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Google Pixel Buds Pro: My 3 favorite and 3 least favorite features

Google's latest buds are excellent, with a few minor inconveniences.
By
August 27, 2022
pixel buds pro in case 3
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I have had Google’s latest Pixel Buds Pro for three weeks now and I have tested them while traveling, working, taking public transport, going on my morning walks, and chilling at home. During this time, I think I’ve formed a pretty clear opinion about what makes these buds great and what their biggest shortcomings are.

If you want a detailed objective analysis with all of our extensive audio, noise cancellation, and microphone testing, you can check our Pixel Buds Pro review. This is a more subjective take based on my personal experience, and I’ll preface it by saying that I’m neither an audiophile nor a gamer, so codecs and latency aren’t really a big concern for me.

Google Pixel Buds Pro
See review
See review

Google Pixel Buds Pro: My favorite features

Excellent comfort

pixel buds pro one bud focus 2
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Nothing Ear 1, the most comfortable pair of buds I’ve tried. Well, I wasn’t ready to say this, but the Pixel Buds Pro come extremely close. They fit really well inside my ears, they don’t exert pressure on my ear’s tragus — a problem I’ve had with countless other pairs of buds — and Google’s magic for removing that clogged-ear feeling with buds actually works. I can eat and chew with these on without feeling like my brain is about to explode through my ear drums.

I have had several four- to five-hour listening sessions on the Buds Pro, a number I was only able to reach on the Nothing Ear 1. Any other pair of earbuds becomes painful well before the 60-minute mark. I can almost forget I’m wearing them most days, though there are still rare occurrences when I feel a bit of discomfort. On a scale of 10, if Nothing’s buds are a perfect 10 for comfort, the Pixel Buds Pro would be a 9. But again, this is a very subjective matter, so your mileage may vary.

On land, this is one of the most comfortable pairs of buds I've tried. On a plane, they win by a landslide.

However, the equation is completely different while traveling. Whereas the Nothing Ear 1 — and every other pair of noise-canceling true wireless buds I’ve used on a plane — clog up my ears after about 30 minutes, causing a mounting pressure, the Pixel Buds Pro just… don’t. I was able to wear them for several hours on a trans-Atlantic flight while working then enjoying a couple of movies, all without ever getting that nagging need to relieve my ears. Seriously, Google’s black magic really works.

Multipoint, Fast Pair, and Audio Switching

pixel buds pro settings general
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Google has packed its buds with three different technologies to simplify pairing and switching between devices. In general, this strategy works very well — at least compared to many other Bluetooth buds on the market.

Simply open the case and the Buds Pro will show up on a nearby Android device (Fast Pair). No fumbling with button combinations, long presses, and mysterious pairing codes. Once you’ve paired them with a device and a Google account, they should automatically appear on every other phone or tablet that’s signed into that same account.

Connecting to a new Android phone and switching between different phones is nearly seamless.

Then, if you’re, say, watching a video on one phone, pause it, and start listening to music on another, the new Audio Switching feature kicks in and lets you hear your audio without having to lift a finger. A brief notification on both devices tells you that audio was switched to/from them, with an option to override it on either phone.

In addition to these two Android-specific features, the Pixel Buds Pro also support the Bluetooth Multipoint standard, which lets me pair them with my iMac, iPad, Google Pixelbook, and Xiaomi Mi TV. Not at the same time, obviously, but at least two different devices can be connected simultaneously. This means I can enjoy a TV show without fear of missing an important phone call. The Pixel Buds Pro will pause the show and switch to my phone to take the call, again without me lifting a finger.

All of these features put Google’s buds a few steps ahead of most of their competition on Android. There are still kinks to iron out (and I’ll talk about these later on), but in general, the Pixel Buds Pro marry versatility with simplicity well enough.

Natural transparency

pixel buds pro settings sound
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I usually avoid the transparency mode on most true wireless buds because the effect it creates feels fake. There’s often a distinct separation between the music or audio I’m listening to and the noises and voices around me. Rarely is there a proper balance between the two: Either the music is still overpowering, no matter which volume I set it at, or the surrounding noise takes over the audio.

The transparency mode is so natural, it almost feels like I'm wearing open-ear buds.

The Pixel Buds Pro provide one of the most “natural-feeling” transparency modes I’ve personally tested. It’s almost as if I am wearing open-ear buds, not in-ear ones. I was able to have an entire conversation with my husband multiple times while wearing them and walking around on trips and commutes — something I’ve never done with any other pair of buds before. I also find myself triggering the transparency mode, by choice, on public transit and in busier environments, so I can stay aware of what’s happening. Again, this isn’t something I’ve done before with other buds.

To me, the transparency mode always felt like a gimmick, until now. But when it works like it’s supposed to, you actually end up using it.

Google Pixel Buds Pro: My least favorite features

Gesture controls

pixel buds pro settings touch controls
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

On the Pixel Buds Pro, the voice call and music playback controls are bog-standard, but the volume controls use sideway swipes for some reason. I’d expect a swipe up to raise the volume, not a swipe forward. The same applies for volume down and swiping down versus backward. These gestures don’t make too much sense to me, and I don’t like being forced into using them.

Only the touch-and-hold gesture is customizable, and you can only set it to trigger Assistant or switch between transparency and noise cancellation. You can’t even disable it as far as I can tell. I got used to all of these forced controls, but some of them certainly feel odd and I would’ve liked the option to change them.

Between the non-customizable controls and the tendency of the gesture touchpad to angle upward, some of the gestures feel very odd.

My biggest issue with the gestures, though, has more to do with how I reach for the buds. See, because of the odd triangular shape of the Pixel Buds Pro, the colored touch-sensitive part often ends up pointing slightly upward or at some weirdly angled position, not straight outward.

Reaching the buds with my index isn’t simple; I end up hitting the regular black plastic one time out of two, on average. I can’t even trust my instincts to do a blind tap to pause music. Instead, I have to feel around for how exactly the bud is lodged in my ear, then perform the tap or swipe. If the bud is angled upward, I also have to change my whole approach. Trust me, I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but basically, instead of raising my index to tap the bud, I have to raise it higher, then come down to tap the bud. I’m getting used to it, but it still feels unnatural.

Fast Pair and Audio Switching, again

pixel buds pro in case with pixel 6a 1
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Regardless of how magical Fast Pair and Audio Switching feel, they are still far from perfect. For now, Fast Pair is only supported on Android phones. My Google Pixelbook, Chromecast with Google TV, or Galaxy Watch 4 can’t automatically detect the buds, and instead require to be manually paired to them.

Google is working on that and should roll out Fast Pair to Chrome OS, Wear OS, and Android TV, but we all know Google’s promises aren’t bound by human timelines. These could land tomorrow or in two years. Or never. Until then, I have to manually re-pair or re-connect the buds to my laptop or TV whenever I want to use them there.

Fast Pair doesn't support computers and TVs yet, while Audio Switching sometimes bugs out.

Worse yet, Audio Switching doesn’t work all the time, or as seamlessly as it should. I’ve encountered a few instances where one of my phones (a Pixel 5, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel 6a) said it was actively connected to the Buds Pro but didn’t play audio through them — nor through its speakers. It just pretended to be playing, but went silent.

If Google wants these protocols to be the Android equivalent of Apple’s magical AirPods automatic switching, it needs to do better. Now.

I would also love to see a manual device picker in the Pixel Buds Pro’s settings, something akin to what Anker’s SoundCore line-up does. That way I could see all the phones and other devices the buds have already been paired to and manually choose which two I want to use at a particular moment. This would be handy when I’m at home and I have my TV, computer, laptop, phone, and watch nearby.

Case battery

pixel buds pro pixel 6a homescreen battery widget
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

I love the Pixel Buds Pro’s case. It’s small and slick, it feels excellent to the touch, and it snaps open and shut with such elegance. However, the extra battery life it provides isn’t breaking any records. On paper, you can get about two extra full charges out of it, but in reality, I found myself charging it a lot more frequently than I’m used to with my other pairs of buds — currently the Nothing Ear 1 and SoundCore Liberty 3 Pro. And longevity is only bound to get worse after a few months of use.

A slightly larger case with extra battery would've been welcome.

So as much as I like the size and design of the case, I would have been fine with a few extra millimeters here and there to eke out an extra charge from the case. But hey, at least we get wireless charging for more convenient charging.

Google Pixel Buds Pro
Google Pixel Buds Pro
Decent ANC • Fast-charging battery • Google apps
Does Google's first "pro" set of earbuds come out on top?
The Google Pixel Buds Pro are the first Pixel Duds to offer active noise canceling. The battery lasts seven hours, and a fast charging case adds an extra hour with only five minutes of charging. These earbuds provide access to Google Translate, Google Assistant, and "Find my bud."

Google got many things right with the Pixel Buds Pro. Tit for tat, this is one of the best Android-optimized pairs of buds on the market now, in my opinion. They get the essentials right: comfort, sound, and usability. The rest of the complaints can be forgiven after that, and this is why the Buds Pro have won a permanent spot on my desk and in my bag. Hopefully, the next version will only get better from here.

Up next: True wireless earbuds are everywhere, but I’m not convinced yet