The price difference between Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds A-Series is significant at roughly $90. With such a huge disparity between the two, how do Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds A-Series compare? What are you giving up on the more affordable product? Let’s break it down.

What you lose on Pixel Buds A-Series

Wireless Charging

Perhaps the single-most notable removal when comparing Pixel Buds A-Series to the standard version is wireless charging. The included charging case omits the hardware needed to support Qi wireless charging to fill up the case. This has become a pretty standard feature on “flagship” level truly wireless earbuds, including AirPods, Galaxy Buds, and earbuds from many other brands. Really, it’s a feature that makes a lot of sense, too. Dropping a cheap Qi charger near the door or on your nightstand makes it convenient to refill your earbuds, so you’re never caught without power.

Removing it from A-Series, though, is a really sensible cut. With average use, the case only needs to be charged every few days anyway, and using a standard USB-C plug really isn’t that inconvenient when the action is that infrequent.

Gestures

Another notable, arguably bigger loss is to touch gestures. Pixel Buds A-Series are on par with most earbuds on the market, offering taps to pause, skip tracks, and access Assistant, but they drop the swipe gestures available on the 2020 Pixel Buds. Those swipes enabled quick and easy volume controls. This loss is somewhat offset by “Hey Google” commands and Adaptive Sound, which automatically adjusts the volume based on your surroundings. This removal might be a deal-breaker for some people, but a week into use, I haven’t really missed the swipes.

On a related note, Google also removed “Attention Alerts” from A-Series. This is a feature that’s technically still in beta and one that was added after launch anyway, so it’s not sorely missed.

Build Quality and Colors

A smaller change is to build quality, and it’s an area of comparison for Pixel Buds A-Series that is ever so subtly a negative. Certain changes, like going from matte plastic to glossy on the interior, are good. Others, though, like the tacky-feeling plastic used on the exterior of the case, are a turn for the worse. It’s incredibly minor but worth noting.

Similarly, Google also cut back on color choices for the hardware this time around. Only white and a dark green are available, in contrast to the 2020 Pixel Buds, which were sold in white, black, orange, and mint.

Sound Quality… Kinda

Finally, there’s the note of sound quality. Google markets Pixel Buds A-Series as having the same audio quality as the original Buds. That’s partially true, as the sound profile and physical hardware are very similar, but there’s a noticeable difference in the overall quality of this more affordable version. 

It’s not that sound quality is bad on Pixel Buds A-Series, but it definitely takes a noticeable hit. The mids on A-Series are somewhat hollow and muted, leading to a soundstage that overall lacks a lot of depth even when directly comparing to the 2020 Pixel Buds.

What’s better on Pixel Buds A-Series?

The good news, though, is that there are some definitive pros to buying Pixel Buds A-Series over last year’s version. 

Connection Strength

By far, the biggest reason to buy Pixel Buds A-Series over the $180 model is the connection strength and stability. Despite being nearly half the cost, this new model adopts a connection model that works significantly better. Boosted transmission strength leads to virtually no audio cutouts and a stronger connection that isn’t easily broken by moving your phone around. It’s a big upgrade, and really, it’s hard to recommend the regular Pixel Buds at this point knowing they fail in such a fundamental area.

More Comfortable Wingtips

Along with the upgraded connection quality, Google also addressed user complaints of the non-removable wingtips that help keep the earbuds secure within your ear. They’re ever so slightly smaller, but more importantly, they’re also softer.

This probably won’t fully solve the problem, though. Anyone who had complaints about these tips will likely still find them relatively uncomfortable at the least. On the bright side, though, these tweaks could help make the issue less common for users who have never tried Pixel Buds at all.

Which one should you buy?

The comparison of Pixel Buds to Pixel Buds A-Series is not a particularly easy one because, frankly, it’s hard to justify the cost of the originals at this point.

With $80 in between and such a fundamental flaw on the more expensive model, it really just makes sense for most people to go for A-Series. However, the one caveat is you can pretty easily get the original Pixel Buds for $100-$130 nowadays on sale. At that point, the slight functional advantages of the originals do make them more attractive. Personally, at that price, I’d give the originals a shot and see if they work properly. If not, return them and just get the A-Series instead. If you don’t feel like dealing with the hassle, the A-Series is a safe bet that you’ll almost certainly be very happy with.

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