Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds you can find. But the AirPods have some new, and rather serious, competition in … Apple’s Beats Powerbeats Pro. Yes, Apple’s (AAPL) acquisition of Beats means the iPhone maker now produces two of the hottest wireless earbuds you can buy.
But at $249, the Powerbeats Pro, out now, are pricier than the Airpods, which cost $159 with a standard charging case and $199 with a wireless charging case. What’s more, the Powerbeats Pro have a much larger charging case, and overall bulkier design, than the sleek and slim AirPods. They do, however, have a longer battery life, deeper bass, and more secure fit than Apple’s flagship buds.
In the end, the choice between the two comes down to how and where you’re using your headphones.
Powerbeats Pro vs. AirPods
The Powerbeats Pro feature an adjustable, rubberized arm that wraps around the top of your ear and helps secure your earbuds, so they don’t fall out regardless of what you’re doing. Apple’s AirPods, on the other hand, simply slide into your ear and sit there.
But Apple’s approach with the AirPods is often cited as a reason that some consumers won’t buy them. They’re too scared that they’ll end up losing one while jogging or walking down the street. I run with my own AirPods and have never have them fall out, but I understand not wanting to drop your $159 to $199 headphones while out on a jog.
The Powerbeats Pro also include four interchangeable tips to help you get the exact fit that’s most comfortable for your sound holes. One pair is already attached to the earbuds, while three others are found in the bottom of the box. I ended up using the largest tips, which blocked out a ton of ambient noise, too. It was almost like wearing a pair of earplugs.
That’s actually something to take into account if you’re thinking about buying the AirPods or Powerbeats Pro, too. I, like many people, walk around with my headphones in without music playing, so I can ignore everyone around me.
But when I walk into a store or want to talk to someone, the AirPods let enough sound in so I can still have a conversation with them in my ears. The Powerbeats Pro are so good at blocking sound, it’s often hard to hear what people are saying.
It’s also worth noting that the Powerbeats Pro are both sweat and water-resistant, which is a huge plus for someone like me who doesn’t so much sweat as much as secrete a continuous, fine mist. As a result, I’m always afraid that I’ll ruin my AirPods with the prodigious amount of sweat rolling off of my head. Knowing that the Powerbeats are sweat-resistant is an added level of security for a pricey investment.
Then there are the PowerBeats Pro’s physical controls. Yep, on both earbuds you’ll find a volume rocker, and a button that lets you pause, play, skip, and repeat tracks. It’s a nice touch, and a much better experience than having to call out to Siri to raise the volume like you have to with the AirPods.
Setup and sound
Since the Powerbeats Pro feature the same H1 chip found in the AirPods, they offer much of the same functionality. That means setup is as simple as turning on your iPhone and pressing the button on the inside of the Powerbeats’ charging case. Similarly, you can go to your iPhone’s home screen and open the charging case with the Powerbeats inside to check their battery status.
Android users have to set up the Powerbeats the same way they would any other Bluetooth headset, by opening the Bluetooth menu on their phone and manually pairing the Powerbeats.
The Powerbeats Pro are rated to last 9 hours on a single charge, which is far longer than the 5 hours Apple promises with the smaller AirPods. If you do run down your Powerbeats batteries, you can pop them into their charging case for five minutes and get up to another 1.5 hours of playback.
Still, the Powerbeats Pro’s case is far larger than the AirPods’ case. Don’t expect to fit it neatly into your pocket.
Most important of all, though, is the fact that the Powerbeats Pro sound great. True to form for Beats, bass in songs is in full effect. Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli,” my go-to for testing bass, absolutely pounded my eardrums with deep, heavy thumps each time the bass hit.
But the bass didn’t drown out the highs or lyrics. Rock and pop songs sounded equally clear and crisp, with symbols crashing hard and guitar riffs singing out sharply.
You will, however, need to seat the Powerbeats Pro in your ears at the right angle to make sure you get the best audio experience. That’s where those four different earpiece tips come in. When I tried using the smaller tips, I could hardly hear any of the songs I was listening to. But when I popped in the largest tips, the audio was far more enveloping.
Calls, something I’ve heard people once used their phones for, sounded nice and loud, even when walking around outside.
Should you buy them?
So should you grab a pair of Powerbeats Pros? Well, they’re certainly more expensive than the AirPods, and their case isn’t as easy to drop in your pocket. But they’ve got more than enough benefits to make them worth buying. From their full sound, to their physical controls and easy setup, the Powerbeats Pro are a great pair of earbuds.
But if you don’t want to spend $250, and need something a little smaller to listen to music with during your commute, the AirPods are still a fantastic choice.
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