Reviews

Google finally gets it right with cheaper Pixel Buds A-Series

At $99, Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series wireless earbuds nix some features like wireless charging, but the fundamentals like sound, battery life, and connectivity are all here.

$99

The Pixel Buds A-Series are more affordable wireless earbuds with pared back features.

With an almost identical design to the regular Pixel Buds, the Pixel Buds A-Series have their own identity thanks to the unique color options, Clearly White and Dark Olive. The Dark Olive colorway is much more reserved, especially compared to the salmon and mint color options of the previous model.

Slightly different case

The case is noticeably lighter, weighing 1.9 oz versus the original’s 2.35 oz. The inside of the case is now a glossy plastic that looks cheaper, but it’s not like you’re spending all day looking at it. Small touches like the internal LED are gone, and the external LED have now moved as well.

I’m happy to report the hinge feels just as satisfying when opening and closing the case. (Turn your sound on for its glorious snap.)

Though pairing is quick, the Fast Pairing feature, which is supposed to prompt Pixel phones and other Android devices to immediately initiate pairing, didn’t work most of the time. Instead, I usually had to manually long press the button on the back of the case to initiate pairing. It’s a small gripe, but worth noting as it’s a highly-touted feature.

oxygen/Moment/Getty Images

The Pixel Buds A-Series don’t sound great out of the box, but neither did the preceding Pixel Buds. Thankfully, Bass Boost, which was added in an update last year, improves the sound and makes it sound less hollow and tinny. However, even with Bass Boost on, the sound feels thinner compared to the Pixel Buds.

Solid connection

Marginally worse sound aside, the Pixel Buds A-Series fix the connection issues I experienced with the regular model, which persisted for me after several updates and two replacement pairs. Problems like one earbud completely disconnecting, randomly unpairing, and pairing with my phone while inside the case were all too common.

One year later, Google should be embarrassed about the connectivity issues that still plague the regular Pixel Buds.

Shutterstock

In a week of heavy use, I haven’t experienced any connectivity issues with the Pixel Buds A-Series, even when going for a walk at a busy park. On the phone or Zoom, the buds never disconnected and I had no complaints about the microphone quality.

In-ear detection, which is supposed to pause your music when you remove an earbud, didn’t work well. It’s a feature I use a lot, which comes in handy when someone is trying to speak to you, but its unreliability forced me to turn it off.

Shutterstock

I knew that for $99, there would be feature cuts, but now I wish I paid closer attention to what Google removed. Touch controls on the buds work like before, except for one thing: you can’t swipe to adjust the volume. I never realized how much I needed the volume controls until now.

Wireless Qi charging is another feature left that got axed. It’s a punch in the gut for those of us who invested in Google’s pricey Pixel Stand. You can still charge the buds via USB-C, which Google includes, but the convenience is gone.

24

Battery life is the same: 5 hours for listening and 24 hours total with the case.

Some experimental features also were removed. Attention Alerts, which lowers the volume and plays a chime when the buds detect crying, barking, or sirens. And Sharing Detection, which bypasses in-ear detection to continue playing audio when sharing an earbud with a mate.

They’re good now!

After owning the first, first Pixel Buds — the ones that were attached with a cord — and two pairs of the regular Pixel Buds, the Pixel Buds A-Series are the first pair of Google earbuds I’m truly happy with.

The right stuff

The Pixel Buds A-Series are comfortable, have good battery life, sound decent, and come in my favorite shade of green (thought they look blue in some of my photos). And the price is unbeatable. The buds lack some features, but the fixed connection issues that plagued the regular buds make up for it. Android owners, especially those with a Pixel, can rest assured that Google finally nailed it.

Share