Planning to get the AirPods but not sure whether to get the standard ones or the beefed-up AirPods Pro? Obviously, the latest AirPods are cheaper, but they also boast plenty of upgrades from the original AirPods, including Siri support, a faster H1 chip, and an optional wireless charging case. On the other hand, the AirPods Pro are designed for people who want premium features in their true wireless earbuds as they’re decked with active noise cancellation, sweat and water resistance, and a customizable fit. Right now, all three are on sale at Best Buy and Verizon starting from $140.
Since hitting stores back in December of 2016, Apple’s AirPods have dominated the market for true wireless earbuds. And why wouldn’t they? They’re astonishingly easy to operate (well, for iOS users anyway) and have rock-solid connectivity, making these the must-have earbuds for diehard Apple fans. Unfortunately, if you already have the wired EarPods (you do if you’ve got an iPhone), you probably won’t be impressed with the AirPods’ sound quality – because they sound almost exactly the same. What you’re really paying for is the complete freedom from wires. Right now, you can get the AirPods with wired charging case at Best Buy for $140 instead of $160.
The AirPods look like the EarPods with the wires cut off. This design has been quite polarizing, having its own fair share of admirers and detractors. While their lack of cords and compact size is quite convenient, it’s important to know that these aren’t sweatproof (you can take the Samsung Galaxy Buds to the gym, and they’re cheaper) and are extremely prone to falling out. And unlike most true wireless earbuds, the AirPods don’t come with differently sized silicone eartips that you can attach so they’ll fit your ears perfectly. And this brings us to another very important consideration: If you’re absent-minded or clumsy, you may want to steer clear of these. Lose the case and you’ll have no way to charge them. Lose one AirPod and you’ll have to purchase a new one, though you’ll still be able to take calls and listen to music or podcasts with just one AirPod.
The AirPods come with a white charging case and a standard-issue USB-to-lightning charging cable. You won’t find a USB wall plug here, but that’s fine since you probably already have plenty of those lying around. Out of the box, the AirPods already have a fair amount of juice in them, and this is where the magic happens. If your iOS device’s Bluetooth is activated, simply opening the case and taking the AirPods out will make a pop-up appear on the screen for immediate pairing. The AirPods are also very easy to operate. Inside them are accelerometers and other sensors that determine when the buds have been inserted and removed from ears. Removing one AirPod will automatically pause music, and tapping the exterior of either AirPod will summon Siri. You can ask her to set a reminder, schedule an alarm, place a call, or adjust the volume of your music up or down. Weirdly enough, you can’t command her to skip a track on your Spotify playlist or make her do any type of song navigation. You’ll have to do that manually.
As mentioned, the AirPods aren’t the most impressive-sounding true wireless earbuds out there. These certainly won’t appear on any audiophiles’ list. The bass has adequate presence but lack punch, treble sparkles but is not particularly refined or detailed, and the mids left us wanting more presence and warmth. Still, the bottom line is, if you like the sound of EarPods, you’ll be perfectly happy with how the AirPods sound.
In terms of battery life, the AirPods are touted to deliver up to five hours of listening time and two hours of talk time on a single full charge. Of course, it all boils down to the degree of use. With multiple charges from the AirPods case, Apple says you can expect a total of 24 hours of listening time or 11 hours of talk time. Perhaps most notably, the AirPods charge fairly quickly – just 15 minutes of charging will provide three hours of listening time or an hour of talk time.
If you’re a fan of the EarPods’ sound but hate wires, then the AirPods should be right up your alley. Get them with a wired charging case for $140 on Best Buy today.
What’s the difference between the first and second generation of AirPods besides the wireless charging case upgrade? Not much, to be honest. They look exactly the same, although there are some notable improvements underneath the hood, including the H1 chipset, longer talk time, and support for voice-activated Siri. They also remain ridiculously easy to operate and set up for iOS devices, although the lack of waterproofing or workout features is baffling considering the price point. Right now, you can get the AirPods with wireless charging case for $180 (down from $200) at Best Buy.
The latest AirPods rock the same golf-tee shape of their predecessors. A lot of people seem to like this design (considering how immensely popular they are), although if you ask us they look like the old EarPods with the wires cut off. Compared to its wired counterpart, the wireless charging case now has its LED lights on the front, which allows you to see charging status when the case is placed atop a Qi charging pad. Apple claims that the case can carry the same amount of reserve charging it did three years ago, offering up to 24 hours, which still beats most competitors.
The onboard controls are the same as before – for better or worse. Each AirPod works autonomously, which means they don’t run out of juice at the same time. They auto-pause audio immediately when you take one out — but only with Apple devices. As usual, they don’t have volume and song-skipping default controls, offering only play and skip forward with a double-tap. You can assign play/pause, next track, and previous track controls in your iPhone’s Bluetooth settings on either earbud if you want to, though. To change the volume, you can simply ask Siri to turn it up or down for you. If you have an Android phone, though, you’re stuck with doing it manually.
Speaking of Siri, voice-activated control wasn’t possible with the old AirPods. You can thank Apple’s new H1 chip for this, alongside lower gaming lag, and its “50% faster” connection for phone calls — although we didn’t really notice any difference compared to other true wireless earbuds, including the original AirPods. Apple also claims that the chip can significantly reduce the distortion of your voice in windy conditions for superior call quality. We tested this in moderate wind, and it actually worked. Despite all these extremely welcome new additions, though, it’s hard to forgive Apple for the fact that it still hasn’t made the AirPods sweatproof. For that, you’ve got to pay a premium price for the Airpods Pro, which also boast active noise-canceling.
When it comes to sound quality, the AirPods fall under the “Not bad” category. The sound quality reminded us a lot of the wired EarPods. It’s far from terrible, and we do appreciate the softness and warmth it lends to certain songs, but that’s not exactly what you’re looking for when you’re listening to hip-hop, rap, and other beat-driven genres. It’s a very safe sound signature, designed not to offend anyone.
You get a modest update with the AirPods. If you’re an iPhone user, these are the best true wireless earbuds to get, especially if you’re after convenience. If you already have the old AirPods, you don’t need to buy these.
It’s probably pretty obvious that we weren’t all that impressed with the standard AirPods. There are just several other true wireless earbuds out there that offer better value for your hard-earned money. So when Apple announced they were going to release the souped-up AirPod Pro, we were naturally skeptical. Will they be able to deliver this time and improve on all the areas that the AirPods failed at? The answer is a resounding yes. The AirPods Pro are shockingly good and a huge win for Apple. Their sound quality has improved tremendously, their noise-canceling is spectacular, and they’re extremely comfortable to use even for a long time. The only problem we foresee is their questionable long-term battery life. Right now, you can score the AirPods Pro at Verizon for $225 instead of $250 – a cool $25 off.
Love it or hate, the AirPods’ golf-tee design is iconic, so Apple didn’t stray too far away from it when designing the AirPods Pro. They just now sport a shorter stem, which brings us to this major concern: Battery life. While the AirPods Pro offer the same battery performance as the standard AirPods (roughly 4.5 to 5 hours of listening time and/or 3.5 hours of call time per charge), we fear that their smaller batteries might not last in the long run. Unlike the Airpods, the AirPods Pro come with three sets of silicone eartips that snap on with a satisfying click instead of sliding onto a little nubbin as so many other in-ear buds require. This change not only offers a more secure and comfortable fit but also contributes to a better bass response.
The AirPods Pro inherit the original AirPods’ controls which means they’re ridiculously easy to operate and, as expected, Siri is always listening and ready to obey your every command. As with most true wireless buds with active noise-canceling, you have the option to either shut noise out or let it all in. Apple calls the latter feature “Transparency Mode” and activating this allows sounds from the outside world to arrive in a very natural way, almost as if you’ve taken the buds themselves out. Noise-canceling is decidedly top-notch and almost on par with what over-ear ANC headphones offer. Last but certainly not least, the AirPods Pro deliver a pretty impressive sonic performance. Their sound signature is terrific, rich in subtle details with some zesty treble, rounded-up by a full-bodied bass.
We tip our hats to the Apple AirPods Pro. These are absolutely the best true wireless earbuds that you can get if you’re an iOS user. Get them for $225 at Verizon today.
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