Google’s first set of wireless, Assistant built-in headphones has finally hit the market this week with the Pixel Buds. Units are on their way to early buyers and the product is finally available on the Google Store again.
The question on everyone’s minds, though, is if they are worth the $159 price point. I’ll be answering that in my final review later this week, but for now, let’s go over my first 24 hours with the Buds.
Nomad case for Pixel 3
Google’s Pixel Buds are headphones, so naturally, the most important part by far is the sound quality. Here, Google has seriously impressed me. The Pixel Buds have clear sound with plenty of depth and bass. Originally I said they were some of the best I’d tried, but that was a bit of an overstatement. Coming back a few days later, they’re still better than AirPods, but options like the Jaybird Freedoms definitely have an advantage in sound quality.
This is impressive to me because the Buds don’t really dig into your ear to isolate outside noises like most other earbuds, so they don’t have the added benefit of blocking out external sounds to isolate just the music. The volume is also excellent. Do note, these headphones get very loud. Even having them at 70% volume is almost too much. Thankfully, though, there’s no distortion when you to get to those louder volumes.
Fit & Comfort
Another big question around the Pixel Buds is how they fit and if they’re comfortable. At least for me, they’re really lovely. The rubberized plastic buds fit well in my ear and the fabric loops, while a bit awkward to resize, do help quite a bit with keeping the Buds in my ear.
The comfort of these earbuds is excellent as well. If you adjust them to sit just right, you’ll basically forget they’re there. Even the wire (which we’ll get to shortly) barely feels like it’s there because of the fabric covering that just glides over your skin.
The most prominent quirk with these headphones if you ask me, however, is the way they fit. If you’ve used any earbuds well, ever, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. There’s a feeling you get with most earbuds when the bud is about to fall out of your ear. On the Pixel Buds, again, at least for me, this feeling is there literally all of the time. It’s weird, but the earbuds are definitely secure.
So how about the charging case? I like it. The fabric design screams Google and you can still open it with just one hand if need be. In just the first day, I got a lot of comments from people around me saying how cool the case looked, and they loved that it was for the headphones too.
There are also some really nice touches that you might not have thought about with this case. Since these charge over USB-C, you can actually charge it with your Pixel phone, as Andrew Martonik from Android Central pointed out. That’s just awesome and really handy.
My complaints so far with this case are minimal. For one, the fabric does have its downsides. It makes this case way harder to pull out of your pocket compared to the glossy AirPods case, and the overall size feels like a bit much. It’s not too big, but the height especially just feels like a little much.
My other main complaint so far is that the battery of the case can only be seen in the case. That’s fine, I guess, but it’s a bit annoying that I can’t know the charge level of the case specifically.
Is the wire a deal breaker?
And now for the question everybody has been asking — is that wire a deal breaker? Look, I’ve never been against “neck buds.” Truly wireless headphones are great, but they’re still in beta in my eyes. The AirPods are the most refined option by far, and even they aren’t perfect.
I’d rather pay the same money for something with better sound quality, and better features like Google Assistant and notifications (which I’ll have way more to say about in the full review). The wire really doesn’t bother me at all. Aside from a couple extra seconds putting these headphones in the case, the cable barely feels like it’s there.
Google made a brilliant decision in using a fabric cable here because, unlike something like a pair of JayBirds, it just glides across your skin instead of getting caught. The lack of a battery or remote on the wire also means the Buds are even less likely to fall out of your ear.
If you really need truly wireless earbuds, sure, skip the Pixel Buds. I don’t think we’re at the point where truly wireless earbuds are finished though. They either look ridiculous (re: AirPods), are way too big (re: Bose), or have issues with sound quality or connections (re: all of them). I’m totally happy with the Pixel Buds so far, wire and all.
Leave us your questions!
We’ll be doing a lot more testing with the Pixel Buds through this coming week as we put together our full review. That’ll include testing some of the other features like live translation and spending some more time with Assistant and notification integration too. If you have further questions on them, drop a comment below and let us know!