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AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro: What’s different?

The new 3rd-gen AirPods are the newest addition to Apple’s earbud lineup. Here’s how they stack up against the AirPods Pro.

Apple just announced the third generation of AirPods, the baseline model’s first update since early 2019.

The new release is a significant update from the previous model, but how does it stack up against Apple’s next-tier buds: the AirPods Pro?

$179 vs. $249

The AirPods 3 are priced at $179, significantly cheaper than the AirPods Pro.

The AirPods 3 have shorter stems and a more oblong design than its predecessors — a very similar look to the AirPods Pro.

The design looks close, but the AirPods 3 don’t have silicone ear tips. They won’t seal as tightly or fit as snug in your ear compared to the AirPods Pro.

That design distinction means the AirPods 3 do not have active noise cancellation or transparency mode, the cornerstone features of the AirPods Pro.

Shamil Abdullah/Moment Unreleased/Getty Images

Both models are rated IPX4 for sweat and water resistance. You can’t use them for water sports or wear them in the shower, but either pair will be safe from damage at the gym or in the rain.

Of course, the AirPods Pro are going to be best for sports with a tighter fit. The AirPods 3 will surely be better than the 2nd-gen model though.

Both the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro offer spatial audio for immersive listening and adaptive EQ that tunes sound based on how the buds fit in your ears.

Apple boasts a new custom driver and a high dynamic range amplifier in the AirPods 3. We won’t know how these two models compare sound-wise until we try them, but both pairs run on Apple’s H1 chip.

Audio aside, both models have identical features — both have controls that allow you to pause or skip songs, can pair with your phone quickly, announce notifications, have hands-free Siri controls, and have Find My support if you lose them.

6 hours

The AirPods 3 beat out the AirPods Pro when it comes to battery life, besting the established buds' 4.5 hour single charge runtime (with ANC enabled).

30 extra hours

Apple says the AirPods 3 gain an extra 30 hours of listening time. That's a big boost from roughly 20 hours with the Pro case.

Both the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro have wireless charging cases and are compatible with Qi-based wireless charging mats and MagSafe chargers. You can also use Apple’s Lightning chargers.

The verdict

The AirPods 3 are a big step up from the 2nd-gen AirPods and are a worthwhile buy if the AirPods Pro price tag has never fit your budget.

The deciding factor here is going to be how much you like active noise cancelation and the fit. The price-to-value ratio is pretty solid with the AirPods Pro, but if you want something a little cheaper, the AirPods 3 might be a better move.