Google Pixel Buds A-series Review: Low-cost headphones that compete with Apple AirPods

Google Pixel Buds A-series Review: Low-cost headphones that compete with Apple AirPods

Every week, it seems like a new business releases a new pair of wireless earbuds, each with a new breakthrough function or the finest noise cancelling technology. Nothing’s ear 1 earbuds and Bang & Olufsen’s beoplay EQ buds have both been released in the recent week. Google’s Pixel Buds A-series earphones, which were revealed in June, have finally arrived in the UK to join the raucous fight. They’re a low-cost follow-up to Google’s Pixel Buds 2 (£199, Freemans.com), which will be available in 2020. Consider these the cheaper alternative to the Pixel 4a or the AirPods to the AirPods Pro.

Google Pixel Buds A-series Review: Low-cost headphones that compete with Apple AirPods

8 best gaming headsets: Enhanced audio for PS5, Xbox, and more The first thing you’ll notice when you glide the A-series out of their pristine white box is that that the dinky egg-shaped charging case is exactly the same as the more expensive Pixel buds 2. It’s cute, compact and slightly lighter than the Pixel buds 2’s charging case. The hinge feels nice and strong, just don’t push it back forcefully or its plastic exterior will probably snap, but it does close in a satisfyingly similar way to the AirPods’s magnetic shutter.

These small popcorn-shaped earphones look exactly like their more premium predecessors, but trade away a few key features for a lower price tag. To nobody’s surprise, they don’t have active noise cancellation, but are still neatly integrated with the Android ecosystem. The A in A-series is assumed to stand for affordable (although Google has never admitted it), after all. We’ve been testing them for a couple of weeks in different environments to see how they stack up against other wireless headphones, and of course, pitting them against the almighty Apple AirPods (£124.98, Amazon.co.uk) sans ANC themselves. Want to know what we think? Keep on reading below.

The A-series comes packaged with three different eartips – small, medium (already attached) and large, as well as a USB-C to USB-A charging cable. There’s no wireless charging here in the Pixel buds A-series, however, which is the first feature departure from the more expensive Pixel buds 2. The buds themselves, again, look just like their pricier counterpart – although they come in different colours, and are actually slightly smaller dimension-wise. We tested the gorgeous dark olive variety, but you can buy them in clearly white as well. They’re not attached to any stems either, essentially fitting discreetly and snugly in our ears like small balls of Maltesers. There’s also a little stabiliser fin, which you twist upward to press into the triangular fossa in the ear, helping them stay put when we were rigorously shaking our head at our solo dance party for one.

There are touch controls on the side of each earbud to pause, skip and rewind tracks, but we were a little sad that Google ditched the really useful swiping feature found on the Pixel buds 2, which allowed us to increase and decrease the volume without having to take our phone out of our pocket or ask G. Assistant to do it for us. If you’ve been wearing AirPods, you can probably live without that feature anyway, since it isn’t found on Apple’s buds.

Why do we call them AirPods for Android? Because, just like the AirPods and the iPhone, the A-series integrate seamlessly with Android devices. They feature Google’s fast pair tech, for one, meaning you only have to bring them close to your Android device to pair them together. Plus it’s got that fancy real-time translation feature, and the Google Assistant is always at hand if you need something when the buds are in your ears. Live translation is a little bit laggy, meaning it’s not a completely real-time experience when you’re in the throws of a conversation, but we’re expecting this to improve as the feature matures.

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