When it comes to smartphones, the battle between Samsung and Apple is fairly even, with acolytes of either company ready to lay it all on the line for the latest flagship device from their respective brand. When it comes to smartwatches, Apple has the clear advantage, but wireless earphones are a little more mixed in our opinion, with a number of brands producing impressive offerings.
So where does the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, newly released alongside the Galaxy S21 series, sit in the spectrum of wireless earphones?
We spent the past couple of weeks with the Galaxy Buds Pro to find out whether they deliver on all necessary fronts – audio quality, battery life, smart features and user friendliness.
With that in mind, here’s what we uncovered.
A perplexing case
First we need to say that we’re big fans of the design of the Buds Pro. They kind of look like pieces of jewellery, especially in the Phantom Silver or Phantom Violet colour options. Even the Phantom Black of our review unit is quite fetching, and certainly looks the part as some sort of stealthy tech.
We also prefer the design of the Buds Pro over that of the kidney bean-shaped Buds Live, which seemed promising, but proved difficult from a fit perspective. Similar experiences are found here on the Buds Pro, but more on that a little later.
Our initial impressions, at least on a superficial level looked good, but upon closer inspection we found a few elements vexing.
Let’s start with the charging case of the Buds Pro, which hold a substantial 13 hours extra battery life on top of the earphones themselves which support up to five hours with the active noise cancelling turned on. The case itself is also quite small, which means you can easily slip it in and out of pockets when needed and take the extra charge on the go.
All these are great aspects in our books, but that’s where our praise for the case ends.
The case itself has a matte finish, but lacks a textured finish or any substantial crease/lip to making opening it easy. Quite often our grip would slip and we were concerned about scratching the case itself. If you’ve bought the Galaxy Buds Pro, you’re probably not worried about this, but seeing as how these review units we had a few concerns on that front.
There’s only an app for that
Next is connectivity, with Samsung opting to use only the Galaxy Wearable application to facilitate device connections via Bluetooth. While this normally would not be a problem, it does become an issue if you plan to pair the Buds with a device outside of the iOS or Android ecosystem, with only those versions of the app supported.
This means that while I am able to pair the Buds Pro to an iPhone, I cannot do so for a MacBook, as the app does not exist for macOS devices. It becomes even more of a problem if your daily driver smartphone is not supporting Android or iOS, like my Huawei P40 Pro does.
As such, you’re going to need a good idea of precisely what devices you aim to pair the Galaxy Buds with.
This feels like a serious misstep on Samsung’s part. Yes, the Buds Pro feature a number of smart features, many of which are facilitated via the app, but simply connecting via Bluetooth should be an option that is allowed.
Something like the Huawei FreeBuds 3 for example, also work via a dedicated app to handle the active noise cancelling and EQ of the earphones, but if I want to pair with a MacBook or another device with Bluetooth alone, it can do so. I lose some functionality, yes, but I can still listen to music unimpeded.
It truly mares an otherwise solid smart functionality experience, with the ability to switch between ambient noise and ANC, choosing different equaliser settings and selecting touch functions for each Bud all welcome.
Hopefully this is something that Samsung addresses in future, with a simple update or patch seemingly fixing an erroneous issue.
A little too finicky
Let’s switch to the actual experience while using the Galaxy Buds Pro earphones, and in terms of audio quality, we were thoroughly impressed. The normal setting for the equaliser produced snappy all-around sound. After trying out a few different settings we stuck with the dynamic option, as it yielded the best mix of high and lows regardless of what genre of music we opted for.
Paired with the ANC on, it created a great listening experience that was not unencumbered by a noisy environment, which in our case was a fan we had going most of the day to deal with the recent Highveld heat.
On an audio front, the Galaxy Buds Pro are great, and do not suffer from the shrill tones at the high-end one normally finds with wireless earphones.
Much like the charging case, the wearing experience is marred slightly, as the Buds take a while to get use to.
For the first few days of listening, we often found ourselves readjusting the in-ear fit, with the Buds quite sitting comfortably. They did not feel like they would fall out, but we would routinely shift the Buds to sit more easily for the first couple of hours of wear.
It may have to do with the design of the ear tip, which is why there are two pairs of differently sized tips included in the box, so you may need to do some experimenting to find what works best for you.
Either way, for an experience that is designed to be as seamless as possible, the Galaxy Buds Pro has a couple of hiccups.
At R3 999 (RRP), the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro do not come cheap. For the outlay you are getting a supremely smart pair of wearables, however, that feature a few tricks up its sleeve.
While that has its advantages, some of the more simpler aspects of these wireless earphones have proved more difficult for Samsung to sort out. The lack of support for straightforward Bluetooth connections sans app for example, or fiddly earbud tips that don’t quite sit right, overshadow solid all-around audio and great battery life.
Where we had hoped Samsung would have the “dumb” parts of the Galaxy Buds Pro down pat, it seems like those are the aspects it still needs to work on.
FULL DISCLOSURE: THE SAMSUNG GALAXY BUDS PRO WERE SENT TO HYPERTEXT WAS A SEEDING UNIT.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung has created a supremely smart pair of wireless earphones with the Galaxy Buds Pro, and for R3 999 (RRP), you expect as much. Elements such as Bluetooth connections, ear fit and an un-user friendly charging case all mare what is otherwise a great all-around listening experience.
Room For Improvement