Beats X are the Apple-owned company's attempt at a lightweight in-ear listening experience with good battery life and, in hallmark Beats style, plenty of bass to boot.
They're not wireless like the Apple AirPods, nor specifically sport-focused despite the appearance of their neck-positioned flexible cable. So just who are these casual in-ear headphones aimed at and are they any good for their £130 price point?
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- The best Bluetooth headphones 2018: top on/over-ear wireless headphones
Beats X headphones review: A new design
- Wireless Bluetooth connectivity
- Flexible cable that sits around your neck
- Various sized tips to fit various ears come in the box
Sporting a brand new design, the Beats X feature two small earpieces that are connected via a cable that sits around your neck. That cable features the battery and power switch on the right side, and a physical remote control on the left all wrapped in a bendy rubberised cable.
This means there's a bulge to the cable which keeps it sat in place around the next. However, it's worth noting that if you wear shirt collars you'll be forced to decide whether you wear it under or over the collar - these in-ears are designed for casual attire only really.
The in-built remote has three buttons and gives you the usual array of quick controls when listening to music or taking a call, and is certainly easier than having to worry about shouting instructions to Siri as you do with the completely wireless and remote control-less Apple Airpods.
To accommodate a better fit, the headphones come with a range of different ear tips in the box that can be easily swapped out according to the size of your ear canals. There are even a couple of tips for those who need extra help with ear tips staying in their ears.
When the earpieces aren't in your ears they are left to dangle around your chest. To keep them somewhat in control, the backs of the earpieces feature magnets so the two earphones clip together in one. It keeps them safe and out the way, but doesn't automatically stop the music when they are magnetised together - now that would have been a nice touch.
When worn, the Beats X certainly don't turn as many heads as the polarising design of the AirPods, but they are comfortable. These aren't designed to be distinct running headphones, but we found they easily coped with a short run or general exercise. You'll have no problem on the commute.
Beats X headphones review: That W1 chip
- Apple's W1 quick-connection chip
- Bluetooth connectivity
Get them out of the box, turn them on, and then wave them nearby your iPhone and you are instantly prompted to connect the two together. Once paired with one device, they'll appear as a profile on all of your other Apple devices, as long as you are signed into your iCloud account.
The W1 connectivity approach is an Apple-only feature, although the Beats X do work with Android and any other Bluetooth device, such as a Windows laptop. It's simply a case of connecting via Bluetooth as you usually would.
Beats X headphones review: Battery and range
- 8-hour battery life per charge
- Long range Bluetooth connection
Being so small you aren't going to get a month's commute from a single charge from the Beats X. However, you will get around eight hours before you need to top up again.
Furthermore, in a nod to making sure you're on the road again at a moment's notice, the Beats X headphones feature a quick charge feature, as so many battery-powered headphones do. This means you'll get two hours of playback from just five minutes connected to a power supply.
Rather than using Micro-USB, it's an Apple Lightning cable, and you'll get what appears to be the shortest Lightning-to-USB cable in the world included in the box (bad luck 2016 MacBook Pro users).
The quick-charge feature is really handy if you've suddenly realised that you're low on juice just before you head out on a long journey. We've already found ourselves doing so a number of times. Battery levels can easily be checked via the widget on the home page on your iPhone, again within seconds.
Also the Bluetooth range is really good. We've been able to walk around the house/office some distance away from the iPhone the Beats X have been connected to without loss of connection or quality. It's something we've noticed from the Solo 3 Wireless and the AirPods in our testing previously and believe the W1 chip certainly plays a part in improving connectivity performance. Some running headphones we've tested can't even cope with being in a pocket just 50cm away without cut-outs, so this is a huge positive from the Beats X.
Beats X headphones review: Performance
- Bass-heavy performance
Beats are renowned for being bass-heavy and the Beats X continue this trend. Because of the many tip options in the box getting a snug in-ear fit is easy, and that only goes towards amplifying the bass performance.
At louder volumes the bass can overly dominate, especially on dance tracks with high treble and vocals, but you certainly won't hear the outside world either.
That said, the bass, from such small earphones, is great - often exactly what people will be looking for from in-ears. Slam on some Dre and it's sublime. But then you kind of expect nothing less from Beats: if it can't cope with Dre then these probably aren't your kind of earphones anyway.
But it doesn't have to be just Dre. The Beats X cope well with most male vocals from Phil Collins to Mura Masa. It's only when you start focusing on female vocals paired with a heavy bass line - like Garbage or Florence and the Machine, for example - that the 'phones start to drown things out with the low-end.
The Beats X headphones offer all the cool connectivity functionality of the Apple AirPods in a more conventional form factor.
The neck-resting design is ideal for all-day wearing, while having somewhere to rest them when they aren't in your ears. That said unless you are a t-shirt and hoodie kind of person you might still feel uncomfortable with this "high-tech tie" fighting with your shirt collar.
If you like bass, the Beats X certainly deliver, even given their small form factor.
Beats X headphones: The alternatives to consider
Buy the Apple AirPods on Apple for £159
They might polarise opinion when it comes to design, but a great battery life, easy connectivity options, and a surprisingly decent sound combined with good voice-cancellation features for phone calls makes them appealing if it's not just about "bangin' hits".
Read the full review: Apple AirPods review
Bose SoundSport Pulse
Buy the Bose SoundSport Pulse headphones on Amazon.co.uk for £170
These sports-focused headphones are also wireless, deliver a great sound, and have the added bonus of also offering a built-in heart-rate monitor with support for popular third-party fitness apps.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Pulse review
JBL Reflect Aware
Buy the JBL Reflect Aware headphones on Amazon.co.uk for £169
Wired rather than wireless, the JBL Reflect Aware headphones come with a Lightning cable making them Apple iPhone 7 friendly and offer a good sound. Designed to stick in your ear while doing sports the only catch is that cable.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Aware review
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