I know, I know, you’ve already seen enough AirPods Pro reviews to know the deal, but I wanted to share my feelings on Apple’s new wireless earbuds anyway. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief.
I’ve had these new Pods for 3 weeks and have used them in near 0°F weather, as well as on a trip down to Austin, Texas to escape that terrible weather for a bit.
AirPods were already great for travel since they were very small and had a battery that could make it though pretty much any stint in a car, bus, train, or plane. On the downside, they didn’t block out much of the outside world, so they are close to useless on most airplanes.
AirPods Pro have a slightly larger case, but it’s only by a few millimeters on either axis and you only notice the difference if you hold it right next to a standard AirPods case or if you happen to fit them into a particularly snug coin pocket in your skinny jeans.
The batter life is also basically the same (mine dropped from 100% to 65% through a 2.5 hour flight with noise cancelling on the whole time), and they still stare up 4-5 more times in the case before you need to charge the case up again. You can of course charge the case wirelessly or with Lightning, so you get maximum flexibility.
The real difference is in the new noice cancelation feature, which does a good enough job of keeping plane noises out so you don’t have to crank the volume up to 100% just to make out what you’re listening to. It’s not as good as my over-ear Sonys, but it’s totally good enough.
Before we get too far off of sound, I wanted to mention transparency mode, which is basically the opposite of noise cancelation. In this mode, sounds around your are amplified instead of blocked. I find this far less useful day-to-day, as most of the time I prefer to block out the world when I’m listening to stuff, but there are cases where I prefer to have it on.
The first case is when I’m working around the house. The house is usually relatively quiet, so noise cancelling isn’t required, and I sometimes listen to something my wife has no interest in. So instead of forcing her to hear my stuff though a HomePod or something, and instead of closing myself off from her, I pop in my AirPods Pro and listen with transparency mode turned on. This lets me hear her if she calls for me without making her listen to my tech podcast and distract her from her work.
I also like it for shopping. I never wore earbuds when shopping because I felt closed off from the rest of the store. But with this mode I am able to keep track of everything going on around me without stopping my podcast or book. It’s not always ideal, and I usually shop without headphones, but when I do, this is super nice to have.
It’s been cold here in the Midwest recently, as it always is, but this has been a great test for these new AirPods. One issue I had with the old ones is that they would stop working in really cold temperatures. We’re talking like 10°F or lower, and they would just shut off, almost as if the insides froze up. I would get them home, warm them up, and they would turn back on. So far I have not had this problem with these buds.
The other thing I wondered about was how the squeeze gesture would compare to tapping. While I greatly prefer the squeeze gesture, in no small part because now I get play, pause, rewind, and forward all on each bud. But how would they work when wearing big winter gloves? Well sadly, they are completely impossible to use when wearing anything more than a very light glove. There simply isn’t enough to grab onto and squeeze, while the old ones would work by banging the side of my head through my glove and hat. Now if I want to do something I can take off my glove and do it. Definitely annoying, except…
These were on the second generation AirPods as well, but I never had those so these are my first AirPods with Hey Siri support, and good lord, I love it! The top time I use these headphones is when I’m walking my dog. We live in the suburbs and either walk through the neighborhood or through a nature preserve. This usually means we are not too close to anyone most of the time, so it’s not awkward to ask Siri to do things in stride.
Being able to say, “hey Siri, fast forward 3 minutes” to skip a podcast ad or “is it going to rain?” if I see some suspicious clouds on the horizon has been lovely. Especially with gloves on, it’s becoming more and more my preferred method of doing things when on the move.
Overall I really enjoy these headphones. There are no downgrades from the cheaper AirPods, only differences. So while these work well for me, there may be reasons you still prefer the less expensive model. If you don’t like in-ear earbuds, I can tell you these are more comfortable than most, but they are still deeper in your ear than standard AirPods. Also, they don’t have nearly as many accessories as the old ones (partially because they’re new, partially because they’re going to be more niche) and they don’t fit perfectly in their case since they need to accommodate 3 ear tip sizes.
But if the price doesn’t scare you away (and if you’re in the market for noise-cancelling wireless earbuds it should not) then these are absolutely worth it. They are another fantastic product in a lineup that we should only expect to keep growing.