(Pocket-lint) - Google is a relative newcomer to the headphones market. The company's technology - Google Assistant - has been present in headphones for a number of years, but in terms of the hardware, the Pixel Buds Pro are only Google's fourth set of headphones.
The Pixel Buds started the trend in 2017, but it wasn't until 2020 that the next-gen Pixel Buds attempted to revamp the experience. These were joined in 2021 by the Pixel Buds A-Series and now by the 2022 Pixel Buds Pro.
In many ways, the Pixel Buds Pro feel like a change of direction for Google, abandoning one of the original premises of the Buds, but still putting Google services at the core.
The Pixel Buds Pro make a much better case for themselves that Google's previous offerings. A comfortable fit, good sound quality and plenty of features means there's plenty here to get your teeth into - and they naturally make a lot more sense to someone invested in the Google ecosystem, with the most seamless operation coming when used with the Pixel phones.
But there are headphones out there that are more compact, there are more advanced noise cancellation systems and there are some that just sound better, offering a wider range of codecs for greater flexibility when connecting to a High-Res source. Then there's the occasional drop in quality, suggesting some sort of connection bug, which might make you pause for thought.
There's a lot that the Pixel Buds Pro do right, but at the same time, there are plenty of choices in this segment of the market that offer a viable alternative.
Google Pixel Buds Pro
- Nice comfortable fit
- Sound great
- Effective ANC
- Google Assistant baked in
- Multipoint Bluetooth
- Only supports AAC
- Missing features at launch
- Design seems unnecessarily bulky
- Some connectivity dropouts
Design and build
- Case: 63.2 x 50 x 25mm; 62.4g / Earbud: 22.33 x 22.03 x 23.72mm; 6.2g
- Pebble-like case
- Case: IPX2 / Buds: IPX4
Google hasn't strayed too far from the design path set out by previous Pixel Buds models with the same pebble-like case. It's a little wider than the 2020 Pixel Buds or Buds A-Series, but the look and feel is much the same. It's still strokably smooth, something to turn and caress in your hand, while your mind is somewhere else.
The case is larger because the buds themselves are larger. The design has also changed quite a bit, larger through the body and ditching the hook designed to hold the Bud into your ear. We'd only ever found that to be irritating, so its removal pleases us quite a lot.
With a larger body there's an increase in weight, with each Bud being a gramme heavier than the Buds A-Series. That might not sound like a lot, but it's about a 20 per cent increase in weight.
This is mostly driven by a change of philosophy for these headphones: Google previously used to talk about not cutting you off from the outside world and now the message is very much about cutting you off (if that's what you want). We find that the new design is more comfortable, more secure, and performs better, but it's also true that these buds seem unnecessarily large.
There are four colours to choose from, with that flattened touch-sensitive cap now punctuated by external mic grilles, there to help power the noise cancellation and transparency modes the Buds Pro offer.
There's IPX4 protection for the earbuds, meaning they don't mind a splash of rain or a little sweat, while the case offers IPX2 protection too. It's not the highest level you'll find on earbuds, but it's enough to give you peace of mind if you get caught in the rain.
Importantly, the Pixel Buds Pro are really comfortable and we've found that long listening sessions pose no problem.
Connection, setup and control
- Google Fast Pair
- Multipoint Bluetooth
The Pixel Buds might be naturally seen as Android's rival to the AirPods, and connecting to an Android phone is certainly easy. Thanks to Google Fast Pair, when you open up the Buds case, they will be detected by your phone and you'll get an invitation to connect.
It's just about as simple as that, with Pixel devices natively giving you controls for the headphones, while other Android devices will invite you to download the Pixel Buds app for further control. It's not absolutely necessary, but this app handles firmware updates and many of the advanced settings, so you'd be advised to get it.
The neat thing about Google Fast Pair and using these headphones is that when you move to a new device, it will recognise these as headphones you've previously connected to your Android device and offer to connect them to the new one, because they are linked to your account.
There's support for Bluetooth multipoint. This will allow you to connect to more than one device. This is platform agnostic, so you can connect a phone and your PC, for example. It's a recent technology, the downside being that it won't support higher-resolution connections when using multipoint - and you'll have to toggle it on in the app, or it just won't be available.