Designed like Apple Airpods, Realme Buds Air is the newest truly wireless earbuds
2019 was the year Realme, a sub-brand of Oppo, which took India by storm.
Besides smartphones, the company also branched out into accessories, including power banks, earphones, and truly wireless earbuds.
For example, the Realme Buds Air, priced at Rs 3,999, which went on sale just this week.
Despite Realme’s proclamation – ‘designed by Realme’ – imprinted on the charging case, there’s nothing original about the design. In fact, this pair of truly wireless earbuds is a striking product for only two reasons – it apes Apple’s Airpods, and it retails at less than one-third of that price.
However, the Buds Air feel cheap and plasticky, and without the recognisable design, it is just another pair of affordable truly wireless earbuds.
The most impressive thing about the Realme Buds Air is its compact form factor – it can easily fit into any pocket – and wireless charging support. The case is rectangular with rounded edges, with a nice click-clack to it.
Let’s find out if it is worth the buy.
Fit? Lightweight but secure
The product is truly lightweight (only four grams). At times, you may not even realise that they’re in your ears (in case the music is switched off).
The fit is quite secure, and the earbuds stay put in their position even during intense workouts. Taking them off the ears might need some effort though.
Audio quality – middling at best
The sound offered by the Buds Air is energetic, and the bass performance is strong. There is a good amount of clarity in the vocals and treble.
The Buds Air perform steadily up to volume levels of 75 percent. Above that, you might notice some sound distortion.
Also, the earbuds do not handle multi-instrument music well, and that is a letdown. Tracks like the Formula 1 Theme sound nearly cacophonous as a result of that. For light Bollywood tracks, it works well.
The Buds Air feature a “U-shaped sound signature”, which means that the sound tilts more towards the lows and the highs. True audiophiles may not enjoy this
Passable call quality
While Buds Air is a decent pair of earbuds for a hands-free call experience, the voice quality is inconsistent.
This is, in fact, a problem across the spectrum of truly wireless earbuds.
Despite the presence of a noise cancellation feature, a lot of background buzz seeps into phone conversations, which gets annoying during longer calls.
Connectivity – a few niggling issues
Multiple users have complained of connectivity issues in the Buds Air while connecting to their smartphones.
We tested the earbuds with the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, the OnePlus 7T, and the Realme X2 Pro, and did not face any issues.
But we did face a lag of a few minutes. However, we did notice one inconsistency.
Sometimes, even after disconnecting the buds and putting them inside the case, they stay connected for a while. In that case, pull them out and put them back in.
Gesture controls rarely work
Gesture controls play a huge part in any truly wireless earbuds product. Having to take out one’s smartphone out to change a music track renders the ease of truly wireless redundant.
But, the gesture control on the Realme Buds Air is both a hit and a miss. On most occasions, the buds did not register our taps. It is also hard to get an accurate tap because they work only in a restricted area of the device.
However, when the gestures do work, it is a delight. Also, the music automatically turns off when you take the buds out of your ears. Just touching the Buds Air’s surface will resume playback.
Wireless charging: big USP
Until now, wireless charging was reserved for flagship devices and accessories – something only the rich could afford.
But, Realme has managed to slip it into the Buds Air case. It works smoothly, and is one of the major attractions of this product.
Battery life: Good but not the best
Battery life on the Buds Air is rated at three hours, with an additional 17 hours packed into the wireless charging case.
During our testing period, the earbuds ran comfortably for about two-and-a-half hours without the case.
Ideally, truly wireless earphone manufacturers should aim for four to five hours of battery life on a single charge. Under three hours is a bit of a disappointment, especially if you are watching a movie with the Buds Air.
With the case, it lasted about a week. There is an LED indicator on the front of the case that displays the amount of charge remaining. Green is for above 75 percent, yellow for 50 to 75 percent, and red indicates that it is time to charge.
It takes about two hours to charge the case through the USB Type-C port.
Verdict: to buy or not to buy
For Realme’s first entry into the happening truly wireless earbuds segment, the Buds Air is a good attempt. It offers incredible value-for-money with some never-seen-before features at this price point.
At a price tag of Rs 3,999, you get a decent sound profile, an appealing design (even though it is a blatant copy), and a case that supports wireless charging. There are touch controls (if they work) and built-in virtual assistants. There’s also the wear detection feature that is unique to this price bracket.
If you’re a first-time buyer of wireless earbuds, this is a decent start. But if you were to extend your budget a bit, there are more compelling options like the 1MORE Stylish True Wireless earphones, the JBL C100TWS, and the Leaf Pods True Wireless Bluetooth 5.0.
The Buds Air are affordable, but you can choose better.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)