Google Pixel Buds 2 review roundup: What critics love and hate

Google Pixel 2 review roundup
(Image credit: Google)

The Pixel Buds 2 have arrived, and Google's latest attempt at creating an Apple AirPods rival undoes many of the mistakes the company made with the original Pixel Buds.

For starters, Google's new $179 earbuds are truly wireless and no longer connected by an annoying cable like the originals. Audio has also been improved, and there's a new Adaptive Sound feature that adjusts the volume based on the conditions around you. The Pixel Buds 2 also benefit from fast pairing and an on-board Google Assistant.

The biggest trade-off with the Pixel Buds 2 is that you don't get active noise cancellation, which the AirPods Pro offer. But then again, the Pixel Buds 2 are considerably cheaper.

Our Pixel Buds 2 review is coming soon, but here's what other critics are saying about Google's new earbuds. The consensus: These are a definite improvement over the original Pixel Buds, though there are still some noteworthy flaws.

The Verge (Rating: 7.5/10)

Reviewing the Pixel Buds 2 for The Verge, Chris Welch believes Google did an impressive job correcting the mistakes it made with the original earbuds back in 2017. But some flaws remain, chiefly with how the Pixel Buds handle audio.

Google Pixel Buds 2 pros

"Google’s new, second-gen Pixel Buds are a vast improvement over the old in both concept and execution. Their design makes a ton more sense and is much easier to use, they’re comfortable to wear, and they’re right in lockstep with the competition on most core features."

"The Pixel Buds deliver a very enjoyable listening experience. Instruments are nicely layered with an enveloping soundstage. “Scott Street” by Phoebe Bridgers is always a good track for gauging detail and how expressive headphones are. And here, her vocals are never lost to everything else happening in the song’s crescendo."

Google Pixel Buds 2 cons

"Bass is the weakness of these earbuds, and I think that’s partly because the vent prevents the full-on seal you’d need for head-rattling bass."

"Like with other headphones that rely on swiping gesture controls, you have to be deliberate and precise when you’re using [the Pixel Buds] controls. It’s relatively easy to pause when you’re trying to change the volume and vice versa if you’re not mindful of your finger actions."

Laptop Mag (Rating: 4/5)

Sherri Smith believes that Google has redeemed itself with the Pixel Buds 2, even if these earbuds don't offer active noise cancellation. Her review for Laptop Mag found the earbuds delivered rich, precise audio — even if the volume is a bit quite — and that Google has come up with a design that balances style and comfort.

Google Pixel Buds 2 pros

"Move over AirPods Pro, there’s a new nearly instantaneously-pairing device in town. As soon as I popped the top on the Pixel Buds’ charging case, Google’s Fast Pair technology kicked in."

"This iteration of the Pixel Buds might be the best take on wireless earbuds touch controls I’ve had the pleasure of using. There’s just enough surface area to perform forward and backwards swipes to raise and lower the volume. "

Google Pixel Buds 2 cons

"What I wish Google included is an adjustable equalizer so I can create my own custom sound."

"In all of my [battery] tests, I noticed that the right bud tended to drain faster than the left."

Engadget (Rating: 83/100)

Engadget's Billy Steele is impressed by this overhaul to the Pixel Buds 2. While the lack of active noise cancellation is a con and the Adaptive Sound feature remains a work in progress, the Pixel Buds 2 proved to be very comfortable with improved performance by the included Google Assistant. Most importantly, they compare favorably to Apple's AirPods 2.

Google Pixel Buds 2 pros

"Google’s updated Pixel Buds are a revelation compared to the previous model. Not only are they true wireless now, but the smart features are reliable, the touch controls are easy to master and comfort is top-notch."

"If Google’s virtual helper is your assistant of choice, the Pixel Buds will likely serve you better than any other true wireless earbuds."

Google Pixel Buds 2 cons

"The sound increase [from the Adaptive Sound feature] is very subtle. I almost couldn’t tell it even happened. For this to be useful, the change needs to be noticeable, and perhaps coincide with a notification of some kind. So for now, the jury is still out."

"In terms of battery life, Google promises five hours on the earbuds themselves. That’s relatively low, but on par with Apple’s AirPods."

CNET (Rating: 8.5/10)

David Carnoy was pleased with the Pixel Buds 2 in his CNET review, praising their improved fit and excellent call quality. Even the audio, which may not measure up to the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM3, is still very good for wireless earbuds in this price range. His biggest complaint is that many of the Pixel Buds' extra features, like Google Translate, won't work with iPhones.

Google Pixel Buds 2 pros

"[The Pixel Buds 2] sound quite good, perform well and are worthy contenders in the premium true wireless earbuds arena, particularly for Android users."

"The 56.1-gram wireless charging case (with USB-C charging port) is really nice. It's compact, feels solid in your hand and has a smooth matte finish. I liked it better than the AirPods' case and it feels more premium than Galaxy Buds Plus' case."

Google Pixel Buds 2 cons

"For sound, [the Pixel Buds 2] don't rise to the level of the top sounding true wireless earbuds."

"There's an app for non-Pixel Android devices -- with Pixel phones it's integrated into the system -- but no app for iOS devices, which is too bad."

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.