The original Pixel Buds left much to be desired; however, the Google Pixel Buds 2 is the superior offering that audiophiles have been waiting for for a long time. These buds have a slimmer design, sound better, feel extremely comfortable, and have many intuitive features that give Apple’s AirPods a run for their money. The Pixel Buds 2’s beautiful Google integration extends functionality across the board, allowing users to work with the earbuds in a variety of ways and perform hands-free tasks with ease. This is our Google Pixel Buds 2 Review.
But it’s not all perfect, because of the low battery life and the quality of the phone doesn’t do them justice. Apple’s AirPods Pro is the ideal option for iPhone users and has noise cancellation, while Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus is an excellent choice for those looking for something platform-neutral. But, as you can see in our Google Pixel Buds 2 review, the new Google buds stand up to some of the best true wireless earbuds around.
Google Pixel Buds 2 Review: Design
The most striking feature of the Google Pixel Buds – and the thing that separates them from the original Google Pixel Buds that it is likely to replace in the future – is that they are entirely wireless. There’s no cord running between the buttons this time, and that’s liberating. That’s why the case has been completely redesigned and now fits better in both your hand and your pocket. The new egg-shaped case of the lid can be clicked up and down with a proper click, and the whole case only has one single USB Type-C port to charge.
Even better is that the case itself can be charged wirelessly, and a bright LED light on the case will let you know that the case is charging. Inside the case, Google includes multiple sets of earbuds and a decent long charging cord – both of which are appreciated. You will most likely need the extra earplugs because the media that comes on the earplugs can run a little big and push the earplugs out of your ear.
As you can see, these are some seriously small plugs that can only stay in your ears using a small protrusion that rests in the outer ear. How uncomfortable you find the studs will probably be a point of discussion, but we didn’t see them the most comfortable or the most sensitive to stay in our ears. Potentially people with a different ear shape may have more success in this area than we do, but we wish Google had used a fin design (such as the Powerbeats Pro) to keep the tips in place instead of the studs.
The only undeniable flaw in the design is the active noise cancellation. Several other headphones around the $200 mark have it, and it’s sorely missing from the Google Pixel buttons. In fact, due to their design, there isn’t even much passive noise cancellation here. However, to compensate for their lack of noise cancellation, the Pixel Buds can automatically adjust the volume based on the amount of noise the microphones pick up – which, although not quite noise cancellation or anything close by, is better than nothing – and automatically pause when you take them out of your ear.
We didn’t find the automatic volume adjustment to be so useful, but auto-play/pause is undoubtedly a massive help in preserving battery life and smart inclusion.
Google Pixel Buds 2 Review: Comfort
The first Pixel Buds were not comfortable and tended to slip out of my ears. Not to mention, the nylon cable that also doubled as an adjustment system to get an excellent on-ear fit was more of an annoyance than an advantage. To remedy this, Google claims that it “scanned thousands of ears to create a design that is comfortable for as many people as possible.” Problem solved.
In addition to being completely cordless, the Pixel Buds 2 has built-in fins on top of both buttons that form perfectly on the inside of your ears. I did a few sets of ab-crunches and boards to test the stability, and they stayed in place the whole time. Going outside was no problem either because I was sure the buds wouldn’t fall out if I wore my mask, and they wouldn’t. The silicone tips provided a tight seal that kept the buds in place.
Several factors play a role in the remarkable comfort of the Pixel Buds 2, the most important of which is the redesigned soundtrack. It’s longer and thinner, so it glides smoothly into your ears. The brand new “spatial openings” also exert less pressure on the concha. They also increase environmental awareness by allowing ambient noise to leak, although depending on your preference, you may want full sound insulation, which these tops won’t offer you. Nevertheless, I wore them for about two hours a day, and my ears didn’t feel tired.
Features and Google Assistant
Although they don’t always fit well, you have to give it to Google to build a ton of features in these earplugs for Android users. The auto-connectivity right out of the box is pretty magical, and the always-listening Google Assistant allows you to control your entire home wherever you are. A neat feature specific to the Pixel Buds is the ability to integrate directly with Google Translate to provide real-time translations.
The way it works is once you say ‘OK Google, be my translator,’ your Android phone opens the Google Translate app and starts working. You hold down your left ear button to say something in your native language, and it will then repeat in the translated word of the speakers on your phone. Press and hold the translation button on your device while the other person is talking, and you’ll hear the translation directly in your earphones.
When you slow down the rhythm of the conversation, the solution is magical, allowing you to talk to extended family, friends, and strangers with whom you would have previously had difficulty communicating. The only issue is that you need to speak one at a time, and unless you download a language pack (about 45MB each), you need to be connected to Wi-Fi to work.
The other hidden trick the Pixel Buds can do is to read your notifications from your smartphone and, if you choose to do so, respond immediately using dictation. These features aren’t as polished as we’d like them to be and can often feel a little overwhelming when you’ve turned on social networks and email messages, but they’re incredibly practical. They can pave the way for better implementation in the future.
Google Pixel Buds 2 Review: Performance
So how do they sound? Not great, unfortunately. Without playing any music, you might hear the tiniest hissing, and you’ll notice that some songs have an incredibly weak bass response. Instead, you’ll see that Google’s Buds focuses on the mid and high tones. They make hard rock songs like The Best from Awolnation, of course with energy and sublime left-right separation – which is excellent – however, the music never sounds as it should because it misses the low end.
Audio lovers would describe the sound quality as clear, a term most commonly associated with sibilance (excessive hardness of tone) and listening fatigue. There’s no way to adjust this sound yet, so you’re stuck with the sound quality Google gives you, which is not ideal. The video audio quality is also a bit of a mix: we had no problem watching videos on YouTube with the Pixel Buds. Still, we put an action-heavy movie on Netflix, and suddenly you miss the bottom half of the audio track.
We also had a problem when we used them on a Facebook Messenger call, where the microphone crackled at every word, and we just fitted them back into our ears. These, too, may have been one-time issues that could be solved with firmware updates or flukes caused by the quality of the connection, but at the moment, we’re simply not sure enough to say that these are strong contenders for calling.
Where the Pixel Buds works as advertised, in good times or bad, is with battery life. Officially, Google hits three hours per charge with a total of 24 extra hours when it is deposited back in the charging case between charges, and we found that number pretty flawless.
Google Pixel Buds 2 Review: Battery Life
I couldn’t help but disappointed with the battery life of Pixel Buds 2. Although the battery lasts 5 hours, with a full charge, you get 4.5 hours, the same as with the AirPods Pro with active noise cancellation on. Also, the features enabled and the significant streaming factor in the playing time. Discharge times between buds are also switched off, with the right earbuds consuming more energy than the left earbuds. According to Google, “because the two earplugs have different functions at different times to maximize battery life, one earplug may consume more battery than the other.”
As much as I appreciate the programming of the Pixel Buds 2 with super-fast charging to charge the earbuds for 2 hours, you’ll still need to bring your charging cable and charging case if you want these earplugs to last all day. Speaking of which, the charging case is one of the most significant advantages of the Pixel Buds 2. Not only because it contains 24 hours of juice, but also the wireless charging capabilities, it’s compatible with Qi-enabled charging pads, so you can charge it without annoying wires getting in the way.
Price and Availability
The Google Pixel Buds 2 cost $179 and is currently available in one color: White. Other colors – Almost Black, Quite Mint, and Oh So Orange – will be released in the coming months. This means that the Pixel Buds (at least in the US) are more expensive than the Apple AirPods with the standard charging case. However, they are still 20 dollars cheaper than the more comparable AirPods with Apple’s Wireless Charging Case.
How does that $179 price tag compare to other true wireless earbuds? Not great, unfortunately. For $50 less, you can get either the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, which has a 12-hour onboard battery and 12-hour charging case or the Sony WF-XB700, which has a tremendous, muscular bass response. If you are willing to spend $50 more, you can use the Sony WF-1000XM3, which has active noise cancellation – a handy feature for commuters and frequent travelers that you will not find on the Pixel Buds.
Google Pixel Buds 2 Review: Conclusion
There is no question that this is a considerable improvement over the original Pixel Buds. The feature set alone is a definite improvement, and Google has paid attention to what customers are looking for in terms of ease of use and sleek design. Where the Pixel Buds can still improve is in their sound quality and the lack of active noise cancellation technology – for $179, these things are at stake and shouldn’t be missing. To that end, several other earbuds sound better and cost less or include more cost and noise cancellation.
As much as we appreciate the Google Pixel Buds feature set for Pixel owners, the less-than-perfect audio quality, lower battery life, and loose fit keep the Google Pixel Buds from our unrestrained recommendation. For more options, check our list of the Best True Wireless Earbuds.
The new true wireless Google Pixel Buds 2 is a major upgrade from their predecessors. The always-listening Google Assistant is great, but the lack of active noise cancellation and tiring sound quality at this price is a disappointment.
- Excellent Google integration
- Attractive and sturdy design
- Vastly improved sound
- Hands-free features work well
- Fast, wireless charging
- Aggressive, fatiguing sound
- Can fall out easily
- No noise cancellation
- Mediocre battery life