Apple AirPods 3rd generation review: Third time’s a charm

The Apple AirPods are typically the first fully wireless earbuds that come to mind. Despite being by far the most popular set of earbuds in the past 20 years, their fame can work against prospective buyers. Many people believe that popularity equates with quality or status, however, this isn’t always the case. We used the AirPods (3rd generation) for two weeks to determine whether you should spend the extra money for the most recent model or look into other solutions. Let’s follow us to find out about Apple AirPods 3rd generation review right now!

Apple AirPods 3rd generation review: Design

In terms of both design and numerous functions, the 2021 AirPods are essentially what you would get if the AirPods Pro and the 2nd Gen AirPods had wireless headphones offspring. The AirPods 3 borrow design ideas from the AirPods Pro and have a 33% shorter stem than the previous edition. Like the AirPods Pro, there is also a force sensor, enabling more sophisticated commands from the AirPods themselves.

The ear tips have also been updated. To better guide sounds into the ear, the tips taper more inward and the angle has been changed. In fact, they are a little too big for our ears due to their increased size, and certain components have been slightly moved. Overall, the design is recognizable—the ‘electric toothbrush head’ resemblances are still there, though less obviously so because of the shorter stem—but after five years of existence, the AirPods’ popularity has made them more of a statement than anything else.

Apple AirPods 3rd generation review: Design
Apple AirPods 3rd generation review: Design

Since the AirPods 3 don’t come with the silicone tips that come with the AirPods Pro, they won’t fit as snugly overall. Although they are comfy to wear, occasionally they do fall out of our ears because they are a bit large. Everyone has a unique set of ears, therefore this current model might fit certain people better than the model from an earlier generation.

Additionally, IPX4 offers water and perspiration resistance. Because of the silicone tips, wearing the AirPods 3 while running may not feel as comfortable or secure as wearing the AirPods Pro, but you can still use them without worrying about sweat ruining them.

Apple AirPods 3rd generation review: Sound quality

The new design of the AirPods will catch your eye first, but the upgraded audio will leave the biggest impression. Apple’s new design has a redesigned driver, which significantly improves the clarity and “punch” of recordings with lots of bass. While watching videos in apps that support it, you also get software features like adaptive EQ and spatial audio with head tracking.

The experience of listening to my playlist of audio test tracks—a varied collection of music ranging from classical to rock, modern pop to remastered classics—on third-generation AirPods is completely different. If you listen in a quiet setting, I’d even say the new AirPods sound almost as excellent as the AirPods Pro.

Particularly, bass responsiveness has been much improved, and clarity has been improved overall. This is more than I can say for using second-generation AirPods to listen to busy, heavy songs like Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” or “These Days” by the Foo Fighters. Bright Lights Bigger City by C Lo Green maintains the crisp stereo separation and retains the undetectable crowd noises in the background, both of which are easily lost with inferior headphones.

When properly supported, spatial audio is a delight. When the function is turned on in the Control Panel for stereo tracks (long-press the volume slider), the sound field is undoubtedly larger, but sometimes minor cues are lost. The tracks on Apple Music that have been blended in Dolby Atmos sound amazing.

The use of spatial audio gives surround-sound movies and TV shows a brand-new feeling of position and space. The third generation of AirPods is a big improvement over the second generation if you use them to view streaming video.

Apple AirPods 3rd generation review: Battery life

Apple AirPods 3rd generation review: Battery life
Apple AirPods 3rd generation review: Battery life

The third generation of AirPods not only have a battery that lasts longer than its predecessors—four hours of speaking time or six hours of listening time—but also a new charging case. This new charging case resembles the AirPods Pro charging case more and supports wireless charging as well as MagSafe. Instead of the vertical and taller design found on the original AirPods and their sequels, it adopts a horizontal and wider approach. However, it is still charged with a Lightning cable.

The battery promises for the new AirPods were understated in our opinion; during testing, we actually received greater listening time than was stated. We had about four and a half hours of speaking time overall with numerous calls coming through while listening time with Spatial Audio on and appropriate music or television programs was about five and a half hours. While having both in your ears produces a much superior audio experience, the beauty of AirPods is that you can choose to only have one in, leaving the other in the charging case, and swapping them over when you hear the five-minute alert.

With just one charge, you can extend that listening time even further if necessary. The charging case provides four extra charges, for a total of 30 hours of listening time. It’s convenient because just five minutes in the charging case should provide an additional hour of listening time.

Frequently asked questions

How do the third-generation AirPods and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 compare?

The biggest difference between the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and the third-generation Apple AirPods is that the Buds 2 seal to the ear and don’t have stems. Better active noise cancellation than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is available with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, which also has an IPX2 rating as opposed to the IPX4 rating of the AirPods.

If you don’t have an iPhone, you can’t obtain firmware updates for the Buds 2, and you can’t access firmware updates for the AirPods either. However, you can update the Buds 2’s software using an Android device made by a manufacturer other than Samsung. Learn more by reading our comparison of the third-generation AirPods with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2.

Do the AirPods work with a variety of devices?

Do the AirPods work with a variety of devices?
Do the AirPods work with a variety of devices?

Bluetooth multipoint is not supported by any Apple AirPods. But with the same iCloud account, you may benefit from seamless switching between Apple gear. This means that the AirPods (3rd generation) will automatically switch to the audio output of the laptop when you’re watching a video on your MacBook while listening to music on your iPhone.

How do the third-generation AirPods stack up against the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?

Given that the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are far more expensive than Apple’s AirPods, it should not be surprising that they include a number of noteworthy features that the latter’s earbuds do not. To begin with, the QC Earbuds II have excellent active noise cancellation, which contrasts favorably with the AirPods’ nearly open rear fit (3rd generation).

It’s not a given that Bose will work better on a fundamental level, though; the AirPods may sound better and have a superior microphone. Although not as good, battery life is near. The two shouldn’t be as competitive given their $120 USD price differences, especially because the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) also costs $120 USD.


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