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The Galaxy Unpacked 2021, one of the most hotly-anticipated tech events of the year, has just given us a couple of new, interesting devices to discuss. Of course, there’s the Galaxy S21 series—the headlining launch—but at the same time, Samsung also unveiled their most feature-packed TWS earbuds thus far: the Galaxy Buds Pro.
The Galaxy Buds Pro are also included as part of the pre-order promo for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, with the older Galaxy Buds Live part of pre-order deals for the Galaxy S21 and S21+. Samsung says that the Buds Pro are not replacing the Buds Live in their lineup—which makes some sense. After all, the Buds Live are a wholly different proposition than the Buds Pro, although there are some similarities with regards to features.
Plus, you can also still pick up the Galaxy Buds, or the Galaxy Buds+ on the official Samsung store (at significantly cheaper prices than the Pro and Live). So, how do you choose between them?
Key specs at a glance
All of the models are still officially on sale on Samsung Malaysia’s online store, which means that there’s a little something there for everyone. We’ve compiled a comparison table above so that you can get a side-by-side glance at the key specs of the Galaxy Buds range—and so you can get an idea of which earbuds fit you best.
First, let’s talk about design and comfort of use. The Galaxy Buds, Buds+, and Buds Pro all feature a conventional in-ear buds design, and they’re all roughly the same size and weight. For those of you who prefer earbuds that don’t sit inside your ear canal, the Galaxy Buds Live features a… unique design. Personally, I found the experience of wearing the Buds Live to be rather odd, and as someone that has gotten used to in-ear headphones, the Buds Live don’t really feel that comfortable.
But the Buds Live were also the first headphones within the Buds family to come with Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) technology, which is a big, big plus. However, ANC on the Buds Live is a little different from conventional ANC headphones. Samsung says that the Buds Live are designed to cancel out the drone and ambient noise that you’d expect on planes, trains, or buses—rather than speech within the office, for example.
If you’re looking for shut-out-the-world ANC, you’re probably better off with the Galaxy Buds Pro—although I have yet to personally try it out for now.
ANC affects battery life, however
To me, ANC is a must-have on earbuds in 2021, but the flip side of this is the effect it has on battery life. Even with noise-cancelling turned off on the Buds Live and Buds Pro, battery life figures of the ANC-supported models are significantly poorer than the Galaxy Buds+—which offer up to 11 hours on a single charge. Samsung has offset this by providing a bigger charging case on their ANC headphones, but this is something you should keep in mind.
Meanwhile, an upgrade that the Galaxy Buds Pro has over the others is IPX7 water resistance. IPX7 means that the earbuds can withstand up to 1m of fresh water for 30 minutes—but Samsung warns that they are “not advised for beach or pool use”, and that the charging case is not water resistant to any extent. Instead, your IPX7-rated Buds Pro should be able to handle sweat and rainfall to a greater degree than the IPX2-rated Galaxy Buds, Buds+, and Buds Live.
There is one useful feature that the entire family of Galaxy Buds comes with: wireless charging. Whether you prefer to use a Wireless Powershare-compatible Galaxy smartphone or a Qi wireless charger, this is all the more impressive when it comes to the relatively affordable Galaxy Buds. For some context, the base model AirPods do not come with a wireless charging case—you’ll have to purchase a more expensive variant for that.
Which Galaxy Buds offer the most value for money?
It depends on what you’re looking for. At a reduced price of RM349, the original Galaxy Buds is quite a decent deal; if you look around, you’ll probably find (even) cheaper deals from online retailers, particularly during sales festivals.
You’ll have to live without ANC, however. Plus, battery life of six hours is poorer than the other options here by some margin. You do get a wireless charging case, as mentioned, but beyond that, this is probably a suitable option for a Wireless Powershare-compatible Galaxy smartphone owner who is looking for a pair of basic, solid earbuds.
Moving on, the outlier here is the Galaxy Buds Live. I don’t really know if I’d recommend the Buds Live, to be honest with you, as my experience with them has been markedly poor. You do get ANC at least, but it isn’t the immersive ANC you’re probably looking for. For this model, I’d recommend borrowing a pair from someone and trying them out for yourself.
And then we have the Galaxy Buds+ and the Galaxy Buds Pro. The former has one main thing going for it, and that’s battery life for the earbuds. Up to 11 hours is an impressive battery figure—even if the charging case provides fewer additional charges. However, at a price of RM599, I feel like it’s worth stumping up an extra RM200 to upgrade to the Galaxy Buds Pro; again, you might be able to find cheaper deals for the Galaxy Buds+ via online retailers during sales festivals.
You get better water resistance, and of course, ANC. Samsung has also introduced a number of interesting new features on the Buds Pro that play around with the Ambient and ANC modes, including the new voice detect feature that automatically switched from ANC to Ambient when it recognises user speech. There’s also a 3D Spatial Audio feature that works in a similar way to the AirPods Pro “spatial audio”, although (again) I have yet to test that out for myself.
At RM799, the Galaxy Buds Pro is priced right below the AirPods Pro, which I would assume is its main competitor in the TWS space right now. There are also options like the Sony WF-1000XM3 that can sometimes be picked up for less than RM600 right now, so you’ll have to weigh Samsung’s new “intelligent” features against the tried-and-trusted audio/ANC performance of Sony’s popular earbuds.
But if you’re specifically looking for something within the Galaxy family, the Galaxy Buds Pro is the best option. Samsung also says that the new two-way driver system (tweeter+subwoofer) will offer “immersive sound”—so you’re getting a lot for RM200 more than the Galaxy Buds+.
But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.