Apple's AirPods Pro are excellent wireless earbuds that have active noise canceling and better sound than the original AirPods. But at $250 (£249 or AU$399) they don't come cheap, and alternatives like Samsung's $150 (£159 or AU$299) may have you wondering if you're paying a needless premium for Apple's version. I wore both of these wireless earbuds for two weeks to compare them on fit, sound quality, battery life and smart features to find out if the AirPods Pro are indeed worth the extra $100, or if you're better off saving money with the Galaxy Buds Plus.
The AirPods Pro are Apple's premium in-ear buds and have incredibly effective active noise cancellation. Calls, podcasts and music sound great too. Though you can control many features in the pulldown Control Center or Bluetooth settings menu, the lack of a dedicated app to adjust the sound profile or settings from one interface is disappointing. You can use the AirPods Pro on Android, but you'll get the best experience when paired to iOS. Read the AirPods Pro review.
Samsung improved the Galaxy Buds Plus' sound compared to the first generation and they are an excellent choice for Android or iPhone owners. They don't have active noise cancellation, but the noise-isolating design blocks out a fair amount of sound, and music sounds more dynamic than on the AirPods Pro. The battery also lasts an insanely long time, so you can feasibly wear the Galaxy Buds Plus all day. Read the Galaxy Buds Plus review.
Galaxy Buds Plus' in-ear design is more flexible
The Galaxy Buds Plus come with three tip sizes, plus three different wingtips to really fine-tune the fit. The AirPods Pro have three tip sizes that you can swap in and out depending on your ear canal.
How each earbud fits varies wildly depending on the size and shape of your ear, so what feels good to my ears may be completely different from what you like. I prefer the fit and feel of the Galaxy Buds Plus because they feel more secure than the AirPods Pro. I have small ear canals, and the smallest tip on the Buds feels more comfortable than the equivalent on the AirPods Pro. As a result, the Galaxy Buds Plus stayed in my ear better during an active workout such as an outdoor run.
Note that both of these wireless earbuds have an in-ear design that provide a layer of noise isolation, but only the AirPods Pro have active noise cancellation (ANC).
Both wireless earbuds will be fine during your sweaty workouts or if you get caught in the rain. But the AirPods Pro are rated IPX4, which means they're more water-resistant than the Galaxy Buds Plus, which satisfies an IPX2 rating. Each case has wireless charging, but you can use USB-C or Lightning cables to charge the Galaxy Buds Plus or AirPods Pro, respectively.
Winner: Though not as water resistant as the AirPods Pro, I like the Galaxy Buds Plus for its more comfortable fit.
AirPods Pro have noise cancellation, but the Galaxy Buds Plus sound better
Here's the thing: if you want ANC, look no further and get the AirPods Pro. It's incredibly effective and makes the listening experience fantastic for commuting or traveling. But if ANC is not a top priority, the Galaxy Buds Plus actually sound better to my ears.
Apart from tracks with heavy bass, which sound better on the AirPods Pro as they don't get so distorted, I prefer the default sound profile of the Buds Plus overall. When using the Buds Plus on iOS, I like the dynamic sound profile that gives the bass a bit of a boost without being too heavy. When I'm on an Android phone, the regular sound profile is my go-to.
To my ears, the overall sound on the AirPods Pro is more neutral. This is great for calls and podcasts, but for music I would choose the Galaxy Buds Plus.
Both earbuds can let in more external sound in situations where you need to hear more, such as the office or if you're running outdoors. The AirPods Pro call it transparency mode while the Galaxy Buds Plus call it ambient sound. I prefer transparency mode though, because the amplified sound from the outside world sounds more natural and less "tinny" than the Galaxy Buds Plus.
The AirPods Pro also have a live listen mode that helps amplify sound for the hard of hearing. It works by using your iPhone's microphone to amplify sound and sending that to your AirPods so you can hear a conversation in a noisy room better, for example.
Calls sound great on both earbuds. The AirPods Pro were better at isolating the caller's audio (thanks to ANC), and the caller remarked that it sounded less noisy when I was standing on the street. From the same position, I called back on the Galaxy Buds Plus and the same person said my voice was louder and slightly clearer, but they could hear more of the street noise.
Winner: It's a toss-up; I love the AirPods Pro's noise cancellation and live listen mode, and the Galaxy Buds Plus for sound quality.
AirPods Pro have better range
Using an iPhone 11 Pro for the AirPods Pro and a Note 10 Plus for the Galaxy Buds Plus, I was incredibly impressed by how solid the connections were with both earbuds. I can only recall one time when the Galaxy Buds Plus failed to connect to the iPhone when taking them out of the case. I then had to establish the connection manually through the Bluetooth settings. The AirPods Pro, meanwhile, connected with the Note 10 Plus without any problems.
The AirPods Pro do have slightly better range. I did an informal range test by leaving each phone on a table and walking down a hallway with the AirPods Pro in one ear and Galaxy Buds Plus in another. Samsung's wireless earbuds dropped out first, while the AirPods Pro lasted around six feet further.
Winner: AirPods Pro
Galaxy Buds Plus are more customizable, but AirPods Pro are best for hands-free
You can also use a voice assistant on both these earbuds, but only the AirPods Pro let you summon it with your voice by saying "Hey, Siri" (on the Galaxy Buds Plus you'll have to tap or press the touch panel). Both can also read messages to you.
Another difference between these buds is that the AirPods Pro have a stem that you can pinch to change tracks or switch between modes, while the Galaxy Buds Plus has a touch panel. You can also customize these controls to some extent. With the AirPods Pro, settings are tucked in the iOS Bluetooth settings menu and the Galaxy Buds Plus have their own app.
While neither of these earbuds have physical volume controls (like the PowerBeats Pro, for example) there is a setting on the Galaxy Buds Plus that lets you tap the side edge of the buds to turn the volume up or down. This is located in the Labs section of the app.
If you lose your earbuds around the house or in a bag, you can play a sound to find them using Find My on iOS or the Galaxy Wearable app. But the AirPods Pro have the additional feature of being able to see their last location on a map.
Winner: Galaxy Buds Plus for more customization overall, but AirPods Pro has a clear advantage if you are a heavy Siri user.
Want the longest battery life? Get the Galaxy Buds Plus
Samsung rates the Galaxy Buds Plus for 11 hours of listening time and the case itself holds enough charge for 22 hours of total listening time. The AirPods Pro will get you around 4.5 hours of listening time with ANC turned on (you can push it closer to 5 hours with no ANC) and the case holds 24 hours of total charge. Both cases also support a quick charge feature, so three minutes in the case will get you one hour of listening time on the Galaxy Buds Plus, while five minutes charging nets you the same listening time on the AirPods Pro.
Winner: Galaxy Buds Plus is the clear winner here.