Powerbeats Pro Preview: Everything AirPods aren't... almost

You know the one about AirPods 2 not having iPhone-style water-resistance, Apple Pencil 2-style soft touch texture, Bose-style noise cancelation, or fitting those outside the 80% curve of Apple's earbuds? Well, Apple's Beats by Dre subsidiary is aiming to scratch a few of those remaining items, or pain points, off the list with the all-new, just announced PowerBeats Pro, which look to bring a little variety to the truly wireless game.

Now, first and most importantly, Powerbeats Pro will cost $249.95 when they come out, and that's in May. So, they're 50 bucks more expensive than the most expensive AirPods, which ring in at $199.99. Plus, AirPods are available now and Powerbeats Pro won't be available out until May.

But, that doesn't stop me from talking about them now!

Powerbeats Pro Design

Where AirPods are in-the-ear, sorta, in that they fit into the shallow part of your ear without going spelunking the way truly in-ear headphones do, PowerBeats Pro go both further in… and all the way around.

I've said before that AirPods are about the only non-over- or on-ear headphones they stay in my grappling savaged ears. But even they, especially the right one, can still be a little loose. Around the ear mostly solves that problem. And I only say mostly because I've had the previous W1 PowerBeats flop a little bit at certain angles.

For most stuff, they're like Iron Man earbuds that latch on over your ear to complete the deployment.

Powerbeats Pro H1 Technology

Because they use Apple's brand new H1 headphone chip, they're also completely independent and wireless, just like AirPods. That means not only no wire to your audio source, but no wire between the two PowerBeats Pro. So you can use one or both, separately or together, just like AirPods.

Since I'm mostly listening to spoken word content and I prefer to always hear what's going on in the world around me, I typically only use one AirPod at a time, and it'll be great to be able to use only one PowerBeats Pro at a time as well.

And, yeah, that also means, like AirPods Yo Siri is supported right on the Powerbeats, so you can ask for anything, no taps or push needed. It's way more convenient than it sounds, especially when you're working out and you don't want to fuss with your watch, never mind yell out to your phone.

Powerbeats Pro Noise Isolation

PowerBeats Pro have that Beats sound, which will be a positive or negative for you depending on your tastes, but they also have noise isolation. Now, as I said, I prefer hearing the world around me, especially when I'm out trying to stay safe on the roads and sidewalks, but if you prefer not hearing it, especially on planes, on buses, even in Gyms or, yeah, with family and friends chattering or existing around, these offer them where AirPods don't.

Powerbeats Pro Bluetooth 5

Thanks to Bluetooth 5 in the H1 chipset, you get the same kind of quick pairing and switching, solid connection, and extended range as AirPods. Whether there are any differences that result from the different designs, we'll have to wait and see. But on paper, it's a big win for both.

Powerbeats Pro Water & Sweat Resistance

Apple's AirPods, even the second generation, aren't sweat resistant or water resistant. Beats says the Powerbeats Pro are. There's no official rating for them, at least not that's been disclosed at this point, but you should be able to take them out, sweat them up, even get rained on or splashed, without a problem.

Powerbeats Pro Battery Life & Charging

Where the AirPods promise 5 hours of listening time, the bigger, more rugged Powerbeats Pro promise up to 9. Like AirPods, you return them to the charging case to fuel them back up, and both cases, AirPods and Beats, carry 24 hours worth of charge in them. You just don't have to charge the Beats as often to reach it.

Where AirPods will give you up to 3 hours of quick-charge from 15 minutes in the case, Beats says 1.5 hours from 5 minutes, which… da da dat da da… math! Should be about 4.5 hours for those same 15-minutes, though power management can change that a lot, so we'll have to wait and see for any final numbers.

Powerbeats Pro Colors

Yeaaaaah. Powerbeats Pro come in colors. Unlike AirPods, which you can get in any color as long as its iPod iconic white, you can get Powerbeats Pro in ivory, black, navy blue, or moss green.

Now, yeah, still no Product Red, which I covet and which, who knows, might show up at some point, but even having these few, these kinda conservative for beats options is nice. Even if I can't currently decide between navy and black.

Powerbeats Pro Physical Controls

Play pause can happen when you put Powerbeats Pro in or take them out, just like AirPods, but where AirPods are all stealth and you can tap invisible quote-unquote buttons to do one thing of your choosing, Powerbeats Pro have legit physical hardware controls. There's volume up and down, right on the top, and the big B button on the outside, which you can even long-press to pass on a call.

If you don't want to fuss with your watch or phone or even Siri, physical controls are just where it's at, especially while you're working out or just doing work.

Powerbeats Pro To be continued...

So, who should get AirPods 2? If stealth is your thing, and you want the smallest, lightest ear computer phone things you can get, with tap and voice controls, a mic that's a little closer to your mouth, and that iconic Apple look, plus the optional wireless charging case, then go for AirPods 2 at $199.

And, who should get Powerbeats Pro? If powering through is your thing, and you want something that might be bigger but will stay in — and on — better, that has old fashioned, crunchy physical controls, is sweat and water resistant, is noise canceling, lasts longer between charges, and comes in, you know, colors, even if it's nowhere nearly as svelte and there's no wireless care, then go with Powerbeats Pro at $249.

At least that's what I think, while AirPods 2 are available but we're still waiting on Powerbeats Pro, and once I have them, well, I can and will evolve my thinking based on how they perform and keep performing in the real world.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.