Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro Review
Pros: Good sound quality, very secure athletic fit, long battery life
Cons: Can be uncomfortable when worn for 2+ hours, relatively large charging case
Manufacturer: Beats by Dre
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Powerbeats Pro excel at athletic endeavors, but fail to deliver all-day comfort that would make them a permanent fixture in your ears.
The Powerbeats Pro use Apple's H1 chip that allows for automatic iPhone pairing upon opening its case. The buds also charge with a lightning cable, the same one used for iPhones.
While not the best sounding earbuds we tested, the Powerbeats Pro come quite close, offering a robust fullness that many mobile audio products lack.
When meticulously examining the Powerbeats Pro's clarity and bass in isolation, both sound great but fall short of exceptional. The sound is crisp enough that acoustic guitar and voices cut through sounding quite well defined, but they lack that razor-sharp quality that some of the top-scoring models can provide. The bass likewise has plenty of power without sounding too muddled, but falls just a bit short of the thudding thunder of the top models. Thus both acoustic numbers and bass-heavy ballads sound good on these buds, but not quite as good as on some of the top competition. However, when these attributes are combined in more balanced pieces the resulting fullness is impressive and feels quite engrossing, with sharp and poignant treble notes anchored by a weighty baseline. It's definitely a whole is greater than the sum of its parts scenario.
We should note that these buds do sound noticeably better when they fit snugly in your ears, and they offer four different bud sizes that can accommodate most ear sizes. However, the over-ear hooks of these buds make them much more stable, meaning you can more easily wear them without a snug fit of the actual earbud. The hooks can often pull the bud away from your ear a bit as well, making getting a snug fit a bit more difficult. While we like this for activities like biking, where a less-than-snug earbud means you're more aware of surrounding noises, the lack of a tight fit can make the buds sound a bit hollow and tinny.
When using the Powerbeats Pro for phone calls, the audio generally comes through crisp and clear. In noiseless environments the microphone also performs quite well, treating whoever you're talking with to clear audio. However, we found that the microphone does tend to pick up lots of ambient noise when used in noisy environments, generally not to a degree that your voice is drowned out, but it can be a bit annoying and distracting.
Overall, we think the Powerbeats Pro are some of the most comfortable earbuds around when it comes to working out, but possibly some of the least comfortable when worn for prolonged periods.
This dichotomy is largely due to the unique design of the Powerbeats Pro. Their athletic comfort is aided by the large, over-ear hooks that plant them securely in place. When working out, especially for repetitive impact activities like mountain biking, this extra security completely erases that almost vertiginous feeling you get when gravity is trying anxiously to rip earbuds out of your ears.
However, the security of that ear hook can often make the buds decidedly uncomfy when used in non-athletic situations. This is because you basically have two options in these situations: you can let the weight rest completely on the ear hooks while the buds themselves sit, un-snugly, a bit outside your ear, or you can adjust the ear hooks so that they push the actual buds into your ears and create a very snug fit. In the former situation, there is an appreciable loss of sound quality, and you lose any sort of noise isolation whatsoever. In the latter situation that slight pressure of the buds being pushed into your ears can get old pretty quickly (we generally wanted to take them off before hitting the 2-hour mark).
Bottom line, we think the Powerbeats Pro have a great athletic fit, but you likely won't want to wear them all day at the office.
As we've mentioned before, the over-ear hooks of the Powerbeats Pro make them the most secure feeling of all the truly wireless earbuds we've tested. They are 100% the first bud we'd reach for if we wanted a soundtrack while mountain biking, skiing, trampoline jumping, or anything else that can involve some serious impact that might otherwise pry your expensive buds out of your ears.
Many people have come to us asking if we would recommend the Powerbeats Pro for running. The short answer is yes, these buds feel incredibly secure and, especially if you have a very heavy stride, are likely going to feel less bouncy than other truly wireless earbuds. However, we've tested other truly wireless earbuds that sound just as good, are significantly less expensive, and that have easily stood up to our running tests. So while the Powerbeats Pro certainly work great for running, you may not need to pay their price premium to get good performance from a truly wireless running earbud.
The PowerbeatsPro offer some serious battery life. We measured the buds themselves to last slightly over 11 hours on a single charge, besting even the manufacturer spec of 9 hours. The charging case holds about two charges worth of juice, meaning you can likely get over 30 hours of playback out of a fully charged case and buds.
This is one area where the Powerbeats Pro are somewhat less than ideal. The buds themselves are quite slim and light, weighing in at less than an ounce for the pair. However, the large over-ear hooks necessitate a much larger than average carrying/charging case. This case is by no means hefty, but it is large enough to feel quite awkward when carried in a front pocket.
The Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro are nearly $100 more than most other truly wireless earbuds on the market. If you're looking for buds that can comfortably stay put during the highest impact activities, these buds may be worth the premium. Otherwise, we think there are better deals to be found elsewhere.
The Powerbeats Pro are great earbuds with an incredibly secure and athletic fit. However, their high price and propensity to get uncomfortable when worn for more than a couple of hours may dissuade many potential buyers.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell