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Google Pixel Buds review

Google Pixel Buds review

These are Google’s Pixel Buds. They’re
kind of, sort of, Google’s answer to Apple AirPods. They’re wireless earbuds, though
not truly wireless, and they cost about the same amount of money, $159. On
one hand they’re really good wireless earbuds that do a lot of the basics well,
while also teasing that seemingly inevitable future of having super
computers in our ears. On the other hand there are a couple of tiny nitpicky
flaws that when added together kind of mar the experience. Up front though we
have to start with one of the features that Google’s hyping the most about the
Pixel Buds and that’s real-time translation. Can you tell me where the
train station is? Can you tell me where the train station is? I can, the train station is over there. It’s sort of wrong. Can you tell me where the bathroom is? Can you tell me about where the washroom is? There is a toilet nearby. That’s good to hear. There’s a toilet not far from here. Can you tell me how to get to the train station? Are you able to tell me how to get to the train station? Walk to the next block, go straight and turn right. Go straight and turn right. Hello and thanks for helping out. Hello and thanks for helping out. Is that kind of right? Yeah it is, it is. It’s taking a while to translate it. Do you know how to get to the train
station? Tell me how to get to the train station. What’s wrong about it? It would just be a bit like, you’re kind of like, it’s using the
imperative so he would be a bit like, not very polite to just stop someone and say, “Tell me how to get to the train station.” It would say, “Can you tell me how …” So this is as if I was a rude five-year-old? Yes. Hey. Hey Dami, thank you for helping us with this. Wait, so am I speaking into the app or am I speaking at the Pixel Buds? That’s also weird, you are speaking into
the app, but it’s reading it out in English to me. Oh so you can hear it in English. So what it’s showing up here
it’s reading to me in English. Would you rather hear both though? No. Can you tell me how to get
to the train station? I told them how to get to the train station. Wow. This is not super accurate. Oh yeah? Yeah. What did it get wrong? Just like a lot of grammar, and you’re speaking to me in a really informal way. This seems to be a problem with it
is that it’s very rude in the way that it’s translating things. I’m sensing a bit of hostility from you. The one common thread we saw across all the
languages is that the translation is pretty crude so you’re probably going to
come across as sounding a little bit rude or maybe even kind of like a
five-year-old and that’s not a problem with the pixel buds themselves it’s
really just a problem with where translation apps are at this point in
time and that’s really all this is. It’s not like the pixel buds are doing magic
to translate conversations it’s just leaning on the Google Translate app that
already, probably, exists on your phone. The weirdest thing for me is that with
pixel buds you’re adding a whole nother device into what is already an awkward
situation when you’re trying to speak somebody else’s language and it makes it
a bit more impersonal. My co-workers didn’t really seem to have much of a
problem with it, just testing it out, but I know for myself I would probably
rather just use the app on the phone as opposed to adding a whole another device
into the situation. Now there may very well be a time one
day where everybody is wearing the Pixel Buds and using them to talk to people
across languages and borders but that future is not here yet. This current
version of the project is only teasing and it’s not delivering on it.
Google assistant however, is much further along and here’s the best thing about it
on the Pixel Buds: it is stupid fast. You just tap the right earbud and you’re
already talking to the assistant. You don’t have to wait for it to confirm
that it’s heard you or anything you just tap talk and it’s off to the races. It’s
so fast that I found myself begging for reasons to use it. I usually only use the
assistant for things like weather or alarms, especially on headphones. That said, I think Google’s assistant is the best of the ones out there and having it
less than a second away definitely feels like a genuine step forward. I found
myself using it in ways that I never had, like asking it to tell me how long it’ll
take me to get home on the subway or asking it to read me the news while I
walk from the subway back home. So let’s set all these fantastical and futuristic
features aside now, because while they might be useful in a pinch, what you’re
going to be using the Pixel Buds for the most is listening to music that’s coming
from your phone and in the right setting they do that really well. They reproduce
audio really clearly. There’s a little bit of depth to it, more than I expected
to find on earbuds this size and they’ll do that for a while too. Google advertises
about five hours of listening time and I found that as long as you’re not using
the assistant a ton, you’ll get at least four hours of what they’re claiming. But
the open air design of these earbuds, Google calls it semi occluded, is a
totally double-edged experience. On the one hand it’s good for situations like
running where you want to have sound from the outside world coming in, but on
the other hand it means that sound can totally drown out the music listening
experience. Especially if you’re in a big city like New York. I found myself
hearing buses, trains, traffic, people walking by me instead of the music that
I wanted to listen to. There was even one point where I actually heard the music
from someone else’s headphones instead of my own music. That’s annoying. That brings us to the last part of the experience with the Pixel Buds, which is
the case. I really want to like this thing and for the most part I do. It’s
got a nice soft touch finish to it. It has a couple extra charges worth of battery
in it and it will even quick charge the Pixel Buds. Ten minutes will give you
about an hour, which is awesome. The problem comes from just how finicky the
processes is of getting the buds back in the case. You have to put
them in one by one and then you have to wrap the cord around just the right way
or else the case won’t close and Google even had to put a sticker on the inside
of the case to teach people how to do that. Now the way that you get Pixel Buds
to fit in your ears also has a couple issues. You have to tug on this little
loop of the cable that connects the two earbuds together, which is a nice idea,
but that cable tends to slip over time and so I found that pulling them out of
the case the cable has slipped or even when I have them in my ears the cable
slips and I have to constantly readjust them to keep them fitting in my ears the
right way. Now the touchpad on the right is really fast for Google assistant,
which is great and you can tap to play and pause music and you can even swipe
to control the volume, but it’s super sensitive and so you have to be careful.
I found myself getting lots of accidental taps and swipes especially
when I took the earbuds out of my ears and went to put them back in the case.
That was really frustrating because I would hear music starting to play again
or I would lose my place in a podcast. It just seems like an easy problem that
Google could fix if the earbuds know that they’re out of your ears. Now these
are admittedly little frustrations, but when you add them all up together it
makes for a more problematic experience than I was expecting with Pixel Buds.
There are a lot of good ideas in this product and I’m excited to see what
Google does with that going forward. It’s just painfully obvious right now that
this is their first attempt at making wireless earbuds.

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