Powerbeats Pro vs AirPods 2: Which should you buy?

AirPods with Wireless Charging Case and iPhone in the background
AirPods with Wireless Charging Case and iPhone in the background (Image credit: Joseph Keller/iMore)

Both the AirPods 2 and the Powerbeats Pro feature a lot of the same positives, thanks to the Apple H1 chip that is featured in both pairs of headphones, but the Powerbeats Pro offers a better battery life and better sound isolation. Considering the almost $100 price difference between them, it's worth taking a deeper dive into the pros and cons of each model of headphones.

If you want to see what Rene Ritchie thinks about Powerbeats Pro versus AirPods 2, check out his Vector episode below.

A close race

Apple owns Beats so it's not unusually to see Apple's fancy proprietary hardware being used in both headphones, but because both headphones use the H1 chip, the differences between them are harder to distinguish.

Both the AirPods and Powerbeats support voice-activated Siri, meaning you can access the assistant anytime you want to help you get directions, search the web, or make phone calls just by saying, "Hey, Siri," but the Powerbeats Pro actually have physical buttons to control playback, whereas the AirPods rely on gestures and Siri to control your audio. The physical buttons on the Powerbeats Pro are on both the left and right earbuds, so if you're choosing to only listen with one earbud you have full access to controls.

While both headphones feature a charging case that provides up to 24 hours of extra juice, due to the ear hook design of the Powerbeats Pro charging case is a fair bit larger. The compact AirPods 2 charging case easily fits in pockets (even those little coin pockets in most jeans) and the ability to easily store them is a huge bonus for people who already have to carry a lot around. Plus, the AirPods 2 can be purchased with a wireless charging case, so you can pop it onto any Qi-enabled wireless charging pad to get juiced up.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Apple AirPodsPowerbeats Pro
Price$160 (or $200)$250
Battery life5 hours9 hours
Battery life with case24 hours24 hours
ControlsTap gesturesPhysical buttons
Hey, SiriYesYes
Charging methodLightning (or Qi wireless charging)Lightning
ConnectionBluetooth 5.0 through H1 ChipBluetooth 5.0 through H1 Chip
Fast charging15 mins = 3 hours15 mins = 4.5 hours
Custom fitNoYes
Auto pauseYesYes
Sweat resistantNoYes

Looking at the spec sheet, you likely notice that the Powerbeats Pro have nine-hour battery life for listening to music, which is a whole four hours more than the AirPods 2. This means you can wear your Powerbeats Pro longer without having to pop them into your wireless charging case, a whole regular work day even, which is a huge advantage. It's important to remember though that the AirPods 2 and Powerbeats can fast charge inside their respective cases, and as you can see above, the fast charging speeds are similar and both provide up to 24-hours of playback.

AirPods 2 and Powerbeats Pro can fast charge inside their respective cases, and both provide up to 24-hours of playback.

The other important consideration to give the Powerbeats Pro is the inclusion of water and sweat resistance. The AirPods 2 headphones have no water resistance whatsoever, they aren't really meant for working out or building up a sweat, and if it's raining outside, you'll likely want to keep them tucked away. Beats states that the Powerbeats Pro is both water and sweat resistant, but they haven't (and if history is any indicator, they won't) given an official IP rating. If they are anything like the older Powerbeats, they should be able to hold up during your intense workouts, just make sure not to let them fall into any bodies of water and get completely submerged (and please, don't shower with them).

Lastly, the sound. The Powerbeats Pro are Beats, meaning you're going to get that bass-heavy signature sound profile that Beats has been known for, and you're either going to hate it or love it. What the Powerbeats Pro will offer though is way better sound isolation which will allow you to shut out more of the outside world around you and in turn, give you a better listening experience overall. The AirPods 2 don't fit as snug into the ear canal as the Powerbeats Pro and therefore suffer from a lot more sound bleed, and because the AirPods 2 don't have multiple ear tips, you can't play around to fit the best fit.

It's important to point out that the Powerbeats Pro headphones do not have the ability to cancel noise isolation, so if you're the type of person that prefers having the ability to hear what's going on around you while you walk or bike, Powerbeats Pro won't work for you.

Which should I buy?

Luckily, the differences between the Airpods 2 and the Powerbeats Pro are pretty minimal, meaning it really all comes done to personal preference.

If you're looking for a workout pair of headphones that won't fall out of your ears, and still want all the benefits of the H1 chip, go with the Powerbeats Pro. If you want to be able to get through your workday without having to use your charging case, go with the Powerbeats Pro. If you prefer sound isolation and physical controls to control playback, go with the Powerbeats Pro.

If you dislike the bass heavy sound of Beats, enjoying having a wireless charging compatible case, want to save about $100 (or $50) dollars, the AirPods 2 are going to give you a lot of the same functionality. Also, the AirPods 2 are avaiiable right now, whereas the Powerbeats Pro aren't coming out until May. so if you need/want something right now, the AirPods are the only choice.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.