Subscribe to Radio Times
Try 10 issues for £10!
We put Google's wireless earbuds to the test.
A great companion to any Google Pixel phone, but slightly lacking when it comes to sound quality.
Released in 2020, the Google Pixel Buds are the brand's second attempt at creating Bluetooth earbuds to rival the likes of Apple and Samsung.
They don't quite bring the fight to Apple's AirPods in the way Google were probably hoping to, but there are some redeeming features. Featuring 'always-on' voice control via Google Assistant, a new sleek design and live language translation, the Google Pixel Buds are a vast improvement on their predecessors.
But at £179, are the Google Pixel Buds worth the money? The simple answer is yes if you have a Google Pixel phone. Set-up is quick and easy, the touch controls are intuitive and responsive, and Google Assistant works seamlessly.
However, these mid-range earbuds have tough competition and don't offer the active noise cancellation technology many are after. If that's you or if you aren't already invested in the Google ecosystem, you may be better off paying a little bit extra for all the bells and whistles of ANC.
To help you decide where to spend your money, here is our Google Pixel Buds review covering everything from sound quality and design to set-up, voice control and that all-important battery life.
For more Google devices, read our Google Nest Audio review and Chromecast with Google TV review. Or, try our Google Pixel 6 release date page to find out everything we know about the highly-anticipated flagship phone. For a round-up of options for anything between £30 and £130, head to our pick of the best budget wireless earbuds.
The Google Pixel Buds are a mid-range option with unique features, including 'always-on' voice control via Google Assistant and live language translation. Set-up is quick and easy, and the earbuds are controlled by touch controls that allow you to play/pause music, skip songs and adjust the volume. Each earbud also has a stabiliser arc that keeps the earbud secure, so there's no chance of it falling out during a workout, but they can be a little uncomfortable over long periods. There's no active noise cancellation with the Google Pixel Buds, but the passive noise isolation does a good job at keeping out the most distracting noises.
Google Pixel Buds are the brand's true wireless earbuds. Released in 2020, these earbuds are the second-generation Google Pixel Buds. At £179, the earbuds feature voice control via Google Assistant, touch controls to play/pause music and answer calls, and stabiliser arcs to keep the earbuds in place. They last up to five hours when listening to music and a little less on calls; however, if you return them to the charging case, that should be boosted up to between 20 and 24 hours.
Designed to be the perfect companion to Google Pixel phones, the Google Pixel Buds have a simple, black and white design with a matte finish on both the case and earbuds. A feature unique to the Google Pixel Buds is live language translation, which is sure to come in handy with any budding travellers.
At £179, the Google Pixel Buds fall into the mid-range category. While they do feature in-ear detection, touch controls and hands-free voice control via an 'always-on' Google Assistant, there are a few features missing that are available with similarly priced models. For example, while passive noise cancellation works well, there is no active noise cancellation. This is likely to keep the price down, but it is available with models sub-£170, including the Jabra Elite 75t.
However, this might not be a dealbreaker for everyone and the features it does have, including sweat resistance and live language translation, work well. There are definitely more affordable options available, but those with Google Pixel phones may enjoy how seamlessly the Google Pixel Buds work with their smartphone despite their pitfalls.
The Google Pixel Buds have a simplistic design and are available in two colourways; white/black and black. They have a matte finish, and the case is rounded, much like found on the Chromecast with Google TV. A small LED light indicates that the case has charge.
The earbuds are small, lightweight and have a 'G' logo embossed on the top of each. A silicone stabiliser arc ensures that the earbuds stay in place and don't fall out during exercise or when you're out and about. However, we did find that this became quite uncomfortable by the third hour of wearing the earbuds.
Three additional sizes of silicone tips are provided in the box to ensure that you can get a secure fit that feels comfortable.
For £179, the Google Pixel Buds offer most of the features you'd expect from true wireless earbuds. Voice control is provided by Google Assistant, and there are touch controls to pause, play and skip songs, along with a live language translation mode. The latter is only available with internet access but will definitely come in hand when travel is on the cards again.
The 'always-on' Google Assistant is the stand-out feature and will automatically respond when you use the wake words. There's no double- or triple-tapping to awaken the voice assistant.
The touch controls work well and intuitive. The same touch controls can be used on either earbud, which will benefit those who prefer to wear a single earbud. A single tap plays or pauses a song and answers a call. A double-tap skips to the next song or ends a call. Finally, swiping forward will raise the volume and swiping back will turn it down. The only minor issue we found was that they are quite sensitive, so we occasionally paused or played music while adjusting the earbuds.
The battery life isn't the longest we've come across but lasted just under 5 hours. With top-ups from the charging case, this can be boosted up to 24 hours.
If you're looking to use them when exercising, you'll be pleased to hear that they are sweat resistant. They have an IPX4 rating, which means they are protected against a splash of water (no matter the direction) and should cope with light rainfall or a sweaty workout. Put another way, it's not the highest rating achievable, but as long as you don't go dunking your earbuds in your tea, they should be fine.
Featuring a custom-designed 12 mm dynamic speaker driver and dual beamforming microphones, we had high hopes for the Google Pixel Buds. Unfortunately, sound quality is where the Google Pixel Buds fall down. For casual listening to the radio or podcasts, they've got the job covered, but music, especially hi-hats, can sound tinny.
Whether this will be an issue for you largely depends on what you're primarily going to use the earbuds for. If you're listening to podcasts, audiobooks and speech radio, this is unlikely to bother you. As with its smart speakers like the Google Nest Mini, speech performs much better than music.
This is somewhat expected when Google has spent so much time developing Google Assistant to answer voice commands and respond to queries. And, Google Assistant with the Google Pixel Buds is superb. There's no lag, and any questions are answered quickly and accurate every time.
There is no ANC, but the passive noise isolation works well to keep out too many distracting noises.
We set up the Google Pixel Buds with a Google Pixel 4a phone, and the process was so simple. When connecting with a Google Pixel phone via Bluetooth, a notification will automatically pop up on the screen when you open the charging case. You then simply click and follow the prompts.
The process took a maximum of three minutes, and the majority of that was taken up by an optional step of configuring our preferred Google Assistant settings. We had no connection issues with everything working first try.
When connecting to a non-Android or Google Pixel phone, press and hold the pairing button found on the back of the charging case, you then go to the Bluetooth settings on the smartphone and tap 'Google Pixel Buds' to pair.
In recent years, each of the main technology brands, Apple, Samsung and Google, have released their own wireless earbuds.
AirPods have become an instant classic for Apple. Within two years of being released in 2016, AirPods became Apple's most popular accessory. With an RRP of £159, AirPods are available for £20 less than Google Pixel Buds. However, there is an AirPods model that includes a wireless charging case, which has a higher price point of £199.
For £159, the AirPods feature in-ear detection, quick set-up, touch controls and a battery life of up to 5 hours. Google has done its best to match all these features, including an almost identical battery life.
However, the Google Pixel Buds also have a feature that is unique to them – live language translation. Admittedly, this isn't a function most people will need every day, and it does require an internet connection, but it's certainly a fun addition that will definitely be handy when travelling.
What about Samsung? The South Korean brand also has its own mid-range wireless earbuds, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. Available in four colours, including mystic bronze and mystic blue, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live also cost £159.
Unlike the earbuds from Google and Apple, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live do have active noise cancellation. Other features include touch controls, a voice assistant (Bixby) and a battery life of up to 6 hours.
Naturally, all of these wireless earbuds are designed to work as the perfect companion to your Google, Apple or Samsung phone, and they do a pretty decent job of it. Which earbuds you prefer will largely depend on what smartphone you have and whether you think you need ANC. If the answer is yes to the latter, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are your best option.
Despite their flaws, the Google Pixel Buds still make a good companion for a Google Pixel phone. The selling point of these earbuds is the 'always-on' Google Assistant. Any responses to queries or demands are quick and accurate, as we've come to expect from the voice assistant. This, combined with the simple set-up and intuitive touch controls, makes the Google Pixel Buds enjoyable to use.
The live language translation is a lot of fun and will likely come in handy on occasion for those of us whose linguistic skills leave something to be desired but probably won't be the sole reason you buy these earbuds.
However, these mid-range earbuds have some tough competition, and the likes of the Jabra Elite 75t and Huawei FreeBuds Pro offer ANC for a lower price. If you aren't already invested in the Google ecosystem, these are good cheaper alternatives.
But if we're honest, most ANC earbuds are going to be edging towards or over the £200 mark. For those that aren't willing to part with that cash, the Google Pixel Buds are a good wireless option that are easy to use, have a polished design and that you can trust not to budge from your ear. Just don't expect the battery life to last days.
The Google Pixel Buds are available from a number of retailers, including AO.