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Google Pixel Buds Review: Good but not great

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If you adore all things Google then the Pixel Buds will do fine as wireless headphones for your Pixel 2, but the physical design introduces issues that can irritate, and the translation feature isn't that great.

The good

  • Decent audio quality
  • Quick pairing once connected
  • Private language translation
  • Good battery life

The bad

  • Manual pairing is a chore
  • Cable is tough to wrap into case
  • Real-time translation is really just Google Translate

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Google grabbed headlines at its Google I/O event not so much for the heavily-leaked Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL, but for its first range of Google-branded Bluetooth headphones, the Google Pixel Buds, designed specifically with the new Pixel phones in mind.

Google's taking on not only Apple's AirPods, but the entire audio world with the Pixel Buds, and that's a big challenge.

Sadly, it's a challenge that the Pixel Buds aren't quite up to.


Design

  • Lightweight design can take a bit of fiddling to get comfortable with
  • Battery case provides extra charge
  • Bluetooth pairing is more complicated than it should be
GooglePixelBuds2_738

Performance

  • Solid audio quality
  • No noise cancellation
  • Integrated Google Assistant picks up voice commands well even in noisy environments
GooglePixelBuds4_738

Battery Life

  • Up to 5 hours of playback, or a full day of average use
  • Charging case provides an extra 24 hours of playback
GooglePixelBuds5_738

Verdict

GooglePixelBuds6_738

It's easy to see what Google was pitching for with the Pixel Buds, given that it's now into its second generation of handsets without standard headphone jacks in place. The Pixel Buds are more than just a standard set of Bluetooth headphones and are an illustration of where Google wants to take this kind of smart device.

It's just that, unless you're hopelessly in love with everything Google and absolutely must stay on brand, there's not much of a decent argument in favour of the Pixel Buds themselves. There are many examples that offer Google Assistant integration plus fitness features or better audio.

Real-time translation sounds like a great idea, but the practical application of it shows that Google's really just cheating to keep it a Pixel-exclusive feature. When Google can build Translate directly into the Pixel Buds in a future generation, then it'll really be onto a world-changing technology.

For now, the Pixel Buds are OK, but they're not essential.


Alternatives

The rapid expansion of handsets that lack standard headphone sockets has led to numerous alternatives if what you're after is a lightweight set of Bluetooth headphones.

If you're on a strict budget, consider the Flowfonix Buddies or Cygnett Freerun headphones. For those of a more sporty persuasion, the heart rate tracking abilities of the Jabra Elite Sport or Bioconnected HR+ might be a better fit.

If you want to confuse folks about your smartphone brand allegiance, you could even opt for a set of Apple's slightly less expensive AirPods.


What the other reviewers say

SiteCommentScore
Engadget"At best, they're decent; at worst, they feel unfinished."N/A
TechRadar"The Pixel Buds are a compelling set of wireless headphones that mostly succeed in executing their ambitions."3.5/5
PC Mag"The design, performance, and feature implementation result in a product that's much closer to the Nexus Q than a Chromecast or a Pixel."2/5
CNET"The Pixel Buds are perfectly decent wireless headphones with a few extra tricks for Pixel phone users "8.6/10

Pricing and availability

Google sells the Google Pixel Buds in Australia for $249 outright.


Specifications

Google Pixel Buds

Build

Category
In-ear Headphones
Colours
Black

Connectivity

Wired/Wireless
True Wireless
Bluetooth
Yes

Features

Noise Cancelling
No
Rechargeable Battery
Yes
Battery Life
Up to 5 hours

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