Google Pixel Buds Review: More than promised, under delivery Review



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When Google announced the Pixel 2 smartphone, the company also announced Pixel Buds. The wireless headphones are specifically designed to work with the line of Pixel smartphones and have an exclusive translation function.

After spending almost two weeks using Google's first foray into wireless headphones, I was disappointed. The company promised a lot with the Pixel Buds, but they just do not comply.

Design and convenience

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(Image: Jason Cipriani / ZDNet)

Pixel Buds are almost completely wireless headphones, with a single cable that connects the two buttons. The cable also works as a loop to help hold each earpiece in your ear.

Pixel Buds come in a cargo case that is covered with a cloth material. The case uses USB-C to charge and, in turn, charges Pixel Buds.

There is a learning curve to place the headphones in the charging case and the proper technique to wrap the case around the case so that the lid closes. After some attempts, I have mastered it more or less.

In general, the design of Pixel Buds is in line with most wireless headphones. The buds themselves are slightly larger than, say, the Jaybird X3.

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The Pixel Buds were uncomfortable to wear for more than an hour. It's not that the pads hurt my ear cbad, but the adjustable cord that rests inside the ear to hold the buds in place rubs and eventually hurts.

The sound and quality are correct with the Pixel Buds, but it requires finding the correct position of each earphone in your ear. I had to work hard and adjust the Pixel Buds every time I used them.

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(Image: Jason Cipriani / ZDNet)

All interactions between Pixel Buds and your smartphone start with the right touch button enabled. A long press will ask the Google Assistant to listen to a command. One touch alternates playback / pause of any music. A slide to the left or to the right adjusts the volume. A double tap gives you a status update. The headset is sensitive and I had no problem recognizing touch gestures.

Unfortunately, the headset does not know if it is in your ear or not. That is, it is easy to accidentally start playing music or invoke the Google Assistant when trying to put Pixel Buds in the case.

Where is the magic?

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(Image: Jason Cipriani / ZDNet)

It is badumed that pairing Google Pixel Buds is easy. A user opens the load cases, then an alert appears on their Android device and, when a button is pressed, it ends.

I matched and unpaired pixels several times, and still experienced the pairing process advertised. Instead, I had to open the charging case, press a small button for a few seconds and the synchronization alert appeared.

Despite using several devices with the same Google account, I still have to link Pixel Buds with each device. For example, the Pixelbook does not know that I have paired Pixel Buds with a Pixel 2 XL smartphone and will not automatically connect to them when I log in.

With the bar set by Apple's W1 chip, using a pair of Bluetooth headphones or headphones is a clear reminder of how much Apple's W1 chip improves on the overall experience. From uninterrupted pairing during installation, to transmitting that information to the following Apple devices, Pixel Buds simply can not compete.

Okay, I'm talking about two different user bases here. It is likely that Pixel Buds will be used by those who have a Pixel smartphone, perhaps a device with Chrome operating system, and are avid Android fans. Apple AirPods users are undoubtedly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem.

Even so, Google now has all the experience. From hardware to software, for each and every device with the name Pixel, the company is more than capable of creating a more optimized and impressive experience.

Translation

One of the main selling arguments during the debut of Pixel Buds was the real-time translation function. While using Pixel Buds and with a simple voice command, a user could speak in their native language, and the paired smartphone Pixel translated and spoke with another person in a different language. It seemed that the dream of being able to hold a conversation between two people who spoke totally different languages ​​without an uncomfortable silence or pauses was about to come true.

Actually, using Translate with pixel buds is identical to the experience the Translation application already provides. Only instead of using two digital buttons on the screen of a smartphone, a user touches the right Pixel Bud to talk. The other application uses the smartphone application.

In other words, Pixel Buds does not add any special functionality to the translation application. And frankly, using the application on any smartphone is faster and easier.

Notifications

Pixel Buds have a positive side, and that's the way Google uses headphones to handle notifications. When using Pixel Buds, an alert is played when important notifications are received.

For example, every time I receive a message in Facebook Messenger, I hear a beep followed by a Google Assistant that says the name of the sender. When you double-tap the right earpiece, the Google Assistant will read the entire message. Then I can press the right button to have the Google Assistant transcribe my answer.

If you ignore the notifications of a specific application for a certain time, the Google Assistant recognizes it and stops the complete alerts for 30 minutes. Instead, you only hear a beep without another context, just to inform you that there is a pending notification.

Also, at any time, I can press the right earpiece twice and then the Google Assistant will provide the time, Pixel Buds battery percentage and any pending notification. If Do Not Disturb is enabled, the Assistant will remind you.

I hope that Google adds more controls on which alerts are considered important and, therefore, read the user through Pixel Buds. This is by far my favorite feature of Pixel Buds and something that I would like to see incorporated, or even implemented by Apple with the AirPods.

There are better options

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(Image: Jason Cipriani / ZDNet)

Google promised much of the Pixel Buds. From Translate to easy pairing, to great sound. However, the company did not surrender.

Pixel Buds are uncomfortable to use for long periods of time, they do not offer a robust sound, and Translate feels more like a gimmick than an innovative feature.

For Google followers, for sure, I can see why you would want the Pixel Buds. But I do not suggest going out and getting a pair. There are much better options, close to the same price of $ 160.

Bose and Libratone offer headsets that are designed to work with the Google platform. The Bose QC35 with the Google Assistant read notifications and keeps the Assistant just a touch away. Libratone Q Adapt On Ear wireless headphones are compatible with Google's new fast pairing feature. Both are more expensive than Pixel Buds, but in this case, it may be worth spending a little more for a better experience.

Ultimately, Pixel Buds looks a lot like a "Me too" product.

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