- Excellent overall performance, Loaded with features, Seamless connection with Apple devices
- Limited compatibility and features for Android devices, Glossy case picks up scratches and scuffs easily
Whenever Apple launches a new product, the hype squad rises with all their might. You wouldn’t be wrong to think that it's all orchestrated. However, that is not the case with everyone who speaks highly of some Apple products. The company, with its extremely close-knit ecosystem and extensive R&D in place, have been able to push out some of the best products in their respective categories in the recent past.
The products might not be the best that are out there in the market. But, if you are a part of the ecosystem or own a couple of Apple products to complement your recent purchase, it actually doesn’t get any better. The Find My network works like a charm, and AirPlay and AirDrop are like industry benchmarks.
When Apple launched their AirPods Pro (2nd generation), the case was no different. As you might have seen in our Digit Zero1 Awards article for the Best Premium Truly Wireless Earphones, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) were bested only by the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro (The Winner), and the Sony WF-1000XM4. Both the Sonys and the Samsung TWS earbuds are arguably more universally compatible and were evenly matched with Apple for the most part in terms of pure performance.
But there’s a lot more to a product than just performance, right? So, to take a deeper look into the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), we put them through our extensive testing process, and this is what we found out –
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) – Build and Design
One look at the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), and you will be able to make out that they are a pair of AirPods straight from the house of Apple. The simple white capsule design, which is extremely pocketable and easy to use, with the metallic hinge, shows that the folks at Cupertino put effort into making the product what it is.
On the front of the case, you find a single LED that indicates the battery levels, connectivity, and power status of the device. At the back of the case, you have the pairing button and the signature – Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China – text. When examining the bottom, the case now comes fitted with a pair of small speakers coupling the lightning port. The speakers, along with the lanyard loop on the side of the case, are new additions to the design of the AirPods to ensure that you do not lose your ₹26,900 worth AirPods Pro (2nd generation) easily.
The buds themselves also carry over the aesthetics of the last gen AirPods Pro with subtle design changes. The grill on the buds has been shifted upwards on the lobe of the buds, and in its place, we get a shiny new pill-shaped skin-detect sensor. The stem is there as always and has gotten some updates as well. We’ll talk more about that in the next section.
As for the materials, both the case and the buds are built using the same shiny but durable glossy plastic, with the lanyard loop, the hinge, and the bottom of the case with the speaker and the lightning ports getting a metallic treatment. While the case looks like candy out of the box, with extensive use, the glossy plastic picks on some scratches and scuffs, which end up making it look like a shiny stone on the beach.
Inside the box, along with the documentation, you get a lightning cable and three additional ear tips to ensure that you get a snug fit every time you put the AirPods on. There’s a software feature as well to ensure that you are getting the most out of your AirPods, which we’ll talk about next!
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) – Features
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) received a few new software features as well. The first and most impressive one for us was the speaker that Apple added to the case. The reviewer, especially, has been wanting to see a feature like this implemented in his daily drivers because he keeps on losing the case. So, when the AirPods were announced with this feature, his joy had no bounds. And, given that it worked well, it ensured that there were no accounts of him walking into the Test Centre confused and turning everything upside down looking for his case. The beeps guided him home!
Next was the mapped spatial audio. With the latest AirPods, Apple introduced personalised spatial audio, which uses the camera of your phone to map your ears, tuning the spatial audio accordingly. While in day-to-day use, you might not feel the difference, but it is there. The mapping does fill up some of the blank spots that would have otherwise been there in your listening experience. Adding to the audio listening experience is the ear tip fit test that ensures that the tip that you are using is suitable for your ears.
All these features are placed neatly in a separately labelled section in the settings menu, letting your access all that you need. However, keep in mind that as soon as you move away from an Apple device and decide to pair the AirPods with a non-Apple device, you will lose a lot of functionality. We were pretty bummed out by this. Other TWS earbuds in the market allow for some level of customisation using apps, on phones that are not inherently compatible with the device.
However, Apple does not allow the same with the AirPods. All of this is just to show off flawless functionality with the devices in their ecosystem. While it does work well, having the same at some level with devices that are not in the ecosystem would be nice to have. The AirPods pack a ton of potential to become one of the best TWS earbuds in the market. However, their wings are clipped enough to allow them to fly in the ecosystem, nowhere outside.
Coming back to the features. The AirPods, as usual, pair quickly with the Apple devices around them, and the audio handoff between devices works like a charm. And, credit where credit is due, this does make life a lot easier if you are an Apple user, like the reviewer who uses an iPhone 12 Mini and a MacBook Air (M1) every day.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) – Performance
Coming to the performance of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), the device performed exactly how we have come to expect from Apple and the high-end TWS earbuds in general.
The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) come packed with a new H2 chip and a custom high-excursion Apple driver along with a custom high dynamic range amplifier. Thanks to these drivers, the overall sound signature of the AirPods Pro leaned towards the warmer side.
Uncompensated frequency response of Apple AirPods Pro [2nd generation] (Blue) vs Flat Response (Pink)
This means that most genres of music that you listen to will be reproduced well. But, in some tracks, owing to the boosted lower mids, the sound would seem a little boomy. This might be something that most people would not even notice. And, given the way Spatial Audio works, you will not even realise that the sound signature is a bit off in some cases.
Overall, the mids and highs are reproduced in a way that would put many other earphones to shame. In our testing, we loved the way the AirPods handled vocal heavy tracks like Rescue Me and metal tracks like Centuries. The only place where we felt the presence of boosted bass was in tracks like UpTown Funk.
As for the ANC, it worked like a charm. It came pretty close to the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro (winner of our Zero1 Awards 2022), and the Sony WF-1000XM4 (pretty much the industry benchmark). However, in certain situations, like in outdoor environments, it paled in comparison to the likes of the other two TWS earbuds. However, the transparency mode on these earbuds won our hearts. The sounds that were being let in when we toggled the mode on sounded very natural, often leading the reviewer to get confused about whether he had the earphones on or off.
Uncompensated frequency response of Apple AirPods Pro [2nd generation] (Blue) vs Flat Response (Pink) vs Sony WF-1000XM4 (Light Green)
The microphone on the AirPods also fared well when we tested it in different environments. Even in fairly large rooms where there is a lot of echo, the AirPods handled themselves well. On the receiver’s end, minimal echo was heard, and the caller’s voice, even during Google Meet calls on PC and Mac, was clear and crisp.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) – Battery
The battery of the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), while we were testing them, lasted for about 5.5 hours with ANC off and volume set to 50 per cent. With ANC and Spatial Audio turned on, the battery life dropped to about 5 hours, which is pretty impressive. The case provided for about four more full charges with some juice still left over.
One issue that we noticed during our battery tests was that one of the earbuds drained the battery slightly faster than the other. This might have been an issue with just our unit. We hadn’t encountered anything like this with the previous generation of AirPods. So, we’d recommend you test this out when getting a new pair for yourself.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) – Verdict
With the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), Apple has pushed their bar even higher. Several improvements over the last generation of AirPods Pro mean that the expectations will run even higher with the next release. The AirPods make for a great pair of premium TWS earbuds for users who are a part of the Apple Ecosystem. We can recommend them to any Apple user if they have the budget to go for these earbuds. They come with features and performance that cannot be matched by many. And, the ease of use of these earbuds with Apple devices makes them an even more enticing option for those who own a Mac, an iPhone, or an iPad.
Given the limitations that come into play as soon as you move out of the ecosystem, we’d hold back on recommending them to users working with a Windows PC or an Android smartphone. They retain some of their features as you change platforms, but they cannot be justified for the premium you are paying for the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Other TWS earbuds like the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro or the Sony WF-1000XM4, both of which have a much better cross-platform performance and compatibility and provide a similar, if not better, performance and feature set.