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Beats powerbeats pro review: Apple’s fitness-focused wireless earbuds are a runner’s best friend

Excellent sound and comfortable over-ear hooks make these the ideal choice for athletes

Steve Hogarty
Tuesday 26 October 2021 16:57
<p>In black, the earphones look positively understated for a Beats device </p>

In black, the earphones look positively understated for a Beats device

When they first launched in 2019, the Beats powerbeats pros joined the AirPods in Apple’s early roster of H1-powered wireless earbuds.

Whereas the original AirPods were prone to popping out of your ears at the first hint of exertion, the powerbeats pros were designed with workouts in mind. They’re sweat resistant and feature an over-ear hook to ensure they never leave your head.

They’re also comfortable to wear on longer endurance runs, with soft silicone tips that sit gently in the ear canal rather than feel like they’re attempting to burrow their way into your skull. They’re stylish too, and smart enough to use outside of the gym.

The more recently launched AirPods pro might have superseded the powerbeats pro as the premium wireless earbud of choice for the iPhone user about town, but they still remain the go-to earphones for those who regularly workout while listening to music.

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As well as having great workout credentials. the powerbeats pros are also crammed with clever tech. Proximity sensors detect when you’ve removed them from your ears and automatically pause your music, resuming again when you slip them back on. This feature is found in many of the best wireless earphones in 2021, but we’ve never seen it work as faultlessly and reliably as it does with these guys.

How we tested

We’ve been wearing the Beats powerbeats pros as part of our usual workout routine, running three or four times a week, as well as during at-home exercise. We’ve also been testing the powerbeats pros on public transport and in less active situations while out and about on our various errands and missions.

We paired the Beats powerbeats pro with an iOS device for testing, but used the earbuds primarily with an Android phone, the Pixel 5.

Beats powerbeats pro: £219.95, Beatsbydre.com

  • Driver: 6mm
  • Materials: Plastic, rubber, silicone
  • Waterproofing: Splash and sweat-resistant only
  • Dimensions: 2.2in
  • Charging case dimensions: 76mm x 76mm x 26mm
  • Weight: 20g
  • Charging case weight: 108g
  • Battery life: 9 hours (plus 22 hours in case)

When paired with an Apple device, the Beats powerbeats pros are a masterclass in usability. Pop open the clamshell case for the first time and your iPhone will immediately recognise them and prompt you to connect with a single tap. After that, they’ll pair in the time it takes you to remove them from the case and hook them to the side of your head.

On Android there are a few extra steps. You’ve got to press the case’s pairing button, open up your bluetooth menu and select them, but after that they function as well as they do on an iPhone. If you’ve got an Android phone, don’t let the fact that these are Apple-made earbuds put you off.

The earbuds come in six colours including “lava red”

These are sporty wireless earbuds designed around working out, but which still look smart enough to wear on your morning commute. The over-ear hooks are flexible and can be adjusted for a tighter or more comfortable fit. They also allow the tips to form a gentler seal in your earhole without too much pressure. Non-hooked earbuds or earbuds with in-ear supports can become uncomfortable when worn for long periods, but that’s not the case with these.

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Of course, the main benefit of over-ear hooks is that your expensive running buds don’t fall out of your ears in the street and tumble down a drain or under a passing car. It’s possible to find wireless earbuds with a snug enough fit to withstand rigorous exercise, but the peace of mind of properly attaching them to your ears means you can focus on your workout without picturing over £200 worth of tech whizzing into a canal.

The bulky case isn’t pocket friendly, but the battery life means your earbuds don’t spend much time in there

Another benefit to joggers – and sweaty people in general – are the on-ear controls. The powerbeats pro uses physical buttons rather than a touchpad, making it much easier for your finger to find the right controls.

Touch controls are tricky to use even when standing perfectly still, and near-impossible to use while bounding along. On the powerbeats pro, you just need to feel out the embossed Beats logo or the raised volume rocker with your fingertip to control music and summon Siri, Alexa or the Google Assistant. Controls are on both earbuds, which means you’re still in full control when one of your arms is busy carrying a gym bag, your groceries, a baby, or shaking hands with a visiting dignitary.

Physical controls make it easier to feel your way around

You can’t swim with the powerbeats pro, but they are IPX4 rated. That means they can deal with dust, rain and whatever horrid cocktail of sweat and gunk your ear can produce over the course of a half-marathon. This writer has run hundreds of miles with the powerbeats pro and they still look brand new and retain their brilliant orange-red lustre.

Battery life is long-lasting too, providing around nine hours of playback between charges. If you’re in the habit of popping them back into the charging case when you get back from a run, they’ll seem to last forever. The case can recharge the earbuds two and a bit times, which punts the total battery life up to more than 24 hours. Used exclusively as workout earbuds, the powerbeats could last you a week before needing more juice.

The case comes with a Lightning cable, and can’t be charged with USB-C

However, if you plan on using the powerbeats pro everywhere you go, you’ll need to lug the charging case around with you. It’s the biggest charging case of its kind – too big for a standard pocket, and too big to fit down a Pringle tube (we just tried). This is a case designed to be thrown in a backpack or simply left at home.

These are expensive wireless earbuds from a recognisable, premium brand. As such they’re unavoidably conspicuous – especially in the more exciting colour options – which is something to bear in mind if you don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself when you’re out for a run.

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They’re not the best-sounding wireless earbuds we’ve ever used – those would be the Sony WF-1000XM4s – but we like how the powerbeats pros sound. They’re responsive in the mid-to-high range frequencies and have none of the swampy bass that Beats was once infamous for. We listen to a lot of podcasts while we run and the clarity of vocals cuts through environmental noise, while thumpy tunes with heavy basslines don’t feel lost or overwhelming. Lighter music and acoustic sounds have a great presence here too.

One drawback for anyone planning on using these on public transport is the lack of noise-cancellation. The omission makes a lot of sense – running with noise-cancellation switched on is like running with your eyes closed – but without this feature the powerbeats pros are less easy to recommend as a general pair of everyday earbuds. You get some noise-isolation with the correct, snugly fitting tips, but on loud tube trains we could barely make out the latest twist in our trashy true crime podcast.

A proximity sensor switches the earbud off to conserve battery when not in use

The verdict: Beats powerbeats pro

The most comfortable true wireless running earbuds have over-ear hooks, and in this category the Beats powerbeats pros are the best workout earbuds you can buy.

Whether you’re rocking an iPhone or an Android, they deliver exceptional comfort and fit, decent all-round sound quality and a battery life that could outlast your latest resolution to take up running again.

Things become complicated if you’re shopping for a pair of earbuds to wear away from the gym. The chunky case of the powerbeats pro is cumbersome, and the lack of noise cancellation almost rules these out completely if you travel by certain tube lines.

That being said, we would rather wear the powerbeats pro on a train than risk taking our top pick of wireless earbuds – the more precariously fitting and expensive Sony WF-1000XM4s – on a long and sweaty run.

The powerbeats pros are fantastic pair of workout earbuds, but the less athletically minded can find better options elsewhere.

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Looking for more top-rated audio gear? Check out our round-up of the best wireless headphones in 2021

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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