Surface Headphones vs. Beats Studio3: Which should you buy?

Regardless of Cortana being included on the Surface Headphones, they're the better choice for folks not using Apple devices. The Beats Studio 3 gets a boost from the Apple W1 chip, which you can't take advantage of on your Android phone or Windows PC.

Microsoft vs Apple

2018 saw both Microsoft and Apple in the headphones market with the Surface and Beats brands respectively. Of the two, Apple has the history and brand recognition, though that itself doesn't come without its fair share of criticism.

However, the Studio3 wireless headphones aren't the Beats of old and deserve plenty of respect.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has been developing the Surface Headphones for a long time and while these are the first, everything the Surface division knows about building hardware has been poured into these headphones.

What we end up with is both Apple and Microsoft producing high-quality headphones. They both sound great, are very comfortable to wear, and, in their own unique ways, very stylish, with excellent ANC all round.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Surface HeadphonesBeats Studio 3
Noise cancellationActiveActive
Battery lifeUp to 15 hours (with ANC, Bluetooth and Cortana enabled)Up to 22 hours (used with Apple devices)
Up to 40 hours (ANC off)
Charging portUSB-C
Fast charge
Micro USB

Beats are great for iPhone and iPad owners

Beats Studio 3

Where Beats have a definite edge over the Surface Headphones is if you use an Apple device such as an iPhone or iPad. Thanks to the Apple W1 chip, you get some serious benefit, including a better, easier to manage wireless connection and a much better battery life.

The W1 also allows you to switch seamlessly between your Apple devices without worrying about pairing each time. If you can take advantage of this connectivity, it's very, very good.

Of course, for everyone else, the Beats Studio3 is just a normal pair of wireless headphones. Sure, you can use your voice assistant with them, but it'll be the one on your phone, running from your phone.

Surface Headphones work the same across every device

The Surface Headphones, by contrast, are a consistent experience across whichever devices you pair with it. Part of that is because Cortana is built into the headphones, so you always have Cortana in your ears ready to help out, no matter the device.

The ultimate battery life may be weaker than the Beats3, but you at least have USB-C to top it off with, something you're likely to be carrying. An Apple product with a micro USB port, on the other hand, is pretty absurd and doesn't present itself for a lot of charging opportunities.

The Surface Headphones support Swift Pair on a Windows PC, but aside from making it easier on the initial connection, performance is the same across any PC or phone you use, Apple included.

A great all-rounder

The Surface Headphones are certainly worthy contenders against the likes of Beats and Bose. For a first attempt, they're excellent, and whether you're going to use Cortana or not, you have a high-end pair of ANC headphones to use with any device. If you're not using Apple hardware they're the ones to get.

Beats are best for Apple devices

Thanks to the W1 chip from Apple, there's just no way the Surface Headphones can compete when you're using an iPhone or iPad. The seamless switching between devices and extraordinary battery life enhancements simply can't be matched. There's just no reason to get a pair unless you have that Apple device.

Richard Devine

Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy. Follow him on Twitter and Google+