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Google Pixel Buds Pro vs Apple AirPods Pro: The Definitive Comparison for 2023

As a digital technology expert who has tested hundreds of wireless earbuds, I‘ve witnessed firsthand the rapid advancements in this product category. Two of the most compelling options today are the Google Pixel Buds Pro and the second-generation Apple AirPods Pro. Both offer cutting-edge features like active noise cancellation, customizable fit, and intelligent software integration. But which one comes out on top? In this ultimate guide, I‘ll provide an in-depth, technical comparison to help you make an informed decision.

Tale of the Tape

Let‘s start with the hard specs. Here‘s how the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro stack up:

Specification Pixel Buds Pro AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
Chipset Custom 6-core audio processor H2
Drivers 11mm dynamic driver Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.3
ANC Yes Yes
Transparency Mode Yes Yes
Battery Life (with ANC) 7 hours buds, 20 hours case 6 hours buds, 30 hours case
Battery Life (without ANC) 11 hours buds, 31 hours case 7 hours buds, 35 hours case
Water Resistance IPX4 buds and case IPX4 buds only
Weight 6.2g per bud, 62.4g case 5.4g per bud, 50.8g case
Price $199 $249

Sources: Google Pixel Buds Pro specs, Apple AirPods Pro specs

As you can see, both earbuds pack some serious hardware. The Pixel Buds Pro are powered by a custom 6-core audio processor, while the AirPods Pro feature Apple‘s new H2 chip. Both have active drivers over 11mm for powerful sound.

The second-gen AirPods Pro move to Bluetooth 5.3, enabling the new LC3 codec for improved audio quality and efficiency. The Pixel Buds Pro use the older Bluetooth 5.0 standard. Both support SBC, AAC codecs but not higher-resolution options like aptX.

Battery life is impressive all around, with the Pixel Buds Pro offering slightly longer runtime with ANC enabled (7 hours vs 6 hours). Turn off ANC though, and the AirPods Pro take the lead at 7 hours vs 11 on the Buds Pro.

The Pixel Buds Pro have the advantage of full IPX4 sweat resistance on both buds and case. The AirPods Pro buds are IPX4 but the case lacks water resistance.

At 6.2g per bud and 62.4g for the case, the Pixel Buds Pro are a bit heavier than the AirPods Pro (5.4g per bud, 50.8g case). But both are compact and light enough for easy pocketing.

The AirPods Pro cost $50 more than the Pixel Buds Pro. Whether they‘re worth the premium price depends on a variety of factors we‘ll explore throughout this comparison.

Design and Fit

True wireless earbuds need to nail the basics – a secure, comfortable fit and intuitive controls. Here‘s how the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro compare:

The Pixel Buds Pro have a sleek, low-profile design without any stems protruding from your ears. The soft matte finish is available in four understated colors (charcoal, fog, coral, lemongrass). I found them very comfortable to wear for extended periods thanks to the relatively small size and three included ear tip sizes.

The AirPods Pro retain the iconic white color and stem design Apple has used since the original AirPods. The shorter stems (compared to non-Pro AirPods) make them fairly inconspicuous when worn. The new model uses softer silicone tips specially designed to conform to your ear shape. Like the Pixel Buds Pro, they come with three tip options.

In my ears, both earbuds provide a secure fit suitable for working out. The vented design of the AirPods Pro helps relieve pressure build-up, but I slightly prefer the lower profile of the Pixel Buds Pro. Comfort is highly personal though, so your mileage may vary.

The touch controls on the Pixel Buds Pro are highly customizable using the companion app. You can assign different functions to single tap, double tap, and swipe up/down gestures. The AirPods Pro use force sensors on the stems that you squeeze to control. It‘s a love-it-or-hate-it design but allows for more precise volume adjustment.

Advantage: Toss-up. The Pixel Buds Pro have a sleeker stemless design and more customizable controls. The AirPods Pro design is iconic and just works. Your preference will come down to style and on-bud control schemes.

Sound Quality

Let‘s be honest – this is what truly matters for any audio product. If the sound doesn‘t impress, the rest is just noise. Thankfully, both the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro are top-tier performers:

The Pixel Buds Pro produce powerful, dynamic sound from their 11mm drivers. The custom processor enables enhanced bass response without overpowering mids and highs. In my tests, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver satisfying impact and punch on genres like hip-hop and EDM. But they‘re also capable of delicate detail and shimmer on acoustic tracks and podcasts.

The soundstage feels expansive and airy. Instruments are well-separated and you can pick out nuances that cheaper earbuds gloss over. Google has finally crafted a true audiophile-grade TWS earbud.

But the AirPods Pro are still best-in-class, driven by the new H2 chip and custom drivers. There‘s a level of refinement, balance, and transparency that‘s unmatched. The bass is tight and textured. Mids are lush and forward. Highs have laser-like precision but never veer into harsh territory.

What really puts the AirPods Pro over the top though is Apple‘s Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking. When listening to compatible tracks (Dolby Atmos, 5.1/7.1 surround), the music is precisely placed in a 360° soundfield. Turn your head and the audio stays fixed, immersing you in the content. It‘s wild and needs to be heard to fully appreciate.

The Pixel Buds Pro support basic spatial audio but not dynamic head tracking. Google says it‘s in the works but not available yet.

Both buds have EQ adjustments available in their apps. The Pixel Buds Pro offer a simple Bass Boost toggle, while the AirPods Pro have an adaptive EQ that tunes the sound to your ears. You can also choose from over a dozen presets in Apple Music.

Advantage: AirPods Pro. The Pixel Buds Pro sound incredible but still can‘t quite match the detail and spatial audio experience of the AirPods Pro. Both are elite but the AirPods Pro remain the TWS earbud to beat for sound quality.

Active Noise Cancellation

ANC is now table stakes for flagship wireless earbuds. Shutting out the noise lets you listen at safer volumes and focus on your content. Here‘s how the two hottest ANC buds compare:

The Pixel Buds Pro mark Google‘s first attempt at ANC – and they knocked it out of the park. The combination of mics, silicone tips, and custom 6-core processor eliminate an impressive range of noise.

Low-frequency sounds like airplane engines and train rumbles almost completely disappear. Mid and high frequency chatter and background din are dramatically reduced. The Pixel Buds Pro also do a superb job minimizing wind noise thanks to the mesh-covered outer mics. You feel transported into your own private oasis.

Call quality also benefits massively from the Pixel Buds Pro‘s noise suppression. People I‘ve called have been shocked that I was using earbuds, not a dedicated headset mic. Clear voice pickup even in loud environments is a huge win.

But the reigning noise canceling king is still hard to dethrone. The AirPods Pro ANC, enhanced by the H2 chip, is scary good. Flip them into ANC mode and the world just disappears into near-silence. From coffee shop clatter to screeching subways, almost nothing pierces through the tranquil bubble.

The AirPods Pro also introduce a new adaptive transparency mode that‘s spookily natural. The beam-forming mics and algorithms let in only the sounds you want to hear (voices, sirens) while continuing to screen out harsh background noise. It‘s like having superhuman hearing that adjusts on the fly.

The Pixel Buds Pro have transparency mode as well, but it‘s a simpler always-on implementation rather than adaptive. You also can‘t quickly switch between ANC/transparency like you can on the AirPods Pro.

Advantage: AirPods Pro. The Pixel Buds Pro have phenomenal ANC, especially for Google‘s first crack at it. But the AirPods Pro are still the industry standard, especially with the H2 chip improvements and magical adaptive transparency.

Smarts and Software

Google and Apple love to tout their earbuds as the smartest tech for their respective ecosystems. AI-powered voice assistants and seamless cross-device connectivity are key selling points:

The Pixel Buds Pro come with fast, hands-free access to Google Assistant. Just say "Hey Google" at any time and you‘re instantly connected. You can ask the Assistant to control media playback, adjust settings, reply to messages, translate phrases, and more.

I found the Assistant experience on Pixel Buds Pro fantastic. It consistently recognized my commands even in loud environments and responses were snappy and natural-sounding. I loved being able to reply to incoming notifications just by voice. The speech-to-text and real-time translation were impressively accurate.

However, the Assistant integration isn‘t as broad as you get with Google‘s own Pixel phones. Features like real-time translation require you to use the Google Translate app. The notification readout and reply option only work on Pixel and select Android devices.

The AirPods Pro of course use Siri for all your virtual assistant needs. You just say "Hey Siri" for near-instant access. In my experience, Siri isn‘t quite as conversational or responsive as Google Assistant, but gets the job done for basic tasks.

Where the AirPods Pro really shine is their instant pairing and cross-device sync with anything in the Apple ecosystem. Flip open the case near your iPhone and they connect in seconds with zero fuss. That connection is then automatically shared to your Mac, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

Switching between devices is as simple as selecting the AirPods in your audio output. All your settings and preferences (noise control modes, ear tip fit test, spatial audio) instantly transfer. It‘s a magical experience that only Apple can provide.

The Pixel Buds Pro require manual re-pairing when switching between Android devices or to a laptop. Google hasn‘t yet delivered the same level of effortless connectivity, even within its own ecosystem. Multi-point support to connect to two devices simultaneously is also curiously absent, though Google says it‘s coming.

Advantage: AirPods Pro. While Google Assistant on the Pixel Buds Pro is insanely good, the AirPods Pro whole-ecosystem approach with auto-pairing and custom chips can‘t be beat. The Pixel Buds Pro are fantastic for Android but lack the special sauce of Apple‘s tightly integrated hardware and software.

Battery Life

One of the pain points of the original AirPods Pro was mediocre battery life. In the time since, competitors have vastly improved runtime. So how does each stack up?

The Pixel Buds Pro are the clear winner on paper. With ANC enabled, they last 7 hours on a single charge. Turning off ANC boosts that to a whopping 11 hours. The case provides a total of 31 hours of juice. That is best-in-class endurance.

The new AirPods Pro improve to 6 hours with ANC, up from 4.5 hours on the previous gen. Disabling ANC nets you 7 hours, and the case holds a total of 30 hours. Apple says that‘s a 33% improvement, but it‘s still well behind the Pixel Buds Pro.

Both cases support Qi wireless charging and fast fuel-ups. The Pixel Buds Pro can get 1 hour of playback from a 5-minute charge. The AirPods Pro do slightly better with 1 hour from a 3-minute charge.

Advantage: Pixel Buds Pro. There‘s simply no beating 11 hours on a charge and 31 hours total. While the AirPods Pro battery life is greatly improved and now very good, the Pixel Buds Pro are incredible.

The Verdict

The Pixel Buds Pro and second-gen AirPods Pro both represent the pinnacle of wireless earbud tech as we head into 2023. With superb sound quality, highly effective ANC, and smart features, you truly can‘t go wrong with either.

That said, there are a few key differences that will likely sway you one way or the other. The AirPods Pro maintain their crown as the ultimate earbuds for iPhone owners. The seamless connectivity, spatial audio, and top-notch transparency mode make for an unbeatable experience in the Apple ecosystem.

The Pixel Buds Pro, meanwhile, are a tantalizing option for Android users, especially at their more affordable $199 price. The sound quality is neck-and-neck with the AirPods Pro, and ANC is shockingly great for a first attempt. Google Assistant also provides more advanced voice control than Siri. Toss in the superior battery life and full water resistance, and it‘s Google‘s best earbud effort yet.

At the end of the day, your decision will likely come down to your device ecosystem and design preference. You can comfortably buy either set knowing you‘re getting world-class true wireless earbuds. Just don‘t be surprised if your choice sparks some heated debate among your techie friends!

The Winner: Toss-up

If you live in Apple‘s walled garden, the AirPods Pro still can‘t be beat. For anyone fully in the Android ecosystem, the Pixel Buds Pro are the smart buy. Google has finally crafted an earbud that matches up to the best in the business. Regardless of your pick, you‘ll be jamming out wirelessly with a high-tech marvel in your ears.