AirPods (3rd generation) review: Apple has given you a tough choice to make


Apple AirPods 3rd gen review

Apple AirPods 3rd generation review (Image: APPLE)

Apple’s entry-level AirPods haven’t had a refresh in over two years (although they have enjoyed some impressive price cuts during that time), but that’s all changing with the launch of some all-new wireless in-ear music makers. The all-new AirPods (third-generation) not only arrive with a totally refreshed design but there’s also improved audio quality, longer 6-hour battery life between charges, faster charging, and 30-hours of listening time when you use the charging carry case (compared to 24-hours total time with the previous AirPods). Sure, that might all sound impressive …but are these new earbuds from Apple any good, and importantly, do they justify the new, higher £169 asking price? has had the 3rd generation AirPods tucked inside our ears and here’s our full review.

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) review

Right out of the box the first thing that strikes you is the new design as these latest AirPods look much more like the more premium AirPods Pro than Apple’s original buds. That means you get a more compact charging case and an earbud that has a shorter stem poking out of your ears.

They look really smart and the design is definitely an improvement over Apple’s 1st and 2nd generation models.

Of course, if you own an iPhone the set-up is ludicrously simple with the 3rd generation AirPods seamless connecting without you having to dig into endless settings. The whole set-up takes seconds and really shows off how well Apple products work within their own eco-system.

Once you’re all up and running you’ll find these new buds offer a really good audio experience with Apple now bringing compatibility with its clever Spatial Audio technology along with Dolby Atmos.

Apple AirPods review

Apple’s new AirPods feature a new design (Image: APPLE)

For those that may not have heard of this feature, Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos give artists the opportunity to create immersive audio experiences for their fans with true multidimensional sound and clarity. It basically makes the sound appears to hit your ears from all directions allowing things to sound much more true-to-life and engaging.

Listening to standard tracks sounds pretty much the same as the original buds but find some Spatial Audio tracks on Apple Music and things are really taken up a notch.

Music sounds like it’s all around you and there’s no question that this technology brings a huge boost to these buds.

It’s worth pointing out that this tech doesn’t just work on music with Spatial Audio also adding some pretty spectacular sound to movies and compatible TV shows as well.

To help things further there’s also an Apple-designed driver and a custom high dynamic range amplifier tucked inside these new AirPods and Apple has also included another feature called Adaptive EQ.

Apple AirPods 3rd Gen review

Apple AirPods are now water resistant (Image: APPLE)

This helps tune the music for each individual’s ear geometry and fit. Speaking of the fit you should note that, unlike the AirPods Pro, the new 3rd generation buds don’t have changeable tips. This means they won’t plug into the ear canal with such precision and you also don’t get the same noise-blocking seal found on earbuds with a silicon tip attached.

Those wanting full Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) might also want to look elsewhere as this technology isn’t included on the new AirPods which means some background noise does leak through when listening to your music.

Those are niggles that might put you off buying the 3rd generation AirPods but there are plenty of other features that could just as easily convince you to splash out on a pair.

You get a water-resistant design and a new skin-detect sensor that accurately works out if AirPods are in the ear — versus in a pocket or on a table — and pauses playback when removed. It works really well and should help cut down on unnecessary battery life drain.

Apple AirPods 3rd Gen review

You can charge the new AirPods via MagSafe (Image: APPLE)

On the subject of power, the battery is impressive with around six hours of usage on a single charge – that’s about an hour more than their predecessors could muster. Once the 3rd generation AirPods have run dry you can pop them back in their case for a refill and there’s fast charging which offers an hour of playback after just five minutes.

The new case has been made more compact and is even smaller than the AirPods Pro. Another advantage of this case is that it’s compatible with the new MagSafe disk which snaps perfectly in place to make sure things are refilled more efficiently.

With the AirPods refilled and back in your ears you’ll find music controls on the stem with subtle taps and squeezes allowing you to pause, skip and summon Siri. Sadly there’s still no way to pump up the volume via the buds which is a shame as some rivals do offer this feature.

Apple AirPods 3rd Gen review

Apple’s new AirPods connect seamlessly to your iPhone (Image: APPLE)

Apple has also boosted voice calls via a special acoustic mesh and an inset microphone in each earbud to help minimise wind noise. One final thing we must mention is the price. The 3rd generation cost £169, which might sound reasonable, especially when compared to the £239 AirPods Pro.

However, the second-generation AirPods have now been slashed in price to just £119 – and that’s a real bargain. You really need to think carefully about what you really want from these earbuds as the original AirPods are great value even if they don’t offer all the features now coming to the 3rd generation.

Best Apple AirPods Deals

Best AirPods Pro Deals

AirPods (3rd Generation) review: Final Verdict

  • PROS: Great sound • Improved battery life • Compact design • MagSafe compatibility
  • CONS: No ANC • No changeable tips • £119 AirPods are now a bargain

Apple’s new AirPods certainly sound impressive. The improved audio, longer battery life and smaller charging case are all big upgrades and certainly make these new buds hugely appealing. Put on some Spatial Audio compatible tunes and you’ll be blown away by what is boomed into your ears plus there’s a much easier way to refill the case via MagSafe. It’s a shame that there’s no ANC and some ears might not get the perfect fit due to the lack of changeable tips.

Other than that the 3rd generating AirPods are really hard to fault.

The biggest nightmare for consumers is now deciding which AirPods to buy. The entry-level buds offer incredible value for money and there’s no question that the ANC-packed AirPods Pro are pretty exceptional. Making the right choice is pretty tough but one thing is for sure. Whichever model you pick you really won’t be disappointed.


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