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Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Which earbuds win?

Google Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro displayed in cases next to each other
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Today marks a turning point in the battle for the best wireless earbuds as Google has now launched the Google Pixel Buds Pro to rival Apple's nigh ubiquitous true wireless earbuds, the Apple AirPods Pro.

So how are they stacking up?

Google’s latest audio release is a formidable option that delivers the best Google Assistant experience of any model in the category. It packages strong active noise cancellation (ANC) and Bluetooth multipoint into a stylish and discrete design. The additions of a Volume EQ and spatial audio (scheduled for release later this year) also elevate the Pixel Buds Pro’s audio performance.

There are many reasons why Apple’s flagship buds are considered a modern-day classic, however. Remarkable iOS integration makes it ridiculously easy to connect with iDevices (iPhone/iPad). Audio is punchy and crisp, and spatial audio creates a more immersive soundscape for select music tracks. Then there’s the solid ANC and plethora of software perks that continue to grow with every major software update. 

These are two of the best noise-cancelling earbuds out there. Want to know which makes for the better investment? Our Google Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro comparison will answer all your questions.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Specs compared

Google Pixel Buds ProApple AirPods Pro
Price$199$249
Wireless Charging CaseYesYes
ChipGoogle six-core processorH1
Battery Life (Rated)7 hours (ANC on), 11 hours (ANC off), 20 hours (charging case with ANC on), 31 hours (charging case with ANC off)4.5 hours (ANC on), 5 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case)
Water ResistanceIPX4IP4
Size0.88 x 0.87 x 0.93 inches (per bud); 0.98 x 1.97 x 2.49 inches (charging case)0.94 by 0.86 by 1.22 inches (per bud); 1.8 x 0.9 x 2.4 inches (charging case)
Weight0.22 ounces (per bud); 2.2 ounces (charging case)0.19 ounces (per bud); 1.6 ounces (charging case)
Special featuresActive noise cancellation, transparency mode, Volume EQ, spatial audio, audio switching, Google Assistant voice activation, Google Translate, Notifications, Eartip Seal, Check, Find My Device, Bluetooth multipointActive noise cancellation, transparency mode, adaptive EQ, spatial audio, automatic switching, Ear Tip Fit Test, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, Enhanced Find My, “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, Live Listen, MagSafe charging case (2021 version)

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Price

At launch, the Google Pixel Buds Pro are selling at a lower price — $199 — compared to Apple's AirPods Pro at its launch price of $249, but the odds of finding the latter on sale at major online retailers is incredibly high these days. We recommend bookmarking our best AirPods deals and best headphones deals pages to stay notified of the latest Apple wireless earbuds sales.

Despite having the higher initial price, after taking discounts and overall functionality into account, the AirPods Pro stand out as the more enticing purchase.

WinnerAirPods Pro

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Design

The Google Pixel Buds Pro charging case being held in hand

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

This is a bit subjective, obviously, but we feel the more attractive and durable of the two is the Pixel Buds Pro. Google sells these buds in four colors — charcoal, coral, fog (gray), and Lemongrass — compared to the AirPods Pro's single color option, and we’re fond of the Pixel Bud Pro's low-profile look and sturdy build quality. They're sweat and water resistant rated at IPX4, and come with the cool-looking charging case that's rated at IPX2. 

Comfort is satisfying, but the fit is loose, however, and Google’s Eartip Seal Test can be inaccurate at times. The lack of the Pixel Buds 2’s built-in wings is a Pixel Buds Pro design mistake.

The AirPods Pro charging case being held in hand

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Apple made significant changes to the AirPods Pro’s design, including smaller stems, installed eartips, and IPX4 certification for sweat and water resistance. The Ear Tip Fit Test helps optimize fit and Apple’s tips form a tight seal. These buds also rest pleasantly on the concha for long stretches. Unfortunately, the construction is weak compared to most wireless earbuds, resulting in occasional cracks and scratches. The same can be said about the portable-friendly charging case.

Winner: Google Pixel Buds Pro

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Controls

Our reviewer testing the Google Pixel Buds Pro 2's touch controls

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro offer similar user experiences. However, each is best suited for their respective platform.   

Android fans will love the Pixel Buds Pro’s touch and voice controls. Touch accuracy is superb, and Google gives you a full suite of media controls that can be activated directly on the buds. Wear detection automatically pauses music when taking off the buds and resumes playback when placed back on your ears. But the real star of the show is the deep Google Assistant integration. Accessing Google’s AI bot hands-free via wake word phrase (“Hey Google”) is awesome. The feature operates flawlessly, as does Google Translate and Notifications.

Employing the AirPod Pro's force sensor contorls

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

We’ve praised the AirPods Pro for having the best control scheme overall, and very little has changed. The Force sensor is a game-changer that produces excellent tactility to reassure users of single/multi/long-press commands being met with every press. On-ear detection is spot-on. Then there’s the “Hey Siri” feature, which turns on right away when saying the phrase and executes voice commands without a hitch. Siri works with Announce Messages and Announce Notifications to have incoming updates sent directly to your ear. In addition, it can be used to control playback and other functions when paired to an Apple Watch (opens in new tab).

Winner: Tie

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Sound quality

The Google Pixel Buds Pro 2 playing Hall & Oates "I Can't Go For That" during our testing

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Here's where things get a bit hairy. The Pixel Buds Pro have certainly stepped their game up compared to their predecessors, but the Apple AirPods Pro are equipped with a wide soundstage and easy-to-access spatial audio (opens in new tab).

That said, sound is noticeably improved on the Pixel Buds Pro. Google combined their all-new custom 6-core audio processor with an 11mm (around 0.43-inches) driver for dynamic results. There’s some great frequency range to enjoy, and Google’s sound profile handles heavy bass performance better than expected. The inclusion of a Volume EQ gives bass and treble frequencies a boost when listening at low volumes. A five-band EQ and spatial audio are set to release sometime later this year.

Spotify streaming on the AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Conversely, the AirPods Pro surpass audio expectations, boasting a warm, wide soundstage to hear instruments and vocals better. Bass is elevated to give music tracks more punch. Users are given the option to tweak sound via iPhone settings by selecting from over 20+ presets. 

Moreover, these buds give you spatial audio right out of the box. For those unaware of the feature, it creates convincing 3D sound that can be enjoyed on select Apple Music tracks and Dolby Atmos (opens in new tab)-supported videos. Users can also share audio with a second pair of Apple/Beats headphones or earbuds that have the H1 processor.

For those reasons, the winner seems clear here.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Active noise cancellation

Our reviewer testing the Google Pixel Buds Pro's active noise cancellation in his child's playroom

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Audio performance is important, but so are these earbuds' ability to reduce the amount of ambient background noise we hear when wearing them.

Google’s noise-cancelling technology does a fantastic job of silencing low- and mid-frequency sounds, while minimizing high-frequency sounds. The Pixel Buds Pro’s unsung feature is wind resistance, and the built-in mics have wind-blocking mesh covers that heavily diminish the whisking effects created in gusty conditions. Transparency mode is just as impressive, allowing ambient noises and voices to be heard clearly in numerous settings.

The AirPods Pro being tested in New York City

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The AirPods Pro remains one of the better true wireless noise-cancellers out there. It blocks out common distractions like loud TVs, talkative pedestrians, and some kitchen appliances (e.g., dishwashers, microwaves) incredibly well. High-pitched neutralization isn’t its strength, but Apple’s mic array minimizes these noises well enough to keep you focused when working. We like the AirPods Pro’s Transparency Mode just as much as the Pixel Buds Pro’s version, and there is even an alternative called Live Listen that sends sounds to the mic of your iPhone to hear your surroundings.

Overall, ANC is equally great on both models.

Winner: Tie

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Special features and apps

Apple’s heavy focus on software has allowed them to update all H1-powered AirPods through firmware updates, giving these models new features and extending their lifespan.

Testing Apple's Ear Tip Fit Test being used on the AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

The AirPods Pro has taken full advantage of this, receiving notable features like automatic switching, Find My [AirPods], Siri Announce Messages, and Conversation Boost to enhance clarity on calls. Let us not forget aforementioned ones like ANC, audio sharing, Ear Tip Fit Test, “Hey Siri” voice activation, and spatial audio. There are numerous other AirPods Pro tricks worth checking out as well.

The AirPods Pro instantly pairs with iOS/macOS devices once opening the charging case, have a range of up to 45 feet, and hold a steady connection during FaceTime calls and streaming sessions.

Accessing the Google Pixel Buds Pro's settings and extra features

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The Pixel Buds Pro’s feature set isn’t as lengthy as the AirPods Pro or most sub-$200 models, but you get a few serviceable features that enhance usability. We’ve already brought you up to speed on the majority: ANC, Eartip Seal Check, Google Assistant, Google Translate, Notifications, spatial audio (coming later in 2022), and Volume EQ.

At least Google gives you excellent connectivity. The Pixel Buds Pro not only support one-tap Google Fast Pair for Android devices, but also Bluetooth multipoint (pair to two devices simultaneously) and audio switching to seamlessly transition between audio sources. These buds pair quickly with Apple devices, whereas the AirPods Pro makes it a little more difficult to pair with Android devices.

It's a tough decision, but Apple's slew of updates steers the AirPods to victory.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Call quality

You’ll find only one of these earbuds on our list of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. Which one? The AirPods Pro. Apple’s beam-forming mics produce loud, clean-sounding calls and reduce background interference remarkably well.

A FaceTime call being taken on the AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The Pixel Buds Pro has stronger wind resistance, but, unfortunately, it suffers from muffling and low volume during voice and video calls.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Battery life

Google Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro displayed in cases next to each other

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google has Apple beat in battery life by a reasonable margin. ANC playtime on the Pixel Buds Pro is 7 hours, which is 2.5 hours more than the AirPods Pro. Turning off the feature extends playtime to 11 hours. The AirPods Pro only gets you 30 minutes extra when ANC is disabled. 

Additionally, Google’s charging case also holds more portable power (20 to 31 hours), depending how you use their buds. The AirPods Pro maxes out at 24 hours. Each of these cases support wireless charging and quick charging (five minutes equals one hour of listening time). 

Oddly, Google does not include a charging cable with the Pixel Buds Pro, but that's not enough of a detractor to take this win away from the Pixel Buds.

Winner: Google Pixel Buds Pro

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Verdict

It's a close call and will still likely be determined by which smartphone platform you're already familiar with, but overall the AirPods Pro offers more bang for your buck. Noise cancellation is highly effective to shush around 85% of ambient noise in your vicinity. Music and movies sound compelling, especially when enabling spatial mode. All the cool features attached to the H1 chip extend functionality in many ways. Its only flaws are the low battery life and long-stem design. 

Google Pixel Buds ProApple AirPods Pro
Price and value (5)34
Design (15)1311
Controls (10)1010
Audio quality (20)1617
Active noise cancellation(20)1717
Special features and apps (15)1015
Call quality (5)35
Battery life (10)75
Total score (100)7984

The Pixel Buds Pro are a praiseworthy noise-cancelling debut for Google. These buds offer a nice package of Google smarts, robust ANC, and satisfying sound in a comfortable, clean package. Improvements in battery life, wind resistance, and touch controls are also noted. Had it not been for the lack of extra features and loose fit, they could have been recognized as the best Android wireless earbuds and a top-tier AirPods Pro alternative.

Next: Check out the best noise-cancelling earbuds to find out where each ranks compared to the rest of the models we've reviewed.

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.