Skip to main content

Surface Earbuds vs AirPods: Which Should You Buy?

Apple AirPods 2 vs Microsoft Surface Earbuds
(Image credit: Future)

After receiving critical and consumer praise for its Surface Headphones, Microsoft is delving deeper into the audio space with the Surface Earbuds. Set to debut later in the year, the buds are priced at a premium $249, which is more expensive than leading competitors including Samsung, Jabra and of course Apple. The buds boast all-day comfort, 24 hours of battery life (with charging case) and productivity-focused features.

Meanwhile, the 2nd-generation AirPods $199 (with wireless charging case) have become ubiquitous. These days, it’s harder to not see a pair of the odd-looking buds in the wild. Minimalistic looks aside, the AirPods offer blink-and-you’ll miss it pairing, 24 hours of battery life with its charging case and wireless charging.

But which pair of wireless earbuds is right for you? We’re done an early comparison of the two buds to see how they stack up. Stay tuned for an update once the Surface Earbuds go on sale. 

Apple AirPods vs. Microsoft Suface Earbuds
Apple AirPods (2nd Gen)Microsoft Surface Earbuds
Price$199$249
Size0.7 x 0.7 x 1.6-inch1 x 8 inches
Weight0.14 ounces, 1.4 ounces (case)0.25 ounces, 1,4 ounces (case)
Battery Life5 hours (24 hours charging case)8 hours (24 charging case)
Wireless ChargingYesYes

Design

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Both the AirPods and the Surface Earbuds have polarizing looks, but the latter forced me to let out an audible groan. They look like a pair of ear gauges owned by someone who wants to rage against the machine, corporate-style. The light grey Surface Earbuds jut out of your ears and offer a functional albeit large piece of surface space (more on that later). The Buds are also IPX4 rated for sweat-resistance, which is more than we can say for the AirPods.

Although, the Surface Earbuds look awkward, I’ve been told by several of my colleagues who tried them on that they’re actually very comfortable. It's a cinch to secured the Surface Earbuds, as all it takes is(a quick counter-clockwise turn. When inserted in your ears, the buds only make two points of contact in your ear, which lends credence to the all-day comfort claim. However, Microsoft's buds are noticeably heavier than the AirPods. 

Look, I’m never not going to make a “There’s Something About Mary” joke when I see a pair of AirPods. They just look that weird. Looks aside, I’ve never had a problem fitting the tiny white buds in my ear. The problem for some like me is that it can be tough to get a secure fit, which becomes worrisome when you’re making any vigorous movement. I’ve never lost an AirPod yet, but the thought is always in the back of my mind when I’m barreling down a flight of stairs. Still, the AirPods are incredibly light, so I’ve definitely worn them comfortably for more than two hours.

Early Winner: Apple AirPods

Features

Apple Airpods

(Image credit: Future)

Apple didn’t reinvent the wheel with the new AirPods as much as they refined it. The company upgraded to the H1 chip from the W1 chip. The new component increases pairing speed between the AirPods and various devices, including smartphones, laptops and tablets. The upgrade also reduces audio latency in mobile games, which comes in handy when you’re playing a first-person shooter. 

The earbuds also offer more seamless integration with Siri. In fact, they're the first buds to offer hands-free interaction with the digital assistant. Paired with the four integrated microphones, the AirPods even picked up my voice on a crowded street, summoning Siri almost immediately. The overall call quality has also improved. The AirPods offer tactile controls for activating Siri, volume controls or skipping tracks depending on what you program in the Settings menu.

There’s a reason that the Surface Earbuds look like mini dinner plates, and it’s not to look edgy. That extra surface area is designed for performing gestures. Double-tapping to play or pause a track is simple and so is swiping up or down to adjust the volume. Holding the Bud to launch Cortana on your PC or the assistant of choice on your phone is not a hold so much as a prolonged touch. 

Usually when you have to press something on a wireless bud it means you’re pressing the device deeper into your ear canal, which is more often than not uncomfortable. 

One of the cooler Surface Earbuds features is the ability to create real-time captions in PowerPoint. That means the Surface Earbuds are essentially transcribing your words, turning it into readable text for your audience.

Early Winner: Microsoft Surface Earbuds

Battery Life

Microsoft Surface Earbuds

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The AirPods have an estimated battery life of 5 hours, which isn’t too far off from my real-time usage of 4 hours and 49 minutes. With the charger, you get an additional 24 hours of life. And when the time comes to recharge, if you have the wireless charger, you can get 3 hours of listening time (2 hours of talk time) in 15 minutes from a compatible hub.

If the Surface Earbuds live up to the hype, they might be the longest-lasting truly wireless earbuds at 8 hours. And when it’s finally time to pop them in their charging case, you get another 24 hours, totaling 32 hours of jam time. And like the AirPods, it also offers wireless charging.

Early Winner: Microsoft Surface Earbuds

Value

Microsoft is bold. It’s betting that you’re willing to spend $249 on the Surface Earbuds. And I get it, it’s offering a lot in terms compared to the AirPods. But at the end of the day money and budgets talk, and $199 ($169 on sale) for a pair of AirPods and the wireless charging case is a bargain, extra features or no.

Early Winner: Apple AirPods

Outlook

For now, the AirPods and the Surface Earbuds are in a dead heat. Both earbuds have a polarizing design, but people are used to the AirPods, enough so that they’ve become a status symbol. Plus, you have near-instantaneous pairing, hands-free Siri and a lot of subtle innovations such as reduced audio latency. Plus, they’re noticeably cheaper at $199 ($169 on sale). 

But as weird-looking as the Surface Buds are, they offer a host of easy-to-use gestures, and they are surprisingly comfortable given their large size. And at 8 hours, Microsoft’s buds might be the longest-lasting wireless earbuds available when the launch this holiday season. Overall, it seems that Microsoft has a bonafide contender on its hands, but only if people don't get turned off by the design and higher price.