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Google Pixel Buds Review

Google’s 2nd generation Pixel Buds arrived in Singapore last month. It’s now a truly wire-free earbud design, like how many people expect their earbuds to be nowadays. It looks and sounds good, and its deep integration with Google Assistant is simply amazing.

The new Pixel Buds shares a familiar design with its 2017 namesake. There are some obvious changes, such as the shedding of wires between the earbuds. This is probably one of the most sought upgrade, seeing that every major manufacturer of wireless earbuds offer one or more truly wire-free design in their product line-up.

The new oval carrying case is also very nice. In fact, I need to digress here for a moment to mention that the opening and closing of the cover has such a satisfying sound and feel that it almost works like a fidget toy. I find myself subconsciously opening and closing it, possibly to the annoyance of others around me.

The earbuds look like mentos sweets, and the bright white colour will probably attract some attention when you stick them into your ears. It is, technically, a kind of an in-ear style, since the tips are meant to sit slightly inside your ear canals.

I had a problem with the fit. The Pixel Buds does come with three sizes of silicon tips, so it should probably work well for most people. My personal experience is that the earbud somehow feels not well-secured, regardless of which size tips I used. For most earbuds from other brands, the smallest tips work best for me. In the end, I settled for the smallest, and with some backward-twist adjustment, I got the Pixel Buds to sit “alright”. It didn’t feel secure, but it did not fall out with any kind of normal head movement, including sudden but not violent head-shaking.

The less-than-perfect fit for me meant that isolation wouldn’t be great. I suppose this will be far better if you get it to fit in your ears properly. I am aware that my ears are unique (but isn’t that the case for everyone, eh?), so this could be just me. Other reviewers do seem to have a better fit.

Sound quality from the 12 mm dynamic drivers is pretty good. This is something commendable, considering that, again, I didn’t think my fit was that great. The bass is decently present, not boomy. The mids are strong, which may make the Pixel Buds better tuned for voice, such as podcasts. The highs are detailed and bright.

The Pixel Buds is meant for much more than just listening to music. You can take calls with it. Call quality is great at both ends. The dual beamforming microphones in each earbud seem to do a great job, and accelerometer help detect jaw movement so that the Pixel Buds know when you’re speaking.

The star feature of the Pixel Bud has got to be the Google Assistant integration. This is absolutely fantastic. Imagine, Google Assistant always at your beck and call. No need to worry about whether some Google Assistant device installed in your home or office is near you, and adjusting to project your voice as need be. No, just call on Google Assistant “normally”, because it’s already there, on you.

The Google Assistant in the Pixel Buds is, quite literally, a personal assistant right with you at all times. It reads you phone notifications. You call out “Hey Google”, and rattle off your request, and it hears you perfectly even in a reasonably noisy environment that would have made it hard, for example, for a Google Home to hear you.

This review is about the Pixel Buds, so I’ll try not to get carried away with Google Assistant per se. But I can’t help but stress this point. The hands-free access to Google Assistant is simply amazing. The real-time language translation with Google Translate is also really cool.

There are yet more cool features with the Pixel Buds. For example, Adaptive Sound will automatically adjust volume levels based on your environment. You can still adjust volume manually, but Adaptive Sound can automatically re-engage, if you configure it so, when environment sound levels change again.

The Pixel Bud is easy to setup. Fast Pair with a Pixel smartphone or Android 6.0+ device makes the setup and device onboarding experience really great. The on-phone Pixel Buds app call report battery levels in each of the earbuds, and of the carry case itself.

Controls are relatively straightforward and easy to understand. Swiping forward or backward will increase or decrease volume. A single tap will play/pause media and answer calls. Double tap skips track, end/reject calls, or stop Assistant. Triple tap to go to previous track. Perfectly logical. Both earbuds also behave identically.

You can also simply remove the earbuds to pause music when in-ear detection is enabled. Putting the earbuds back on resumes playback.

The nice carry case has a USB Type-C port for charging. The case is also Qi certified, so you can charge it wirelessly using any Qi-compatible charger. The only control on the case is the button on the back, and it is used for pairing, as well as to reset the Pixel Buds.

The batteries in the earbuds are good for up to 5 hours of listening time and 2.5 hours of talk time. Considering the Work From Home situation we’re in these days, the 2.5 hours talk time is too short for me. Together with the carry case, you can get up to 24 hours of listening time and 12 hours of talk time. Just a short 10 minute charge in the carry case will provide the earbuds with 2 hours of listening time and 1 hour of talk time.

The Pixel Buds support Bluetooth 5.0, and will pair with any Bluetooth 4.0+ devices. It supports AAC HD audio. Unfortunately there is no aptX support.

With IPX4 rating for water and sweat resistance, you can rest assured that the Pixel Buds can keep you company on your workouts and survive some light rain.

Inside the retail box, apart from the Pixel Buds themselves and the carry case, you’ll also find a total of 3 sets of silicon tips, and a USB Type-C charging cable.

The biggest strength of the Pixel Buds is its deep integration with Google Assistant. If you are invested in the Google Assistant ecosystem, this earbuds will be a great addition. At the same time, sound quality is great, as is call quality, and there are many other neat features.

The Google Pixel Buds are available only in Clearly White colour. It retails for S$269, and you can get it through the Google Store.

Summary

The Google Pixel Buds’ deep integration with Google Assistant is simply amazing. At the same time, you get a nice looking truly wire-free earbuds that sound great.

Pros:

  • Always-on Google Assistant
  • Great sound quality
  • Automatic volume control with Adaptive Sound
  • Wireless charging

Cons:

  • Fit (at least for me)
  • Mediocre battery life in the earbud

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