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Apple AirPods | Review

Overview
Reviewed

15 January 2017

Launched

December 2016

Design

Unique design
Small, lightweight body
Wireless & effortless
Classic Apple white plastic finish

Ecosystem

Apple W1 chip
Custom designed
Improved connecton
Better sound

Ease of use

Compatible with iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad or Mac, one-tap set-up, smart headphones, always on, always connected, automatic pause, tap into Siri, automatic setup, seamless switching

Connectivity

Bluetooth

Battery

Up to 5 hours battery life
Up to 24 hours with charging case
15 min quick charge = 3 hours battery life

Portability

AirPods (each):
16.5 x 18.0 x 40.5 mm
Charging Case:
44.3 x 21.3 x 53.5 mm
Weight
AirPods (each): 4 g
Charging Case: 38 g

Other Features

Voice accelerometer, beamforming microphones, optical sensors, motion accelerometers, speech-detecting accelerometer

Sound Quality

Rich, high-quality AAC audio
Superior sound
Dual beamforming microphones

Durability

Plastic body
Portable hard carry case

Comfort

One size fits all
Lightweight design

Positives

Good wireless connectivity
Ultra-lightweight design
Great battery charging case

Negatives

Marmite design
No control buttons

Our Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
-Design
8.2
8.0
-Ecosystem
9.3
9.6
-Ease of use
8.6
9.0
-Connectivity
9.5
10
-Battery
9.6
9.5
-Portability
9.2
9.5
-Sound Quality
9.1
9.0
-Durability
8.6
8.5
-Comfort
9.5
9.5
The Last Word

While the AirPods unusual design may be the first thing you hear about and notice it's definitely not the only thing worth mentioning. While the design may be odd, the AirPods are extremely light weight and very comfortable to wear. Also the reason for this odd design was in part to make room for the impressive battery life, being among the nest on the market and providing the quickest 'fast charge' for wireless earphones, you may forgive the unique design Apple chose. The long battery life is not the only plus with AirPods, Apple has mastered the art of pairing the wireless earphone, it is seamless and switching between you Apple devices is effortless; and as most Apple users have many Apple devices this was a smart move by Apple. On the down side, apart from the look, is the lack of controls, while Siri is helpful and easy to use, it doesn't feel natural, or comfortable asking Siri to skip a track while on the bus. Overall the AirPods are an impressive set of wireless earphones with great sound quality and some impressive features, but there are some things Apple needs to work on for the next release....... like touch controls.

9.1
Our Rating
9.2
User Rating
You have rated this

The Review

A look at Apple AirPods, the design is unique but what else have they got to offer….

read the full review ...

Design

If you’ve heard anything about the Apple AirPods it’s probably been about the controversial design, just like Marmite……. you either love it or hate it. While some think it’s a lazy design choice, just take the cable off and you have a wireless set of earphones, its more likely that Apple thought the design would be very popular just like the wired EarPods. However, unlike over-ear headphones where this has worked in the past, the elegant design of Apple’s EarPods did not transfer well into a wireless design, without the cable the AirPods look unusual. Apple have not only removed the cable, to accommodate the AirPods battery Apple have had to make the arm below the earbud a little thicker, which adds to the unusual look. Aside from the unique design Apple have managed to keep the wireless AirPods very small, with an ultra lightweight body which means the AirPods are very comfortable to wear, even over long periods of time. Also Apple has kept the classic Apple white plastic finish, which I’ve always liked, meaning they are instantly recognisable as an Apple product. Apple has used a nice metallic trim to finish off the AirPod arm which, aside from the overall unusual look, is a nice touch. While the AirPods are odd looking the design has some good points – they are distinctly Apple and the lightweight design give them a very comfortable fit.

Ecosystem

Apple have designed the W1 chip specifically for the AirPods. The W1 chip was made with two things in mind, wireless connectivity and improved battery life; and Apple has done well in both aspects. The W1 chip has brought smart connectivity to the AirPods ensuring an improved wireless connection that provides better sound quality. The W1 chip has also been designed for low power consumption which in turn provides longer battery life for small, wireless earphones.

Ease of Use

As expected the AirPods are compatible with iOS devices only; the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad or Mac. The AirPods now bring wireless NFC connectivity to your Apple devices, something Android users have enjoyed for some tie, so though its not revolutionary it is certainly a welcomed feature. With just a ‘one-tap set-up’ you can pair you AirPods with your Apple device easily and once this is done the AirPods will automatically connect to your Apple device any time you put them in your ears. The ‘always on’, ‘always connected’ feature is unique and shows that Apple have really made the AirPods ‘smart earphones’. This feature means the AirPods will begin to play music as soon as you place them in your ears and will automatically pause the music when you take them out, this design feature is meant to make listening to music effortless. However there are some downsides, if you take just one AirPod out the music will still pause, there is no control to stop this, which is a little annoying. Speaking of controls…… there are none, well no physical control buttons like you see with other wireless earphones, you use Siri for everything. A double-tap to the AirPods will activate Siri and you use voice commands to adjust volume, skip tracks and of course make calls, while making or answering a call via Siri feels normal the other functions do not, it takes some getting used to and it feels awkward in public. In fact, the reality is most will use their phone, or other Apple device to adjust volume or skip tracks when in public rather than speaking to Siri, I know I did, and I actually found this became normal practice even when in my house. I understand with all new features there is ‘settling period’ where you get used to it, but being in public it just doesn’t feel natural to ask Siri to ‘turn down the volume’, I think Apple needs to revisit this feature, maybe with tweaking it will become more user friendly. What does work well is the fact that you can pair your AirPods with all your Apple devices and once the set-up is done you can seamlessly switch between any of your devices depending on what you want to listen to. Overall the AirPods are easy to use and the W1 chip works seamlessly with your Apple devices, however the lack of control buttons leaves you feeling like there is something missing. 

Connectivity

The AirPods connect to your Apple devices via Bluetooth, thanks to the W1 chip connectivity is strong and switching between your Apple devices is effortless. Hands-free calls with the AirPods is also effortless and call quality is excellent, its just like you are using your phone directly.

Battery

Apple AirPods boasts up to 5 hours battery life and this claim is very accurate, an impressive battery life for small in-ear headphones. Apple have also provided a charging case which gives up to an additional 24 hours battery life, which equates to just over four additional charges before you need to plug the case in. The charging case charges your AirPods very quickly, you can also do a 15 minute quick charge on the go which will give you 3 hours battery life, meaning if your AirPods run out of battery on the way home, one quick charge and you can keep listening. A small LED light on the case lets you know if the battery life is running low but you can get full battery life details on your mobile device for both the case and AirPods. The battery life and charging case are one of the AirPods best features.

Portability

Both the AirPods and charging case are small and lightweight in design making them extremely portable. Weighing a mere 4 g for each AirPod you will barely feel the AirPods in your ears meaning you can wear them for hours on end. The charging case weighs just 38 g meaning you can carry it with you at all times, whether in your bag or even in your pocket, though it will be a little bulky in there.

Sound Quality

The AirPods offer a rich, high-quality AAC audio with superior sound for wireless in-ear headphones. The sound quality is well rounded with strong deep bass that does not overpower the rich, warm mids or clear highs. While the audio is not as crisp as competing wireless audio at the same price point, the AirPods easily sit mong the best available, with a well balanced sound that will suit all genres of music. Apple has equipped the Airpods with dual beamforming microphones which helps the AirPods cancel out some ambient noise, that said they are by no means noise cancelling earphones, like all earbuds this is not possible but this technology helps you clearly hear you music while on a busy main street, even if the background noise is still audible.

Durability

The AirPods lightweight design is largely due to it’s plastic body, however this means it’s also prone to scratches and not very durable. That said as the hard charging case is very portable you are likely to carry the AirPods in this when not using them, this is also a good idea because their small design means they would be easy to loose.

Comfort

Apple have gone for the one size fits all design, with a moulded plastic earbud designed to fit any ear very comfortably and it does, the lightweight design also means they are comfortable to wear for hours on end. That said, as Apple do not use silicon ear-tips, but rather the same shaped plastic, on size fits all design as the EarPods they don’t feel as secure as other wireless earphones. Though I never had the AirPods fall out while testing I would not wear them out jogging, I always have that fear they would come loose and with no cable they would be very easily lost. You can buy an accessory to attach the AirPost together, like you can with a lot of wireless earbuds, but even with that the AirPods do not feel secure enough for running or jogging as there is no ‘suction’ feel you get with silicon ear-tips.

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Unboxing

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Review

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Apple's first wireless ear buds are interesting, but there's a lot more they can do to make the AirPods really special.

 

Comparison

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What others are saying ...

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Apple's AirPods still aren't perfect, but a series of small software upgrades have made them better.

About The Author
Lynne Pettre

Reviewing the latest tech in Ireland and across the globe.