Apple’s wireless W1 chip has become a huge hit, and the company now offers four headphones that use it, two of which are suitable for workouts and active listening: the AirPods ($159) and the Powerbeats3 ($199).
AirPods vs Powerbeats3
The price difference between the AirPods and the Powerbeats3 is by no means marginal, especially since only the AirPods are truly wireless. Does it then make sense to spend $40 more on the Powerbeats3? And, if so, what makes the Powerbeats3 worth the price?
Design and Build
The AirPods are designed for the urban music enthusiast who listens to music on and off throughout the day and relies on headphones for communication. With their 24-hour battery life with the provided charging case, one-tap setup for all Apple devices, and the absence of a wire, the AirPods are one of the most convenient headphones we’ve ever used.
The Powerbeats3 have a lot in common with other fitness-oriented headphones, including their design and fit. They feature integrated earwings to keep them in place during exercise, and the built-in lithium-ion battery can last for up to 12 hours on a charge. What’s more, 5 minutes of charging replenishes enough power for 1 hour of playback.
While both the AirPods and the Powerbeats3 can hold up great to the wear and tear that comes with daily use, only the Powerbeats3 are sweat- and water-resistant to handle tough training sessions. They are also far more stable thanks to the integrated earwings, and they ship with four different sizes of replaceable eartips, whereas AirPods take the one-size-fits-all approach.
Beats headphones are famous for their bass-heavy sound signature, and the Powerbeats3 are no different. Compared to the AirPods, the Powerbeats3 are significantly more impactful and work great with such music genres like EDM, hip-hop, or modern pop.
That said, the copious amount of bass produced by the Powerbeats3 has a tendency to spill to other parts of the sound spectrum and make mids and highs sound muffled and muddy. When listening just for fun, you probably won’t notice or care. But don’t expect the Powerbeats3 to rival similarly priced headphones from Sennheiser or Grado; most money clearly went to their wireless technology.
The AirPods are fairly well-rounded and work great with all music genders. But their sound doesn’t have the same impact as the Powerbeats3 do.
In summary, both the AirPods and the Powerbeats3 are excellent wireless headphones, but the Powerbeats3 are, in our opinion, the best W1 headphones for workouts and active use. The AirPods are, on the other hand, the best W1 headphones for everyday use and communication.