The world of wireless headphones doesn’t just revolve around the true wireless options that genuinely cut the cord. Yes, AirPods and Powerbeats Pro have pushed true wireless into the mainstream, but core wireless or Bluetooth earbuds haven’t left the scene just yet. If you need proof, Beats’ first products for 2020 are Powerbeats: a $149 pair of Bluetooth earbuds that sport ear hooks and are connected by a cord.
These are technically the successor to Powerbeats 3 ($69.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com), which originally launched in September of 2016. But instead of being called Powerbeats 4, these are simply Powerbeats. This definitive name cleans up the current Beats wireless in-ear line.
So what do the Powerbeats bring to the table? They’re certainly a big improvement over the aging Powerbeats 3, and these pretty much meet the bar set by the Powerbeats Pro. They feature the same audio experience as the Pro thanks to 12mm drivers and a digital signal processor. The physical drivers produce the sound and are controlled by the processor. In working together, they create a balanced listening experience that brings strong bass performance.
Powering the connection is the Apple-made H1 Chip. And that’s good news, as this is the same chip inside Powerbeats Pro, second-generation AirPods and AirPods Pro. It enables fast pairing with any iOS device and it will sync with your iCloud account for easy switching between any iOS, macOS, watchOS and even tvOS devices. The H1 Chip also powers hands-free “Hey Siri,” and it supports “audio sharing” in iOS (wherein two pairs of earbuds simultaneously connect to the same source). When you ask Siri to make a call, raise the volume or make a call, it will make use of dual beamforming microphones. Calls and voice control should be just as good as on the Powerbeats Pro.
All of this is packed into the classic ear hook design, though they opt for the updated style of the Pro models. When putting them on, it’s still best to put the hook behind the ear, and then push the bud into the ear. Takes a bit to get used to, but those familiar with the Powerbeats family shouldn’t have issues. The cord connecting the two comes out of the rear of the ear hook and has enough length to rest around your neck. Best of all, when these aren’t in use, you can just wear them around your neck. They’re also rated IPX4 so they should be resilient against splashes of water. In other words, you can wear these at the gym and sweat on them– just don’t try to submerge them.
When it comes to controls, the left Powerbeats earbud has a button on the top and an LED indicator for power and Bluetooth pairing. The right earbud has a volume rocker on the top and the Beats “b” button on the side lets you skip a track, go back, answer a call and even activate Siri. When it comes time to charge up, you can use the Lightning port.
While Powerbeats Pro averaged out at 9 hours of battery life on a full charge (with 24 hours of use via the charging case), Powerbeats should give you 15 hours of battery life. That’s quite impressive for a pair of earbuds, and beats the 12 hours of playback on Powerbeats 3.
So for $149 you get all these features, plus more in the box: three additional ear tip sizes, a USB Type-A to Lightning cable for charging, a carrying case and some paperwork. You can also pick between white, red or black as the color.
Stay tuned to CNN Underscored for our full review of Powerbeats later this week, and check out our Powerbeats Pro review here.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.