|Specifications||Apple Airpods||Google Pixel Buds|
|Dimensions||0.65 x 0.71 x 1.59 inches (earbuds), 1.74 by 0.84 by 2.11 inches (charge pod)||0.8 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches (earbuds), 2.6 x 2.6 x 1.1 inches (charge pod)|
|Weight||.14 ounces each (earbuds), 1.34 ounces (empty charge pod)||0.25 ounces each (earbuds), 1.5 ounces (empty charge pod)|
|Sensors||Dual optical sensors, motion-detecting accelerometer, speech-detecting accelerometer||Accelerometer, capacitive touchpad|
|Microphone||Dual beam-forming microphones||Microphone|
|Battery life||About 5 hours listening or 2 hours talking (earbuds), 24 hours total (with charge case)||About 5 hours (earbuds), 24 hours total (with charge case)|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth (earbuds), Lightning (charge pod)||Bluetooth (earbuds), USB-C (charge pod)|
|Audio formats||MP3, AAC, & SBC codec when streaming||MP3, M4A, AAC, WAV, WMA(v9)|
|Compatibility||iPhone 5 and later, iPad mini 2+, iPad Air+, iPad Pro, iPod Touch (6th gen) (iOS 10+); Apple Watch (WatchOS 3+); MacOS Sierra or later||Android devices (Android 5.0+), Apple devices (iOS 10+);|
While the fact that one pair connects the buds by a wire and one doesn’t is the biggest difference, there are many others when it comes to design. The tall, thin AirPods (available in white, and white only) represent the pinnacle of Apple aesthetics, bathed in a glossy finish with no interruptions other than chrome tips and small holes for the speaker units and microphones. The AirPods are designed to hang from your ears, which seems precarious (and looks a bit odd), but they actually do a relatively impressive job of staying put, even through mild exercise.
The Pixel Buds, by contrast, don’t emanate quite the same aura of class and style. The earpieces themselves — the part that inserts into your ears — feel well made, but the plasticky finish on the outer pads feels slightly cheap. The buds don’t fit the ear canal particularly well, readily leaking sound in and out, though at least they stayed put in our testing.
This is an easy one, as Google has aped Apple here. Both pairs offer five hours of playback time per charge, and a total of 24 hours with the charging case off the grid. While we’ll call this a tie, we will say that five hours per charge is great for truly wireless earbuds, but not so for tethered buds, most of which offer 8-10 hours or more per charge at this price point.
When it comes to both the AirPods and the Pixel Buds, audio performance is decidedly average. The AirPods sound extremely similar to the EarPods (you know, the basic pair that comes with a purchase of any Apple mobile device) — perhaps a bit better in the treble department, but not much. The Pixel Buds offer more bass, which probably suits the casual listener better, but it didn’t particularly impress us. Sound isolation is not a strong point for either product, which means sound from the outside world will leak in.
Features and functionality
The AirPods are packed with neat tricks that just work. Take one out, and music playback will automatically pause, thanks to the buds’ accelerometer. Take both out, and the AirPods will enter sleep mode, saving precious battery life until reinsertion (once replaced, they activate quickly). If one AirPod dies, the other can keep going.
The Pixel Buds are equipped with impressively accurate onboard touch controls; tap to play and pause music, or swipe to control volume. The big draws here, though, are twofold: Google Assistant integration and instant language translation. Tap and hold the right earbud to activate Assistant and the Assistant can do everything you’re used to. It responds quickly and understands commands without issue.
Availability, compatibility, and price
The AirPods work with both Apple devices (iOS 10+) and Android devices. When connected to Android, Siri is disabled, but you can double tap on either earbud to play and pause music. Similarly, the Pixel Buds are compatible with both Apple (iOS 10+) and Android (5.0+); predictably, on iOS, Google Assistant won’t work, though Siri will. Both sets of earbuds are available at their respective websites (though the Pixel Buds were on backorder at the time of publication) and both cost $159.
The Pixel Buds offer inoffensive audio quality, impressive Google Assistant integration, and a few neat tricks for Pixel owners. Unfortunately, the AirPods are simply better, eschewing cables and coming complete with lots of useful — and, more importantly, reliable — features.