Google introduced the true wi-fi version of its Pixel Buds headphones in October 2019, but it wasn’t till April 2020 that these in-ears released in the US, followed by a wider launch in July 2020 in some other regions.
Selecting up on a well-known form aspect and with an option to flex its smart skills, the Pixel Buds wants to provide you a Google headphones practical experience to exceed other true wireless headphones.
Design and comfort
Charging case included
Colours: white or grey
Three ear tip sizes
Google has maintained some of the style and design that it used earlier on its wired Pixel Buds – with a rounded body of the headphone which sits in your outer ear, while the silicone tip attaches directly into your ear canal. It’s created to sit flush in the ear rather than hang out such as the Apple AirPods do and it’s a nice look. There is simplicity in the design and style that we just like, from the silky sleek surface of the Buds themselves thru to the soft-touch feel of the case.The case is like a ideal pebble, so smooth that you will simply want to caress it all the time – it’s a lot better than many of the low-priced plastic cases you will find on rival products.
It’s the exact same finish on the soft domed touch surface of the Buds, which support a wide range of taps and swipes to control the headphones. Managing the music is simple enough once you get used to these commands, allowing play/pause, skip, volume up/down, as well as triggering Google Assistant – even though the slightest touch will register, so you need to be very careful.
There are 3 sizes of silicone ear tips to support you find the ideal fit, while there is a small rubber promontory, sticking up just like a raised pinky that’s designed to hook straight into the top of your ear and give extra stability. It’s fixed on the body of the buds, so you can not remove it.
The Buds 2 generally are not the most comfy earbuds that we’ve used, but a lot will depend on the size and shape of your ears. Getting the right tip will achieve a snug and pretty secure fit, but we can’t help feeling that the additional support has been added due to the fact the weight does not sit in the ear quite as well as some others – and there’s a lot of touch functionality that might mean you’re prodding these ‘buds more often than some others.
In reality, we found the Buds 2 pleasant enough, but we’ve never found that top rubberized support to really do anything for us. It’s worth adding that we’ve never really got on with other headphones offering additional ear support in this way, so we’re not surprised.
Sound quality and performance
Some distortion on calls
5 hour battery life/24 hours total
There’s no active noise cancellation (ANC) in these headphones; as such these ‘buds are designed to let some of the outside world in to reduce that sense of isolation. Google instead uses something it calls Adaptive Sound – which is designed to change the volume as you move from quiet places to noisy places and vice-versa. It’s a system designed to reduce the need to change the volume manually.
However, we didn’t detect a big difference – and moving from a quiet side street to walking along a main road, it was clear that we needed to turn the volume up manually, mainly because a lot of traffic noise was coming through.
If you have a Google Pixel phone then it will natively control the Pixel Buds 2 at a system level, but other Android phone users will be required to download an application. There’s not a huge range of control within this app, but you can control Google Assistant notifications and preferences, as well as get a guide to all the supported touch controls.
There is no method to change the sound profile of these headphones and there’s no custom sound tuning – which is quite common on a wide range of other headphones. We always like the option to fine-tune though.
Where the Pixel Buds really show off is in the range of Google Assistant smart functions that are supported. Press-and-hold a ‘bud (you can use either) and Google Assistant will fire up, tell you the time and start to relay your messages and notifications to you.
That will mean you don’t have to fish your phone out of your pocket and you can compose replies via voice – although, as with all things, this needs to be used with caution to make sure you’re sending the right message to the right person.
Of course you get all the normal Google Assistant functions too, allowing you to access all the other information that Google has access to – and pulling on those things that you’ve previously setup in your account.
The Google Pixel Buds 2 gives you a very mixed practical experience. Used as smart true wireless headphones there’s plenty to like, shown at their best when out and about, using Google Assistant to play your music from Spotify, acquiring your notifications read aloud so you don’t have to get your phone out of your pocket.
But these are pricey headphones and the absence of proper active noise cancellation (ANC) and relatively very poor isolation from external sounds brings things down a notch. Google Assistant is very capable, but the system is prone to being complicated, or getting confused when there’s a blip in reception, so it’s not all as smooth as the case these ‘phones come in.Photo:store.google
If you’re searching for an attractive set of smart true wireless headphones – and deep Google Assistant integration is top notch of your list – then the Google Pixel Buds 2 offer a good deal. On top of that, the simplicity of pairing for Android users can’t be overstated. But there is no escaping that there are much better choices out there.
- Nicely designed
- Great case
- Wireless Qi charging
- Good sound quality
- Deep Google Assistant integration
- Fast pairing a bonus for Android users
- Poor external sound isolation
- No active noise-cancellation (ANC)
- Assistant experience inconsistent
- 5 hour battery life is below average