Apple AirPods (3rd generation) review: Third time's a charm

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(Pocket-lint) - Apple revealed the 3rd procreation of its modular AirPods immoderate two-and-a-half years aft the second-generation wireless headphones were announced. It's been a spot of a wait, but there's been plentifulness of different output successful the meantime - specified arsenic the progressive noise-cancelling (ANC) susceptible AirPods Pro arriving successful 2020.

While there's nary ANC goodness successful the AirPods 3, plentifulness of things person changed. While the 2nd generation's plan remained the aforesaid arsenic the original AirPods, this third-generation shortens the stem, redesigns the tips, bringing them person successful enactment with the AirPods Pro's design.

So should you opt for the middle-of-the-range AirPods 3 implicit their predecessors, oregon measurement things up for the top-of-the-range AirPods Pro? Here's our take.

Pro-like design

  • Earphones dimensions: 30.79 x 18.26 x 19.21mm / Weight: 4.28g 
  • Chagring case: 46.40 x 54.40 x 21.38mm / Weight: 37.91g
  • 33% shorter stem than 2nd Gen AirPods
  • Redesigned tip, tapered towards ear
  • IPX4 water-resistance
  • White decorativeness only

The 2021 AirPods are fundamentally what you would get if the AirPods Pro and the 2nd Gen AirPods had a wireless headphones kid together, not lone successful presumption of design, but galore features too. 


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Taking cues from the AirPods Pro, the AirPods 3 person a shorter stem - by 33 per cent - than the 2nd procreation model. There's besides a unit sensor similar the AirPods Pro, allowing for much precocious controls from the AirPods themselves.

The receptor tips person been redesigned too. The tips taper towards the receptor much and the space has been adjusted to nonstop audio into the receptor better. They are somewhat larger excessively - a small excessively large for our ears, truly - and a mates of elements person been repositioned slightly. 

Overall, the plan is acquainted - the 'electric toothbrush head' similarities remain, though little truthful acknowledgment to the shorter stem - but the 5 years that AirPods person been astir means the plan is surely not arsenic polarising arsenic it was successful 2016, with their popularity making them much of a connection than thing other now.


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You don't get the silicone tips that are included with the AirPods Pro, meaning the AirPods 3 won't beryllium arsenic unafraid a acceptable overall. They are comfy to wear, but bash occasionally autumn retired of our ears owed to being a small big. Of people everyone's ears are antithetic - truthful for immoderate this newer exemplary whitethorn acceptable amended than the older procreation model. 

There's besides IPX4 sweat and h2o resistance. That means that portion going for a tally portion wearing the AirPods 3 whitethorn not consciousness arsenic earthy and unafraid arsenic the AirPods Pro acknowledgment to the silicone tips, they tin inactive beryllium worn for workout without the interest of sweat damaging them.

Great features

  • H1 chip, one-tap setup, auto-switching, audio sharing
  • Announce Notifications, Announce Calls, Hey Siri
  • Spatial Audio
  • Adaptive EQ

The AirPods 3 travel with each the features that the 2nd procreation offered, on with a mates of extras from the AirPods Pro. As mentioned, determination is nary Active Noise Cancellation similar the AirPods Pro have, but you bash get Adaptive EQ connected the AirPods 3.


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Adaptive EQ tunes the dependable based connected however the AirPods acceptable successful your ear. The inward-facing microphones show dependable and computational audio is utilized to tune debased and mid-frequencies successful bid to relationship for what mightiness beryllium mislaid owed to variances successful fit. To further assistance with surrounding noise, an acoustic mesh covers the microphone to trim upwind sound - thing that's not connected the second-gen model.

There's besides Spatial Audio connected board, which is designed to make a three-dimensional theatre-like experience, placing dependable virtually anyplace successful your headspace. It's thing the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max offer, but not the modular AirPods - until now. The AirPods 3 usage built-in accelerometers to way your caput movements too, enabling the dependable to travel you nary substance which mode you turn.

In presumption of different features, the H1 spot allows for super-quick pairing to iOS devices, with a one-tap connection, and the AirPods volition automatically power betwixt your devices too, arsenic good arsenic allow you to stock audio. They are besides compatible with the Find My Network, with separation alerts if they are retired of Bluetooth scope and a proximity presumption to spot however adjacent they are if you suffer them.


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Additionally, Hey Siri is connected board, and the 2021 AirPods person the Announce Notifications and Announce Calls diagnostic arsenic well, each of which are utile if you deterioration the AirPods each the clip - not conscionable erstwhile listening to euphony oregon calls. We recovered we did this arsenic they are comfy capable and the double-tap to reply calls - oregon accidental "yes" to reply erstwhile Announce Calls is connected - marque them precise convenient to conscionable support successful each the time.

The controls via the unit sensor successful the stem are the aforesaid arsenic the AirPods Pro with 1 property to play oregon pause, 2 presses to skip a track, and 3 presses to spell back. Pressing-and-holding launches Siri. You tin besides conscionable accidental "Hey Siri" too, past usage the dependable adjunct to marque a telephone oregon nonstop a message.

Audio show and Spatial Audio

The AirPods 3 diagnostic a caller customized operator and precocious dynamic scope amplifier - and the audio prime is great. They astir apt aren't the precise champion sounding wireless headphones successful the marketplace though - the AirPods Pro are amended and determination are different alternatives with a much closed plan that present amended show acknowledgment to their noise-cancelling capabilities.


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That's not to accidental the third-generation AirPods aren't superb for what astir volition privation though. They are fantabulous for calls - we got compliments connected however wide we sounded - connected the spell euphony and podcasts. Their convenience is besides 2nd to nary for iOS users, with tegument sensors detecting erstwhile they person been removed from the ear, pausing audio oregon transferring calls backmost to your phone.

The AirPods tin woody with a assortment of music, from Eagles Hotel California to Massive Attack's Teardrop and portion they aren't ace bassy, there's capable low-end, with bully explanation successful vocals and a bully scope overall. 

The deficiency of ANC does mean that you'll request to crook the measurement up erstwhile successful engaged environments, but connected the whole, it's a coagulated listening experience.

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Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking is besides excellent. We tested it with the last 20-minute country of Bohemian Rhapsody - wherever Queen plays astatine the Live Aid performance - and the three-dimensional sensation truly brings the country to beingness and makes you consciousness similar you're there.

Spatial Audio works large connected Group FaceTime calls too, spreading retired voices to marque it dependable similar they are coming from the absorption they are connected the call. The Dynamic Head Tracking besides works brilliantly - and though it takes a spot of clip to get utilized to proceeding euphony around you, based connected however you move, it's an fantabulous addition.

Battery life

  • 4 hours speech time, 6 hours listening time
  • 30 hours successful full from charging case
  • Charging lawsuit wireless and MagSafe compatible

The AirPods (3rd generation) not lone connection artillery improvements implicit their predecessors, with 4 hours of speech clip promised, oregon six hours of listening time, but they person a redesigned charging lawsuit too.


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This caller charging lawsuit - which is wireless charging compatible, arsenic good arsenic MagSafe compatible - is much similar the AirPods Pro charging case. It takes a horizontal and wider approach, alternatively than the vertical and taller plan seen connected the archetypal AirPods and their successors. It is inactive charged via Lightning cablegram though.

We recovered the artillery claims to beryllium blimpish for the caller AirPods - we really got much listening than promised during testing. With aggregate calls coming through, we got a full of astir four-and-a-half hours of speech time, portion listening clip was astir five-and-a-half hours with Spatial Audio connected and compatible tracks oregon shows playing.


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The quality of AirPods is that portion having some successful your ears delivers a overmuch amended dependable experience, you tin opt to person conscionable 1 in, leaving the different successful the charging lawsuit and switching them implicit erstwhile you get the 5 infinitesimal warning.

The charging lawsuit offers 4 further charges, meaning a full of 30 hours listening time, but utilizing conscionable 1 means you tin agelong that further if you request to. Just 5 minutes successful the charging lawsuit should connection astir an hr other of listening time, which is handy.


Sitting successful the mediate of the company's wireless headphones portfolio, the 3rd Gen AirPods connection a large equilibrium betwixt features and price, whilst besides delivering a refreshed and water-resistant plan and large dependable quality.

They aren't the cheapest wireless headphones connected the market, and they miss retired connected the AirPods Pro's silicone extremity unafraid acceptable and progressive sound cancellation (ANC), but you get coagulated artillery life, large convenience features, and the other features similar Spatial Audio are good worthy it.

The sweat- and water-resistance is simply a large bonus, too, particularly for those who privation to workout portion utilizing their AirPods, though Beats's PowerBeats Pro oregon the AirPods Pro whitethorn beryllium the amended enactment if this is your main intended usage case.

Also consider


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Apple AirPods (2nd Gen)

Apple inactive sells the second-generation AirPods, which are cheaper, truthful you could prevention yourself a spot of cash. They connection the aforesaid one-tap setup and convenience features, but they deficiency sweat- and water-resistance, Spatial Audio, Adaptive EQ, and the refreshed design.



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Apple AirPods Pro

More expensive, but these 'buds person a much unafraid acceptable acknowledgment to their silicone tips, positive they travel with progressive sound cancellation (ANC), offering a somewhat amended listening acquisition overall.


Writing by Britta O'Boyle. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published connected 25 October 2021.

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