The good: Easy to set up, Comfortable, Good at muffling outside noise, Earbuds stick together when not in use, Comes with three months of Apple (AAPL) Music
The bad: Don’t always stay in ear during exercise without winged tip, Power button can be hard to find while wearing the headphones
Who should buy: iPhone owners looking for reliable, comfortable wireless earbuds.
There are tradeoffs to consider here. Wireless earbuds are less cumbersome than their wired cousins, eliminating that annoying dangling wire. But what if their battery dies midway through your morning commute? Or what if the Bluetooth signal drops out during a workout?
Apple’s (AAPL) new BeatsX in-ear wireless earbuds aim to solve both of those quandaries. The BeatsX, which launched Feb. 10 for $149.95, include Apple’s W1 chip, which allows them to be instantly paired to your iPhone with a rock-solid connection. An eight-hour battery life, meanwhile, is supplemented by a quick-charging feature that adds two hours of playback after just five minutes of topping up. (Unlike Apple’s new AirPods, the BeatsX buds are connected by a cable.)
Here’s a closer look at what it was like to use Apple’s new BeatsX in-ear wireless earbuds.
Comfort and design
Like many similar headphones, the BeatsX buds are connected by a strap meant to be worn around the back of your head, resting on your neck. This strap, which Beats calls the Flex Form cable, is slightly longer and leaves more slack than similar headphones I’ve tried.
That extra length can be helpful or hindering: I loved that I didn’t have to drape the headphones over the top of my ear to get them to fit, as is the case with some wireless headphones that have shorter cords. But the cord can flop around during exercise, causing the buds to fall out of your ear. The BeatsX felt secure during less intense activity, like my commute. (The earbuds come with optional “wingtips” that can help keep them in place.)
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The cable also houses several key features, including a power button and Lightning charging port in one section, along with another section with buttons for volume, playback and phone controls, which can also be used to activate Siri. These playback controls were usually easy to reach, but I found myself struggling to find the power button while already wearing the earbuds.
The BeatsX also boast a clever design trick: A magnet keeps the two earbuds together while you’re not using them, securing them firmly in place.
The BeatsX’s secret weapon is Apple’s W1 chip, also found in the AirPods. Within moments of holding down the earbuds’ power button, my iPhone displayed a pop-up asking if I’d like to connect. It’s far smoother and easier than connecting the typical Bluetooth gadget. After pairing the BeatsX with my iPhone for the first time, they automatically paired each time I turned them on, making it easy to start listening quickly.
Of course, sound quality is most important aspect of any pair of headphones. The BeatsX delivers on this front, with crisp and clear audio. I was most impressed with how well the BeatsX canceled out nearby sound — while listening to music in my office and on the train, I barely heard nearby chatter and clacking keyboards. Still, music can sound a little shallow, and there’s no way to tweak your audio preferences through a companion app, as you can with rival devices like the Jaybird X3s.
In terms of battery life, the BeatsX seemed to be right in line with Apple’s eight-hour claim. After listening for a little over three hours, the BeatsX had more than half of a charge left.
Unfortunately, the carrying case for the BeatsX — a tiny, rubbery oval pouch— doesn’t charge the buds, like the AirPod case does. And although Beats says the headphones should coil easily, I sometimes found it difficult to fit the BeatsX in their case, especially when packing them up in a hurry.
And there’s one feature I loved about Apple’s AirPods that didn’t make it to the BeatsX: When using the AirPods, your audio will automatically pause when you remove a single earbud. It’s a small but satisfying touch that I would’ve appreciated here.
Apple’s BeatsX headphones are comfortable, easy-to-use wireless earbuds that block out plenty of external noise. Their W1 wireless chip makes them a breeze to connect, while the buds’ magnets keeps them snugly in place while you’re not wearing them. But shoppers looking for a great pair of wireless in-ear headphones for running may want to shop around if they don’t like using the winged tip. (The BeatsX will work with non-iPhones, but you won’t enjoy the benefit of the W1 chip.)
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Stuck between the BeatsX and Apple’s AirPods? People who want zero cables and a case that charges their buds on the go might be happier with the AirPods. But the BeatsX offer easier volume control and seem to maintain a better connection, whereas I’ve had the AirPods lose connection to one side before.
4 out of 5 stars. Buy here: Apple, $149.95