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Powerbeats 4 vs AirPods (2020): Which Wireless Earphones Are Better For You?

The release of the new Powerbeats gives Apple fans a nice alternative to more expensive wireless earbuds that have been released recently. Technically the Powerbeats 4, these Beats earphones have a clear target audience, but it can appeal to the same crowd eyeing the AirPods for their iPhones. Here’s a rundown of the best reasons to choose one over the other.

Powerbeats 4 vs AirPods Wireless Earphones Comparison Chart

ModelPowerbeats 4Apple AirPods
Powerbeats 4 Wireless Earphones - RedApple AirPods 2nd Gen
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
FitIn-EarIn-Ear
Ear Tip Sizes41
Audio ChipApple H1 ChipApple H1 Chip
Sweat and Water ResistantYesNo
Built-in ControlsYesYes
Active Noise CancellationNoNo
MicYesYes
BluetoothYesYes
Battery Life15 hours5 hours
Quick ChargeYesYes
Charging CaseNoneAdds up to 24 hours
ColorsRed, Black, WhiteWhite
CompatibilityAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS

Design

The Powerbeats 4 has four ear tip sizes while the AirPods only have a universal fit.

Powerbeats 4 vs AirPods Wireless Earbuds Design
The distinctive designs of the Powerbeats 4 (left) and AirPods (right) result in different levels of comfort while worn.

The designs of these wireless audio accessories will likely influence your choice the most. Some might find the adjustable looping earhooks of the Powerbeats 4 provide a nice, secure feel while others hate how it can constrict your ears. Opinion on the AirPods’ wireless earbuds is even more divided. You definitely won’t miss having to deal with tangled wires but it’s so easy for an earbud to fall out and get lost.

Clearly the wraparound design of the Powerbeats 4 make it ideal for active users, as you can move freely and run around while wearing them. Unlike the AirPods, they’re also sweat and water resistant, and the rounded cable has been improved from the previous version to reduce friction. You also get to choose from four different ear tip sizes to customize how much fit you’d like at any given time.

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One notable hurdle with the AirPods is that it only has a universal fit which can’t seal your ears properly. Actually, some will find that the shape of the AirPods just won’t fit comfortably in their ear, causing it to constantly pop out or simply hurt around your ear canals. If you’re lucky enough that they fit you fine, you’d need to be careful of how you move to avoid dislodging them accidentally.

We’d rate the AirPods very high on portability though, mostly thanks to the charging case. They’re invaluable at keeping the AirPods secure when you’re mobile. It also adds more value to other aspects of the earbuds, which we’ll tackle below.

Sound Quality

The Powerbeats 4 delivers a better overall sound quality than the AirPods.

Powerbeats 4 vs AirPods Wireless Earbuds Sound Quality
Beats upgraded the Powerbeats 4 with the well-balanced sound of the Powerbeats Pro.

If you owned the first couple of Powerbeats by Dr. Dre released many years ago, you’d be glad to learn that the latest one isn’t all just about the bass. With Apple’s steady hand, the Beats brand has evolved from its signature boom-heavy sound quality to offer a more refined tone with its current product line. The Powerbeats 4 is an excellent showcasing of this growth.

You get a well-balanced sound from the Powerbeats 4, with solid bass and striking highs and just a slightly recessed mid tone. It’s fantastic both for high BPM tracks when you’re working out and for watching movies and listening to podcasts too. Even without ANC features you can get sufficient noise isolation to keep music clear of loud external noises.

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It’s more of a mixed bag with the AirPods, and it’s largely due to, once again, how the earbuds themselves are shaped and designed. Without securely-fitting ear tips to seal sound in, you get a lot more outside noise filtering in. Turn the volume loud enough and people sitting near you will easily hear what you’re playing too.

Under perfect conditions, the AirPods has a slightly bass-heavy response that should appeal to the mainstream market. It pumps the bass and low-mid ranges more with a slight peak at the highs, resulting in acceptable levels of detail and clarity. Vocals come out quite clear, which is definitely a plus, especially during phone calls.

Battery Life

The Powerbeats 4 lasts longer on a single charge than the AirPods.

Powerbeats 4 vs AirPods Wireless Earbuds Battery Life
You can easily take the Powerbeats 4 out on a full day of use without recharging.

If you wanted the plug-in-and-forget feature of standard wired earphones without the wire, the Powerbeats 4 is a pretty solid choice. Beats claims it can last up to 15 hours on a single charge, plenty of time to use for a whole day without the annoying necessity of recharging. If you do run it out and need a quick top-up, you can plug it in for 5 minutes and get an hour of playback, thanks to its Fast Fuel feature.

Meanwhile, the AirPods only has a listed battery life of 5 hours, which is likely enough for casual everyday use. Now the big thing is how much runtime the charging case can give you, as it can store multiple charges. You can get more than 24 hours of juice just by ensuring you’ve fully charged it beforehand. It also has a quick charge feature which gets you up to 3 hours of listening time after 15 minutes in the case.

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Other Features

The AirPods has sensors to detect whether you’re wearing it or if you’re talking. Meanwhile, the Powerbeats 4 features on-ear controls.

Powerbeats 4 vs AirPods Wireless Earbuds Other Features
You get hands-free voice assistant control with the AirPods.

Pairing either the AirPods or the Powerbeats 4 with your device is easy, especially with iOS devices. That’s all because of their Apple H1 chip, which drastically speeds up wireless connections within its ecosystem. It also allows you to simply speak up and say, ‘Hey Siri’, to activate the voice assistant without pushing any buttons.

Furthermore, the AirPods packs optical sensors and accelerometers to detect whether you’re wearing them or not. Taking out either earbud will pause music playback automatically, which is nifty and quick. A pair of beamforming mics will also home in on your voice when you’re speaking, filtering out external noise for clearer calls.

The downside is you’re limited to a double tap for on-device controls on the AirPods. You can set what the double tap will do on your phone settings, but to control volume you’ll have to tell Siri to do it or manually adjust levels on your phone. In contrast, you get on-ear controls for all of these functions on the Powerbeats 4.

Verdict

The Powerbeats 4 is easier to handle than the AirPods and can sound a lot better too.

Powerbeats 4

Powerbeats 4 Wireless Earphones - Red

Apple AirPods

Apple AirPods 2nd Gen

We’d have to go with the Beats Powerbeats 4 in this comparison, since it offers impressive sound quality and you’ll find it much easier to find a comfortable fit with the included ear tip sizes. Its improved wraparound design minimizes the risk of misplacing what could otherwise be an easy-to-lose device. Finally, the sweat-resistant design along with gigantic battery life make the latest Powerbeats very easy to recommend for people with active lifestyles.

Those who find the earhooks and wires of the Beats model something they’d rather not deal with will find plenty to love about the Apple AirPods. You might want to first check out whether they fit snugly in your ears, but if they do, you’ll get a pretty nice wireless earbuds experience especially when paired with an iPhone.

Derick Bondoc
Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.