OnePlus Buds Pro review: The cheaper AirPods Pro rival you always wanted

At a price of Rs 9,990, the OnePlus Buds Pro is a solid sub-Rs 10,000 truly wireless earbuds option in India. But how well does it sound? India Today Tech breaks down for you in the review.

OnePlus Buds Pro review: The cheaper AirPods Pro rival you always wanted
OnePlus Buds Pro review: The cheaper AirPods Pro rival you always wanted

OnePlus Buds Pro is the company's most premium truly wireless earbuds offering in India. While it sports a design that may remind you of the AirPods Pro, it comes with a price tag that is way less than Apple's TWS.

On paper, the OnePlus Buds Pro packs plenty of features, including adaptive noise cancellation, Warp Charge support, water-resistant certification, wireless charging support, and all that at Rs 9,990.

OnePlus Buds Pro is a product that the company has unveiled after making in-roads in the budget TWS category. OnePlus has been among the top five TWS brands for several quarters now and seems to have realised that a great package mixed with aggressive pricing is a combo that can work well in India.

In Q1 2021, OnePlus stood second with its Buds Z TWS as the best-selling model in the country, as per Counterpoint. In the second quarter as well, OnePlus Buds Z was again the top-selling TWS for the brand, helping it retain the second spot in the TWS category with a 12 per cent market share. According to the Counterpoint report, OnePlus was just behind boAt and ahead of Realme, Noise, and pTron, some of the other popular TWS brands in the country.

In my opinion, the company's "Never Settle" tagline suits its TWS portfolio best. There's a lot that rides on the OnePlus Buds Pro. So, long question short, is the OnePlus Buds Pro worth your money? India Today Tech tries to answer that in the review.

OnePlus Buds Pro review: Impressive build

OnePlus Buds Pro sports an interesting design, something that you will notice the moment you take the earbuds out of the case. It features a glossy finish on the stem, while a matte texture can be seen on the head. Elegant is the word to describe how good OnePlus Buds Pro looks.

The OnePlus Buds Pro has been launched in two colours - Glossy White and Matte Black, which I received for review. In my opinion, the Matte Black colour option looks classy. While the Glossy White will look more royal, I'm not sure how far the shine on the earbuds will remain. Additionally, the glossy finish on the stem of the White colour Buds Pro looks like a Chrome treatment we see on cars these days.

The black charging case has a matte finish with OnePlus branding on the top. It's a more flat-ish design than other charging cases we see with the upright placement of buds. Going by the overall rectangular, boxy charging case design may remind you of a ring box. But overall, I liked the compact case design, it's pocket friendly, and the magnets are strong enough to hold the lid close.

The hinge looks okay and should last a few years of regular use easily. However, the earbuds are placed in the charging case quite differently. Unlike AirPods Pro, you can't just push the buds into the case. Instead, there are Pogo pins on the case that charge the buds, and I like the placement. Initially, it took me a few attempts to learn the exact way to place the earbuds inside the Buds Pro case. Basically, the earbuds lie down on the charging case instead of vertical placement. The charging case packs a 520mAh battery and weighs around 50 grams.

Unlike other TWS devices, the OnePlus Buds Pro places the button used for pairing purposes inside the box, which is a neat placement. Inside the charging case, OnePlus has again used a matte finish that looks in sync with the exterior design.

Each earbud weighs just 4.35 grams and is a treat to use every day, thanks to a comfortable and snug fit. I like the Buds Pro's ergonomic design, which is comfortable for long calls or extended music sessions. You can also run the fit test on the OnePlus Buds app, which you can find integrated on the OnePlus devices—more on that in our performance section.

The company offers three sizes of silicone ear tips in the retail box, which is standard for most TWS available in India. Another thing that differentiates the OnePlus Buds Pro from the rest of the crowd is it doesn't include gesture controls like most in the TWS segment. OnePlus enables squeeze (or pinch is what OnePlus refers to) the stem to do various things like play or pause music, switch ANC modes or even choose the next or previous track.

Overall, the earbuds with dual-tone look stunning and offer a comfortable fit for the music listening experience. Talking about the retail package, the OnePlus Buds Pro ships in a minimalist box. You get a charging cable, silicone tips, user manual, and warranty card in the box apart from the Buds Pro.

OnePlus Buds Pro review: Wonderful app experience

Unlike before, the true wireless earphones now come with proper software support in the form of a companion app. The Buds Pro can be controlled via the integrated OnePlus Buds app on OnePlus devices. For non-OnePlus devices, the company recommends downloading the HeyMelody app, available for Android and iOS users.

Surprisingly, OnePlus Buds Pro ditches Google Fast Pair in favour of the company's own OnePlus Fast Pair, which works well with OnePlus, Android and iPhone devices.

Right from pairing your smartphone with the OnePlus Buds Pro to controlling various functions via the app, it's a smooth experience all around.

I have to admit that the OnePlus team has added some refinements that make the mobile app more than just a companion app for the Buds Pro. To start with, users can run an Earbud fit test to see how well the earbuds fit in the ear canals. This is also the test that can help you decide what silicone ear tip suits you best.

The next is a Personalised sound boost test that OnePlus calls the OnePlus Audio ID. The company decides what kind of hearing enhancement solution is needed for the user based on their hearing ability. The test is a 3-minute long one and plays a series of beeps at different frequencies to determine the hearing ability on both sides.

OnePlus has also added a special Zen Mode Air feature, which plays white noise tunes to soothe the user. You can choose between Warm Sunrise, Meditation, Summer seashore, Nighttime camping, and Iceland. The Medication and Iceland were my favourites and helped me focus when there was a lot of ambient noise around. However, users should note that the Zen Mode Air on Buds Pro and Zen Mode on the OnePlus devices aren't the same.

OnePlus also markets the Dolby Atmos support on the Buds Pro. However, it's worth noting that this is a feature that has to do a lot with the connected device. So, if you're using any OnePlus 7 to 9 devices, you will get the Dolby Atmos experience on the Buds Pro. What this means is if you're using any device that doesn't come with Dolby Atmos, then remember that the earbuds do not support it.

The mobile app packs so many features that I was slightly disappointed with the fact that OnePlus gave the equaliser setting a miss. While offering personalised hearing enhancement is fine, a custom equaliser would have been a great addition.

OnePlus Buds Pro review: The satisfying bass and overall performance

Coming to performance, the OnePlus Buds Pro offer excellent audio quality. There's clarity, and the buds offer extremely powerful bass output. Purely in terms of bass output, the OnePlus Buds Pro beats the Apple AirPods Pro hands down.

The high and mid-range are balanced while the vocals are clear. However, during the review, I did feel that the tremendous powerful bass output overshadows some music. Unfortunately, there's no way we can lower down the bass level, and that's what could have been taken care of by a custom equaliser setting in the mobile app.

I could feel that the OnePlus Buds Pro fails to do justice with certain tracks, like the famous Time music track from Hans Zimmer's Inception movie album has lows in the first few minutes where the bass almost kills the lows. But then I also love how well Buds Pro handled balanced music, so Maroon 5's Memories track has depth, and I could hear small details clearly. Earbuds come with 11mm dynamic drivers.

The ANC works well, and users can choose between three modes of noise cancellation - regular, Smart, and Max. The Smart is the default out-of-the-box option.

While I could feel the difference between the regular and Smart modes, there's hardly any difference between the Smart and Max options in noise cancellation.

I liked the Smart noise cancellation mode that blocked most of the ambient noise, though it allowed me to hear my family members talking in the same room, though it felt like they were somewhere on a call and not in the same room.

The regular mode on the OnePlus Buds Pro is good enough if you want to block out fan noise, your laptop fan noise, and other minor distractions while listening to music or watching anything on your phone. There are also options for turning noise cancellation off or activating transparency mode to hear noise in the background.

Coming to the next big use of TWS, calls. The OnePlus Buds Pro pack an underwhelming microphone as I could hear people complaining about my voice cracking or noticeable muddiness during the calls. I tried calls on Airtel and Jio with voice over Wi-Fi enabled and noticed this issue over calls. This tells me that the microphone could have been better, or the team at OnePlus could have added some refinements to calls.

The company also claims that the OnePlus Buds Pro comes with a Gaming mode that reduces the latency to 94ms. While I couldn't test the claimed limit, I noticed reduced latency during gaming on the OnePlus 9.

Talking about connection, the OnePlus Buds Pro did hold up nicely, and I didn't notice any random cut off or battery down situations. This was constant across OnePlus, Android and iPhone devices.

The company has also set a benchmark for the rest of the companies by offering a water-resistant rating to both earbuds and the case. The earbuds are IP55 certified for water and sweat resistance, while the charging case comes with IPX4 water resistance.

Unlike other TWS options on the market, the OnePlus Buds Pro come with force sensors. For those unaware, force sensors are available on AirPods Pro as well. The OnePlus Buds Pro can play or pause a song by pinching the earbuds' handle once. Users can move to the next track by pinching the earbud's handle twice and similarly, pinch thrice for the previous track. To switch to the noise cancellation mode, you can pinch the earbud's handle for a second. You can also reject calls using pinch gestures on the OnePlus Buds Pro. Pinch the earbud's handle twice to reject a call while listening to music or wake the voice assistant by pinching the earbud's handle thrice. You can also enter Zen Mode Air mode by pinching and holding the earbud's handle for 3 seconds to play the default white noise.

Coming to the battery life, the OnePlus Buds Pro is claimed to offer up to 5 hours of battery life with ANC on, which extends up to 23 hours with the charging case, as per OnePlus. With ANC off, the company claims up to 31 hours of music playback with a charging case. It also supports fast charging, which is claimed to offer up to 10 hours of playtime with 10 minutes of charge. During our testing, the earbuds could play continuous music on a single charge for up to 3.5 hours with ANC on, while this extends up to 4.5 hours with ANC off. We couldn't test the battery life with the charging case. But, the battery life on the OnePlus Buds Pro with a single charge is impressive.

OnePlus Buds Pro review: Worth your money?

Yes, the OnePlus Buds Pro gets plenty of things that go in its favour. First, the design is interesting, with a mix of a glossy and matte finish. Second, the OnePlus Buds Pro sound really good. Third, there are no noticeable issues with the performance, and in fact, ANC works well too.

At Rs 9,990, the OnePlus Buds Pro cannot be called a super-premium offering, especially when compared to the likes of Apple AirPods Pro, which come for almost double the price of Buds Pro. And, in fact, at its price, it is among a handful of TWS that offer a massive features list. Moreover, the OnePlus Buds UI for OnePlus users and the HeyMelody app for non-OnePlus users are baked well, which means you will have a good time with the earbuds. If you're a bass head and are always on the lookout for a better bass output, then the OnePlus Buds Pro are for you.

It comes with water-resistant certification, which is a great addition and feels like a value proposition. We, however, wish that OnePlus included an equaliser setting that could have enhanced the overall user experience. In addition, the call quality of the OnePlus Buds Pro is average, so do not expect a lot on that part.