Google’s first foray into premium headphones did not go down too well in 2017, but the firm has gone back to the drawing board to launch another pair it hopes will turn things around.
With a revised look and form, can Google prove it has a valuable space at the table of sound?
– Look and feel
Before going into the sound itself, comfort and design is the first point at hand, mainly because the first Pixel Buds used a cable which looped inside your ear – while unique, it just didn’t satisfy.
Google has obviously realised this, instead opting for a stabiliser arc, gripping more firmly to your ear without being too intrusive.
This, along with the choice of three tips, ensure the earbuds fit perfectly in your ear, and stayed in place at times when it matters most, particularly during workouts and fitness activities.
Holding them, they certainly feel lightweight yet solid, providing that premium finish.
Each bud features a discrete ‘G’ stamp, keeping in with the wider Pixel range of products.
The charging case also stays true to the brand, in a flattened egg-like shape which tucks nicely into a pocket.
Sound on the new Pixel Buds have improved a lot on their predecessor, delivering clear, crisp quality, but it remains the weakest point of them overall.
Bass appears to lack the sort of oomph one would expect, and noise cancelling was not as strong as we would hope, unable to keep out the grinding of London Underground trains.
The volume can reach respectable heights, but sound will leak – as people nearby informed us.
There have been some complaints of a hissing sound that affects those with better hearing, but we didn’t experience this during our test.
The sound from calls is delivered in perfect quality, with people on the other end of the conversation remarking how clear it is.
Google is attempting to go beyond simply bringing usual sounds to our ears, pushing its existing strength in vocal digital assistance.
Saying “Hey Google”, or touching and holding one of the earbuds will awaken Google Assistant, allowing you to do tasks like respond to messages, asking for directions and even live translation of a conversation.
These features largely perform well – though trying to respond to a message was convoluted at first.
Assistant also struggled to understand a basic name which we were trying to ring hands-free, which was frustrating.
It’s worth noting that the Pixel Buds connect fast and seamlessly to Pixel smartphones.
Google says the Pixel Buds have a battery life of up to five hours when listening to music, a claim we found to be true, though disappointing when you compare to other wireless sound products on the market which can last a lot longer – take the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus for example.
However, we did find the Pixel Buds recharge fairly fast, meaning you can get listening again in no time.
The case also uses a USB-C cable, so it is too can juice up very quickly.
Google has definitely improved the Pixel Buds 2020 from its 2017 offering, particularly in terms of comfort and usability – they also look better than AirPods because they are more hidden away.
Going for a run, and these buds suited our needs perfectly, not once giving the feeling they might fall out.
Sound has also got better but it still lacks compared to rivals, especially when there are many cheaper alternatives on the market.
At £179, they may struggle to sway people away from more established brands in sound.