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Google Pixel Buds 2: Everything you need to know

After many months of waiting, Google’s $179 Pixel Buds 2 — which Google refers to as the Pixel Buds — are finally here, and you can pre-order them from both Google and BestBuy. If you’re curious about whether the reality meets Google’s hype, we have a full review of the Google Pixel Buds 2 right here.

But if you’re just wondering what all the hoopla’s about, here’s an in-depth look at what Google’s latest true wireless earbuds have to offer.

True wireless design

Nick Woodard/Digital Trends

Right off the bat, the Pixel Buds 2 is leaps and bounds ahead of the original Pixel Buds, which debuted in October 2017. Google went back to the drawing board and came up with a new design — scrapping the frustrating wires that tethered the two Buds together on the inaugural model, while also introducing a slimmer, more discreet body that sits flush with the ear. 

A three-point anchor system combines the inherent security of an in-ear design with a soft silicone stabilizer that helps to prevent movement once the earbud is in place. This is a big improvement over the first-gen Pixel Buds which we found less secure than we would have liked.

The exterior of the earbuds looks a lot like the previous model and preserves the subtle G-branding on the touch-sensitive surfaces. The new buds are also equipped with dual IR-sensors that detect when the earbuds are seated in your ears or not, so they can automatically pause the music when you remove them.

Speaking of sensors, the new Pixel Buds also have motion-detecting accelerometers and gyroscopes. It’s still not clear what Google intends to do with these sensors, but the possibilities include health and fitness tracking and augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) applications.

Breaking a sweat

Google Pixel Buds
Nick Woodard/Digital Trends

When Google unveiled the Pixel Buds 2, it touted the earbuds’ long-range Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities, referring to being able to run the length of a football field while staying connected to your phone. In our testing, that claim seems to be overblown. They certainly have a good wireless connection, but it’s not able to extend much farther than other wireless earbuds.

If you do intend on running the length of a football field, you’ll be glad to know that the Pixel Buds 2 are IPX4-rated for water-resistance, which should be more than enough protection for even the sweatiest workouts.

Battery and charging

The Google Pixel Buds 2 may be an upgrade from the previous generation in terms of features, but when it comes to battery life, they haven’t moved the dial at all: You get five hours of life from a single charge and that increases to 24 hours of total time when you include the charging case’s internal capacity.

What has changed are the charging options. Now, in addition to wired USB-C charging, you can charge the case wirelessly using any Qi-compatible charger.

OK, Google…

The bulk of the changes Google has made take place under the hood. The most notable of which is the omission of the need to tap the Pixel Buds whenever you want to interact with Google Assistant. Now, everything is handled using your voice. Just say “OK, Google” and Assistant will fire up, ready and waiting to take your command.

While Google hasn’t published a complete list of the various tasks Assistant can accomplish through the Pixel Buds 2, it should be able to stream music, search Google, and send messages as well.

Fast pair and translations too

While not a Pixel Buds 2 feature per se, Google is using the launch of these new earbuds to update all Android phones with new Bluetooth-based capabilities. Google refers to these features under the generic “fast pair” label, but there’s actually more than just fast-pairing involved.

You can now use your Android phone to locate your Bluetooth headphone within the Find My Device app. If your headphones aren’t connected, it will show you their last known location. The Android OS can show you battery levels for your earbuds and your charging case without the need for a third-party app. Finally, you can rename the device so it displays a friendlier handle than it was given at the factory. Instead of “Pixel Buds” it can say “Simon’s Pixel Buds.”

The fast pair feature should work on just about all Bluetooth headphones, but these additional features require headphone makers to adopt Google’s extra specs when creating new products. The Pixel Buds 2 support them all, but the first non-Google product will be the upcoming Harmon Kardon Fly earbuds.

The Google Pixel Buds 2 preserve the excellent Translate feature that debuted on the Pixel Buds, which uses the built-in microphones to translate a foreign language in real-time.

Did you hear that?

Sound quality appears to be a major feature of the Pixel Buds 2. Google has equipped them with custom 12mm dynamic speaker drivers and what Google describes as a “hybrid acoustic design” where the ear tips aim to seal outside noise, but spatial vents reduce the “plugged-ear feeling.”

Best of all, there’s an optional feature called Adaptive Sound baked in that dynamically adjusts the volume as your move from the quiet of your home to a noisy subway. And when you’re on a call, beam-forming microphones focus on isolating your voice, while voice accelerometers detect speech through your jawbone in a bid to stop background noise from being transmitted.

We’re still a bit surprised that Google opted to rely on passive noise isolation instead of going with active noise cancellation as others like the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 have done, but we also acknowledge that the Pixel Buds 2 are more affordable than these models.

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