Update, December 1, 2020: This Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro review was updated to include a microphone demo, and to make note of the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro as an alternative.
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro rode the wave of true wireless earbuds’ popularity, but Mobvoi has a major trick up its sleeve: hands-free access to your favorite virtual assistant without direct integration. This means iPhone users don’t need to shell out for an Apple product with H1 chip integration for hands-free Siri access. Instead saying, “Hey Tico” has the same effect with the TicPods 2 Pro. These mighty small true wireless earbuds are feature-packed with other AI-enabled functions, so let’s see if they’re worth getting or just a gimmick.
Who should buy the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro?
- Apple iPhone users, or anyone with an iOS device for that matter, will get a kick out of the “Hey Tico” feature for hands-free access to Siri. Mobvoi bypasses the need for Apple’s coveted H1 chip, but still affords power efficiency benefits and high-quality audio thanks to the Bluetooth 5.0 firmware along with AAC and aptX support.
- AI fans will enjoy TicMotion, which allows listeners to nod or shake their heads in order to accept or reject a call. It’s a unique feature that helps the TicPods 2 Pro standout from the sea of AirPods Pro alternatives.
- General consumers will appreciate the IPX4 water-resistant construction, meaning unexpected downpours are no longer a cause for anxiety. What’s more, these smart earbuds are especially portable and support automatic ear detection for auto-play/pause of your music.
What is it like to use the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro?
If you’ve used the Mobvoi TicPods Free, the TicPods 2 Pro will feel like a near-identical experience: they use the same stemmed design as the company’s debut totally wireless earbuds and a similar oblong charging case. There are a few notable changes from the Free to the updated Pro model, though.
Mobvoi forgoes the dedicated nozzles of yesteryear for a smooth, AirPods-like universal fit. These will universally fit poorly in almost everyone’s ears due to the lack of seal. In fact, they fell out of my ears multiple times during testing. Although the IPX4 rating allows listeners to exercise without worry, the fit was so unreliable that I ended up reaching for the Jaybird Vista instead.
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If you are able to secure a reliable fit, then you’ll enjoy the main benefit of the earbuds’ design: safety. The lack of seal, while a hindrance to sound quality, allows you to remain aware of your surroundings. This is a necessity for anyone who listens to music while crossing trafficked streets or needs to hear intercom announcements during the daily train commute.
How to use TicHear and TicMotion
You have plenty of avenues for controlling the TicPods 2 Pro including touch controls, head gestures, and voice commands. Touch controls are standard, but TicMotion and TicHear bring something novel to the table. The former enables a double-nod to answer incoming call, while a repeated head shake rejects it.
TicHear is a completely different beast, allowing you to make basic playback controls without the need for a wake-up word. For instance, you can say, “pause music,” rather than, “Hey Google, pause music.” This is neat but the real kicker regarding TicHear is the ability to directly access Google Assistant or Siri hands-free. Normally this functionality is reserved for headsets with Google Assistant integration or Apple’s H1 chip, respectively. However, saying “Hey Tico” works just as “Hey Google” or “Hey Siri” on first-party certified headsets.
How long does the battery last?
SoundGuys recorded 3 hours, 39 minutes of playtime from the earphones before they needed to go back in the USB-C charging case. This is about average for true wireless earbuds at large, which isn’t great. However, a nice compensatory feature is the case’s quick charging performance, whereby just five minutes in the case provides an hour of listening. Said case supplies you with an additional four charge cycles, so you’ll rarely find yourself in a pickle.
Connection strength and Bluetooth codec support
The Bluetooth 5.0 firmware facilitates quick autoconnect of the earbuds to the last used source device. Unfortunately, multiconnect isn’t supported, so if you want to alternate between your phone and laptop, you must do so manually. Connection strength is great, and the earbuds don’t skip so long as your phone is within a 10-meter range.
Regarding Bluetooth codec support, the earphones support both aptX and AAC for high-quality audio on any platform. While this is great for marketing purposes, the fact remains that the poor fit renders any codec-related benefits null as auditory masking degrades audio quality dramatically. The main perk has to do with video streaming: audio-visual lag is minimal. However, there were times when streaming YouTube videos that I noticed a half-second lag when watching from my Samsung Galaxy S10e.
How do the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro sound?
The earphones have a run-of-the-mill frequency response and emphasize bass and low-midrange notes. This makes vocals, males in particular, stand out along with song-driving beats. If you listen to popular genres (e.g., pop, hip-hop, rap), you’ll enjoy this amplification. However, if you’re looking for a pair of earphones that will help you rediscover the nuances in your favorite hits, you should look elsewhere.
You're paying for a unique feature set when you get the TicPods 2 Pro rather than grade-A sound quality.
Instrumental separation is a difficult task for the TicPods 2 Pro’s dynamic drivers which, again, aren’t aided by the poor fit. Any songs with harmonizing sounded lackluster as the earbuds don’t replicate harmonic frequencies well, especially when accompanied by a complete band of instruments. Audio reproduction isn’t inherently bad, but it’s apparent that you’re not paying for sound quality; rather, you’re paying for a bunch of neat features that manifest in a pair of earbuds.
Microphone quality isn’t great
The earphones boast a dual-microphone array with noise-cancelling properties, which reads well on paper but doesn’t perform as well in the real world. Artists with low voices will sound perceptibly inaccurate to anyone on the other side of a call. Noise cancellation quiets predictable, repetitive noises like a hairdryer off in the distance, but struggles with random, jeering sounds.
Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro microphone demo:
Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro vs. Mobvoi TicPods 2: What’s the difference?
The differences between the TicPods 2 Pro and TicPods 2 are minimal: the latter does without any of the snazzy head gestures or “Hey Tico” command word. Its charging case affords slightly more battery life, with a total of five on-the-go charge cycles, compared to the Pro model’s four additional charge cycles. The standard model also only has a single-microphone array which, for all intents and purposes, likely doesn’t make a noticeable difference.
If you’re on a tight budget, the TicPods 2 are cheaper than the TicPods 2 Pro. Unless you must have hands-free access to Siri or Google, you’re better off saving money on the cheaper version.
Should you buy the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro?
Novelty-chasers and virtual assistant fanatics will find the expense of the TicPods 2 Pro worthwhile. However, those who can do without frivolous features will be better off with any one of the available AirPods Pro and AirPods alternatives flooding the market. The TicPods 2 Pro are bound to serve a large portion of consumers well, yet I can’t forgive how the earbuds fall out of my ears. Fit, of course, varies from person to person, so you may have more success than I — because the last thing I want is to realize my left earbud is on the sticky subway floor and be left without a bud and out a lump sum of cash.
Smart earbuds that bypass the need to pay a premium for first-party smart headsets.
How do the TicPods 2 Pro compare to other true wireless earbuds?
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro are the slightly smarter identical twin of the TicPods 2, and are akin to the Apple AirPods (2019). The latter are the go-to pick for iPhone users due to the H1 chip and instantaneous device switching with iOS products. If you’re at all worried about water damage or are fine with uttering the phrase “Hey Tico,” then you may as well save some cash and get the TicPods 2 Pro.
Alternatively, if you like Mobvoi’s take on the stemmed design but want your earbuds to do a bit more, consider the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro. These earphones feature active noise-cancelling and a low-latency Gaming Mode, which works wonders for video playback too. Razer’s earbuds boast an IPX4 rating, and responsive automatic ear detection.