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Google Pixelbuds Review: Incredible but Incomplete
When Google announced, in 2016, that they would make a strong effort in creating premium hardware products at scale, I didn’t think they’d create a pair of smart “wireless” earbuds. They did and I bought them. The Google Pixelbuds.
The Pixelbuds were announced alongside Google’s flagship smartphone, the Google Pixel 2, as a pair that works seamlessly together and they do for the most part.
I purchased my Pixelbuds in January and have been using them ever since. I would use them while I’m at work listening to some “Work Mood Music”, at the gym listing to my workout playlist, in the car listening to one of my favorite podcasts, or Duoing with friends and family. I had my Pixel 2 connected to Pixelbuds, as Google advises. For the most part, they worked flawlessly together.
Design & Setup
When opening the box of the Pixelbuds, you’re presented with a cloth-like texture for the Pixelbuds case. It’s an interesting texture to have covering something technological. Most of the industry present their products in a tougher texture such as plastic and metal. Initially, I was afraid of getting this cloth case dirty after a couple of months, but to my surprise, the case is still in good shape. Design-wise it’s fine.
Once I got the Pixelbuds out of the case, it took me a few times to get the “seamless” two-step process of connecting them to my Pixel 2 to work:
Open the charging case next to your phone with the Google Pixel Buds still inside.
Look for a pop-up notification on your phone that will take you through the rest of set up.
Simple right? It didn’t work that easily for me. It took me a combination of opening the case, check the LED lights inside of the case, plugging in the case with the included charger to make sure it was charged, pressing and holding the reset button on the inside of the case, and then finally seeing the notification on my Pixel 2. Not so simple. However, I saw plenty of people on Youtube having better experiences connecting their Pixelbuds.
Fit & Features
The fit of the Pixelbuds is only slightly better than the finish. Initially, I couldn’t imagine a string and a piece of plastic holding the buds in my ear, but it did the job. The only problem came when actually putting them in my ear and getting them to fit. Additionally, this problem happens each and every time you take the buds out of the case to put them on. Wrapping the Pixelbuds back into the case resets the fit that you previously got right when they were in your ears. I’ll go ahead and say, I couldn’t stand this process.
Once placed in my ear, that’s when the enjoyable experience begins for me. Having the Google Assistant at the touch of the right side of the Pixelbud is incredibly convenient. Convenient to quick make a call, send a text, make a calculation, and ask quick questions made me feel like I’m in the future. Google showed off the futuristic features of the Pixelbuds with use of Google Translate. You can use the Pixelbuds to playback translated words spoken to you in almost real-time. I haven’t had any use of that feature so I won’t talk about that.
Battery Life, Sound Quality, and Final Thoughts
As for battery life, Pixel Buds are amazing. After maybe 3-4 hrs of music, podcast, and Google Assistant searches, I’ll need to put the headphones in the case. But they fully charged within 20-30 minutes for me. Of course, that’s if you put them in the case correctly.
Sound quality isn’t so great because I found, because of the fit, that it never really fits in my ear. Despite the being earbuds.
If the Pixelbuds didn’t have the Google Assistant injected into it, the buds would produce a dismal experience. My enjoyable experience with the Google Assistant saved the pitiful experience I have with connecting the Pixelbuds with my Pixel 2 and constantly having to fit them in my ear by a string. If I were to grade the first generation of the Pixelbuds, I’d give Google a C+. By fit and finish, they don’t feel complete based on the hardware and fit. The software features transcend the displeasing fit and finish of the hardware. Hopefully, Google will announce the second generation to fix these issues.