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Back in October, Microsoft decided to get into the wire-free earbuds market with the debut of the Surface Earbuds, designed to compete with Apple's AirPods, Google's Pixel Buds, and Samsung's Galaxy Buds.


We picked up a pair of Microsoft's Surface Earbuds to check out the feature set and see how they measure up to Apple's AirPods.

Priced at $199, the Surface Earbuds have a design that's rather... unique. There's an AirPods-style earpiece that fits into the ear, along with a circular exterior portion that's rather large and noticeable, designed primarily for touch gestures. The Surface Earbuds are not low-key, hard to see headphones -- it's obvious when you're wearing them.

surfaceearbuds7.jpg

When it comes to fit, the Surface Earbuds are relatively comfortable. The AirPods kind of rest on the outside of the ears, while the Surface Earbuds are designed to fit a bit deeper in the ear canal, though not as deep as the AirPods Pro.

surfaceearbuds6.jpg

Surface Earbuds come with small, medium, and large tips, so most people should be able to get a decent fit. We found them to be uncomfortable to wear at first, but after they settled in for a few hours, the Surface Earbuds were more comfortable to wear.

surfaceearbuds5.jpg

The design of the Surface Earbuds definitely looks a bit funky, but it's functional because of the simple and effective gesture set, which uses the large surface area of each earbud.

surfaceearbuds4.jpg

A double tap plays/pauses music, a swipe on the left earbud skips tracks, and a swipe on the right earbud controls the volume. AirPods don't have gesture controls for volume, which is one of the major negatives when it comes to AirPods gestures.

There are also controls for accessing voice-based help and answering/ending phone calls, plus several Microsoft apps can take advantage of Surface Earbuds gestures. On an Android phone, for example, a triple tap on either earbud opens up the Spotify app. On iOS, you can listen to, delete, and reply to emails with touch and voice using the Outlook app, and in PowerPoint, you can swipe to advance slides, enable live captions and subtitles, and have what you're saying be translated into one of 60 languages.

Sound quality on the Surface Earbuds was somewhat unimpressive. The low end was disappointing and on the whole, music playback had a tinny quality. There is an app that accompanies the Surface Earbuds for EQ adjustments, which helps improve the sound somewhat. There's no Active Noise Cancellation, so the only sound isolating comes from the fit of the Surface Earbuds in the ear.

surfaceearbuds3.jpg

The Surface Earbuds have a six to eight hour battery life, which is extended to 24 hours with the included USB-C charging case, which has a rectangular design reminiscent of a little coffin. The case charges over USB-C, and there's no wireless charging included.

surfaceearbuds2.jpg

When paired with a Surface device or a Windows PC running Windows 10, which is what the Surface Earbuds are designed to work with, there's a Swift Pair feature for fast pairing, but on iOS devices, the connection will need to be done through Bluetooth settings.

surfaceearbuds1.jpg

Surface Earbuds are fine if you plan to use them with a PC or a Surface device, but there's no reason to pick these up if you're planning to use them with a Mac or an iPhone because the full feature set is restricted to Windows. Given the $199 price point, these are best for those who are in Microsoft's ecosystem rather than Apple's.

Article Link: Microsoft's Surface Earbuds vs. AirPods
 

Apple Knowledge Navigator

macrumors 68040
Mar 28, 2010
3,030
9,294
The touch gestures sound great; but for $199 it seems to me like a hard sell when the main feature - the audio quality - isn’t on par with competition.

And frankly, the design looks very ambiguous. At least with other earbuds an on-looker knows What you’re wearing, these don’t look like anything.

Give MS it’s due though, they gave it a go!
 

newyorksole

macrumors 601
Apr 2, 2008
4,651
5,531
New York.



“...rectangular design reminiscent of a little coffin.”

I LOVE that part of the article Lol. These seem like nice little buds for Microsoft fans. Not inclined at all to switch from AirPod Pros.

Also... Can we get some flavor when it comes to design and packaging? I love minimal too, but jeez. Plain white everything. Lot of companies copying Apple and I get why, but it wouldn’t hurt to be a little unique.
 

Antes

macrumors regular
Nov 12, 2014
135
342
Those franken-buds are atrocious looking — but — with that large outer area you’re able to personalize them with stickers so that’s cool.
I can already see a Pokéball sticker on them or maybe a giant “?” emoji sticker so people know to leave you alone.
 

nikusak

macrumors regular
Feb 11, 2014
197
379
"Looks like you have tampons hanging out of your ears"
And strangely EarPods, which look pretty much identical (just a bit smaller I think), but with wires, never produced that comment..

Honestly, I think people going about and wearing huge traditional Beat, Bose or Sony headphones etc. look even goofier than someone with relatively discreet buds in their ears.

These Surface ones do look weird though..

(but just wear whatever you want)
 

AngerDanger

Graphics
Staff member
Dec 9, 2008
5,426
28,819
"Looks like you have tampons hanging out of your ears"
I never got this criticism. How small do people think tampons are? How plastic do people think they are? And do they have metallic bits on the end?

If anything, EarPods look more similar given that they actually have wires coming of off them like the string used for removal.

I'm probably in the minority, but I think AirPods and Surface Earbuds look fine. They aren't too obtrusive, especially when compared to over-ear headphones that are somehow more socially acceptable.

I think truly wireless earbuds are still a novelty to the point that people do what they do with all novelties—compare them to existing products.

"AirPods look like [white cylinders]" and "Surface Earbuds look like [flat round things]" in the same sense that over-ear headphones look like robotic earmuffs. But the latter has been normalized to the point that nobody finds these comparisons worth making.

No, I'm not just trying to justify wearing AirPods everywhere! :oops:
 
Last edited:

44267547

Cancelled
Jul 12, 2016
37,643
42,510
It sounds like it's all subjective to the user on which ones are best.

You’re right, it really is.

...And it’s funny to read comments that everybody likes to make fun of the design of Galaxy buds, Microsoft earbuds and AirPods....who cares what they look like, we all have choices to make. It’s About the Core functionality and if they’re comfortable when you wear them. I’ve never met anyone in person that’s made fun of a pair of earbuds somebody Chooses to wear. Then I gather, on a site like this, it’s really easy to hide behind a keyboard to make sophomoric comments about somebody’s choice of earbuds they choose to wear.
 

HandsomeDanNZ

macrumors 6502a
Jan 29, 2008
761
837
Auckland NZ
Also... Can we get some flavor when it comes to design and packaging? I love minimal too, but jeez. Plain white everything. Lot of companies copying Apple and I get why, but it wouldn’t hurt to be a little unique.
I would have thought that MS would've gone for a grey/silver look like the products these are designed to pair with. That's their go-to on all things Surface (and black, of course) but yeah...white seems a bit...obvious.
 
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PickUrPoison

macrumors G3
Sep 12, 2017
8,131
10,721
Sunnyvale, CA
Those things are ugly imo, but whoever likes them should buy them.

But who would want to pay $199 for tinny sound? Even if they were “beautiful” I wouldn’t pay $49 let alone $199 for tinny sound.
 
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gene731

macrumors 6502
Oct 28, 2015
407
423
These things look like the stickers you put on cheap furniture to cover the nail / screw heads.....or a drywall filler applied to ones ear....
No they really look like those things people stick in their ears to make those giant holes in their ear lobes
 
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Stars&Stripes

macrumors member
May 3, 2010
44
128
NYC
I was trying hard to find something cool about having 1 inch white circles sticking out your ears... I guess you could customize them by slapping on different circled-designs, but I'm not 13 anymore.
 
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blackcrayon

macrumors 68020
Mar 10, 2003
2,225
1,806
This is where losing the mobile market is a big disadvantage. If these things don't work great with iPhones, or even better than average with Android phones... I don't see them selling very many sets for $200.
 
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digitalexplr

macrumors 65816
Dec 13, 2016
1,335
876
Central Missouri
This is where losing the mobile market is a big disadvantage. If these things don't work great with iPhones, or even better than average with Android phones... I don't see them selling very many sets for $200.
At the end of the article:

"Surface Earbuds are fine if you plan to use them with a PC or a Surface device, but there's no reason to pick these up if you're planning to use them with a Mac or an iPhone because the full feature set is restricted to Windows. Given the $199 price point, these are best for those who are in Microsoft's ecosystem rather than Apple's."
 
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