Apple AirPods Pro vs. Apple AirPods

Apple’s AirPods are easily the most popular true wireless earbuds in the world. With their tiny shape, flip-top lid charging case, and dead-simple operation, it’s no wonder they’ve become the earbuds to which all others are compared. But now that Apple has released its follow-up to the AirPods — the $249 AirPods Pro — with some big upgrades, the question becomes, which AirPods should you buy: The AirPods or the AirPods Pro?

We break it down so you can see how each model stacks up in various categories. Ultimately you’ll want the true wireless earbuds that meet your needs without blowing your budget.

Price

Apple’s AirPods start at $149 — that’s the version that comes with a normal charging case that you power-up via a lightning cable. But there’s also a $199 version that comes with a wirelessly charging case. Finally, the new Apple AirPods Pro ring in at $249, the same price as Powerbeats Pro. Then there are the replacement costs should something break or go missing. A single new AirPod will cost $69 to replace, while the AirPods Pro run $89 each. Even the charging case is more expensive: $69 for the AirPods wireless case and $89 for the AirPods Pro wireless case.

There are plenty of reasons for the AirPods Pro’s hefty price premium, but there’s no doubt that if you’re looking for the most wallet-friendly way to get your AirPods on, it’s the non-wirelessly charging AirPods.

Winner: AirPods

Water resistance

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Ever since the original Apple AirPods debuted, consumers and reviewers alike have bemoaned the fact that they aren’t officially able to deal with sweat or rain. Not that this has stopped folks from running with them or taking them to the gym, but the reality was that doing so was taking a risk. The AirPods Pro finally put an end to the worry: They feature IPX4 water-resistance. IPX4 is good enough to keep the AirPods Pro safe from damage during even the sweatiest workouts, and they’ll hold up under adverse weather conditions, but they’re still not waterproof. Swimming is definitely not a good idea with them in your ears, and even cleaning them should be done with care.

Some protection is better than none, however, so the AirPods Pro clearly take this one.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Sound quality

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The AirPods Pro don’t just sound better than the AirPods, they sound way better. It wasn’t an especially high bar, but Apple has finally delivered a set of true wireless earbuds that compare well with the best we’ve heard, and that’s saying something. With a true in-ear, noise-isolating design, the AirPods Pro already had a huge advantage, simply because they seal out the outside world better. When you add the better fit offered by their three sizes of silicone ear tips, and Apple’s new adaptive EQ, which automatically modifies the low- and mid-frequencies of the music to the shape of an individual’s ear, it’s a game-changer as far as sound quality goes.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Noise cancellation

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Much like water resistance, it’s hard for the regular AirPods to win a category they don’t even compete in. The new AirPods Pro are the first AirPods to offer active noise cancellation (ANC), a feature that has so far only shown up on true wireless earbuds from Sony. Amazingly, Apple’s version performs just as well as Sony’s and considerably better than the Bose Active Noise Reduction featured on the new Amazon Echo Buds.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Battery Life

The AirPods started their existence with a battery life that was considered good though not great. Five hours of continuous operation between charges was decent in 2018 but only average in 2019. Disappointingly, the AirPods Pro haven’t improved on this number at all. In fact, if you keep ANC turned on, it drops to 4.5 hours. We’d love to declare the AirPods Pro the winner here, but clearly Apple has not made battery life a priority for its latest and greatest AirPods.

Winner: Draw

Charging case

Apple AirPods Pro

The charging case that comes with the AirPods has become almost as iconic as the earbuds themselves. Small, comfortable to hold and to keep in a pocket, and with a flip-top lid design that simply makes it fun to use, it’s a hard act to follow. Apple made it better when it introduced the wirelessly charging version for the second-gen AirPods, but can it get better still with the AirPod Pros? Yes, yes it can.

With a more rectangular shape, but a smaller overall size, the wireless charging case for the AirPods Pro is more pocketable than the AirPods’ charging case. The lid is every bit as easy to open one-handed once you get used to the new shape, and one of our reviewers now prefers it to the older model.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Conclusion

Unless you’re looking to spend as little as possible, the new AirPods Pro are simply better than the AirPods in every way. For just $50 more, Apple has provided a ton of value. From their active noise cancellation to their IPX4 rating, to their superior sound quality, it’s hard to find a single fault. That said if you don’t like the way in-ear buds feel at all, stick with the AirPods.

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