Many might forget that this is actually the second Pixel Buds that Google has released. Even though it's not in the name, we'll be calling these the Pixel Buds 2 throughout this review.
The first set of Pixel Buds were not that great. They were't truly wireless and really didn't stand up to the competition, in spite of its expensive price tag. But now the Pixel Buds 2 are truly wireless and as you'll find out in this review, we love them.
The Pixel Buds 2 are priced at $179, which puts them in an interesting place among truly wireless headphones. They are more expensive than the Galaxy Buds+ and a bit less expensive than the AirPods 2. While other audiophile options are much more expensive, like those from Bose, Sennheiser, and Sony. But the real question is whether or not the Pixel Buds 2 are worth that price, let's find out in our review.
Clean, Google-like design
The Pixel Buds 2 sport the typical Google design that we've seen from the company in recent years. A very clean and minimal design. There is the Google logo on the earbuds themselves but they blend in quite nicely.
As mentioned, we have the Clearly White color of the Pixel Buds. They have a small "G" in the center of the same color. And to be honest, you never really notice the logo there. There's also no logo on the carrying case, which is pretty nice actually.
Speaking of the carrying case, it is really well built. And it also looks kinda like an egg. That's a good thing, somewhat. Some of the carrying cases we see for truly wireless headphones are pretty big, and don't really fit in your pocket. But the Pixel Buds are different. During this review period, I routinely would take the Pixel Buds 2 out for walks, with the carrying case in my pocket, and I usually forgot they were in my pocket. Because it's so light. Compared to those from Jabra, and Jaybird.
There is one downside to the design of the Pixel Buds 2, that we've found during this review. And it is that "thorn". Now typically, I prefer the "wings" on earbuds, as they help keep them in my ears. I know, unpopular opinion. So I didn't think the thorn would be a big deal, it turns out, it is. It does keep them in your ears, which is what it is supposed to do. But it also makes the entire earbud stick in your ear. Which for some people, can become very uncomfortable. That's because the earbud is pretty big. So if that part was able to sit outside of your ear, it would be more comfortable.
Throughout the two weeks of using the Pixel Buds 2 for this review, I was able to wear them longer and longer without them becoming uncomfortable. Which is a good thing. But I still can't go longer than two hours. That's still plenty of time for a workout or a good run though.
Average battery life, but it's enough
At about five to six hours on a single charge, the Pixel Buds 2 battery life is pretty average. But it's enough. I haven't needed to wear these for more than a couple of hours at a time. And the only time I fully drained them, was when I was testing out the battery life. I got to around five and a half hours and they were down below 10%. So that's pretty decent.
Truly wireless headphones are typically not that great when it comes to battery life. The reason for this is because everything has to live in that earbud. And companies need to find the middle ground between good battery life, good sounding audio and the earbuds not being overly large.
We think that Google found the middle ground with the Pixel Buds actually.
In a somewhat funny, and strange move, the Pixel Buds 2 do support wireless charging. But they don't really work on the Pixel Stand. Essentially, you need to put the Pixel Buds case upside down on the Stand for them to charge. And on other wireless charging stands like the OnePlus wireless charging stand, you have to get a bit more creative. As you can see in the picture below.
Luckily, there is still a USB-C port for charging, which is great, as it can use the same charger as your phone. And these charge up pretty quickly.
Sound quality isn't perfect, but it is good
Let's get this out of the way, the Pixel Buds 2 are not meant for audiophiles. These are meant for those everyday users that want good sounding audio out of their headphones, but don't need to have the very best sounding audio. And that's why I like these.
Sure, not having an adjustable EQ does kind of suck here, but the sound is already pretty good. There's some bass there, though it's not boomy like Sony's EXTRA BASS headphones, and it's not overpowering either. Mids and highs are still pretty clear too. Overall, the quality is good. Is there room for improvement? Of course there is.
Where the Pixel Buds 2 really shine though, is with features like Adaptive Sound. This is going to adjust the volume of your Pixel Buds depending on your environment. So if you just stepped into a coffee shop, the volume will increase so you can still hear the music or audio that's playing. It's a subtle, but very useful feature to have.
Finally, isolation isn't that great here. You can still hear plenty of the sounds that are around you. And if you are outside walking around, or running, this is a good thing. But some more isolation so you can immerse yourself in your music would be preferred here.
Pixel Buds has plenty of Google "smarts" too
This wouldn't be a Google product without some really cool "smart" features included.
The Pixel Buds do some of these things really well, and others, not so much.
One of those features is real-time translation. Of course, that's pretty hard to test right now with us all in isolation, but we were able to test it. And it worked most of the time. Though one caveat there is that you do need the Google Translate app to be downloaded. But it was able to translate some French into English in real-time, which is really cool actually.
Another feature that we really enjoyed was the ability to easily pair with other devices on the same Google account. For someone like me, that reviews and uses many different smartphones, this is a huge feature. Being able to just open up the Pixel Buds 2 case and a pop up appears on the new phone to connect them, is clutch. Instead of needing to put them into pairing mode and jump into Bluetooth settings to get it done.
And of course, there is also Google Assistant. So like with many other earbuds on the market these days, Google Assistant is built into the Pixel Buds. Allowing you to have your notifications read to you, asking the Assistant for the weather and so forth. Just tap and hold your earbud to get to the Assistant. Which is super easy.
Google hit the right balance of giving us useful smart features on the Pixel Buds, without it being overkill.
Should I Buy the Pixel Buds 2?
Now, the burning question. Should you buy the Google Pixel Buds 2? Yes, definitely.
The only reason I can see not to buy the Pixel Buds 2 is if you are an audiophile who wants and needs better sounding audio. Or are someone that doesn't want to spend $179 on a pair of headphones. And trust me, I get it. The Pixel Buds 2 are not cheap, at $179. But in the truly wireless earbuds space, it's in the middle ground. There are many "knock offs" on Amazon that are much cheaper, usually under $50. But at that price, you're getting what you pay for.
So if you want a good pair of truly wireless headphones with some great Google-y features, buy the Pixel Buds 2, you won't regret it.