Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus are a legitimate AirPods alternative

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Samsung)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus offer stellar battery life, impressive sound and a great fit for less than the price of AirPods.


  • +

    Superb battery life

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    Comfortable, lightweight fit

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    Impressive overall sound

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    Handy companion app

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    Wireless charging case


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    Finicky touch controls

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    No active noise cancellation

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The Samsung Galaxy Buds made a huge splash in the wireless earbuds arena when they first launched, and the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus are even better. These buds sound great, feel comfortable, offer lots of neat features and boast an incredible battery life that puts the Apple AirPods to shame.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy Buds Plus' strong overall performance and long battery life make them a contender among the best wireless earbuds you can buy, even after the launch of upgraded models like the Galaxy Buds Live, Galaxy Buds Pro and upcoming Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro.

If you want a slick-looking pair of earbuds that sound good and last incredibly long on a charge (all for less than the price of AirPods or AirPods Pro), read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review to find out why they're still worth a look.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus cost can currently be found for as little as $110, and come in four colors: black, white, red and cloud blue. The red variation appears to currently be exclusive to the U.S., while the other three colors are available internationally. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus specs

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Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
ColorsWhite, Black, Blue, Red
Battery Life (Estimated)11 hours, 22 hours (charging case)
0.7 x 0.9 x 0.8 inches
Weight (earbuds, Charging Case)
0.2 ounces, 1.4 ounces

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Design

The Galaxy Buds Plus look nearly identical to the original Galaxy Buds, and that's not a bad thing. Samsung's earbuds have a sleek and circular design, with subtle, swappable wing tips at the top of each bud for keeping the headphones secure in your ear. I like that the Galaxy Buds Plus don't hang out of your ear like the AirPods do, though the actual buds are notably thicker than Apple's, and they felt a little awkward anytime I tried to wear a hat over them.

Another design advantage the Galaxy Buds Plus has over the AirPods: color! While my review unit came in a standard, Apple-esque white, I appreciate that the Buds Plus are also available in black, red and cloud blue — the latter of which matches its corresponding Galaxy S20 quite nicely. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy Buds Plus use a pill-shaped charging case that charges both over USB Type-C and wirelessly — a feature you'll have to pay an extra premium for on the $199 version of the standard AirPods. The Buds Plus case is notably bigger than the standard AirPods case, and I sometimes find myself doing some guesswork when it comes to properly putting the Buds Plus back in the case, but it still fits in my pocket just fine.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy Buds Plus sport an IPX2 rating for enduring a few splashes and survived a few scuffles in light rain just fine. By contrast, the AirPods don't sport a water-resistance rating, while the AirPods Pro have an IPX4 rating for resistance against sweat and water. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Comfort and fit

Once I adjusted their fit to my liking, I found Samsung's Galaxy Buds Plus to be some of the comfiest earbuds I've ever worn. In fact, these 0.2-ounce buds are so lightweight that I often forgot I had anything in my ears at all when I wore them.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy Buds Plus' default ear tips felt too small, which is why I'm glad Samsung includes three swappable tips for different-size ears. The Buds Plus also include three swappable wing tip options, so you can find the one that best keeps the buds secured to your upper ear.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: App and features

Despite being a Samsung device, the Galaxy Buds Plus paired to my iPhone 8 Plus over Bluetooth within seconds, and I've yet to have any connection issues. Even better, you can tweak the Buds Plus to your liking via the Galaxy Buds Plus app for iOS and Android, which lets you check battery status, activate the buds' ambient sound feature, switch between EQ presets and customize the touch controls.

One of the Buds Plus' key features is Ambient Aware, which uses the earbuds' microphones to let in outside noise so that you can still hear cars and trains coming while you're jamming out to your favorite music. The feature mostly worked as advertised, picking up the ambient sounds of my busy Queens neighborhood even with music on. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

However, Ambient Aware is a bit too sensitive: It also amplified the sound of wind blowing into my ears and the rustling noises of my beanie as I put it over my head. Fortunately, Ambient Aware offers three sensitivity levels, and the lowest one was usually just fine for me. My AirPods do a better job letting in ambient noise naturally, as the Buds Plus tend to nestle more firmly into my ear. Still, I appreciate that Samsung provides an option for amplifying the sounds around you.

While the Galaxy Buds Plus can let outside noise in, there's no option for completely blocking out the outside world via active noise cancelling. That's understandable, given the price, as Apple's base AirPods don't tout ANC either. If active noise cancellation is important to you, you'll have to spring for higher-end buds such as the AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM3. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Touch controls

The Galaxy Buds Plus have touch-capacitive panels on either side, and while they offer a wider overall set of controls than the AirPods do, I found them to be a bit finicky and limited.

The Buds Plus offer three tap options — tap once to pause or play a track, twice to skip a track or answer a call, and three times to go to the previous track. While that's a wider range of tap options than what the AirPods offer, you can't customize what each tap does.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

What you can customize is what happens when you touch and hold the buds, which can be programmed to move volume up or down, enable your phone's voice assistant (Siri worked just fine for me on my iPhone) or activate ambient sound. I found these extra controls handy, particularly the ability to adjust volume without touching my phone.

However, I found the Galaxy Buds Plus' touchpads to be way too sensitive. I frequently paused tracks by accident whenever I touched the buds to adjust them in my ear. More frustratingly, the Buds Plus would often register my single tap as a double tap and skip a track that I meant to pause. It's not a total deal breaker, but the Buds Plus' controls don't feel quite as reliable as the ones I've gotten used to on my AirPods. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Audio quality

The Galaxy Buds Plus' dual AKG-tuned speakers offer crisp, balanced sound, particularly once I found the ear tip and EQ preset that best fit my preferences. 

Samsung's buds accurately captured the bright indie guitars, bouncy bass and bubbly vocals of Beach Bunny's "Promises." I had a similarly good time with radio pop, as I bobbed along to clear bass, sharp harmonized vocals and smooth synths when I unashamedly jammed out to Taylor Swift's "Delicate" in the office. 

Once it came time to maintain a facade of toughness and blast some heavy metal from Periphery, I enjoyed searing distorted guitars on tracks like "Blood Eagle." However, the song's bass and guttural vocals got a bit lost in the mix. I listened to quite a few podcasts while rocking the Galaxy Buds Plus and found that hosts' voices came through with impressive clarity. 

The Buds Plus app offers six EQ settings: normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic and treble boost. I stuck to the clear preset the most, as it offered a nice, balanced soundstage for the punk and indie rock tracks I listened to. The Buds Plus were a bit low on bass on their default setting, though the bass boost option made things sound a bit muddy.

I had a good time overall jamming out to my favorite bands on the Buds Plus for a few weeks, but I ultimately returned to my AirPods for their warmer, more bass-heavy sound. I appreciate that the Buds Plus are customizable, but Apple's buds just sound better out of the box.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Battery life

Here's where the Galaxy Buds Plus have Apple (and just about everyone else) beat: These things last forever on a charge. The Buds Plus are rated for 11 hours of battery life with an additional 11 hours from the case, which very much lines up with my experience.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

These buds survived a two-day journey that included long walks around New York and San Francisco, and a six-hour flight between the two cities, and I didn't ever have to recharge the case. Ever since, I've only recharged the case every few days after hours of continuous use while commuting and working every day.

The standard AirPods are rated for a much lower 5 hours of battery (with 24 from the charging case), and that pretty much lines up with how frequently mine tap out. The higher-end AirPods Pro are also rated for a skimpier 5 hours (or 4.5 if you're using active noise-cancellation and Transparency mode).

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Call quality

One of our biggest gripes with the original Galaxy Buds was call quality, something that Samsung tackled directly with the Galaxy Buds Plus by including a total of three microphones on the earbuds. Everyone I talked on the phone with while using the Buds Plus reported hearing me loud and clear, whether I was chatting with my mom on a busy street or catching up with a friend from my apartment. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Verdict

True, there are newer Galaxy earbuds available, but the much more affordable Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus still hold up. That's thanks to solid overall sound, a comfortable and lightweight design and some of the best battery life you can get from a pair of wireless buds. The handy companion app, ambient sound feature and solid microphone don't hurt, either.

If you want slightly better sound and more reliable touch controls, the $159 Apple AirPods are still among the best in their price range. There's also the superb Jabra Elite 75t, which offers passive noise cancellation and rich customization features for $30 more than the Buds Plus. Folks who want active noise cancellation are better off springing for the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro or the $249 AirPods Pro, though obviously these aren't nearly as affordable.

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.