Many brands that make both smartphones and audio products engineer them to work a little better with each other, in the hope that this tight integration will keep buyers locked into their ecosystem. Some examples include the Apple AirPods Pro, true wireless headsets from OnePlus and Oppo, and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds range of headsets, all of which have a slight edge in terms of features or capabilities when used with smartphones from similar respective brands. .
Google’s Pixel Buds lineup has taken a similar approach, tailoring its usability and features to Android smartphones and tablets. However, what has been lacking in the past is the presence of a proper flagship true wireless headset from Google. That has changed now, with the launch of the Google Pixel Buds Pro, which is priced at Rs. 19,990 in India.
With active noise cancellation, wireless charging, and hands-free access to Google Assistant, the Pixel Buds Pro is a feature-packed TWS alternative that challenges flagship true wireless headsets from brands like Apple, Samsung and Sony. Is this the best flagship true wireless headset for Android users? Find out in this review.
Google Pixel Buds Pro Design and Features
Google sticks to its design and style for the Pixel Buds series, and the Pixel Buds Pro stick to script in terms of look and feel. That said, the earpieces are noticeably larger and heavier than the Pixel Buds A-series, but the size means the earpieces don’t stick out as much as you’d think. In fact, all that bulk ensures not only a secure and fairly comfortable fit, but excellent passive noise isolation as well.
Each earpiece has three microphones — one on the inside and two on the outside — with a Google logo on top of the touch-sensitive area for controls. Only the touch-and-hold gesture is customizable on the Google Pixel Buds Pro, and can be set to toggle Active Noise Control (cycling between ANC and transparency modes), assigning different functions to each earpiece can be done. Tap gestures control playback, and swipe gestures control volume adjustments.
Touch controls were generally accurate, but there were occasions when the swipe gesture registered as a tap, which was a bit irritating. I had a customizable function to cycle between noise control modes, as Google Assistant could be used hands-free with a ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Ok Google’ voice command.
The Google Assistant itself has done a great job on the Pixel Buds Pro. The wake phrase worked reliably, and it’s possible to do a lot with voice commands, including searching for information and controlling IoT devices connected to your Google Account, as well as controlling functionality like playback and volume on the earphones Is. The voice assistant functionality on the Google Pixel Buds Pro was just as good, if not better, than on the Google Nest Audio smart speaker.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro’s charging case is similar in design to the mid-range Pixel Buds A-series, with an egg-like shape, and contrasting colors on the outside and inside (on the white version). The USB Type-C port is on the bottom, the pairing button is on the back near the bottom, and there’s a single indicator light just below the lid that hides when it’s not illuminated.
It’s a convenient size and shape, and it’s easy to store in a clothing pocket or small handbag. Notably, the Pixel Buds Pro’s charging case supports Qi wireless charging. The sale package includes a total of three pairs of silicone ear tips of different sizes, but there’s no charging cable, which is a bit disappointing considering the price of the headset.
In India, the Google Pixel Buds Pro is available in only one color – black earpiece and white charging case. The earpiece is rated IPX4 for water resistance, while the charging case also has an IPX2 rating. The headset also features in-ear detection and sensors to open or close the case to ensure fast connectivity.
Google Pixel Buds Pro App and Specifications
Just as the Apple AirPods range requires an iOS device to utilize its full potential, the Google Pixel Buds Pro requires an Android device to make the most of its features. This includes the Pixel Buds app, which is only available for Android. As such, you can use the earphones with an iPhone if you only want to pair the headset with an iOS device, as you would with any other pair of Bluetooth earphones.
The Pixel Buds app is well placed with a neat home screen that lists all the major functions efficiently. When connected, the top part of the app displays each earpiece’s battery level and case separately. The Android OS will also by default push a drop-down notification for battery levels when a headset is connected.
Other options include specifications for Google Assistant on the headset, a guide to touch controls, voice modes, ear-tip seal check, in-ear detection, audio switching for compatible devices connected to your Google Account, and multi-point connectivity . You can also update firmware for Pixel Buds Pro using the app.
Disappointingly, there are no detailed equalizer settings, which are beyond control to boost low and high at low volume levels. There’s no optimization for ANC as you only get a single level, but you can check the ear-tip seal in the app to make sure the noise isolation is optimized for ANC.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro have 11mm dynamic drivers, and use Bluetooth 5 for connectivity along with support for SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. Given the focus on Android source devices, I found the lack of support for advanced Bluetooth codecs to be minimal. Competing devices like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 support advanced codecs, and are available for the same price as the Pixel Buds Pro.
Google Pixel Buds Pro performance and battery life
The Google Pixel Buds Pro goes up against some capable competition in the premium TWS segment, including the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Apple AirPods Pro. However, its positioning is quite different from those two options, as its feature-set is located for Android smartphone and tablet users.
While a direct comparison with the AirPods Pro wouldn’t be entirely fair, the Pixel Buds Pro certainly falls slightly short of the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3, both of which are device agnostic with regards to app support, and advanced Bluetooth codecs. is support.
To be fair, there’s a lot to like with the Google Pixel Buds Pro, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the earphones, thanks to the rich, warm, and melodious sound. The Pixel Buds Pro are well-tuned, and the sound gives the earphones a distinct character that’s quite fresh compared to the more analytical and detail-oriented sonic signatures of competing options.
Listening to Calvin Harris’ latest album Stay With Me, I loved the warmth in the sound. The deep, mid-tempo beat had a distinctive powerful grunt in the lows, giving the sound a funky feel. The sound signature is a classic U-shaped one, giving the low and high an audible boost. Luckily though, the mid-range didn’t drop much; The widely varied vocals of Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, and Halsey sounded great through the track, despite a certain warmth in the sound.
Turning up the volume and listening to Coldplay and Beyoncé’s Hymn for the Weekend was enjoyable, as the track on the Google Pixel Buds Pro sounded significantly different on the Google Pixel Buds Pro than on the Sony WF-1000XM4, my current reference-point. While the latter offered more detail, the former offered more character and a sense of aggression. The sound felt more catchy and energetic, although the Pixel Buds Pro seemed to struggle a bit with busy parts of the track as the volume turned up.
Although the soundstage felt fairly wide and clean, it sometimes felt like there was too much going on, with the earphones unable to adapt to track specifics as quickly as competing options. It’s here that the Google Pixel Buds Pro is a bit buggy, and that’s its only real shortcoming. Slower, gentler tracks like Bumbro Koyo Ganda by Bonobo sounded reasonably detailed and harmonious on the Pixel Buds Pro, while fast, busy music seemed to cause the earphones to struggle, the lack of advanced codec support being the obvious reason.
Active noise cancellation is good on the Google Pixel Buds Pro, with a decent amount of noise reduction both indoors and outdoors. It seems to be particularly effective against low-frequency sounds, when the ceiling fan whistles at home and there is a lot of noise from the railway line outside.
I heard a slight humming with the earphones on and without the music playing, which strangely could not be heard with the earphones turned off. However, it went too far while the music was playing, so I didn’t think much about it. Overall, the active noise cancellation on the Pixel Buds Pro is pretty effective both indoors and out.
Making and receiving calls on the Google Pixel Buds Pro was a breeze, and Google Assistant’s excellent hands-free mode made it possible to do a lot without even holding my phone. Call quality itself was good both indoors and outdoors, and ANC made a significant difference in improving the sound.
The battery life of the Google Pixel Buds Pro is good on the earpiece, lasting over six hours on a single charge with ANC operational and medium volume levels. The charging case added two additional charges, for a total runtime of about 18 hours per charge cycle. The overall figure isn’t exceptional, but it’s not too bad either.
Although the Google Pixel Buds range has existed as the company’s ‘ecosystem’ Play for a while, it hasn’t been a significant flagship device as of now. The Google Pixel Buds Pro delivers exactly what you’d expect from a flagship headset, with useful features like active noise cancellation, app support, and responsive hands-free access to Google Assistant.
While the sound quality is fun and full of character, the Google Pixel Buds Pro only fall short in terms of detail and harmony compared to competing options like the Sony WF-1000XM4, which come across as more practical and analytical. That said, it’s a good pair of true wireless earphones that I had a great time reviewing, especially for its reliable and capable hands-free Google Assistant access.