AirPods vs. PowerBeats3: Comparing the Apple and Beats Earphones

So far people seem to be liking Apple’s AirPods. They’re $159 and known mostly for being totally wire-free even from each other and including Apple’s W1 chip for great battery life and fast pairing. While PowerBeats3 aren’t just traditionally wireless, they do have the W1 chip and all of the same benefits.

Should you spend an extra $40 to get the gym-ready PowerBeats3?

It’s not hard to find a comparison online between the AirPods and the BeatsX because they’re similar in price — $149 for the BeatsX. But consider this: the top-tier wireless earphones from Beats are just 40 bucks more than the AirPods. Are they worth the upgrade?

W1 Chip

Both the AirPods and PowerBeats3 include Apple’s W1 chip inside. This dramatically improves the Bluetooth connectivity in a variety of ways. Notably, it allows both headphones to connect seamlessly to any Apple device. Just hold them near the device and a prompt automatically appears asking you to connect. Tap and you’re good to go. They also sync through iCloud and become available for listening through your other devices as well. The W1 chip also provides stellar battery life — more on that in a bit.

In short, the W1 chip is equal in both earphones. You won’t miss or gain anything by choosing one over the other.

Wireless vs. Wire-Free

Whether the wire-free design is advantageous to you depends on your lifestyle.

The differences are nowhere more apparent than they are right on the outside. The AirPods famously use a wire-free design. They don’t have a wired connection between each other at all and certainly not to any of your devices. They’re truly wireless. Just pop them in your ear you’re good to go.

Photo: Apple

The PowerBeats3 have a traditional wireless design. A wire runs between the two of them to keep them connected and a bit more secure around your head. The wire also extends over the top of the ears. That plus the silicone ear tips ensure these earphones hook in and stay firmly in place more so than the AirPods.

Whether the wire-free design is advantageous to you depends on your lifestyle. I wouldn’t under any circumstance recommend the AirPods for strenuous activity like running or exercise. The PowerBeats3 naturally have a more secure fit when jumping and moving around. However, if you’re not particularly active and maybe just need earphones to wear at the office, AirPods are a great choice. The wire-free design should be extra comfortable to wear for long hours.

One last point to consider is that you’re probably far less likely to lose the PowerBeats3. Because they’re kept together by a wire, you won’t misplace or drop one and not the other. They’re stuck together for life.

Sound Quality

Should I just cut to the chase? The PowerBeats3 sound better.

That’s according to nearly every review and also just standard knowledge of both headphones. Apple hasn’t shied away from the fact that the AirPods are basically wireless EarPods. They feature a bunch of cool tech, but have sound quality quite similar to the very average-sounding EarPods you get in the iPhone box.

Photo: Apple/Beats

The PowerBeats3 on the other hand have far more balanced sound and better bass. Not only that, but thanks to the silicone ear tips, they provide much better noise isolation. You won’t hear your surroundings nearly as much with the PowerBeats in. The Beats brand does tend to cater slightly more to urban, R&B and hip hop genres, but the bottom line is PowerBeats3 sound much better than AirPods.

Should I just cut to the chase? The PowerBeats3 sound better.

Sound quality isn’t always a deal breaker. You might choose headphones with slightly worse sound if they have more features or better battery life. But when I’m spending over $150 on wireless earphones, sound definitely matters to me. Keep in mind that when you buy AirPods for $159, you’re really getting just a small step up sound-wise from the $29 EarPods.

Battery Life

You don’t need to worry about poor battery life with the PowerBeats3 nor the AirPods, but they do have different ways of measuring battery life.

The PowerBeats3 are pretty straightforward: you get 12 hours of battery life. Simple. Done. When they run out, charge ’em. This is excellent, by the way, especially compared to wireless competition. It’s rare to find a full 12 hours of battery life in earphones as small as these.

Photo: Apple

Apple advertises 24-hour battery life for the AirPods, but that’s only true depending on the way you use them. They get 24-hour battery life only with the included carrying case. The simple white case neatly stores your AirPods for travel and also charges them a few times before needing a recharge of its own.

When the AirPods aren’t in the case, they get five hours of continuous playback. Put them in the case again to start charging after five hours. Only 15 minutes of charging affords you another three hours of battery life, an incredible feat.

So while PowerBeats3 has longer continuous battery life (12 hours vs. five) AirPods get double if you stop to throw them in the case every five hours.

Final Verdict: PowerBeats3Photo: Apple/Beats

For an extra $40, yeah you should probably go with PowerBeats3. They just have superior sound quality, fit snugly in your ear, and the 12 hours of continuous battery life is industry-leading. Even if you use them all day and charge them all night, it’s plenty of fuel for your day to day activities.

Really the only major reasons to go with AirPods instead are if you’re really hung up on the wire-free design or absolutely need to be without a power source for more than 12 hours. And budget, of course. If you have the extra $40 to spend, PowerBeats3 are the way to go.

ALSO READ: PowerBeats3 vs. Jaybird X3 Wireless Headphones: Which is Better for the Gym?

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