Tried the Amazfit PowerBuds Pro, a $150 AirPods alternative with some surprising features

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Amazfit's PowerBuds Pro cost less than AirPods Pro, but not significantly less — and in my testing, they didn't sound as good or work as well.  (Photo: Amazfit)

Amazfit’s PowerBuds Pro cost less than AirPods Pro, but not significantly less — and in my testing, they didn’t sound as good or work as well. (Photo: Amazfit)

Do you like the idea of ​​noise canceling earbuds but don’t want to spend $250 for Apple AirPods Pro? I don’t blame you; that’s a big part of the change for a few pieces of plastic, no matter how advanced they are.

That’s why I’m constantly looking for cheaper alternatives. There are tons to choose from, but few really raise the bar when it comes to features.

Related reading: 5 AirPods Pro Alternatives, All Priced Under $100

Here’s one that does: The Amazfit PowerBuds Pro look like AirPods on the outside, but inside they have some interesting capabilities: adaptive active noise cancellation (ANC), heart rate monitoring, hearing protection, and even posture monitoring. All for $150. (And coincidentally, Amazfit is currently bundling its Band 5 fitness band, a $40 value, at no extra cost. buy the PowerBuds Pro at Amazon, you don’t get the freebie.)

So here’s the question: is this jack of all trades a master of nothing? Or is it a worthy Apple challenger that offers more for less? (OK, that’s two questions. I’m bad at math. But good at earplugs, so read on!)

$150 at Amazfit

Powerbuds Pro: features and fit

There are certain key features that I look for in modern earbuds, most of which are present in the PowerBuds Pro: ANC, transparency mode (allowing you to let outside sound in), in-ear detection (which automatically pauses/resumes playback when you remove/replace an earbud), and a sweat-resistant design.

What’s missing? The case supports charging via USB-C, but not wirelessly. I tested $50 earbuds that include that option, so it should be on the menu here. Another case-related complaint: I found the earbuds annoyingly difficult to take off. They are a bit slippery and the lid doesn’t open wide enough to give you a good grip.

As for fit, my ears are definitely average, at least size-wise, meaning most of the earbud “medium” earbuds fit me perfectly. Not so with the PowerBuds: out of the box, the ‘tips felt loose and didn’t make that all-important seal until I switched to the big tips. (You actually have four sizes to choose from here; many earbuds come with just three.) That’s okay, but something I noticed.

Amazfit’s companion app is called Zepp, for reasons that defy logic, and since it’s also used for the company’s smartwatches and other products, it can feel a bit overwhelming if you just want to adjust the earbuds’ settings. On the plus side, you can customize a lot of it, including: four different ANC modes and an equalizer.

Buy the PowerBuds Pro from Amazfit and you get the Band 5 fitness band at no extra cost.  (Photo: Amazfit)Buy the PowerBuds Pro from Amazfit and you get the Band 5 fitness band at no extra cost.  (Photo: Amazfit)

Buy the PowerBuds Pro from Amazfit and you get the Band 5 fitness band at no extra cost. (Photo: Amazfit)

PowerBuds Pro: Sound and Performance

When testing earbuds, I listen to a wide variety of music. There’s one song in particular that tells me a lot: “Hotel California” by The Eagles. About 30 seconds later, a second guitar very subtly adds to the left. Good earplugs bring out those tufts with rich distinction; On the PowerBudsI could barely hear them.

Indeed, while I’m quite forgiving when it comes to audio, I found the overall quality here on the muddy side, perhaps because it’s so bass-heavy (even with the equalizer set to “Pop”). Make no mistake, this is very subjective; my “mud” could be your “great one”. Many people like bass forward sound. I was hoping for a better balance.

I was also hoping that the posture-monitoring feature — confusingly referred to here as “cervical protection” — would play a little bell or something if I wasn’t sitting up straight. While you can perform a posture calibration in the companion app, the only warning you’ll get is “if you’re in a fixed position for more than 40 minutes.” That seems like a very random number, and you can’t change it. For me, this feature is half-baked and not very useful.

Related reading: 5 AirPods Pro Alternatives, All Priced Under $100

The PowerBuds are suitable for runners; they can automatically detect when you start your workout, save basic stats: distance, pace and total time. You can also sync that data with third-party apps like Runkeeper and Runtastic. While running, you can tap an earbud to hear speed, heart rate, and other stats.

Unfortunately, while I heard a run detection signal in the earbuds about a minute into my test run, the recorded pace and mileage data was a long way off. (Example: I know my run was 1.6 miles; the earbuds recorded 1.1 miles.) Later, after syncing the earbuds to the app, I couldn’t find any heart rate readings.

Meanwhile, hearing detection stopped working properly after the run. I removed a single earplug; the music paused for a moment and then started again. Then it stopped again and restarted again, over and over. I made sure to hold the earbud by the stem and not block any sensors or anything.

PowerBuds Pro: The Verdict

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m not wild about the PowerBuds Pro. There’s a lot of promise here, but the execution is flawed in several key areas. The earbuds don’t sound particularly good and certain features just don’t work properly.

Plus, $150 feels steep compared to, say, the ? Soundcore Life P3, which is about half the price but offers better sound and wireless charging. And I could name half a dozen other earbuds that I think offer better bang for the buck.

That said, Amazfit gear goes on sale quite often. If you can find these for $100 or less, and if Amazfit is able to fix some of the issues (many of which can indeed be fixed with software updates), then I’d take a look.

Looking for more earplugs? Here’s my rundown of five AirPods Pro alternatives priced at $100 or less.

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