The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of tech gear

Apple Airpods Review

Great for long travel days but not stable enough for hard workouts
Top Pick Award
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Price:   $160 List | $159 at Amazon
Pros:  Portable battery pack/case, total freedom from wires, good sound quality
Cons:  Expensive, not really suitable for working out
Manufacturer:   Apple
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Aug 22, 2017
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 15
  • Sound Quality - 30% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 5
  • Athletic Performance - 20% 3
  • Battery Life - 15% 5
  • Portability - 15% 10

Our Verdict

As usual, Apple attempted to completely change the game with the AirPods, eliminating any sort of wire and opting for two independent earbuds. While this design makes them a bit precarious for working out, it is great for traveling. The complete absence of wires makes them incredibly low profile, which is great both for packing and trying to find a comfortable position when flying coach. Plus the included charging case carries 3-4 extra charges in it, which can keep you listening to podcasts through multiple layovers.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Apple Airpods
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $160 List
$159.00 at Amazon
$170 List
$169.99 at Amazon
$100 List
$69.95 at Amazon
$100 List
$99.95 at Amazon
$36 List
$25.99 at Amazon
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Pros Portable battery pack/case, total freedom from wires, good sound qualityGreat sound quality, secure fit, great for working outGood sound quality, good for working out, low profile design, relatively inexpensiveIncredibly crisp audio, comfortableInexpensive, great for working out, comfortable
Cons Expensive, not really suitable for working outExpensive, relatively short battery lifeMay not fit large ears wellBass relatively weak compared to other high end models, not great for athleticsAverage sound quality
Bottom Line Great for long travel days but not stable enough for hard workoutsThe best sounding and most comfortable buds we've found for working outA sleek package that offers high end performance at a mid range priceTop notch clarity makes for a great listening experience, as long as you’re not working outInexpensive wireless earbuds that can keep up with you wherever you go
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Rating Categories Apple Airpods Jabra Elite 65t JBL Reflect Mini 2 Beats by Dr. Dre... Anker SoundBuds
Sound Quality (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
5
Comfort (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
Athletic Performance (20%)
10
0
3
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
4
10
0
8
Battery Life (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
6
Portability (15%)
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs Apple Airpods Jabra Elite 65t JBL Reflect Mini 2 Beats by Dr. Dre... Anker SoundBuds
Weight (oz) 0.3 0.4 0.54 0.75 0.5
Microphone Yes/No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Claimed Battery Life (hours) 5 5 10 8 7
Measured Battery Life (hours) 5.5 5.25 11.5 8 6.5
Carrying Case Yes/No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
EMF Measurement 4.1 V/m 3.7 V/m 3.7 V/m

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Apple AirPods offer a unique design that excels on long travel days, but isn't quite up to running and hard workouts.


Performance Comparison


The Apple AirPods are somewhat specialized in their usefulness, and thus had a lower overall score than most models. Below we detail how the AirPods performed in all the different tests we used to determine their overall score.

A Note About Ease of Use


As we mentioned in our full review, we didn't include a user friendliness metric in our Bluetooth Earbud testing because the vast majority of models have near identical interfaces. The Apple AirPods are the exception. They Automatically pair with your iPhone when you open their case, which is very convenient. Once in your ears you can double tap either of the earbuds to activate Siri, which you can use to do pretty much anything (turn up the volume, change tracks, etc.). If you'd prefer you can change the setting so the double tap becomes a play/pause button. You can also use the double tap to answer and end phone calls. If you take one earbud out it automatically pauses your music. This works great on a phone, but can be a bit finicky on other devices. For example, we paired them to a computer, and when we took one out they disconnected and loud music suddenly started playing on our computer speakers. That's a good way to piss off your officemates.

Sound Quality


The Apple AirPods sound quite good, earning a 7 out of 10 in our sound quality testing.


Overall the AirPods sound about the same as Apple's standard wired earbuds that come with every iPhone. We feel these earbuds sound quite good, but some people may feel a bit cheated that they're paying so much for earbuds that sound the same as the ones they already have (what you're really paying for is the wireless experience). They produce good clarity and relatively good bass, resulting in a well rounded composition. The Beats by Dr. Dre and Bose models generally have a bit deeper bass that adds more depth to the sound, but we doubt that anyone will be disappointed with the sound quality of the AirPods.

The AirPods really excel at making phone calls. In our testing both the caller and the callee were treated to crystal clear audio. These were the earbuds we reached for when we needed to hop on a conference call.

Comfort


The Apple Airpods use a unique wireless design that creates a persistent fear of losing them. This fear made them a bit less comfortable. They earned a score of 5 out of 10 in our comfort testing.


The AirPods are one of the few Bluetooth earbuds that don't offer different earpiece sizes. If you like the fit of Apple's wired earbuds then you'll like the fit of the AirPods. Apple did manage to make the AirPods fairly light, so they don't feel like they're going to fall out of your ear. However, it's hard to shake the feeling that there is no tether to your expensive earbuds, which creates a bit of an 'earbud vertigo' sensation. We never had them fall out in normal use and just walking around, so this sensation isn't really warranted, but we couldn't get rid of it.

The AirPods are surprisingly secure  but it can be hard to shake the fear that they're going to fall out.
The AirPods are surprisingly secure, but it can be hard to shake the fear that they're going to fall out.

Athletic Performance


Remember that earbud vertigo we just mentioned? It gets a lot worse if you're running or jumping. Thus the AirPods earned a low score of 3 out of 10 in our athletic performance testing.


While the AirPods do have a more stable fit than you might imagine, the lack of any sort of tether makes it feel like they're going to fall out when you're bouncing around during a workout. Also, they don't have any rubber, so sweat makes them feel quite slippery. We were never actually able to jostle them out of our ears during our testing, but it always felt like a distinct possibility. And you don't want to be worrying about your expensive earbuds when you're trying to beat your best 5k time.

Battery Life


The AirPods lasted 5.5 hours on a single charge in our battery life testing. However, the included storage case has another 3-4 full charges in its battery, giving the AirPods the longest functional battery life of any of the models we tested. Pro tip: if you leave one AirPods in the case it will continue to charge while the other will automatically go into single earbud stereo mode, allowing you to get close to 24 hours of continuous music, albeit in one ear.

The AirPods lasted 5.5 hours in our battery life testing  but the case holds another 3-4 charges.
The AirPods lasted 5.5 hours in our battery life testing, but the case holds another 3-4 charges.

Portability


The AirPods with their sleek design and included charging case earned a perfect 10 out of in our portability testing.


The AirPods' case is about the size of a packet of floss and can easily slide into almost any pocket. That case doubles as a portable battery pack, greatly extending functional battery life. Plus the completely wireless design makes these ideal for listening to music while getting cozy in a bus or plane seat.

The AirPods' case is super tiny and portable.
The AirPods' case is super tiny and portable.

Value


The AirPods list for $160, which is on the more expensive side of things. They also only satisfy a narrow range of activities, namely walking around and general traveling. If that's all you want to use them for they are a decent value, but if you're looking for something more versatile they are a very poor value.

Conclusion


The Apple AirPods offer a unique design that excels for long travel days but isn't well suited to exercise. If you're constantly racking up frequent flyer miles these earbuds will make your experience a bit easier.


Max Mutter and Steven Tata