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Apple AirPods vs Powerbeats Pro – Which you should buy?

Apple Airpods and Powerbeats Pro are two of the most popular wireless earbuds currently on the market. You can’t go anywhere without seeing somebody wearing the Airpods. And since their release in 2019, PowerBeats Pro is also starting to pop up everywhere.

But which one should you buy? They share a lot of similarities considering they’re made by the same company. However, they are also markedly different in a number of ways.

In this article, we’re going to break things down and compare the two head to head. Hopefully, you can figure out which model is best for you. It’s time for the battle of Apple AirPods vs Powerbeats Pro.

Design

Design

Everyone knows AirPods. They have that instantly recognizable stem dangling down from the drivers. You either love them or hate them. But one thing’s for sure; you can’t miss them thanks to that iconic design.

According to Apple, they are the most popular wireless earbuds in the world right now. So that unusual style clearly doesn’t bother many people.

The Powerbeats Pro have a completely different look, featuring an over-the-ear hook design. This makes them a little harder to put on. But once you’ve had some practice, the process quickly becomes second nature.

The biggest differences…

Apple has done a lot to make the Powerbeats Pro differ from the previous model. This includes a 20% reduction in size, and the cable connecting the buds is also gone making these the first truly wireless earbuds in the Powerbeats range.

If you want to add a bit of color to your life, the Powerbeats Pro also come in four different shades. Black, Navy, Ivory, and Moss are all on offer. What colors are there for AirPods? Unfortunately, they are only available in white.

Controls

How do you use Airpods? Apple Airpods don’t have any physical buttons and rely on touch controls. You simply tap the earbud to control play/pause, track selection, and take phone calls. It can take a little getting used to, and on occasion, the AirPods don’t always recognize the correct number of taps.

Annoyingly, there is no volume control option either. So you’ll have to reach for your phone when you need to change it. You can ask Siri to do it for you, but most people aren’t huge fans of talking to themselves, especially when out in public.

Extra space on the Powerbeats Pro…

This means a physical multifunction button has been included on each earbud. It does all the things the tap controls do on the AirPods. It makes for a far more agreeable and practical experience.

A volume rocker also allows for quick adjustments on the fly, allowing you to keep the phone in your pocket. This is way more convenient, especially when out jogging. Overall, the Powerbeats Pro control system is infinitely preferable to my tastes.

Fit

Fit

Are Apple earbuds good for exercising? The Powerbeats Pro hook design makes them very secure. This is why they are aimed towards people that like to workout. The ear hook is also adjustable to adapt to different ear shapes, which it does very well.

Another major difference is in the ear tips. The AirPods feature a plastic tip design that’s supposed to be a one size fits all affair. In practice, it’s very hit and miss.

Many users report that they don’t fit in their ear well enough to create a good seal. This means they don’t provide great noise isolation from your surroundings, and there’s also a negative effect on overall sound quality. More on that later.

Staying in place…

The Powerbeats Pro have a far more practical setup, featuring four sets of differently sized silicone ear tips. Once you’ve selected the correct size, a good seal is created. So, do Powerbeats Pro have a secure fit?

Together with the ear hooks, the eartips ensure that the Powerbeats Pro aren’t going anywhere. We put them through some pretty strenuous workouts, and there was never any danger of them coming loose.

The same cannot be said of the AirPods, which stayed in fine whilst walking. But they came out several times under more stressful circumstances. In fairness, they aren’t specifically designed with exercise in mind like the Powerbeats Pro, so we can cut some slack here.

Comfort

The AirPods rest in the bottom portion of your ear rather than extending into your ear canal like the Powerbeats Pro. As a result, they can be worn for extended periods of time before any ear fatigue sets in.

Although the Powerbeats Pro have a better fit, after about an hour and a half, they started to become a little uncomfortable. Nothing too serious, but enough to warrant a five-minute break to relieve the situation. Having to wear them for long sessions could potentially be problematic if you can’t take a rest.

Charging Case

Charging Case

The headphones are stored and charged in their respective cases. And each case has a drastically different design due to the individual footprint of each earbud.

The AirPods case is one of the smallest and most compact designs of any earbud. With a lightning port at the bottom and a single LED charging indicator on the front. It will fit comfortably in your pocket without you even realizing it’s there. It’s the height of convenience.

You can also purchase a wireless charging case for your AirPods. Although this will set you back an extra $50 over the standard model.

The Powerbeats Pro case is huge in comparison…

Mostly because it needs space to house those bulky ear hooks. Can Powerbeats Pro fit in your pocket? Nope, you’ll be needing a bag for this.

On a positive note, the matte black plastic material looks and feels much nicer than the glossy finish on the case of the AirPods. It also looks like it would stand up well to being dropped, providing a high level of protection for the buds inside.

The lid closes firmly, and even when dropped, it’s hard to imagine it popping open and spilling the contents, something we’ve seen happen to the AirPod case before.

How do the cases work?

Both sets of earbuds are held pretty securely inside by magnets. You can give them a good shake with the lid open, and they stay perfectly still inside the case.

Both cases can be charged via a lightning cable. It’s a little annoying that there isn’t a USB-C port. But, since the iPhone still uses this method, it makes it more convenient to carry just the one cable.

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, the Powerbeats Pro are hands down, one of the best in the business. They provide an immense nine hours of playback on a full charge. That’s a lot better than the AirPods. A full four hours better, as they clock in at just under five hours, which is about standard for wireless earbuds.

When you add the extra charge available in the case, both earbuds run for about 24-hours. To be honest, it’s a blessing that the Powerbeats have a full nine hours. The result is you can leave the bulky charging case at home and still have enough juice for the whole day.

The Powerbeats Pro has a ‘fast-fuel’ feature. It adds one and a half hours of playback in five minutes of charging, and four and a half hours in just fifteen minutes. The AirPods have a similar feature, with a fifteen-minute blast gaining you an extra three hours.

Extra Features

When it comes to Apple Airpods vs Powerbeats Pro, both feature an optical sensor. It can tell whether or not they are in your ears. When you pull one or both out, it automatically pauses the music. When you pop them back in, it resumes play right where you left off. This is handy when you need to talk to someone or check something out quickly.

Set either the AirPods or Powerbeats Pro down on your desk, and an accelerometer knows it’s at rest. Then it puts the earbuds into sleep mode after a couple of minutes. Very helpful in conserving your battery. Siri voice assistance is also standard on both models.

Water resistance is an area of difference. The AirPods do not come with an IP rating of any sort. Whereas the Powerbeats Pro have an IPX4 rating which means they are sweat and water resistant to a degree.

Connectivity

Connectivity

Apple’s latest H1 chip is present in both models, which makes the pairing process extremely efficient. Simply open the charging case lid and press connect. In the Apple ecosystem, once you’ve connected to one device, both sets of earbuds will automatically pair across all of your Apple products.

When it comes to Bluetooth connection, the Airpods were one of the first wireless earbuds to really get it right. This probably goes a long way to explain their popularity. The Bluetooth connection stays solid no matter what you are doing. Up to this point, no other model had managed to achieve this.

Unfortunately, the Powerbeats Pro are not quite as reliable when it comes to maintaining a constant connection. They are mostly fine, but occasional dropouts can happen, especially with the phone in your back pocket or in busy downtown areas. Hopefully, this is something that can be fixed via firmware updates.

Sound Quality

With everything else out of the way, we come to that most important of factors, sound quality. This is a hands-down win for the Powerbeats Pro. Apple AirPods don’t pack much in the way of bass response and can get a little harsh in the higher registry on occasion.

This is in large part to do with the lack of any effective seal. Not only does this affect the sound presentation, but it allows a lot of ambient noise to make its way through. The Powerbeats Pro pack way more bass and far more clarity and separation in the mids and highs.

There’s just way more detailed dynamism on offer here. For such small drivers, they have some serious distortion-free power. All of this is aided by the silicone ear tips, which create a good seal. Allowing most of the sound to stay in your ears while keeping unwanted interference out.

Need Awesome Earbuds for Your Apple Device?

If so, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Lightning Headphones for iPhone & iPad, the Best AirPods Alternative, the Best iPhone Earbuds, the Best Bass Earbuds, and the Best Ear Hook Headphones you can buy in 2021.

And don’t miss our comprehensive Apple AirPods Pro Review, our Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro Review, our Best True Wireless Earbuds review, our Best Noise Isolating Earbuds review, and our Most Durable Earbuds review for more amazing audio currently available.

Apple AirPods vs Powerbeats Pro – The Verdict

In virtually every department, the Powerbeats Pro are the superior set of earbuds to the Apple AirPods. An exceptional battery life, a more reliable control setup, and an infinitely preferable sound profile should make this an easy choice for most. They’re also much more suited for use whilst working out, thanks to the stability of the design.

The AirPods do offer the slightly better connection and are possibly more comfortable to wear for longer durations, although the latter is a subjective quality that will be different for everyone.

Overall though, it’s a clear win for the Powerbeats Pro in this battle of brothers, as you can see in the table below…

 Apple AirPodsPowerbeatsPro
Design3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Controls3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Fit2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Comfort3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)
Charging case4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
Battery life3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Extra features4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Connectivity5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Sound quality2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Overall score64/10080/100

Whichever you choose, happy listening!

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About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what is what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear hear and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

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