Hands-on with the $159 Google Pixel Buds

Lucas Matney

Google's Pixel Buds are a $159 pair of wireless earbuds that bring Assistant and real-time translation features right into your ears. They're not quite like the AirPods and they're not quite like anything else out there, but you're not going to get the most out of them unless you have a new Pixel 2.

I had a chance to try them out and here are some first impressions.

The fit of the device was a bit odd and didn't seem as snug in my ears even compared to the AirPods; I may need some more time with them in order to make a full judgment call, but they didn't seem like something I would wear while going for a run.

The design is definitely less low-profile than some of the other options out there, their size is more noticeable and the wrap-around wire isn't as minimalist as some of the true wireless buds on the market. The soft cord is threaded and feels like the cord on a hoodie with a bit more structure, which proved to be a nice feel.

The real-time language translation tool wasn't really feasible to try out at the time, and that is the feature I'm most psyched about -- but we'll get some more substantial time to check these out in a review.

Sound was tougher to judge than I'd like in the crowded demo room, especially as the fit wasn't perfect. They largely seemed on-par with what I've come to expect from wireless buds in this price range, but for $159, if audio quality is all you care about, you can do better elsewhere.

Touch capacitative controls on the device were great. AirPods can be a bit finicky at times with the double tap to call up Siri, but even the lightest rest of my finger was registered on the Pixel Buds, something their shape undoubtedly helps with. You can pause music with a tap, turn the music up and down by swiping forward and backward and call up the Assistant by holding your finger on the bud while you make a query.

The mics did a surprisingly great job picking up audio even in a crowded demo room, pulling up the Google Assistant mid-song was a snap and Assistant correctly identified the capital of Peru when pressed for an answer, so I'm satisfied.

These are coming in November and retail for $159.

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