Apple AirPods Pro Review
In this Apple AirPods Pro review, we take a look at all the features and how they compare to alternative earbuds.
The overall score: 4.1 out of 5 points.
The first Apple earbuds with in-ear fit and active noise cancellation, the new AirPods Pro offer improved performance in different situations that weren’t possible before (for Apple fans at least).
Now you can take them on your commute or plane flight and effectively cancel out noise (though it’s not as effective as with Sony WH-1000XM3). And thanks to IPX4 sweat protection, they’re somewhat decent for working out too.
The more premium AirPods Pro do cost more money than the original AirPods, but they also sound significantly better, mostly thanks to noise blocking.
In the end, the AirPods Pro are currently the best true wireless earbuds for iPhone.
PROS & CONS
- Sound better than original AirPods
- In-ear fit that’s suitable for moderate exercise
- Effective noise cancelling and isolation
- Seamless user experience with iPhone/iOS
- Sweatproof with IPX4 certification
- Expensive even among premium alternatives
- No built-in volume controls??
- Cheap lid mechanism on the charging case
- Should You Buy Apple AirPods Pro?
- What’s in the Box?
- Comfort & Fit – 4.0/5 Great
- Noise Cancelling – 4.5/5 Almost Perfect
- Noise Isolation – 4.0/5 Great
- Bluetooth – 4.0/5 Great
- Battery – 4.0/5 Great
- Durability – 4.0/5 Great
- Features – 5/5 Fantastic (for iOS)
- Sound – 3.5/5 Almost Great
- Why Buy Apple Airpods Pro?
Should You Buy Apple AirPods Pro?
- If you’re an iPhone user and like Apple products in general
- You don’t mind paying a higher price for the latest, and best Apple has to offer, and you have one of the latest iPhones too
- You’re an active user and absolutely need Apple earbuds for working out
- If you’re an Android user
- If you’re price-conscious and want better value for your money
Check related earbuds:
Type: In-ear headphones
Connection: Wireless Bluetooth
Driver size: n/a
Frequency range: n/a
Weight: 11g both buds, 56g inside the case
Cable length: n/a
Microphone & controls: Yes (built-in)
Water-protection: IPX4 sweatproof
Battery life: Over 5 hours per charge
Charging time: Under 2h
Active noise-cancelling: Yes
Charging: USB-C to Lightning cable, QI wireless charging pad
Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC
Wireless range: 33ft (10m)
Type: Built-in mics
Mic design: n/a
What’s in the Box?
- Apple AirPods Pro
- Wireless charging case
- 3 pairs of silicone eartips (S, M, L)
- USB-C to Lightning cable
- User manual
Comfort & Fit – 4.0/5 Great
While the fit is much better than with original AirPods, when sweaty, they still tend to slip out.
Sure, the decision to make an in-ear AirPods was the right one, but the fit of other workout earbuds is still better.
Considering these are expensive and the best earbuds Apple can offer right now, you can expect top-notch comfort and the best fit yet.
But, if you primarily need workout earbuds with staying power, check the Jabra Elite Active 75t.
The AirPods Pro tend to stay in ears well, and you’d go crazy before making them fall out. They’re really light, which makes them comfortable for hours.
But one complaint you can have is stability when sweating. If you take them to the gym, since they’re IPX4 protected, you have to readjust them more often when you’re sweaty.
It seems that sweat gets on the silicone eartips and sleek earbud finish and makes them slippery.
Nonetheless, the AirPods Pro are still solid earbuds for working out. If you’re an avid iPhone user, then they should be among the top options.
But are they comfortable?
Yes. They’re among the most comfortable true wireless earbuds you can get right now. Thanks to the super-light structure, you barely feel them. You can wear them for hours without any discomfort at all. This is something Apple has done well.
The AirPods Pro aren’t perfect. When sweaty, you always have that uncomfortable feeling that they might slip off at any moment.
Noise Cancelling – 4.5/5 Almost Perfect
Highly effective active noise cancelling that removes traffic, city, and airplane noise like the best of them.
But for use with an iPhone, these are still among the best.
The ANC turns on automatically when the buds turn on (when you take them out of the charging case). Traffic and city noises subside immediately.
There’s no hissing or distortion, it all works out of the box without any necessary setup, the Apple way.
And, when you want to hear the background noise, you can activate Transparency mode with a long press of the button on either side. The built-in microphones pick up ambient sounds, including your voice, and send it to the earbuds.
It makes you hear your voice like other people hear it, which might be a bit weird but works very well, and you always know how loud you are.
If you don’t feel like listening to music, you can use the active noise canceling alone. It will cancel out most of the noise, so you can focus on reading or contemplating the next big idea.
One more thing…
In Transparency mode, the microphone tends to pick up some wind noise. It’s good to know if you live in a windy area. See mic test below.
Noise Isolation – 4.0/5 Great
Thanks to the in-ear fit, the AirPods Pro passively isolate a lot of ambient noise.
The inclusion of ear tips makes all the difference. They effectively block out the ear canals, effectively removing the environment sounds and improving the audio quality.
Choosing the right size of the eartips is critical. But the AirPods Pro are so smart they “measure” the fit during initial setup and recommend the right size for you.
If, for some reason, you don’t want effective isolation, use smaller eartips than recommended, but the fit might suffer too.
How to make it even better?
If you get some aftermarket memory-foam eartips for the Airpods Pro, they isolate even more noise.
Bluetooth – 4.0/5 Great
Connecting with an iPhone is effortless, and once paired, you get dependable Bluetooth performance and range. And you can connect to 2 iOS devices at the same time.
Thanks to Apple’s H1 chip, the AirPods Pro find your iPhone automatically once taken out of the charging case. You need iOS 13.2, watchOS 6.1, tvOS 13.2, or macOS Catalina 10.15.1 for AirPods Pro support.
After that, they’ll connect seamlessly with all your iOS devices registered on your iCloud account.
Once connected, you’ll see the battery levels for each earbud and the charging case separately, which is sweet.
Stopped listening to music on your iPhone? Open your iPad to watch some YouTube, the wireless headphones reconnect automatically.
Now, this only works on iOS but not on Android. To connect to an Android phone:
- You have to press and hold the button on the charging case to enter pairing mode
- Find the new Bluetooth device on your phone and connect
The Bluetooth signal strength is about average for Bluetooth 5.0, reaching for around 30ft and working well over 1 wall.
Is There a Delay when Watching Video?
It’s not noticeable at all, though technically there is a short delay. The AirPods Pro support SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs, which aren’t lag-free.
But don’t worry, you can binge on your favorite YouTube channel without getting annoyed. Honestly, it’s unnoticeable.
Battery – 4.0/5 Great
You can expect slightly over 5 hours of music from a full charge. In our test, we got 5h 10minutes until the right side shut down. With the charging case you get around 24 hours altogether. This is a solid battery performance.
Because the AirPods Pro have active noise cancellation, the battery life is slightly shorter than compared to non-ANC Beats PowerBeats Pro.
But good 5 hours is better than average in the category and similar to Sony WF-1000XM3, which are also ANC earbuds. Keep note, we tested at medium volume. At higher loudness, you probably get closer to the advertised 4.5 hours.
When the battery life gets low, there’s a tone prompt that tells you to charge soon. On an iPhone, you always know how much battery is left. You can see it for both earbuds and the case (but no battery indicator on Android).
Add the quick charging ability, for a 5-minute charge you get around 1 hour of music, and you can rarely run out of juice.
You can charge the AirPods Pro with the included USB-C to Lightning cable. Now, if you have a newer Mac, that isn’t a problem, but you might need an older USB to Lightning cable with an older setup.
On top of that, you can wirelessly charge them with any Qi-certified charging mat. That’s our preferred method of charging as you just put the case on the mat and forget about it.
Durability – 4.0/5 Great
These have a high build quality with IPX4 sweatproof protection but a cheap lid mechanism on the charging case.
I’m not sure why Apple uses these cheap mechanisms on their charging cases. Beats PowerBeats Pro have the same problem.
Honestly, it’s annoying. You pay a high price tag for a premium product, but then the lid feels flimsy and cheap, like with $50-earbuds.
The case itself is sturdy and feels like hard plastic. But when you open it, the lid makes noises and behaves like a fidgety child, always trying to close abruptly. It feels cheap.
Nonetheless, I can say only good things about the actual earbuds. They’re what you’d expect from an Apple product. Sophisticated and highly designed with many different features and a unique look.
For the first time, AirPods are sweatproof with IPX4 certification. It doesn’t make them waterproof, but it’s good enough for the vast majority of active users.
You can take them to the gym, on a run, or hiking on a hot sunny day. The AirPods Pro can take it all without issues. Just don’t drop them in water.
Features – 5/5 Fantastic (for iOS)
You get the latest and best true wireless earbuds can offer today (but only on iOS).
With automatic pause/play, active noise reduction, Transparency mode, Dolby Atmos, and customized first setup, you get more tech than in most earphones.
The biggest difference between AirPods Pro and Airpods 1 & 2 is active noise cancelling. It makes for a significant improvement in sound quality and your tendency to ramp up the volume. Lower volume is much healthier for your ears.
The first time you set up your AirPods Pro, the earbuds “scan” your ear canal and adjust the frequency response accordingly. Now it doesn’t make a huge difference, but it’s good to know your AirPods Pro are equalized to sound how Apple intended.
Plus, with the latest software update, they support Dolby Atmos spatial audio. The virtual surround sound improves the soundstage and positional accuracy for movies. It makes them more immersive and lifelike. At least in theory.
Personally, unless you hear a massive improvement in the soundstage, I find little reason to use it. It’s just not that great. But hey, that’s just my personal opinion. It’s there, and you can use it, which is more than we can say for other earbuds.
Now when connected to an iOS device, the earbuds pause automatically when taken out of the ears. And likewise, when you put them back in, they start playing again. Once you get used to it, you get to miss it in other Bluetooth earbuds. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work on Android.
The Transparency mode is excellent too. When you want to hear your surroundings, the microphone system records background noise and your voice and send it to your eardrums. You activate it with a double press of the buttons.
You can comfortably hold a conversation, ride a bike in traffic, or do something else that requires awareness. It’s well made and works out of the box without the need to tweak the settings.
They work seamlessly with Siri voice assistant as well. Though in louder environments, you might need to repeat your commands a couple of times. Likewise, it doesn’t work on Android.
To control your music, you press the capacitive touch controls that click when you press them. You can also customize their function on an iPhone.
But there is no built-in volume control. You’re supposed to use “Hey Siri” for that, but imagine sitting on a crowded subway or entering a full elevator and then wanting to change the volume. It’s awkward.
I found myself not changing volume until I got out of the awkward situation too many times. Real buttons for volume would be better.
Moreover, the microphones are quite good as well. You can use either side in mono mode as a Bluetooth headset.
Here’s the AirPods Pro microphone test to see the call quality. The only problem is that they pick quite a bit of background noise.
All in all, you get plenty of features with an iPhone and only basic functionality with Android.
Sound – 3.5/5 Almost Great
The AirPods Pro have a mostly balanced sound quality with a slight emphasis on the high range, which makes them great for all genres of music.
These are vastly different from Beats as you don’t get the same emphasis on bass. Here all ranges are in balance (mostly).
This means music sounds like the producers intended it to without pronounced bass or unreal treble. You can confidently listen to classical as well as pop or hip-hop.
Plus, when you first use them, the software inside measures and tests your ears. Then it adapts the frequency response based on your ear canal shape, so you hear the music adapted to you personally.
There’s a slight emphasis on treble but isn’t really noticeable to an untrained ear. Other ranges are balanced, which makes them suitable for all music.
But if you’re a basshead:
You should know these aren’t the best choice for you. Look for Beats, an alternative with powerful lows.
Compared to regular AirPods, the in-ear fit improves the bass response, not with more power but mostly with better detail.
Now, since these are still in-ear earbuds, the soundstage is somewhat small. You don’t get the same spatial sound as with bigger headphones. Though Dolby Atmos might improve this a bit.
All in all, the AirPods Pro are designed for the general audience to keep them enticing for the greatest number of people. And that’s fine.
You won’t experience sonic heaven and fanatically look for details you’ve never heard. You have to pay more for that.
Why Buy Apple Airpods Pro?
If you’re an avid Apple user, the AirPods Pro are the best earbuds you can get. They’re designed to work with your iPhone, iPad, Macs, and other Apple products.
You get all the latest features like active noise cancellation, auto play/pause, and better sound quality than with original Airpods.
The only question is:
Do you want to pay the price?
They cost quite a bit more, which you should always consider.
Now the AirPods Pro can do a little bit of everything.
- You can take them on an airplane on your next trip and enjoy peace and quiet instead of rumbling airplane engine.
- You can take them to the gym thanks to sweat protection and relatively stable in-ear fit.
- You can use them for your calls on the go without worrying about horrible microphone quality.
- And you can enjoy them on your commute listening to music or watching videos.
The Airpods Pro are one of the most versatile true wireless earbuds. They can replace many pairs of your old earphones.
And if convenience and rich features with your existing Apple gear is something you want, you’re making the right decision if you buy them.
Apple AirPods Pro vs. Sony WF-1000XM3
In a quick comparison of the AirPods Pro with Sony WF-1000XM3, we find a couple of distinct differences.
They’re both true wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling that cost around the same price and are flagship models for their brands.
Apple AirPods Pro are more stable and sweatproof with an IPX4 rating, which makes them better for working out and other activity. Plus, you can charge them wirelessly, and they’re feature-rich on an iPhone but lack many features on Android. For Apple fans, they’re the go-to choice.
Sony WF-1000XM3 have better sound quality with EQ, a slight edge in noise cancellation and battery life, and work equally well on Android and iPhone. But all that comes in a bulkier true wireless design that isn’t suitable for activity, without sweat protection, and are arguably less comfortable.