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Apple W1-equipped headphones compared: Apple AirPods vs. BeatsX vs. Beats Solo3

By Kenny Yeo - 5 Sep 2017

Apple AirPods

Apple AirPods

The AirPods come in a compact and convenient portable charging case.

Apple’s new AirPods were intended to be the perfect companion headphones for the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and it is easy to see why. They look just like Apple’s regular EarPods, but with the wires snipped off.

The AirPods come in a compact carrying case that fits easily in the palm of your hands. The carrying case also doubles up as the AirPods’ charger. The nifty thing here is that you charge the carrying case and once it is fully charged, it can provide up to 24 hours of charge for the AirPods. This means you don’t necessarily need cables to charge the AirPods themselves. The carrying case charges via a Lightning connector, this means you can use your iPhone’s charging cable to charge it as well.

It is easy to pair the AirPods and also check its remaining battery level.

The charging case charges via a Lightning port.

Speaking of charging, a simple 15 minutes charge is enough to give the AirPods 3 hours of listening time. A full charge will give the AirPods 5 hours of listening time. Though it sounds short, consider how small the AirPods are. Also remember that other "true" wireless headphones like the AirPods typically only last about 3 hours. With that in mind, the AirPods’ 5 hours battery life is actually above average.

Because of the AirPods’ quick charge capability, I never found battery life to be too much of an issue. Unless you are planning on undertaking a commute that will take over 5 hours, the AirPods will have sufficient juice for your entertainment needs. And even if you do need to use the AirPods for longer journeys, the upside is that it charges very quickly.

The AirPods are incredibly simple to pair. It is exactly as Phil Schiller described during his presentation at the launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. All you have to do is open the AirPods up near an iPhone and a pop up message will appear asking if you want to pair. Tap to confirm and you can begin listening on your AirPods.

The AirPods might be tiny, but it i packed with sensors and tech.

But the AirPods can do more than just play music. It has accelerometers, sensors and microphones inside them, which let it do other things. For instance, double tapping on either of them will instantly activate Siri. You can then use Siri to make calls, adjust the AirPods’ volume, play certain music tracks, get directions, and more. This Siri activation function works with Macs too and not just your iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches. And thanks to built-in sensors, the other smart thing that the AirPods can do is that it automatically pauses music whenever you take them out of your ears and automatically resumes playback when you put them back.

Like the EarPods, the AirPods have an earbuds design, which means they don’t provide as good seal or secure a fit as in-ear headphones. Fortunately for me, the AirPods sit quite snugly in my ears and do not fall off even if I were to shake my head violently. Of course, your mileage may vary. Also, because of their earbuds design it also means that outside noise does leak in a lot, which can be distracting for some people. If you want a distraction-free listening experience, best to look elsewhere.

For earbuds, the AirPods actually sound pretty good. However, it may not fit snugly in everyone's ears.

The charging case will slip into pockets easily. Here it is next to a namecard.

Performance

In terms of audio performance, the AirPods are pleasant sounding, with strong bass response that is noticeably more impactful than the EarPods. It is quite impressive how these tiny earbuds can achieve such plentiful bass. Elsewhere, the midrange is airy but lacks body, whereas the upper mids are slightly elevated so that vocals, especially female ones, have greater clarity. The highs are very tame, so even the shrillest of horns do not sound harsh or piercing. All in all, the AirPods are pretty nice sounding wireless earbuds. That said, a big part of how the AirPods will perform is dependent on the fit you get. And generally speaking, a better fit will get you a better sound.

Overall, I enjoyed using the AirPods  for its convenient charging, ease of pairing, portability, and decent sound quality. My only gripe is that I can foresee the AirPods being quite easy to lose, given how small they are. Luckily, there’s a “Find My AirPods” feature in iOS 10.3. It certainly helps alleviate concerns of losing your AirPods, but it is by no means a foolproof solution to locating your misplaced AirPods.

The AirPods are pricey, but not so when you compare to our "true" wireless headphones.

At first glance, S$238 sounds like a lot of money for the AirPods, but if you look around, they are around the same price as other "true" wireless headphones. Samsung’s Gear IconX, for example, is S$298. The Erato Apollo 7 is even pricier at S$499, while the less expensive Muse 5 is S$359. Only the Erato Rio 3 comes close at S$219, but it’s rather bulky and looks more like a Bluetooth headset. Other brands like Bragi, Earin, and Jabra are also more costly.

Therefore, the question to ask is if the AirPods' additional features are useful to you and if you are happy with its sound quality. Personally, I'm not so fond of earbuds as I prefer the superior noise isolation offered by in-ear headphones. That said, as a pair of earbuds, the AirPods do sound quite good for a product of its nature. Plus, it does come with some nifty features like automatic pause and playback, and quick Siri activation. Overall, a good package with great experience.

Apple AirPods

Click here for rundown of pros/cons