Apple’s revamped Powerbeats Bluetooth workout earphones take what was great from the firm’s truly wireless earbuds and add a cable, longer battery life, and cheaper price. The new £129.95 Powerbeats replace the older, more expensive Powerbeats 3, with redesigned ear hooks, cable guides, and Apple’s H1 chip, which simplifies Bluetooth connectivity and gives them all the AirPods-like features Apple’s headphones have with iPhones.
The Powerbeats are an excellent set of neckband headphones that excel for exercise. They sound great, with a forward, energetic tone that’s perfectly suited to motivational tunes as you pound the pavement or heave those weights. But they also sound good enough for general usage, particularly if you mainly listen to pop.
The ear hooks are the best in the business – light, comfortable, adjustable, and rock-solid when twisted into place. They won’t come off regardless of how hard you go at it and with IPX4 sweat resistance, they should survive everything but a dip in the pool.
The design of the Powerbeats is pretty simple. Each earphone’s body has an earbud sticking out of one side with a traditional silicone ear tip that twists into your ear canal. The other end has a hook that loops over the back of your ear, holding it in place and neatly guiding the cable backward rather than in front of your ear like its predecessors.
The Powerbeats are fairly light at 26.3g in total and are sweat-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about a little rain either. They come with a little fabric bag but feel robust enough to tough it out in a gym-bag pocket.
Controls are simple but one-sided. The left earbud has a power and pairing button, while the right has a volume rocker, a multi-function Beats logo button for playback controls, and a Lightning port for charging. It’s nice to have dedicated volume controls on a set of active earphones. The controls worked well with Android and iOS smartphones, tablets, and an Apple Watch but the Powerbeats have a few compatibility issues with some other devices.
The Powerbeats sound essentially the same as the Powerbeats Pro: punchy in the low-end, full of energy, and with forwarding sound well suited to listening while doing the activity. But they are also surprisingly good general earbuds, with reasonable sound isolation, no obvious latency or lipsynch issues with video, good vocals for podcasts, and generally good sound with most music genres, particularly pop.
The Powerbeats are rated for up to 15 hours of constant playback, which is about right from my testing. Certainly long enough for even an ultra marathon or a week’s worth of running and exercising. The earbuds are charged via a Lightning cable. One is included in the box but any cable used with an iPhone or iPad will work too. A five-minute quick charge is enough for around 40 minutes to an hour of playback.