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Powerbeats Pro review: Better than AirPods?

Macworld | May 9, 2019

Apple’s best wireless earphones aren’t AirPods, but that doesn’t mean you should buy the Powerbeats Pro

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Apple’s best true wireless earbuds are not the AirPods. Not anymore.

The best true wireless earbuds made by Apple are these: the Powerbeats Pro, from Apple’s Beats by Dre brand.

They sound better, they last longer, and they definitely stay in place better. But you still may want to get the AirPods instead. Let me explain.

People who work out have been singing the praises of the Powerbeats bluetooth earbuds for awhile now, but they’re not fully wireless. They have that dangling cord between them. The new Powerbeats Pro cuts the cord and goes truly wireless, just like AirPods.

But they keep the Powerbeats design, with that distinctive hook up around your ears, and an angled earpiece with rubberized tips. It comes with four different tips, so you should be able to get a comfortable fit.

That means they fit snug in your ears, which helps block outside noise, and helps improve sound quality, especially bass. So, yeah, they definitely sound better than AirPods. If you’re familiar with sound of the Powerbeats 3, these are about on that level.

They’re also a little bit smaller and lighter than the Powerbeats 3. I wore them comfortably for hours, but eventually those earhooks do start to bother me.

Speaking of wearing them for hours, the battery life on these things is PHENOMENAL. You get up to NINE hours of music playback and SIX hours of phone calls. It’s basically DOUBLE the battery life of the second-generation AirPods. It’s better than almost every other pair of true wireless earbuds out there.

The charging case holds 24 hours worth of charge, same as the AirPods, and the earbuds charge really quickly. It only takes about 15 minutes to get to half charge, but a full charge still takes about 90 minutes, and fully charging both the case and earbuds takes a couple hours.

Even though these are Beats, they’re unmistakably an Apple product. They use the new H1 chip - the same as the new second gen AirPods. That means you can use Siri hands-free, and quickly pair or check battery life just by opening the case near your iPhone.

And the case charges with a Lightning cable. It even comes with this cool black one.

So if these sound better than AirPods, and last longer than AirPods, and stay in your ears better than AirPods, and have all the features of AirPods, you should get these instead of AirPods, right?

Well, hold on. Maybe these aren’t right for you.

To start with, they cost more. 250 bucks--that’s 90 dollars more than AirPods.

Because the earbuds have those over-the-ear hooks, the charging case is a LOT bigger. You can’t really stick this in your pocket like you can that tiny AirPods case. And there’s no option for a wireless charging case, like AirPods have.

They also don’t have the same controls as AirPods. Instead of just tapping, there’s a physical button and a volume rocker on each earbud. Press once to play and pause, twice to skip forward, three times to skip back, or hold it down to invoke Siri. Unlike AirPods, you can’t re-map these controls in the Bluetooth settings of your iPhone.

So AirPods are less expensive, smaller, and easier to quickly pop in and out of your ears. And since they don’t fit snugly in your ear canal with rubber tips, they let in sound from the world around you.

That’s bad when you want to block out the noise of the bus or a plane, but it’s good when you’re walking down the street and don’t want to get hit by a car.

The Powerbeats Pro ARE better than AirPods, overall. But they’re also DIFFERENT enough that, depending on what YOU need, the AirPods still might be a better choice.

For music lovers that want better sound quality and longer listening times, Powerbeats Pro wins. They also win for commuters that take a bus or a train, or people who fly a lot.

If you’re into sports and exercise, there’s no contest. These were MADE to be used while working out.

If you tend to listen in quiet environments, or if you walk a lot on busy streets and need to hear your surroundings, AirPods may be a better choice. They’re also more convenient for people who take lots of short phone calls, and are constantly taking them in and out.

So Apple has now made better AirPods under the Beats brand, but they’re not necessarily better for everyone, and you should carefully consider whether you value price and portability, or sound quality and battery life.
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