With the PowerBeats 3, we have a dedicated Beats fitness headphone, now owned by Apple, that features the W1 chip, giving it even more power within Apple’s ecosystem. What this further Apple tie-in means is that once connected to an iPhone, an iPad recognizes them, MacBook or Apple Watch paired with your iCloud account. So you can say goodbye to long pairing sessions, theoretically at least. The Powerbeats 3 are getting a little long, though, despite still being among the running headphones of 2020. This is our Beats PowerBeats 3 Review.
However, with the release of the PowerBeats Pro in May of 2020, training enthusiasts have another, more recent option for high-quality audio. We also expect to see the rumored Powerbeats 4 this year, which we think will combine the ear hook design of the Powerbeats Pro with the collar of the Powerbeats 3. The W1 chip also features a robust and elongated connection, which means you can wander much further away from your music without experiencing any jumps or cuts.
Since the release of the Powerbeats 3, the W1 chip has been adopted by Apple’s H1 chip, which can be found in the of 2020 Apple AirPods, AirPods Pro and Beats Powerbeats Pro as anyone in fitness will tell you, headphones that you plan on walking or working out with the need to fit well. The ear hook design of the Beats PowerBeats 3 is designed to prevent the headphones from falling out at all, with a series of tips that ensure a proper fit – although it wasn’t always perfect in our experience.
Beats PowerBeats 3 Review: Design
The design of the PowerBeats 3 doesn’t deviate from previous iterations, with the buttons on long plastic elongated, with rubber hooks on your ears – and of course, the visible Beats logo on the side for the cachet that such a brand has in its hands. The re are several tips in the box, with flanged tops among our favorites. However, while the hook design ensures that the headphones don’t fall off your head entirely, this means that the seal in the ear isn’t always complete – the hook that presses against the outside of your ear can puncture the tips a little, so the sound insulation isn’t perfect in the end.
Initially, the hooks were too wide, and the PowerBeats 3 fell out of the ear and dangled around too often. However, the hooks will bend a bit, and if you narrow the angle, you get a reasonably comfortable fit. The y did begin to come loose once during a race, where there was no time to stop and secure the hooks properly (so just let them flap a bit), but otherwise, we didn’t have a problem with the fit during the test.
The power button, which is right along the top of the elongated units that the tops are attached to, can be challenging to find with the finger – especially if you didn’t realize it was there first, as we did. And because the unit isn’t proud, turning the PowerBeats 3 on and off with gloves on is a nightmare, where guesswork is your only option. However, the inline remote is sturdy and easy to use, with pronounced buttons and a sturdy build quality that makes it easy to change the volume, take a call, or skip tracks with double or triple taps.
Excellent build quality is something we expect from Apple products, and the PowerBeats 3 offers just that. Everything from the logo to the included toggle (to adjust the length of the cord that hangs around your neck) feels first-class and helps make the higher cost more digestible.
The connection on the PowerBeats is secure during use – although we did have a few problems with them during the test. It only occurred at a run in -6C (21.2F) temperature, but the PowerBeats was just turned off twice and had to be re-paired with the iPhone 7 Plus to be able to play the music again. This first connection can sometimes be challenging to establish. The way most people use Bluetooth-enabled headphones is by placing them on the head and then turning on the power using the audio prompts to confirm the connection.
However, with the Beats PowerBeats 3, turning them on doesn’t provide a direct audio signal that they’re turned on – you’ll have to wait a few seconds to hear a sound that confirms the connection to the phone. But, if you press and hold the power button for too long, pairing mode will start, making it a choice between simply guessing how long before the headphones are turned on or doing so before turning them on.
And even then, there were moments when we had to re-pair the headphones by keeping them close to your iPhone or iPad – it’s good to see the pop-up box appear when it’s near the headphones, but it’s unclear why it was needed from time to time. Apart from these things, however, we found the range of the headphones to be excellent, allowing us to venture much further away from our phone than usual without disconnecting it.
Beats PowerBeats 3 Review: Sound Quality
Where many fitness headphones are wrong on the tin side when it comes to sound quality, and prefer to turn up the volume so your music can be heard when stomping the streets or grunting through weightlifting, the PowerBeats 3 does have a richer sound. The bass is higher than in many other headphones, but not at an insane level – the tops don’t ring in your ears, add more volume to what you’re listening to.
It’s the bass that makes the headphones feel like a pair of sporty earbuds. The bass response is tight rather than booming, but we’d be lying if we said it’s not overwhelming from time to time. Perfect for when you’re training, but not so good if you want to listen relaxed. That’s not to say that the headphones don’t have a lot of mid- and altimeters in abundance, but they can get a bit stuck behind that bass.
The details are also clearly visible in the Beats PowerBeats 3, with lots of pleasant little accents in your favorite songs. The volume is a bit lower than it might be because they don’t always fit well, which means you’re not still able to hear the action in a noisy environment – but yes, that might be useful to save your eardrums later in life.
One for the Best things about the PowerBeats 3 is battery life, which is nothing short of excellent. While the decision to use micro-USB as a charging port may seem strange for an Apple product, it does mean that many people will have a pair of suitable cables – and the re’s a cable in the box. Given that these headphones are designed to work so well with products in the Apple ecosystem, it won’t be a surprise if future models are connected to Lightning instead.
In terms of battery life, we’ve used the PowerBeats 3 for an average of four to five days before recharging, both for regular use and general commute. For example, a two-hour run over the weekend resulted in only 20% less, which was an excellent performance from headphones that don’t look like they have massive batteries in them. Recharging times are also fast, with just a few minutes of recharging time that’s easy enough to see at home when you realize they’re empty just before the train journey.
Beats PowerBeats 3 Review: Conclusion
The PowerBeats 3 are well made, long-lasting, and have a good sound quality, which is a pleasant trio of merit for a fitness headphone. The fit is pretty good, and for people with more ‘closed’ ears, probably almost perfect. Some may have trouble getting a proper closure with the tips, thanks to the hooks that keep the tips at a slightly wider angle, but generally, the PowerBeats are comfortable to wear. The main bottleneck will be the price, which won’t be strange for Beats customers.
If you want headphones that you can put on before running, there are plenty of other, cheaper options that pump sound into your ears if that’s all you want. The re are also less expensive, better-sounding alternatives if you wish to non-fitness-oriented headphones. Where the Powerbeats 3 impress when you use them as a combination of the two – if you can walk from fitness speakers to headphones, they stay in place and offer excellent sound quality.
The PowerBeats 3 is solidly built and has a great battery life, so they get a lot of things right - but at this price point, they need to do a little more to make them worth their price tag.
- Great battery life
- Solid bass response
- Good wireless range
- A bit bass-heavy
- The fit could be better
- High price