The Apple AirPods Pro aren’t the best value or the very top noise-canceling earbuds out there, but they’re an excellent choice if you’re an iPhone user. Apple’s fitness ecosystem works seamlessly across its devices, but Android owners are better off with an alternative set of earbuds.
Great sound quality
Good battery life
Android users lose key features
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This is Fit&Well’s Apple AirPods Pro review. Apple’s true wireless headphones are well-known by sight: you only have to look around on public transit and in office spaces these days to spot at least one pair of sleek white AirPods.
The latest generation of AirPods Pro, complete with a MagSafe wireless charging case, are excellent in function as well as form, stuffed with all the high-end gadgetry we’ve come to expect from the best workout earbuds.
Transparency mode, active noise cancellation, wireless charging, and a snug, adjustable fit to stay secure in your ears during working out. But can these all-rounders compete with their competitors in the workout earbud stakes? We put the AirPods through their paces to find out more.
Apple AirPods Pro review: Price and availability
The Apple AirPods Pro can be bought directly from the Apple Store, priced at $249 in the US and £239 in the UK.
However, they can be found for less at lots of other retailers, with the headphones going for $199 at Best Buy for US buyers. In the UK, they can be snapped up for £189 at Argos, saving you £40. They are very popular items, so looking around can usually net you a great deal on these wireless earbuds.
Apple AirPods Pro review: Features
The AirPods Pro are stuffed with great features. Compared with the entry-level AirPods, the AirPods Pro come with active noise cancellation, which intelligently filters out background noise with several microphones dotted around the earpiece.
There’s also a Transparency mode for when you want to hear what’s going on around you, which you can activate by holding the “force sensor” at the stem of the earbud. This is slightly different to the similarly-named HearThrough mode on the Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds.
The Jabra set elevates the background noises without entirely disabling the ANC, while the Transparency mode on the AirPods Pro effectively turns off the ANC, so it’s as though you aren’t wearing the earbuds at all.
I also found them comfortable to wear for hours at a time, thanks to the in-bud vent system for pressure equalization. The headphones come equipped with Apple’s H1 chip, which powers the ANC and lets you talk to Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant.
The latest AirPods Pro also support Spatial Audio, an immersive audio format which takes the position of your head into account, so it sounds like you’re actually in the room.
Battery life is said to be five hours for the headphones themselves, with a total of 19 hours when you take into account the buds charge inside the case. The case’s wireless fast-charging means just five minutes in the case afford you another hour of listening – perfect for long journeys.
If you’re an Android user, however, you lose some features. The in-app Ear Tip Fit Test, which helps you select the right size silicone tips for your ears, can’t be done on Android. Ambient Noise Reduction, which allows you to toggle how much background sound you can filter out, can’t be used either – transparency mode is either on or off here. Audio Sharing, which allows multiple AirPods users to listen to the same source, is also gone for Android users.
I’m sure you’re getting the picture. Much of the intelligence of the AirPods depends on the Apple and iOS ecosystem. Using them on Android reduces them to smart-looking, high-quality noise canceling earbuds, with nothing else going for them. At full price, at least, Android users may want to look elsewhere.
Apple AirPods Pro review: Design and comfort
The AirPods Pro are very comfortable, snug, and as secure as any set of earbuds; the ones without the additional over-ear hooks, anyway. Your choice of three sizes of silicone ear tips are intelligently selected via the AirPods Pro Ear Tip Fit Test, available in-app. The test automatically suggests the best size to suit your ears, and although this sounds trivial, it’s actually quite important–and not just for comfort.
A good seal stops sound from leaking in from outside or escaping, which is essential when it comes to getting the best out of these smart noise-cancellers.
However, the AirPods are extremely comfortable. The gentle curve is a lot less obtrusive and more attractive than the old straight stem. The additional point of contact against your cheek, combined with the silicone seal, also made the AirPods extremely secure on runs and during gym sessions. Only once or twice did I feel the buds loosen of their own accord, and that was before I used the Ear Tip Fit Test and went up a size.
Design-wise, the AirPods look great and are easy to use. Setting them up and using them is an absolute breeze – on iOS. On Android, they work as well as any other Bluetooth headphones, but trying to find third-party workarounds for key features like Audio Sharing and Ambient Noise Reduction is nigh-on impossible.
Apple AirPods Pro review: Sound and performance
The AirPods Pro are no slouch in the sound department. When I was out for a run on a busy street and in the gym blocking out dance tunes with my own music, the audio quality was absolutely superb.
Everything I listened to had a satisfying boom to it. With silky tenor tones and bassy beats during cardio-focused dance tracks, right down to the utter filth in my industrial metal weightlifting playlist, the music was an all-around pleasure to listen to.
Podcasts, too, performed well, along with audiobooks–I frequently run while listening to books, and vocals were reproduced with great care and complexity. The noise cancellation allowed me to really get lost in the narrative, even along a busy thoroughfare. Again, adjusting the finer details wasn’t possible on my Android device compared to my partner’s iPhone, but they performed well enough away from the Apple ecosystem for me to not immediately discount them.
The noise-canceling held up well in both gym and running environments, although not quite as well as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, which remain the top in-ear noise-canceling buds I’ve ever tried. The battery actually felt like it lasted longer than its mooted five-hour runtime; I used the earbuds at work all afternoon, then went for a long run with no signs of slouching. The buds performed extremely well in all tests.
Apple AirPods Pro review: Verdict
If you have an iPhone or Apple Watch, the AirPods Pro are likely going to be your first choice. They boast great sound quality. They charge quickly. They look sleek and feel unobtrusive. One big problem is that they are squarely inside the Apple ecosystem, so if you’re already an iPhone user, go ahead and consider this a five-star review.
For anybody else, you’re sadly locked out of a selection of features notable enough to drop the Apple AirPods Pro down at least one star, maybe even two at full price. With that in mind, I’ve put the Apple AirPods Pro square in the middle at four stars: they’re amazing headphones, especially when you can grab a deal and get them $50 cheaper or more at a third-party retail outlet, but anyone other than existing Apple users will find them lacking.
Also consider: Jabra Elite 7 Active
The Jabra Elite 7 Active contains a lot of what makes the AirPods Pro great, with active noise canceling and HearThrough modes allowing you to tailor your listening experiences, from noisy gyms to quiet coffee shops. The battery life is even better than Apple's offering, at 30 hours with the case included, and the Shakegrip design means the buds stay snug in your ears. They're also slightly cheaper than AirPods, will all those premium features accessible for both Android and iOS users.
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Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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