Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review: AirPod alternatives that won't fall out

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Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review

Completely wireless earbuds usually come in two varieties: round buds that slightly stick out of your ears and fake AirPods with stems that extend down from the ear. Plantronics took a different approach with its BackBeat Fit 3100 headset, which consists of two cordless buds that hook around the ears for maximum security.

Plantronics designed these earbuds for outdoor workouts, with tips that sit just outside the ear canal so you can easily hear the environment around you. That means some songs sound muffled when you're running outside, but as this BackBeat Fit 3100 review will explain, it's a trade-off that some athletes won't mind.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review: Design

The silicone around-ear hooks (which come in black or gray) and metallic blue earbuds look vaguely futuristic, but they are relatively subtle for wireless buds. Completely cordless options usually bulge out from the ear (seethe Bose SoundSport Free) or hang down from the ear (like the Apple AirPods). The BackBeat Fit 3100 buds are more streamlined, even with the ear hook. The tip, which isn't interchangeable, is a bright orange-y red. Luckily, no one will see this tip in your ear, so the obnoxious color isn't a huge deal. A small wing helps the bud fit more securely.

Plantronics also designed a unique, soft-shell charging case for the company's latest earphones. The case is larger than those from rivals Jabra and Jaybird, but it also sports a convenient zip enclosure that makes it easier to open than Jabra's Elite Active 65t case.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review

The case performs double duty, storing the buds when they're not in use and also charging them up. My one complaint: The left earbud charges on the right side of the case, and the right bud charges on the left side. I kept forgetting about this, even after sticking the wrong bud in each ear several times.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review

Otherwise, the BackBeat Fit 3100 charging case is one of my favorites. You can easily see how much juice is left in the case by pressing the center button, marked with a lightning bolt. Four LEDs light up to indicate a full charge. Each bud snaps into its slot, so you know they're both charging.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review: Fit and comfort

Unlike other wire-free Bluetooth sport earbuds, the BackBeat Fit 3100 buds don't seal into your ear. Instead, each bud loops around an ear, with a tip that rests just inside the ear canal. Plantronics doesn't provide a range of tip sizes, because the earbuds are designed to let in ambient noise. (This may bother some people, but more on that later.)

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review

It took some getting used to, because most other totally cordless earphones are customizable for a sealed fit. But after a day or two, the earbuds felt normal to me. The security of the around-ear hooks was an added bonus. With other wireless earphones, I sometimes worry that they'll fall out when I tuck my hair behind my ears or go for a run. I didn't worry about that with the BackBeat Fit 3100.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review: Fitness

These earphones are waterproof and sweat-resistant, but as for fitness-focused features, Plantronics doesn't offer a lot of bells and whistles.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review

The Backbeat smartphone app allows you to customize the functionality of the taps on each earbud, which makes music playback and other controls easier to access while you're working out.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review: Sound quality

The BackBeat Fit 3100's design allows in ambient noise, which is useful for outdoor runners who want to stay aware of their surroundings. If that's your top concern, these are the earbuds to buy.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review

Some songs sound a bit muted, though, because of the earbuds' design. Bass-heavy songs like Travis Scott's "Sicko Mode" lost a little kick, because the tips don't fit directly inside the ear canal, allowing in the sounds of traffic, kids yelling and my shoes hitting the pavement. If you'd prefer a pair of earphones that give you the option to filter in noise or block it out, try Jabra's Elite Active 65t. But the audio never dropped out as I ran, which is key for Bluetooth running earbuds.

MORE: The best headphones and earbuds for enjoying music

I put these headphones to the test by making some important finance-related calls — the kind that really need to come in loud and clear. I had no issues with the audio or the Bluetooth connection as I asked very detailed questions about important paperwork for 15 minutes.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review: Battery

Like all other completely wireless Bluetooth earbuds, the BackBeat 3100's case is also a charger. The headset offers 5 hours of battery life, and the case stores another 10 hours. The combined 15-hour battery life translates to about two weeks of use in my experience: a handful of 30-minute runs, daily 45-minute commutes to and from the office, and a few phone calls.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review: Verdict

The BackBeat 3100 is designed for a specific kind of person: a runner or cyclist who wants an ultrasecure fit and the ability to easily hear outdoor noise. If bass-forward audio to fuel your workouts is high-priority and if you want to be able to filter out ambient sound, then go for Jabra's Elite Active 65t, still our top pick for completely wireless workout headphones.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.