The Pixel Buds Pro really impressed me

So, I've loved my Pixel Buds, the OG's are my go to device for walks and lounging in the hammock (they're loud, good quality), and the Pixel Buds (2nd gen) are my go to for bike rides (they fit better for activities and easier to control when I have less hands free, but are quieter).

When the Pixel Buds Pro came out, I thought well, let's see, how much better could they make them?

I had reservations about the design change - no inner ear 'thingie' that helps keep it in place.  Other devices I've tested from other brands never really felt secure if I was going to use them in a biking or running type scenario.  I was also hoping the sound quality would improve (specifically the quietness).

Fast forward a couple weeks since I did my unboxing, and they fit so perfectly into my daily routine (and into my ears) that I literally felt like they have been there all along with me.  You know when something just meshes so well for you.  That's these.

Let's start off the review...

First up, for $260CAD you'll get:

  • 11mm driver speaker
  • 3 microphones
  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Gesture control on both left and right buds
  • Qi enabled charging case
  • BT 4.0
  • IPX4 for the buds / IPX2 for the case
  • 11 hours of battery time for the earbuds (case will charge 2x more)

So how do they work?  Because they're Pixel, if you have a Pixel phone, as soon as you open the case there'll be a prompt to pair them up (the app sort of hides in your Bluetooth settings).  If it's not a Pixel, pair as you would any BT device, and there is a Pixel Buds app to download.  

Once paired up you're ready to rock and roll.  Open the lid and they'll start the connection.  I like seeing the pop up in my dashboard of my phone.  

If the buds are in the case you'll see the battery state of the case as well.  Outside of the case you won't know tho'.

One of the interesting parts for me was the initial set up, immediately there was a firmware update, and it was a major pain.  To get the download the buds had to be OUTSIDE the case near the phone.  But it took like 10 tries to download and push to the buds.  It would get to like 90% and then say "failed" and have to try again.  I don't know what the issue was.

The next firmware update a week or 2 later worked just fine.

In the settings app you can adjust few features.

First up you can 'find' your devices.  Essentially, they're going to start slowly making a noise to help you find them (if they're not dead).

The touch controls will let you adjust what your buds will do when you tap or swipe on them.  

These controls are the same for either ear, except for the option to 'touch & hold'.  

These can be set separately for either ear.  I've set mine up so that my right (the one I probably would use most often while biking) to use the assistant (or read out my notifications), whereas my left (one I probably wouldn't use as often) changing between the types of ANC.

Then there's the sound settings is where you can adjust the ANC and EQ.

Now the ANC you can toggle with the gestures you set above (either on, off or transparency, meaning you let in more outside sounds).

EQ is just a preset boost for bass and treble... I didn't really notice much difference.

There's the Eartip seal check, which was neat - you put the earbuds in, and I guess it tries to make a sound and see if it's external mics can hear it - a test of how well the buds are cutting out sound.

I mean, I guess it's good to know if you use a cup too small or large.

The last 2 settings I didn't use much, it's about being able to switch between types of connections and if you wanted to hand off sound control from a Pixel to a Chromebook etc... I didn't mess about with those as typically my day to day use of these would when walking about or going out biking.

So speaking about biking, I'm going to address my first fear - there being no 'thingie' (I think they call it a 'stabilizer arc') to help hold it in place.

Now, without it, I did find getting them out of the case a little trickier.  

That thing is just easy to snag in your fingers and pull out, without on these models you kinda have to hope for some more 'friction' with your fingers to lift them out.  Not a deal killer.

But, how does it fit in... will it stay?

Yup... sure does.  The cup goes in well enough and stays put while biked about and didn't have any fear of it falling out as it felt snug the entire time, unlike others I've tried.

And not only once in do they feel snug, the default once in your ears is to turn on the ANC and immediately the outside world goes muted.  It's like walking into one of those privacy booths.  It's pretty awesome.  I've just put them in a couple times to hang out in the hammock and shut the outside world out to relax.

It's been great while out biking - almost to the point I wish I could adjust the level of it as it's really good. Noises of cars are well muted but not ignorable.

Now, for the sound.  I do find it still fairly quiet overall.  I get out there and even tho' the outside is very muted, I still feel like I would want to turn it up a bit more.

That being said it's fine, and the quality of the sound is there.  I can hear the distinct tones in the music I'm listening to (i.e. separation between a band's different tenor drums).  I don't think it's any better than the 'non-Pro' models from last year with the exception of adding the noise cancelling.

Overall, I'm loving it.  They're in my go bag all the time now.  Add in the classy case from Nomad and they're a perfect companion that I bring with me just about anywhere.  

Best of all it seems is the battery being so phenomenal that I really don't have to worry.  My 40 bike ride to work only cost me 5% battery.  I've gone out on a couple hour ride and it's been a little over 12%, so definitely living up to the 11 hour it claims.  And recharging is simple - they actually charge very quickly in the case and the case can simply be plopped on any Qi charger (which I have many places in my reach throughout my day) and you're off to the races again.

Great set.  

Now, if you're looking to save some money because - $260 is a bit much.  The Pixel Buds A model are less than half that price.  You'll lose the noise cancellation and about half the battery, and for me the big loss is the Qi case.  I hate looking for a cable, so it's almost worth it in that area alone.