Samsung Galaxy Buds Review
Review indexDesign and comfort | Connectivity | Functionality and controls | Sound quality | Battery life | Conclusion
Samsung joined the party back in 2016 with the Gear IconX – a set of earphones that looked cool, but lacked in many areas, such as battery life. The second-gen IconX earphones from 2018 lasted much longer between charges, but overall, they were still largely unremarkable as a product.
Over the past couple of weeks, we've been testing Samsung's third-generation truly wireless earbuds – the Samsung Galaxy Buds. Are they Samsung's best attempt so far, and should they be considered over notable alternatives from well-established audio brands? Time to find out!
Design and comfort
Throughout my testing, I've never felt like the Galaxy Buds were about to fall from my ears. They are very light and I feel comfortable wearing them for a couple of hours straight while at the office. However, I do feel their presence a lot more while doing intense activities like running, for example. They're probably not the best earbuds for working out as they don't have a high level of resistance against water.
The Galaxy Buds come in three colors: black, white, and the kind of bright yellow people can spot from a mile away. We've noticed that the white model reflects light with a subtle pearlescent effect, much like the one seen on the white Galaxy S10+. With their similar paint jobs, the two devices go together pretty well.
The Bluetooth 5.0 range with these is outstanding. It took a distance of 120 feet (~37 meters) in open space before the connection would get choppy, without dropping completely. Also, the signal is strong enough to get through at least one brick wall, so music or calls will remain uninterrupted even if you're in the next room. But when paired to my laptop, which only supports the older Bluetooth 4.1, the range of the Buds was just about 20 feet in an open office room.
In case you're wondering, you may use the Galaxy Buds with non-Galaxy phones. On other Android devices, though, you will need to download additional software before having access to more advanced features and settings, such as Ambient Sound. These are inaccessible on iPhone due to the lack of a companion app, but other than that, the Buds work normally with Apple's phones.
Functionality and controls
Unfortunately, using Ambient Sound is not the best experience. When it is turned on, barely any of the surrounding noise can be heard over the playing music. While walking down the street, I can hear louder sounds like a car's horn, but not the engine of one passing by you unless no music is playing. Ambient Sound can be enabled temporarily when you touch and hold a finger on either earbud. This does let me hear someone talking next to me, but when talking back to them, I can hear my voice booming in my head, as if I've stuck my fingers in my ears.
The sides of the Samsung Galaxy Buds are touch sensitive: a single tap pauses the song, a double tap skips to the next one, and a triple tap plays the previous track. Of course, having some kind of controls is much better than having none at all, but reliability with Samsung's implementation is far from perfect. Sometimes a double tap would register as a single one, and single taps may not register at all unless you're very accurate and convincing with your tap. I must also mention that tapping on the buds feels unpleasant, like I'm beating right on my eardrums.
You do have control over what a long press does. As mentioned above, I have my buds set to activate Ambient Sound with a long press, but alternatively, the same action may be set to control the volume or access your virtual assistant, be it Bixby or Google Assistant. To be clear, you can't have access to both volume controls and Ambient Sound or an assistant at the same time.
The Galaxy Buds can also handle phone calls, and we have no major complaints about how they perform. Their microphones can pick up my voice pretty well, and I'm easily understood on the other side of the line.
While watching video, the sound from the Galaxy Buds doesn't lag behind – or at least not to a perceivable extent. However, audio is delayed when playing games.
Something cool about the Samsung Galaxy Buds is that the case can be recharged wirelessly – either from any Qi-compatible wireless charger or from the Galaxy S10 itself thanks to the new Wireless PowerShare feature found on the phone. With the case and the buds fully drained, a complete wireless charge from the Galaxy S10 took under three hours. 40 minutes were enough to reach the 30% mark.