It’s often difficult for first-generation products to satisfy fans — we ourselves took Apple to task for its $159 wireless AirPods — but the feedback coming in on Google’s Pixel Buds is almost entirely bad.
We’ve rounded up reviews from Android Police, Digital Trends, Gizmodo, Mashable, and Slashgear. Only one review, Mashable, gave the Pixel Buds a positive score or recommendation.
Audio quality is one of the most important qualities in a set of earbuds that cost over $100, but multiple reviewers describe the Pixel Buds as middling at best. Android Police calls them “pretty ok,” while Digital Trends writes: “We’ve already seen some early reviewers ranking the Pixel Buds among the best wireless headphones they’ve heard. To them we say: It’s time to check out some more wireless headphones.” DT does go on to note that the sound quality is decent, if not exceptional. Mashable, which gives them a positive review overall, still rates the sound quality as “average.”
Nearly everyone dislikes the charging case. Android Police calls it “one of the most frustrating, badly-designed products I’ve seen in a while.” Digital Trends notes that the case lid feels flimsy and the cable that connects the earbuds often tries to jump out of the case. Slashgear notes “the whole thing feels like a miniaturized takeout container covered with fabric.” Gizmodo made a nearly identical observation.
One of the supposed benefits to Apple’s courageous AirPods is easy pairing with iPhones, but Google’s Pixel Buds struggle to deliver an equivalent benefit. Pixel Buds can only pair to one device at a time (AirPods can pair with all your Apple products), and the product doesn’t support streamlined pairing on Chromebooks or other laptops yet.
Pairing with a new device requires you have the carrying case (AirPods have no such restriction), and you can’t even turn them off without the carrying case (they turn off when inserted into it). And while the Pixel Buds are quite large for tethered earbuds, meaning the two earbuds are wired together, the five-hour battery life they claim is merely equivalent to what Apple’s actually-wireless AirPods offer. That’s significantly less than the 8-10 hours you can get from other tethered earbuds.
Opinions vary on the translation feature, which Google bills as a fundamentally transformative way to use the phone. Android Police had trouble getting the software to function properly and found the setup clunky, but Digital Trends had a much more positive experience. Keep in mind, however, that this capability is only available on Pixel devices — it won’t work on Samsung, LG, or HTC mobile phones.
Mashable: “Personal style preferences aside, I think Apple AirPods are perfect for what they cost. They sound good, the case is small, and the battery lasts forever.” Their review, however, appears to be an outlier.
Android Police: “I feel like we ended up with them [Pixel Buds] not because Google genuinely thought they were a compelling product, but because the Pixel 2s don’t have a headphone jack and Google needed something to go up against the Airpods.”
Digital Trends: “Unless you’re a Pixel phone owner who travels abroad on a regular basis, we’d recommend looking elsewhere.”
Slashgear: The Pixel Buds are an unexpectedly muted point in Google’s 2017 device line-up. In fact, it’s hard to escape the idea that they were rushed out to compete with AirPods… Unfortunately, while they promise plenty, the actual experience underwhelms.
Gizmodo: “In a shocking plot twist, the Apple earbuds are more versatile than the Google earbuds and actually work with Android devices. Why anyone would buy a wireless gadget that only worked with specific devices is beyond me.”
Based on the overall tenor of the reviews, these seem like a tough product to recommend. If you know you’ll like it after reading several reviews, that’s one thing, but make sure you do your research on the pitfalls and snares first. The Pixel Buds don’t offer the same high-quality experience as Apple’s AirPods, and they don’t implement their pairing features or compatibility options as well, either. If you’re already a Pixel owner, these issues may not matter, but everyone else should give it some thought.