Two of the biggest names in Android have new “Pro” earbuds for sale. We’ll just come on out and say it: You really can’t go too wrong with either the Google Pixel Buds Pro or the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. But, that doesn’t mean you should just flip a coin and see where it lands. There are some distinct differences here.
First, some required reading. Be sure to read our full Pixel Buds Pro review, as well as our Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review. That’ll give you the deepest dive into these $200 (more or less) earbuds.
Just want the short version? Skip on down to the end, then.
It seems a bit silly to spend too much time on a case, because earbuds were meant to spend more time (hopefully) in your ears than in their home. That’s not to say there’s nothing to talk about, though.
Both the Pixel Buds Pro and the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro have perfectly fine cases. They both charge wirelessly, and they both have USB-C for the times in which you want to plug things in.
There’s no real standout, either, when it comes to putting the buds in the case. They both go in without too much thought, and the same is true when it’s time to take them out. The Pixel Buds Pro perhaps are a tiny bit easier to fit on the first try. That’s worth noting, though it’s not a reason to buy one over the other.
I enjoy the flat design of the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro case. But, because it’s a rounded square, with no real way to determine the orientation by feel, there have been too many times in which I went to open it only to find that I was lifting from the wrong edge. The Pixel Buds Pro have fewer ways to screw that up.
On the other hand, loathe the matte finish of the Pixel Buds Pro case. It immediately gets marred by fingers and pants and whatever else is around, and I highly recommend sticking a case on the case.
Winner: I’m going to call this one a push. Cases are cases, and there are no deal-breakers here.
Fit and feel
Of the three earbuds I’ve had in rotation this year — these two and the AirPods Pro — the Pixel Buds and Galaxy Buds 2 Pro have been the more enjoyable options. I just prefer the way they fit a little more loosely in my ear.
Weight-wise, my $15 kitchen scale lists both pairs of earbuds at 0.40 ounces each. That’s relatively close to what both sets of technical specs say.
The Pixel Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are really close in terms of size. But they don’t necessarily feel like it. The Pixel Buds Pro feel (and look, ever so slightly) like they’re bigger and stick out of the ear a little more. That’s how they feel to me, anyway — your ears may hold them different. I’ve found myself trying to reseat the Pixel Buds Pro more often than the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro (though, definitely not as much with what I endure with the AirPods Pro). It’s not that the Pixel Buds Pro fit poorly; it’s just that the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro seem to fit a bit better.
That could be because of the overall design — or, maybe a difference in the tips. I’ve been using what comes with them, so maybe a different size could help with the Pixel Buds Pro. Again, I wouldn’t kick either out of bed.
Winner: Galaxy Buds 2 Pro fit and feel better for me.
This part is going to be subjective as always, and it’s more than a little dependent on how things fit in your ears, as well as what you’re listening to and how you’re listening to it.
The bottom line is that it’s close — it’s really close. Both the Pixel Buds Pro and Buds 2 Pro sound excellent for everyday things like music and podcasts; zero complaints there. If forced, I’m going to say that the Buds 2 Pro sound a little better, like they have a fuller spectrum with which to work. That could be because of Samsung’s 24-bit codec they’re using and that the Buds 2 Pro take advantage of. In fact, there’s less of a distinction when using both sets of earbuds on a Pixel device, so that could point to a 24-bit leg up. I’m still not sold on that being a reason to absolutely buy the Buds 2 Pro, but if it makes things sound a little better, great.
Where things fall off a little is around the edges. I’m not a fan of the spatial audio feature on the Buds 2 Pro. It kills quality in the name of surround sound gimmick, and it gets even worse if you turn on head tracking.
On the other hand, the Pixel Buds Pro don’t yet have their promised spatial audio feature. What’s worse? A feature that’s there but isn’t great, or one that isn’t there at all? Dealer’s choice.
Winner: Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, with caveats. The 24-bit thing is limited to Samsung devices. Otherwise, the sound profiles are extremely similar, and both are pretty excellent. Samsung’s spatial audio isn’t great — and you can only get it on the Buds Pro 2 on a Samsung device — but it’s also a feature that’s completely missing from the Pixel Buds Pro.
Both the Pixel Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds 2 Pro have their own app, and they’re available on most modern Android devices — not just locked into their own manufacturer. It means you can get firmware updates for the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro even if you’re not on a Samsung device, and you’ve got access to all the settings. The same goes for the Pixel Buds Pro on a non-Pixel device.
This is how things should be.
There’s mostly parity on this front. It’s not that one app is hobbled outside its native device. The Pixel Buds app look and works fine on Samsung. The Galaxy Wear app is great on Pixel.
Winner: You. This is a win for anyone who wants to use either of these earbuds on any modern Android device.
Here’s where battery life lands on paper:
- Pixel Buds Pro: 11 hours with ANC off, 7 hours with ANC on
- Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: 7.5 hours with ANC off, 5 hours with ANC on
Samsung lists total time with case-bound recharges at 20 hours with ANC on and 29 hours with it off. Google has the Pixel Buds Pro at 20 hours with ANC on and 31 hours with ANC off. A quick 5 minutes back in the case will give each option another hour of listening time.
What’s all that mean? That mostly depends on how you use your earbuds. If you’re going to have them in as long as possible every day, then more listening time is better than less, and recharges in the case will be more important. That last bit is mostly a wash, though the Pixel Buds Pro say they’ll get 3 hours of additional listening time with 15 minutes in the case, while the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro will get 2.5 hours on a 10-minute recharge.
Winner: The Pixel Buds Pro win the war on paper here, but unless you’re really pushing your earbuds on a daily basis, this spec might not matter to you.
The bottom line
Both the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and the Pixel Buds Pro are very capable earbuds from two of the most important (if not necessarily the biggest) Android manufacturers. You really won’t go wrong with either of them.
Price should be a big deciding factor here. The Pixel Buds Pro retail for $200. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro hit at $229 — and that’s before any sales prices or trade-in discounts. Samsung $75 off if you trade in the Galaxy Buds, Galaxy Buds 2, Galaxy Buds Live, Galaxy Buds+, or Galaxy Buds Pro. Trade in some AirPods and you’ll get $50 off.
It’s tough to go wrong with either — and price may well be the deciding factor.
Google itself isn’t immune to discounts, and we’ve already seen the Pixel Buds Pro .
If you decide to let your wallet make the decision for you, we wouldn’t blame you.
All things being equal, it’s a tough choice. There’s more alike than is different, and at the end of the day, you’re going to end up with a fantastic set of earbuds — but we’ve got to make a call here.
Winner: Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, if you’re on a Samsung phone. This one’s close — really close. I’m going to say that it comes down to the subjective feel. In my case, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro just fit a little better out of the box. They’re maybe a bit better in terms of audio quality if you’re using a Samsung device, but that differentiation goes away if you’re on some other phone. We’ll have to revisit if and when the Pixel Buds Pro get spatial audio, or if Samsung’s is updated with improvements. For now, this is where things stand for us.
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