Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus Review
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ look a lot like the Galaxy Buds from last year, but meaningful improvements in key areas make them a much better product overall. The most important upgrade is the boost in battery life to 11 hours per charge, placing these among the earbuds with best battery life you can buy today. The sound quality has been improved, though the difference isn't dramatic compared to what last year's Buds already delivered. The touch controls and the phone call experience could be better, but overall, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ would be a great choice if $150 is all you have to spend on a pair of true wireless earphones.
Design and comfort
Samsung didn't feel the need to change what wasn't broken. Just like last year's model, the new Galaxy Buds+ are light and fit comfortably in the ear. I've had no issues wearing them for long periods of time, and they've never fallen off my ears. Of course, everyone's ear has its own, unique shape, which is why comfort can be very subjective with earbuds of this kind. Thankfully, Samsung includes soft, rubbery wings and ear tips of three different sizes in the set.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ come in various colors: black, white, blue, red, and pink. However, availability may vary by region. The outer side of the buds has a shimmery, pearlescent color effect to it, similar to the one you get with this year's Galaxy S20 phones. It is subtle, bud adds a bit of character.
When the Galaxy Buds+ are not in use, they are stored in the convenient pill-shaped carrying and charging case. The case is bigger than the one for Apple's AirPods, but still compact enough to fit in the small pocket of your jeans. Status LEDs indicate battery levels – the one on the inside represents the buds' charge level, and one on outside lets you know how much juice is left in the case.
I must point out that the Galaxy Buds+ only have a light resistance to water. They have an IPX2 rating, meaning that they should last through a sweaty exercise, but don't forget to dry them after you're done.
Pairing the Galaxy Buds+ to a Samsung Galaxy S20 is effortless, primarily because they are instantly recognized, and the phone comes with all necessary apps pre-loaded. I also tried pairing them to a OnePlus 7T Pro. It was an easy process, but I did have to download Samsung's apps to control the more advanced features of the buds.
The connection strength with the Galaxy Buds+ is absolutely fantastic. The range extends well beyond 30 meters (~100 feet) if you have a clear line of sight to your phone. I can comfortably leave my phone in one room and go around my entire apartment without experiencing any interruptions.
Functions and controls
One of the complaints I had last year about the Galaxy Buds was that the touch controls weren't well executed. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Buds+ don't perform much better. Sometimes they fail to detect a tap, and tapping on a bud still feels like I'm slamming on my eardrums. Not fun.
Touch controls can be used to pause, skip, or play the previous song. They can also be used to launch Spotify or the Google Assistant. What you can't do is control the volume from the earbuds. You can ask the Assistant to do that for you if you're desperate.
Holding down on one earbud activates the Ambient Aware feature. It lets some ambient sound through so that you can be more aware of your surroundings. This feature worked poorly on the Buds from last year, but it has been vastly improved in this year's model. The Galaxy Buds+ support three levels of ambient volume. The low level lets just a bit of noise through, and it is what I've been using in the office to hear if someone calls me. The middle level delivers the kind of volume to make you feel you're not wearing the buds, and it's what I like using when walking down the street. And the third level amplifies ambient sound, giving you superhuman hearing.
Most people would be quite happy with the way the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ sound. Compared to last year's Galaxy Buds, sound quality has been improved – the most notable difference I can hear is that the bass is a bit more pronounced and extends further down. Though overall, the difference in quality is not that big. You do get a bit of a U-shaped sound profile and that's fine, as that's the signature most people tend to like. Highs are crispy but could have been a bit clearer. All things considered, I can't complain about sound quality given the price and feature set of the Buds+.
What I'm not happy with is the way the Galaxy Buds+ perform during voice calls. Try speaking with a finger in your ears. Sounds a bit like you're underwater, doesn't it? That's what talking on the phone feels like when wearing these. Nonetheless, sound quality is very good on the other side of the conversation.
The Galaxy Buds+ work well with movies and video. There's no lag whatsoever, so you can enjoy your favorite YouTube content in private. There is lag with video games, but that's the case with every pair of wireless buds I've tried.
Battery life and charging
It feels like the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ last forever. According to Samsung, you can get up to 11 hours of listening time per charge, and the battery case provides an extra 11 hours. In practice, I was able to get a bit over 10 hours at average volume and with some occasional use of Ambient Aware – close enough to Samsung's estimate. Of course, mileage varies depending on how the Buds+ are being used. Talk time is stated to be only 7.5 hours.
The charging case supports wireless charging, so it can be charged from a recent Galaxy S or Galaxy Note phone with support for Wireless PowerShare (reverse wireless charging). Of course, you can also simply place it on a Qi wireless charging pad.