Side by side models wearing Airpods and Powebeats

Airpods or Beats earbuds: ranked and reviewed (2022)

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Now that we’ve covered the overall difference between Apple’s offerings and the alternatives, it’s time to get into the actual products and compare them all. Let’s start with H1 devices, which for wireless earbuds include the Airpods 2, AirPods 3, Airpod Pros, Powerbeat Pros, and Beats Fit Pro.

What are the important factors when ranking:

  • Case size: This will impact the overall portability when they are not in your ears
  • Battery life: No use if you can’t finish a phone call! All of these have cases with their own batteries that can charge your buds on the go, but obviously you can’t wear them while charging
  • Sound quality: Highly subjective but important. Some provide rubber tips which generally give a better sound
  • Charging Method: Most use lightning, but there are exceptions

I’m going to cover all five products in detail, but first here is a comparison table of some of the things that I think are most important all in one place:

Airpods 2

Airpods 3

Airpod Pros

Powerbeat Pros

Beats Fit Pro

Battery Life no case

3hr talk, 
5hr music

3hr talk, 
5hr music

3.5hr talk, 
5 hr music 
4.5 hr music (ANC)

3hr talk, 
5hr music

3hr talk, 
5hr music

Case size dims (inches)

2.11 X 1.74 X 0.84

2.14 X 1.83 X 0.84

1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85

3 X 3 X 1.5

1.12. x 2.44. x 2.44

Case volume (cubic inches)






Charging Method



Lightning or Magsafe



Noise Cancelling






Rubber tips












Here’s what’s available in no particular order:

The original, decent sound, worth it if someone gives them to you…

Airpods 2: 129.99: A bit dated by today’s standards

Apple Airpods 2 next to case
Photo by Dagny Reese on Unsplash

The original! The best? Definitely not the best. My first-generation Airpods were a revelation for me when I bought them in 2017, but they have some big issues.

What keeps me from recommending these overall is the durability and longevity. I had a pair of the first generation version which is very similar to the 2nd generation. One of the buds cracked open and deformed from something so minor I felt like I looked at them wrong. Once that happens it’s pretty much game over. I went to the wild west of eBay to buy a replacement and hoped that I could find a new single bud replacement, or worse, a used one with hopefully no earwax (seriously).

On the longevity issue: first and second gen Airpods will start to have the battery degrade after about 1 year. The tiny 93 milliwatt-hour battery really starts to show its age quickly, to the point where I couldn’t have a phone call for more than 30 minutes before returning them to their charging case.

Another annoyance I’ve had is sometimes only one bud connects. When this happens, I generally put them back in the case, and then back in my ears but making sure to put the nonworking bud in my ear before the other. For some reason, this fixes the issue 95% of the time. 

  • The case is tiny, I kept it in that tiny pocket that jeans have (watch or coin pocket?)
  • Sometimes on sale for as little as $100 for second gen
  • The sound quality was good to me though that can depend a lot on the fit and ear size
  • Cheapest option
  • Frequently on sale
  • Durability
  • Battery longevity
  • No Active Noise Cancelling (ANC)
  • If you drop one on the ground it turns into a hockey puck on an ice rink

A big improvement from Airpods 2

Airpods 3: $179.99: Borrowing some tech and design ideas from the Airpod Pros

Airpods 3 next to case
Photo by Alireza Khoddam on Unsplash

If you’re familiar with Airpod Pros you can see the similarities immediately from the case design as well as the shorter stems on the buds. The 3rd gen Airpods have a 133Mwh battery which is an improvement over the Airpods 2 93Mwh, but now you are up to $179, and still don’t have rubber tips on them for a better fit. 

The bump in price gives better audio quality, with features such as spatial audio and adaptive EQ added to this version. Also new with this version is water resistance (it can be pretty easy to drop these in a sink or toilet) and wireless charging. Overall these are a pretty big improvement over Airpod 2s but are getting close in price to some of the more premium options. These might be good for someone who had older Airpods, loved them and the fit was good and needs a new pair.

  • Small case
  • Water resistance
  • Improved sound quality over Airpods 2
  • Improved battery life over Airpods 2
  • Shorter stems than the prior generation
  • Wireless Magsafe charging
  • No rubber tips
  • No ANC
  • Also slippery if dropped

Stylish, battery titan, great sound, massive case

Power Beat Pros: $199.99: Durable, physical buttons, worth it when on sale, but otherwise too close in price to Airpod Pros or Beats Fit Pro which have more features.

Image credit:

These are my current daily drivers. This isn’t necessarily because they are the best, more that they are quite good and have lasted a long time. I bought them in the Fall of 2019 and they have shown no noticeable battery degradation (July 2022). This is due to the 200 milliwatt hour battery, which is more than double the size of Airpods! Due to this reason alone, these may be the best option for those who want the longest battery life and by extension the longest life in general when taking battery degradation into account.

I appreciate the looks of these and the practicality of the physical buttons. The Powerbeats also comes with three silicone tip sizes, meaning you are much more likely to get a snug fit. The fit also really helps with noise isolation, which is good since these don’t actually have noise canceling. The ear hoops are great for doing anything active and won’t fall out under even the most rigorous of activities.

One thing I like if I need to hear something in the outside world is to pop the earbuds out of my ear just a little bit but leave the hoops on my ears so that I can hear my surroundings better without having to take them off. One reason I do this, which brings us to the big downside, is the carrying case is MASSIVE.  If I go out I leave them in my car when I go grocery shopping, or at my cubicle when I’m walking around the office and wearing them.  The case looks ridiculous in your pocket, so if you’re not carrying around a handbag or backpack this is a big consideration. Check out the table at the beginning of this article where I compared the volume of all buds: these are a huge 13.5 cubic inches!

Carrying case in my medium-sized hand

Power Beat Pros also have the one earbud not working issue I detailed with the Airpods, with the same fix. I’ve also had to do hard resets, and one time I even needed to update them on my computer via USB cable.  

  • Available in multiple colors!
  • Durable, I’ve dropped the case many times and they don’t fly across the floor like Airpods
  • Physical buttons for volume and a multi-function button for play/pause and skip
  • Long battery life
  • Great sound
  • Look cool and less dorky than others
  • No Active Noise Canceling (ANC)
  • No transparency mode
  • A comically large case, seriously if someone could make an aftermarket version of this they might get rich
  • Very occasional resets needed

Great all around, though expensive and recently outshined

Airpod Pros: $249.99

Airpod Pros outside of their case
Photo by John Smit on Unsplash

TLDR: Great sound, status symbol, one of the best premium options, especially for Apple users, though recently outdone by Beats Fit Pros

When the original Airpods came out a lot of audiophiles scoffed at them, with their one size fits all approach, lack of noise canceling, and audio that wasn’t up to snuff to the more hardcore sound quality types. So Apple came out with Pros that address all of these things and add some cool new features.

You get a small case (1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85”), a battery size that is larger than AirPods (160 mWh vs 93, but still not as big as PowerBeats Pros 200), rubber tips allowing for a snug fit, noise canceling, and transparency mode. Transparency mode is a cool new feature that allows you to hear your surroundings without taking them out.

  • Long battery life
  • Rubber tips
  • Great sound
  • Magesafe charging
  • Small case
  • Transparency mode
  • Most expensive option
  • Reports of “hissing” in one bud, that I’ve heard from reviews and anecdotally from a friend

These are due for a second generation very soon, which is maybe worth waiting for but also means it’s a good time to score some deals.  The only issues I’ve heard about with these are some rare quality issues involving static or hissing sounds. Probably very unlikely to happen, and if it does you can always return them. However, I think if you’re considering these you should really be looking at….

Best all-around option

Beats Fit Pro: $199.99: Beats impressive take on the Apple Airpods Pros

Image credit:

TLDR: Great sound, the Airpod Pros of Beats, H1 chip, overall Best.  

These are basically Beats take on the Airpod Pros, and address some of the issues I have with the Airpod Pros and the Powerbeats Pros. The case is smaller than the other Beats but larger than the Airpods (1.12. x 2.44. x 2.44 inches compared to the 3X3X1.5″ of PBP), they have noise canceling, and although there are reports of some similar quality problems to the Airpod pros they seem to be even rarer.  Reviews of these frequently mention they are better than both Airpod Pros and Power Beat Pros. 

One user on Amazon said, “If Power Beats Pro and Airpods Pro had a baby, this would be it!”

You also get the same transparency mode as Airpod Pros with these. What you don’t get is wireless charging, instead relying on a USB-C charger which I prefer to lightning anyway. What I will say is that these have the most unique appearance for better or worse. They have a little arm that curves into the inner part of your ear, giving a snug fit than Airpods without having to loop over your ear:

Image credit:
These fit into your ear in a unique way

While I can’t find the battery capacity/size, they are rated to last up to 6 hours vs the Airpod Pros 4.5. 

  • Available in multiple colors!
  • Cheaper than the Airpod Pros somehow
  • Great sound
  • Rubber tips
  • Transparency mode
  • USB-C charging instead of lightning
  • The look might not be for everyone
  • Larger case than AirPods but smaller than Powerbeats Pros
  • No wireless charging


My Personal ranking of them would be as follows:

  • Best: Beats Fit Pro
  • 2nd: Airpod Pros
  • 3rd: Powerbeat Pros
  • 4th: AirPods 3
  • 5th: Airpods 2

Though the options are limited as far as wireless earbuds go, they’re all really good options in my opinion except for the Airpods 2. I think that the Beats options overall are better than Airpods, and people seem to be catching on as they keep getting more popular every year.


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