EVALUATION

Google Pixel Buds A-Series Review: Best Wireless Earbuds for Android in 2021

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Pixel Buds A-Series

8.70 / 10

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The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are one of the best wireless earbuds for Android devices.

Key Features

  • Google Assistant on-tap
  • 12mm drivers for audio
  • IPX4 water resistance
Specifications

  • Brand: Google
  • Battery Life: 6 hours of Continuous playback; 24 hours total
  • Noise Cancellation: No
  • Mono Listening: Yes
  • Bluetooth : Yes
Pros

  • Fast Pair makes connecting to your Android device very easy
  • Flagship level audio quality
  • Very convenient and helpful features like live translation
  • Great price
Cons

  • No active noise cancellation
  • No wireless charging
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Google's Pixel line of products has always had some of the most intriguing and thoughtful innovations on the Android side of the consumer technology space despite a few quirks along the way. However, one fact has stayed constant: Google does very well delivering a flagship experience at a low cost.

This fact was correct with the first A-series device—the Pixel 3A—and later solidified with the wildly successful Pixel 4A and Pixel 4A 5G smartphones. So, when Google released the Pixel Buds A-Series, did they live up to their A branding? We think so, and they even have made the best wireless earbuds for Android smartphones.

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Design

When it comes to design, Google did an incredible job with how the earbuds fit, how they look, and how they function.

The case of the Pixel Buds A-Series has the same soft-touch feel to it like on the Pixel 4A devices. The soft-touch casing feels smooth but is grippy enough to not slip out of your hand. Being matte white also makes the case better for hiding scratches compared to other earbud cases that have a glossy finish. The polycarbonate case feels firm and sturdy and has a good weight, making it feel premium.

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The hinge is another excellent aspect of the Pixel Buds A-Series case. I'd say it's comparable to the AirPods case; there is enough resistance that makes them satisfying to open and close, but you're able to do so with one hand.

For comparison, my Samsung Galaxy Buds Live case is quite cumbersome to open with one hand because of how stiff the hinge is. The case for the Huawei Freebuds 4i is similar to the Pixel Buds, but it has the issue of being a bit too loose and flimsy. The Pixel Buds are by far the best case for wireless earbuds I have tried on the Android side of things, and it's impressive how the company focused on small details like this to make a pair of $100 earbuds feel more expensive.

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The case of the Google Pixel Buds A-series is mostly unchanged from last year. The main downside of this cheaper model is the lack of wireless charging. For most people, this isn't an issue at this price point, but it is worth noting since the wireless charging capabilities of the previous earbuds made them appealing for users who had smartphones that supported reverse wireless charging like the Pixel 5.

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Onto the earbuds themselves, Google has reused the design from last year's Pixel Buds (2020), and for me, they work well. At first, the wing of the earbuds took some getting used to, and I repeatedly had them fall out of my ear during workouts. However, once you learn to fit them correctly, they are comfortable and secure.

That said, these wings were definitely meant for people with smaller or average-sized ears, and during long listening sessions and workouts, I do occasionally feel the left earbud coming out of my ear. But for the most part, these should work well for going to the gym or even during a run. Google includes extra ear tip sizes in the box so you can adjust how they fit.

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Google opted for a glossy interior portion for the earbuds, unlike last year's model, which was matte all the way through. The outer portion remains matte and has the same soft-touch texture as the case, as well as an embossed Google logo on each earbud.

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The earbuds are rated for IPX4, meaning they are sweat-resistant and can withstand moisture exposure to a certain extent. I think as far as midrange earbuds go, the Pixel Buds A-Series provide a well-rounded package as fitness earbuds.

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Aesthetically, not much has changed compared to the previous Pixel Buds from last year, and that's mostly a great thing because last year's Pixel Buds were one of the most-liked wireless earbuds. That said, getting a similar, if not identical quality, to those more expensive earbuds is very competitive on Google's part, and it makes these new Pixel Buds A-Series very attractive.

Audio Quality

With audio quality, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series deliver impressive sound for this price point.

The Pixel Buds A-Series share the same 12mm drivers as last year's earbuds, and that means you're going to be getting impressive sound coming out of them. For $99, the Pixel Buds A-Series have a well-balanced sound profile that hits the midrange, highs, and lows very well and consistently.

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For comparison, the similarly priced Huawei Freebuds 4i lack bass and generally have muddled sound as you increase the volume. Even at high volumes, the Pixel Buds A-Series have good separation and don't lose the details.

In the Pixel Buds app, there is an EQ section where you can turn on Bass Boost. This setting adds noticeable emphasis on the lows while still delivering full and natural sound. That said, that is as far as you'll get in terms of customizability with these earbuds.

In terms of noise cancellation, these earbuds don't support ANC, and it is apparent, even at high volumes. The Nothing Ear (1)'s and the Huawei Freebuds 4i do have this feature, but Google decided to weigh their options and deliver better sound over Active Noise Cancellation.

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The Pixel Buds counteract this shortcoming with a feature called Adaptive Sound, which adjusts the volumes of the headphones based on how noisy your surroundings are. I think this feature works quite well, and the seal of the silicone tips does provide a decent amount of noise isolation. That said, it's still noticeable that the earbuds don't support ANC, and Google should include this on its next flagship pair of earbuds.

Onto microphone quality, the Pixel Buds A-Series have dual microphones for picking up audio, and the earbuds do a tremendous job separating your voice from noisy environments and offering clear audio during calls and meetings. With most earbuds in this price range, poor microphone quality is common, but here, it's great to see Google retain this very important aspect with their budget offering.

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Overall, the sound profile on these earbuds is quite well-suited for most music genres and does exceptionally compared to most other earbuds at this price point. Even with the lack of ANC support, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series are very well rounded; I'd love to see how these stack up against the Nothing Ear (1)'s.

Features

With the features of the Pixel Buds A-Series, you're getting many smart and helpful highlights from the Pixel Buds of last year.

First, let's talk about Fast Pair. This is equivalent to Apple's convenient pairing with AirPods, and it is incredible. This Fast Pair feature works natively on most of the newer Android smartphones. When you first set it up, you have to open the Pixel Buds case, and you'll automatically get a pop-up on your phone asking to pair.

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From there, your device will prompt you to download the Pixel Buds app, and you can start listening right away. After that, every time you open the Pixel Buds case, you will always have a notification come up telling you how much battery your case and earbuds currently have.

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This feature is wildly convenient, and it enriches the experience of having these earbuds over others. Samsung has a similar feature with its Galaxy Buds, which imitate the AirPods pairing animation entirely, but it's exclusive only to Samsung smartphones and tablets. That said, unlike AirPods, the Pixel Buds do not have multi-device support, meaning you would have to disconnect and reconnect to use these earbuds with other devices.

Speaking of Bluetooth connection, Google added a new chipset inside each earbud to increase connectivity reliability. Last year's Pixel Buds experienced many connectivity issues regarding occasional dropouts and audio interruptions.

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In my testing, I can say that I rarely experienced any form of connectivity issues, although I did experience my audio cutting out a bit once or twice. For the most part, I doubt users will encounter this issue as frequently as last year's earbuds. The Bluetooth connectivity could be better, but the issue isn't going to be as prominent as last year.

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Another slight difference with the Pixel Buds A-Series in contrast to last year's Pixel Buds is the touch controls. Google has removed the ability to swipe for volume, which means you can only adjust the volume using your phone or through Google Assistant. This can be quite cumbersome, especially when your phone is not accessible, but it's something that was sacrificed in order to lower the price.

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These earbuds also lose the experimental feature called Attention Alerts, which listens for specific sounds like a dog barking or a baby crying, and automatically lowers the volume to let you listen to what's going on. While this may have been a helpful feature, not many people at this price point may necessarily be looking for something like this.

While features like Attention Alerts are missing on the Pixel Buds A-Series, you'll still find many of the other helpful features, like Google Assistant on tap. You can long-press and say a command to get a response from the Assistant, and it remains one of the most helpful features of these earbuds. You can also do this hands-free by saying, "Hey Google."

Through Google Assistant, the earbuds can adjust volume, translate languages in real-time, and many other Google-centric tasks; it's again the highlight of what makes Pixel Buds, Pixel Buds.

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Another thing that is returning to these earbuds is In-ear detection. This is where your earbuds will automatically pause music or audio when you take one earbud out and will resume the audio once you put it back in your ear. This feature is fairly standard for most earbuds today, but on Google's Pixel Buds, I found it to be much faster and more responsive than Samsung's Galaxy Buds.

Overall, Google did a great job here with the feature set of these earbuds. At $99, it's a bargain for the smart and convenient features the Pixel Buds A-Series offer.

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series have a very standard but respectable usage time. Each earbud has a battery life of about 6 hours, and you can get a total amount of 24 hours with the case. In my testing, the earbuds stayed consistent with this.

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The case charges via USB-C but doesn't support wireless charging like on the previous model.

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One thing I noticed throughout testing was how inconsistently the earbuds lost power and how they charged. Sometimes, one earbud will start draining faster than the other, but more bizarrely, on one occasion, the left earbud was completely drained while in its charging case. The right earbud was fully charged, however. That said, I haven't encountered the issue since and haven't been able to recreate it.

Overall, the Pixel Buds A-Series have a very reliable battery life that should be adequate for all-day listening and calling.

Should You Buy the Google Pixel Buds A-Series?

Undoubtedly, if you're an Android user, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series is the best experience you're going to get in terms of wireless headphones. While these earbuds lose out on features like ANC, they deliver flagship sound quality and features at a very attractive price point.

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If you're someone looking to get new earbuds for your Android device that won't break the bank, the Pixel Buds A-Series is your best bet.

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