Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Delivering excellent value

At Rs 9,999, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series is the latest TWS entrant in the sub-Rs 10,000 price category. But is the new Pixel Buds better than the recently unveiled OnePlus Buds Pro or Nothing Ear (1)? India Today Tech tries to answer that in this review.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Delivering excellent value
Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Delivering excellent value

The Pixel Buds A-Series truly wireless earbuds are special for Google because it marks the entry into the personal wireless audio segment in India.

What this means is that this is the first true wireless earphones from Google in the country and packs a punch in terms of the set of features and overall value. The Google Pixel Buds A-Series not only promises a "premium audio experience" but also hands-free access to Google Assistant.

It also comes with water and sweat resistance to further sweeten the overall package. Similar to the Pixel 3a, 4a, and 5a, the all-new Google Pixel Buds is suffixed with an "A", which means it offers some decent features but at an accessible price.

But, is the Rs 9,999 price tag worth it for the Google Pixel Buds A-Series in India? The question is crucial because now the sub-Rs 10,000 segment has some intense rivalry thanks to recent launches of the OnePlus Buds Pro and Nothing Ear (1) truly wireless earbuds. Since I have already reviewed both the OnePlus and Nothing TWS, it should be easier for me to answer whether you should choose the Google Pixel Buds A-Series over its competition.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Impressive looks and comfortable fit

Pixel Buds A-Series remind me a lot about the shape of the egg I used to draw in my primary class. It's oval and is more compact than most of the TWS options available in India. The charging case definitely has an appeal to it and looks different from the rest of the truly wireless options under Rs 10,000.

At around 53 grams, the Pixel Buds A-Series charging case is lightweight, and each earbud weighs about 5 grams, which is also comparatively light for everyday use. Unlike Samsung's ugly bean-shaped earbuds, the Pixel Buds A-Series sport the iconic Pixel Buds design that sits almost flush with the ears. When plugged in, the Pixel Buds A-Series has a low profile that looks subtle, and the best part is that the snug fit ensures that they do not fall while you run, jump, or walk.

We are living in a post-pandemic era (it may be too early to call post, but fingers crossed), which means that there are chances that you're wearing a mask whenever you step out of your home for anything. While TWS designs may have never considered this, but I suppose they need to now. The Pixel Buds A-Series comes with a stabiliser arc that offers a flush-to-ear design which means you can comfortably wear or remove your face mask while the Google buds are plugged into your ear. I would definitely give the Pixel Buds A-Series brownie points for the design that keeps me worry-free while this never-ending loop of wearing and taking off your mask takes place throughout the day. I faced this issue with the AirPods Pro, where I have dropped it multiple times just while wearing a mask.

The charging case feels sturdy enough and has magnets that hold the earbuds tightly. However, if you drop the charging case, get ready to locate the earbuds on the floor, as happened twice during the review. The case has a matte finish which I liked, and it can also double up as a fidget spinner (almost). The Pixel Buds A-Series come in a single Clearly White colour.

The top surface of the earbud has a matte finish, which is comfortable to grip, while the lower part has a glossy material. There are minor cost cuttings on the earbuds, like there are two charging pins, and the nozzle is plastic made and not metal as we see on the premium Pixel Buds 2.

The earbuds come with a beamforming microphone as well as a noise-reduction mic towards the top part. In addition, each earbud comes with capacitive touch sensors for music, calls and Assistant controls. There's also a single IR proximity sensor for in-ear detection to play and pause automatically. Talking about touch controls, the earbud can be tapped once to play or pause, tap twice to skip or three taps to rewind. However, you will have to rely on Google Assistant for adjusting volume controls, which can be a task if you're in a buzzy place.

Google says that the earbuds come with custom-designed 12mm dynamic drivers and sport spatial vents to reduce plugged ear feeling. In addition, you can choose between three ear tip sizes for the best fit.

Each earbud comes with a stabiliser arc that gently tucks in the ear while the soft-fit ear tip goes inside. However, after reviewing dozens of TWS options, I can say that the Google Pixel Buds A-Series offers a more comfortable fit.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Set up and Pixel Buds app

Setting up the Pixel Buds A-Series is easy. Open the lid and press the pairing button on the back of the charging case for a few seconds. A pop-up will appear on the Android device to connect the earbuds and then follow the instructions to download the Pixel Buds mobile app on your phone. While I used the Pixel Buds A-Series with an iPhone as well as an Android device. But, I found that using it with an Android device was way more convenient than using it with an iPhone. More so because there's no dedicated Pixel Buds app for the iPhone.

Once you have the Pixel Buds app on your Android device, your life is easy. You can tweak settings for Google Assistant and use the Find device feature if you lose any of the earbuds around your home or couch. You can also enable Bass boost under the Sound setting on the app. There's also the Adaptive Sound setting, which optimises volume based on environmental noise. A feature that I chose to enable by default initially, but I noticed that it also ate some battery juice. Both the Bass boost and Adaptive Sound do affect the overall battery life of the Pixel Buds A-Series.

There's also an option for in-ear detection, which you can enable or disable from the app. The Pixel Buds app also offers the Firmware Update option under More settings.

One of the biggest highlight features of the Pixel Buds A-Series has to be Google Assistant goodies. It is the only earbud available in India that comes with this sort of integration with the digital voice assistant. You can activate the assistant with the hot word "Hey Google" and do everything you can with the assistant on your Android phone - right from setting alarms, checking the weather, dialling a saved contact, or checking for traffic at or around a place.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Balanced performance but lacks bass

The Pixel Buds A-Series is designed for people who love the balanced sound output. There was not one moment during my testing where I felt that anything was missing except the bass. The bass boost does help with the bass output to some extent, and I felt it was good enough.

Since I recently reviewed the OnePlus Buds Pro, I kept wanting more bass output throughout the Pixel Buds A-Series review duration. Honestly, the bass output on the Pixel Buds should be satisfying for most people. However, if you're someone who loves the bass, then look elsewhere.

Apart from bass, the mid and highs are nice. When I played the Titanium by David Guetta track, the Pixel Buds A-Series handled it well. I could notice the thumping low-end and chaotic background noise nicely. From a chaotic song to a soothing one, the Pixel Buds handled Tu Bin Btaaye from Rang De Basanti, one of the majestic compositions by AR Rahman, nicely. The deep bass and highs were comfortably handled, while the vocals are crisp as well.

If there's one thing that could make the Pixel Buds A-Series a great package, then it is the noise cancellation feature. You can feel the missing ANC feature while travelling on a train or a street where your music can be interrupted by the constant hustle and bustle. The noise cancellation feature, along with a transparency mode, would have been a great addition. However, Google needs to understand that the TWS market in India is evolving rather rapidly and even affordable options like the Nothing ear (1) come with an ANC feature.

As expected, the Pixel Buds A-Series comes with an IPX4 rating for water and sweat resistance, so even if it's a rainy day or a humid one where you will have sweaty workout sessions, these earbuds can be a great companion.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Call clarity

Google has extensively marketed the beamforming mics on the Pixel Buds A-Series, and in real-world scenarios, it works efficiently. From talking on a phone in a market to a roof with wind noise in the background, the Pixel Buds A-Series offers a clear voice to the person you are talking to, and the Adaptive Sound adjusts the volume to fit ambient noise around you. Long story short, the Pixel Buds A-Series is a great TWS option for calling.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Battery life is decent

Google claims an impressive up to 5 hours of listening time on a single charge and up to 24 hours with the charging case. While I couldn't test the buds for an entire day. But, on a single charge, the Pixel Buds A-Series lasted for roughly 3.5 hours, which is impressive. Mind you, no noise cancellation feature goes in favour of the earbuds.

I tested the earbuds for a full day with about 8-10 hours of mixed usage, where I also charged it using the case for calls, music listening and streaming videos on the phone. The case was at 60 per cent charge after extensive use (same 8-10 hours of usage), while earbuds stood at around the 50 per cent mark when charged twice using the case for 20 minutes each.

Additionally, the earbuds support fast charging, which means a 15-minute charge in the case will offer up to 3 hours of listening time. However, the earbuds take about an hour to charge fully. During my testing, I noticed that the charging case takes about 70 minutes to charge fully.

From left top to right bottom: Nothing ear (1), OnePlus Buds Pro, Google Pixel Buds A-Series, AirPods Pro

Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Verdict

At Rs 9,999, the Pixel Buds A-Series is a balanced package for anyone who wants compact true wireless earphones. It offers a solid design with hands-free Google Assistant integration, which is a neat addition. The earbuds provide excellent call clarity, comfortable sung fit, and the compact charging case can fit into any tiniest pocket in your jeans. Decent battery life is an add-on. But for me, the biggest highlight of the Pixel Buds A-Series is its clean and balanced sound output. Of course, the package may not appeal to audiophiles, but for casual music lovers, the Pixel Buds A-Series may be the right TWS option.

Yes, there are a few misses, like no noise cancellation feature and no wireless charging support for the case. There's another minor issue: that the volume touch control on the buds is missing, which could be an issue if you're riding a bike and want to control the music on your TWS with gestures. Finally, the bass output may feel lacking for some users, but then that's also about preference.

Compared to the Nothing ear (1), the Pixel Buds A-Series offers a better tuned audio performance which is more balanced. But then the ear (1) is way cheaper than the Pixel Buds A-Series and comes with ANC, so it depends on your budget.

Overall, the Pixel Buds A-Series is a balanced TWS option where a lot goes in its favour. If you're in the market and want a great package, you cannot go wrong with the Pixel Buds A-Series true wireless earphones. On the other hand, if you love bass output and want the ANC feature, then the OnePlud Buds Pro could be a great alternative.