Are the New Powerbeats Better than Airpods?
Apple just released a somewhat disappointing update to their wireless AirPods, with minimal overall enhancements that make upgrading from the previous version far less attractive.
While the original AirPods were innovative on release, other companies have taken the same formula, and worked it into more affordable and advanced packages that aren’t limited to iOS devices. Take the recently released Samsung Galaxy Buds and Sennheiser Momentums, both excellent wireless headphones that deliver the on the promise of portability and sound quality.
With the new Powerbeats Pro, Apple and their Beats division show that they’ve not lost their touch. While the Powerbeats Pro isn’t for everyone, its undoubtedly an excellent product that deserves your attention.
Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty details, let’s talk about the most important factor for a pair of headphones, the sound quality.
A common misconception is that Beats sound bad, and while that may have been true for their pre-2010 releases, they have improved significantly with time. The usual complaints about “too much bass” does ring true with the drivers on the Powerbeats Pro, though whether or not that’s an issue depends on your personal preferences.
With that said, the fact that you’re getting a decent amount of low-end thump is quite impressive, especially on considering the size of these wireless earphones. Factor in the fact that these are designed first-and-foremost to be exercise earphones, and you’ll understand why the booming lows are emphasized.
If you’ve ever worn a pair of bass-light earphones in the gym, you’ll know that its hard to hear your own music over the background music and noise. The Powerbeats Pro does not suffer from this issue. Music comes through nicely. However, if you’re listening in a quiet environment, the Powerbeats Pro does sacrifice a bit of detail in the highs and mids, so bear that in mind.
It might seem a bit unfortunate, especially for a premium pair of $250 earphones, but it’s still a marked improvement over the AirPods and their passable-at-best sound quality. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that these earphones sound good.
To sum it up, sound quality is great for the intended use-case of exercise, and is good enough for casual listening.
The Comfort and Fit
Of course, sound quality is not the only factor worth considering. Wireless earphones aren’t always the most comfortable, and Apple’s “one-size-fits-all” mentality with the AirPods is one of the biggest offenders in this regard.
Thankfully, the Powerbeats Pro takes cues from their competitors, and include 4 flexible ear-tips that allow you to pick the best fit for your ears. This is miles above the AirPods and their solid, non-malleable earpiece shape, and is a welcome addition for people who have trouble getting the AirPods to stay in place.
Naturally, that’s not the only thing that adds to the comfort factor. The Powerbeats series has a unique look with the “earhook”, and that’s retained in the Powerbeats Pro. The flexible earhooks might feel awkward to put on the first few times, but its really easy to get used to, and feel surprisingly comfortable.
Of course, not everything is perfect, though like the sound quality, it’s a bit more subjective than it seems at first glance. The main issue is that the Powerbeats Pro doesn’t fit snugly in your conchae, instead opting for a “floating” style that leaves some empty space between the ear-tips and your ears. This means you don’t get perfect sound isolation, which subsequently means your listening experience is hampered under noisy circumstances.
However, not everyone likes tight fitting earphones, and despite the imperfect blocking of external noise, you’re still getting a fairly clear soundscape. I’d say the Powerbeats Pro nails the right balance, giving a comfortable listening experience without compromising sound quality too much.
The Powerbeats Pro has a solid 9 hours of battery life, and the huge case serves as an extra charging bank, offering a minimum of 15 hours of additional power on demand.
Comparatively, the new AirPods can last 5 hours before needing a charge. Though, the AirPods case, despite its smaller size, manages to store an extra 19 hours’ worth of listening time.
If you’re like me, and sometimes forget to keep your electronics charged, the Powerbeats Pro gets 90 minutes of listening time after 5 minutes of charging, and 4.5 hours after 15 minutes. This is perfect for a quick top-up before a jog or gym session.
Let’s talk features. Beats Electronics was acquired by Apple in 2014, and it was no surprise that the company’s future products came with excellent Apple integration. The Powerbeats Pro is no exception. Open the case near an Apple device, and on-screen prompts guide you through the process, no menu-diving necessary.
Using an Apple device also shows you the individual battery life of the case and the earphones. The seamless integration also links up to all Apple devices with the same account, which is convenient.
If you’re an Android user, these act as Bluetooth headphones, and pairing is done as you’d expect. With that said, you lose the ability to see the remaining battery life without a separate app, which is unfortunate, since other competitors offer this functionality out of the box.
The Powerbeats Pro, like the AirPods, have a multi-function button on both sides that allow you to pause, skip or turn back your music selection, and also comes with support for Siri as well. Both earphones also have optional smart ear detection, and automatically pause your music when you remove either side.
Ultimately, the feature set is near identical to that of the AirPods, so it comes down to what you want.
Next, we’ve got the case, which is huge. Most wireless earphones come in small form-factors, designed to fit nicely into pockets, but the Powerbeats Pro has a comparatively humungous carrying case.
This is clearly designed to go into gym bags, further emphasized by the IPX4 sweat and splash resistance rating. These earphones were made to survive extended exercise sessions, and it shows.
The larger case does allow for a larger battery capacity, though the native case-less 9 hours should be more than enough to get you through a whole day.
There is no dedicated application that allows for sound tweaking, which is a let-down, since you could counteract the low-end emphasis with EQ changes. And Finally, Find My iPhone supports the AirPods, but not the Powerbeats Pro.
All in all, the Powerbeats Pro is one of the best wireless earphones on the market, especially if you’re an iOS user. If you’re looking for a pair of wireless earphones for exercise, then the Powerbeats Pro is a no-brainer. In terms of comfort and ease of use, nothing else really comes close.
While there are definitely better sounding headphones out there, the Powerbeats Pro does what it wants to do well. Sound quality is good, if a bit bass heavy, and you get to tailor each earpiece to your specific ear shape.
Nearly everything is improved over the AirPods, and I’d say the extra $100 premium in MSRP is well justified. The Powerbeats Pro is just an overall superior experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend it over the AirPods.
Even if you’re an Android-phone user, the Powerbeats Pro can’t really be beat when it comes to workouts. The comfort is practically unrivalled, and while you can find better sounding earphones out there, they just don’t feel as polished as the Powerbeats pro.
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