Google Pixel Buds Review (2020): all the power of Assistant in your ear

Google Pixel Buds Review (2020): all the power of Assistant in your ear

After a first model Google pixel buds that bet on a design “almost” without cables, Google returns to the load with a new version of its wireless headphones, and this time, there is not a single cable. We are talking, of course, about the new Google Pixel Buds or Google Pixel Buds 2020.

This year Google is committed to a¬†totally wireless design, with two independent headphones that are stored in a case that acts as a cover and charging station, much like Apple’s Airpods or Samsung Galaxy Buds. The Google Pixel Buds have just arrived in Spain and have already passed through our analysis table. We tell you about our experience

Google Pixel Buds, technical specifications

HEADPHONE DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT20.5 x 19.5 x 18.2mm (excluding pad or stabilizer bow)
5.3g each
Empty: 56.1g
Full: 66.7g
AUDIO12mm dynamic loudspeaker
Passive noise reduction
The spatial conduit that lets noise through
VOICEDual microphone
Voice detection with an accelerometer
BATTERYHeadphones: 5 hours of playtime, 2.5 hours on call
Headphones + case: 24 hours of playtime, 12 hours on call
USB-C charging
COMPATIBILITYAndroid 6.0 or higher, iOS 9.3 or higher
SENSORSProximity sensors
Google Assistant
PRICE199 euros

Design: small, cute, uncomfortable

If we look only at the headset, Google maintains a design style very similar to that of the first model. When we wear it, you only see the white circle with the G engraved. They are quite compact and discreet, although in black they might be more so. Here it is important to clarify that, although in the United States and other countries they are available in black, orange and mint green, they only arrive in Spain in white.

They fit very well and don’t move at all, but (at least to me) that little silicone bow ends up being uncomfortable after a while.

For a good fit in the ear, we have two elements: the pad (three sizes come) and¬†what Google calls ‘stabilizing arch’. It is a piece of silicone that acts as an anchor when we put on the headset. The truth is that they fit very well, the downside is that, at least for me, that little bow sticks a bit in me and after a while, it ends up being uncomfortable. The same thing happened to me with Samsung’s Gear Icon X, whose design also has a kind of silicone piece to make the fit tighter.

As I said, the pads can be changed (the medium size is mounted, but there is a larger and a smaller pair in the box), but the stabilizer arch is what it is and cannot be adjusted in any way. At first, the headphones were comfortable and light, you hardly notice that you are wearing them, but after a while, my ear ends up hurting and, although the pain does not persist once I take them off, it is annoying. I have to emphasize that it is not something that happens to everyone since it depends on the anatomy of each one (I have tried them on other people who had no problem), but if you have the bad luck that they are uncomfortable, it is not very nice and penalizes the experience.

The good part about this is that they fit very well. They do not move a millimetre when we are doing sports like running, even if we sweat a little (by the way, they are waterproof with IPX4 protection).

The design of the case could not be more minimalist, all white with the sole exception of the black line that remains between the body and the lid. It has a very rounded shape that makes it very comfortable to hold and the matte finish is very pleasant to the touch. It fits in any pocket and is not heavy at all, only 67 grams with the headphones inside.

When we open the case, an LED lights up on the inside, right between the headphones, which tells us if they are charged (white) or charging (orange). The recess of the headphones has a magnet that helps to place them in the correct position and ensures that they do not fall. Outside is another LED that indicates the charging status of the case and flashes orange when the charge drops below 20%.

The recess of the headphones has a magnet that helps to position them correctly and ensures that they do not fall

As I said, the design is very minimalist and, except for the USB-C on the bottom and the rear pairing button, we did not find any other elements in the case. The general design is very careful, it has very good finishes and it is functional. The only downside, and for me it is no small thing, is the discomfort caused by that silicone arch.

User experience: the differential point

Sound quality, autonomy, or design are important sections, but¬†what stands out the most in the Google Pixel Buds is what we can do with them. The headphones have a series of additional functions such as touch gestures or access to the Google assistant, but first, let’s see how the synchronization with the smartphone is.

Connecting the Google Pixel Buds to the mobile

The Pixel Buds are compatible with both Android and iOS, but in the analysis I have used an Android mobile, specifically an OPPO Find X2 Neo. Pairing them with the mobile could not be easier, just open the case and a notification appears to link them with the mobile. That easy.

If we are not using a Pixel mobile, we will have to install the Google Pixel Buds app from the store (curious that there is no such app on iOS). From here the wizard will take us through the entire process, showing a visual guide on how to put on the headphones or the gestures. Here we can also activate the assistant and other functions.

Once configured, in the Pixel Buds app we can see the battery level of the case and each of the headphones separately, something that comes in handy since with the LED indications we cannot know the exact level, only when less than 20% remains (because it starts blinking).

Among the functions that we can control from the app is to configure the Assistant, look for the headphones if they are lost (interesting that we can make them sound separate), a guide with the touch controls, the adaptive sound that adjusts the volume based on the ambient sound or the ear detector.

Touch controls and other functions

If you’ve used headphones with buttons, the touch controls on the Google Pixel Buds are very similar and the operation is very intuitive. For example, to stop the playback or take a call we give one touch, two touches to skip the song or hang up and three touches to return to the previous track. To increase and decrease the volume you have to slide forwards or backwards.

Note that both headphones have touch control, very good for right- or left-handed people and that the detection is very good. Sometimes you do not understand the touches well, but it is usually because the touch area is small and our finger goes a bit.

The touch control is intuitive and, except for an error caused by the very small touch area, it works very well.

Moving on to other functions, if we activate the ear detection, as soon as we remove a headset, the playback pauses without us having to do it. But also when we put the headset back on, it resounds. It is good if we are listening to music and someone is talking to us. We can stop, respond, and then move on.

With adaptive sound, I have not noticed a great effect. In theory, it adjusts the volume according to the ambient noise, but it seems that it only responds to very sudden changes in volume.

Using the Google Assistant

Undoubtedly, what differentiates the Pixel Buds from other headphones is the total integration with the Google assistant, something that I could try with the headphones that came in the Pixel 3 XL box, although those were wired and did not have touch gestures. so the experience was not so smooth.

To invoke it we use the usual ‘Ok Google’ (they also accept ‘Hey Google’) and, after hearing the sound that confirms that it has heard us, we can now dictate our order. One detail to keep in mind is that¬†the experience is a bit slower than with, for example, a Google Home, since from ‘Ok Google’ to ‘Call Mom’ (or whatever order), we have to wait for a couple of seconds yes or yes.

Integration with the assistant is complete, but the experience is not so fluid. Every time we say ‘Ok Google’, before giving an order we have to wait for the sound that confirms that it has heard us.

With the assistant, we can send text messages (also by WhatsApp or Telegram), make calls, or listen to the notifications that are coming to us. We can do a lot more, everything the wizard allows, but these are the most useful commands for headphones. It is especially useful to know what that message we have received while we were running or walking is about without having to check our mobile.

When we receive a message, a sound is played followed by the name of the app, for example ‘Telegram’. If we want the assistant to read the message to us, we must hold down for a moment and release.¬†It works quite well, although if we receive a lot of notifications it gets a bit messy. We must also bear in mind that it reads us emojis, so if you have contacts that send a string of emoticons gets ready for an endless¬†“hands clapping, hands clapping, hands clapping, hands clapping, hands clapping.¬†

Although it lacks a bit of fluidity in general, the experience with the Google Pixel Buds is good and I have been able to read or reply to messages while walking without having to take my phone out of my bag.¬†At first, it took me a bit to keep up with the times (waiting for the beep is a bit of a drag), but once I learned these little “jerks” the experience improved a lot.

To conclude this section, comment that with iPhone we do not have all these options since, as I said, there is neither a Pixel Buds app nor do we have integration with the assistant, so they are like normal Bluetooth headphones.

Sound: good quality, but no noise cancellation

We turn to a key section: sound quality. The Pixel Buds are earbuds with a very compact design, although they still have a 12-millimetre dynamic speaker. Still, the limitations are understandable. However, it is surprising that the sound is more forceful than expected. When listening to music we have a good range of frequencies, with very clear highs and mids and some lows that, without having a great punch, are very present.

When listening to music we have a good range of frequencies, with very clear highs and mids and some lows that, without having a great punch, are very present.

I have listened to music locally and on Tidal setting the master quality with a more than satisfactory result. The sound is very rich, clear, and creates a very cosy surround effect. For example, on Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ that bass punch is kept going into the chorus, a very low frequency that is often diluted on some more basic headphones. Of course, Google does not offer an option to equalize the sound from the app. This we will have to do from the playback device that we are using,

The maximum volume gives plenty so that we do not know if they speak to us, but it is not strident. Of course, if you are looking for an immersive experience, the Pixel Buds are not for you. Although the fit is good and the silicone pad fits very well in the ear, Google has included a spatial conduit that lets in ambient sound.

It is not a design flaw, it is totally intentional and I personally prefer it in headphones like this since I usually use them when I go down the street and I do not like to feel so isolated from what is going on around me. This, together with the fact that it has passive and non-active noise cancellation,¬†causes that “sealing” effect that enhances the sound to be lost.¬†It’s not that much noise gets in, but don’t expect to have that feeling of being completely alone with the music because you won’t find it.

It’s not that much noise gets in, but don’t expect to have that feeling of being completely alone with the music because you won’t find it.

The microphones (there are two) work quite well in calls and I have not had complaints of the type “you can be heard far away” as I do with other headphones such as the OnePlus Bullets 2 or even the Sony WH1000XM2. Google includes an accelerometer that detects the movements of the jaw when we speak and focuses the recording on the voice. One detail to keep in mind is that¬†you will not be able to send audio via WhatsApp or Telegram using the microphones, here the mobile microphone is always used¬†(it is common in many headphones and that cannot be configured).

Autonomy: you will forget the plug

One of the great advantages of headphones with this totally wireless design is that the case acts as a charging base. In the case of the Pixel Buds, Google ensures that we get 24 hours of music playback by counting the charge of the headphones and the case, while with the headphones only 5 hours (after that time, we put them in the case and they continue to charge).

In my experience, autonomy has been more than satisfactory. I’ve been using the headphones for music and calls for about four days until the orange LED appeared on the case, indicating that the charge was below 20%. After this,¬†I was¬†still¬†able to stretch the load one more day.¬†The app does not allow you to see the total time, but I have used it quite intensively because I have been testing all its functions for this review and I also took a train trip of almost three hours.

The autonomy is more than satisfactory and I have not had to charge the case in more than four days, with some days of fairly intensive use.

A curious detail is that¬†the headphones do not discharge equally and almost always have different charge levels¬†even if we have been using them at the same time. A Google spokesperson told that it is because¬†“The two earbuds perform different functions at different times to maximize the battery, one can consume more battery than the other.¬†”¬†In practice, it is normal to find differences of up to 20% and, for some reason, in my case, the right is usually downloaded more than the left.

Pixel Buds, the opinion and note of What’s the Reviews

Google has stepped on the accelerator with its new headphones and has abandoned that cable design for a much more current and fashionable one. The Airpods Apple, the Galaxy Buds Samsung, the Sony WF-1000XM3B …¬†all committed to designing True Wireless and Google could not ignore the trend.

The result is good. Very good. Pixel Buds have a beautiful, minimalist, and functional design. Its case gives us an autonomy of several days and the sound quality is quite good for headphones of its range. The only major downside is that its design can be uncomfortable for long periods, but in return, we have total support. They will not fall off.

Much of its appeal lies in the integration with Assistant, but this can be a double-edged sword if you don’t usually use the assistant (or have an iPhone).

Integration with Assistant puts that extra intelligence that we expect from a ‘Made by Google’ product and the truth is that it¬†is very practical on a day-to-day basis. However, if you don’t often use the wizard, Pixel Buds may lose much of their appeal. Another point against is that, although they are compatible with iOS, their functionalities are very limited if you use an iPhone.

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