

Second generation Pixel Buds aren’t Google’s first attempt at wireless headphones – Google previously launched the original Pixel Buds in 2017. In the original iteration, there was a wire connecting the headphones that were behind your head. With the 2020 version, they are now completely wireless, like Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro.

Google kept a style similar to the old versions on the outside of the buds, but removed the wire and added the stabilizers. They still look like circular discs in your ears, although they fit very close to the surface of the ear and do not protrude as much as the AirPods.

Pixel Buds Headphones
Pixel Buds Headphones

To control Pixel Buds, you can tap and drag on the large external surface. Pressing once can play or pause your multimedia content, by tapping twice, you will go to the next track or chapter, and a triple tap will take you back. Slide adjusts the volume from top to bottom. The controls are intuitive and easy to manage thanks to such a large surface.

Whenever a new set of headphones comes to our desk, we immediately compare them and their case to AirPods. Apple has nailed down the “shaking factor,” including the perfect AirPods case cover – it opens easily, has a solid hinge, doesn’t move and snaps perfectly closed.

The Pixel Buds case is almost as good as the AirPods charging case. Google has delivered a product with excellent build quality, in the second generation of Google Buds.

Pixel Buds case
Pixel Buds Charging Case

The case feels good with its matte finish and subtle colors – something we want Apple to steal – and the attention to detail is perfect. The headphones are easy to grip when you open the case, which gives them a sense of presence and makes them easy to remove. There are very clean lines, a beautiful curved shape and no unnecessary marks or labels.

Even the USB-C port is well designed. It has a clear opening and sharp edges that complement the simple aesthetics of the buds.

AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds in Nomad Horween Leather Cases
AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds in Nomad Horween Leather Cases

AirPods have a similar aesthetic although they are not as polished as Pixel Buds. Apple still has regulatory informationon etched on the back and unsightly hinge lines.

Standard AirPods are controlled via a tap gesture while AirPods Pro are upgraded to new force rods which can be pressed for physical control when not using Siri handsfree.

AirPods Pro support both wireless and Lightning charging, while AirPods support Lightning, unless you switch to the model with the wireless charging case or choose to get it later.

How Pixel Buds Are Better Than AirPods or AirPods Pro

Google has done a great job of equipping Pixel Buds with functionality, adding more functionality than Apple’s base AirPods, but not as much as AirPods Pro.

Second generation Pixel Buds from Google in its charging case
Second generation Pixel Buds from Google in its charging case

Compared to AirPods, Pixel Buds are more technologically impressive with the default wireless charge, real-time language translation when paired with a compatible device, more controls, resistance to water, passive noise cancellation and a more secure fit.

Some of these features are also better than the AirPods Pro. Real-time translation is exceptional, allowing you to get translations in your ear when you speak to someone in a different language.

How AirPods and AirPods Pro Are Better Than Pixel Buds

Basic AirPods do not offer any degree of noise cancellation, which in itself is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Some people like the open nature of AirPods which allows them to easily hear them while wearing them and find them very comfortable because they do not create a solid seal.

Pixel Buds offers passive noise cancellation with gel tips that help block external sound, compared to AirPods Pro which offers true ANC. Apple even uses an internal microphone to listen to noise canceling noise canceling to make sure the sound you hear is correct. This is a feature called Adaptive EQ that adjusts the audio to your ear and monitors the ANC.

AirPods also have many features specific to iOS. You can switch between the Control Center listening modes, adjust them via Siri, find them with the Find My app and customize them in the settings. One of the best features is iCloud synchronization. This synchronizes the Bluetooth profile on all your Apple devices connected to the same Apple ID. Once you pair with your iPhone, you can switch to your iPad, Apple, Mac or even Apple TV.

Apple has also designed its own chip for the AirPods, the H1. The H1 chip enables Class 1 Bluetooth audio which has a much more robust signal and increases the range of the industry standard from 33 feet to around 100 feet.

What should you buy?

AirPods ProPixel BudsNoise Cancellation Active Noise CancellationPassive Noise CancellationPass-Through AudioYes, transparency modeNoOne-tap setupYes * on iOSYes * on AndroidAssistantSiri * on iOSGoogle Assistant * on AndroidTranslationAsk SiriReal-time * on AndroidAuto-pauseYes Yes * on AndroidControls 5 hours disabled) 5 hours Unique features Live listening, find my app, iCloud sync, Lightning, adaptive equalizer, Apple H1 chip with 100 feet range, audio sharing, integrated in iOS Control CenterUSB-C, multiple colors, stabilizer bow $ 249 $ 179

Generally, when we try to compare two helmets, they are on an equal footing, but there is no way to put them on an equal footing. All the intelligent functionality of each is sequestered in their own operating systems, without ever crossing paths.

Just like AirPods aren’t as impressive on an Android device, Pixel Buds isn’t quite up to par on iOS.

Pixel Buds adaptive audio is not active on iOS, nor is the ability to automatically pause audio when the headphones are removed from your ear. That’s strange considering many other headphones – like the recent Jabra Active Elite 75t manages to do just that.

You can’t find them with the Google Find My Devices app, you can’t use the translation features, the Google Assistant, or the Quick Pair.

Pixel Buds and AirPods Pro
Pixel Buds and AirPods Pro

AirPods drop their Siri support, lose their personalization features, many of their unique features such as live listening, and more fall flat when used on Android.

So when it comes to our recommendation, it’s easier than ever. If you have iOS – get yourself a set of AirPods or AirPods Pro. And conversely, if you have an Android phone, absolutely take the Pixel Buds.

These two sets are exceptional and set the bar in their respective ecosystems, just don’t try to mix them up.

Pixel Buds vs AirPods Pro: who has better offer?

Google’s Pixel Buds Gen 2 retails for $ 179 at popular retailers like B&H Photo and Best Buy.

Meanwhile, Apple AirPods Pro is currently on sale for $ 224.99 at Verizon Wireless. It’s one of the best AirPod offer we’ve seen on wireless headphones.

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