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Beats Powerbeats Pro Wireless Headphones Review: Exceptional, But Expensive

Brilliant battery life puts these sports headphones ahead of the pack

Beats Powerbeats Pro wireless sport headphones
(Image: © Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Our Verdict

They aren’t the newest headphones on the block, but the Beats Powerbeats Pro remain a top option for those who value a secure fit.

For

  • Ear hook fit is rock-solid
  • Great sound
  • Long battery life

Against

  • Expensive
  • Smaller buds can be more comfortable
  • Big charging case

For many people, poor battery life has been the biggest sticking point when it comes to making the move to truly wireless headphones – those that dispense with a connecting wire between the buds. Until now the best workout headphones had five or six hours, which means the nine hours available on the Beats Powerbeats Pro buds is a sizeable leap forwards. Sure, the larger body of the Powerbeats Pro probably helps them cram in more battery life than smaller buds like the Apple AirPodsJaybird Vista or Jabra Elite Active 75t, but who cares how you get it – day-long battery life without wires is worthy of applause and a place among the best running headphones.

The Powerbeats Pro buds are also outrageously quick to charge. Just five minutes in their carry case, which doubles as a portable charger, yields 90 minutes of playback and 15 minutes delivers 4½ hours of juice.

There is now a range of eight colours to pick from too, with the original black, ivory, navy and moss supplemented by a brighter spring range, with the glacier blue standing out as the pick of the new bunch.

The oversized case is a let-down, however. It won’t fit in a pocket like the AirPods’s case, and it only fully charges the Powerbeats Pro up to a combined total of 24 hours. Given the case is so big it’s a surprise it couldn’t fit a battery that could handle something like 35 or 40 hours of extra charge. The AirPods’ case brings their total battery to the same 24 hours and it’s tiny, while the Sol Republic Amps Air case adds 42 hours of battery to the three on the buds, and is smaller than the Powerbeats Pro’s case.

To counter this, the Powerbeats Pro’s long battery life means you can leave the bulky case behind when going out for the day, although annoyingly you can’t turn the headphones off without putting them in the case. Taking them out of your ears does put them in a low-power mode, so at least you aren’t on a nine-hour clock no matter what from the moment they leave the case.

Pairing the Powerbeats Pro buds with Apple devices is exceptionally easy, as you’d expect from the Apple-owned company – you just select the buds on whatever product you want to use them with. The Powerbeats also paired easily with my Garmin running watch and I didn’t experience drop-outs with any devices once the headphones were linked.

Once the headphones are paired, you can just take them out of the case and they’ll power on and find whatever they last paired with. This worked well most of the time, but there was a recurring problem where only one headphone would connect, and I’d have to put both back in the case and take them out again to get both to link with my phone or watch.

The Powerbeats’ hook design ensures a brilliant fit for running and other workouts. I never had a moment’s discomfort or struggled to keep the headphones in place while using them. It’s also worth mentioning that the hook was still comfortable when using the headphones while wearing glasses.

There are four sizes of ear tips included in the box, but whichever you choose the buds don’t sit so deep into the ear canal that they block out external noise entirely. They still fit closely enough that you won’t be especially aware of your surroundings when you crank up the volume, though, so keep a sharp eye out when exercising outdoors.

I found the sound quality of the Powerbeats Pro pretty impressive. The bass wasn’t overpowering – indeed some might find it lacking – but the balance of bass, treble and vocals suited my indie music preferences well, with plenty of detail on the top end, even if the sound becomes slightly harsh at high volume. Truly wireless headphones rarely delight audiophiles, and you shouldn’t expect wonders from the Powerbeats Pro, but they match up well to the main competition from sports headphones specialists Jabra and Jaybird.

Powerbeats Pro wireless sports headphones with ear hook

(Image credit: Beats by Dr Dre)
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Both headphones have the same controls, which is useful, and I was pleased to see that physical buttons have been used rather than touch-sensitive areas. The latter are tricky to use when sweaty and on the run and are often activated when you’re just adjusting the fit of the buds. One big button on the outside is used for play/pause, skip and activating Siri, while there are volume up/down buttons on the top of the main headphone unit. The controls are easy to use, even when pulling off the tricky triple-tap skip back.

All in all, the Powerbeats Pro headphones deliver an exceptional experience. The large case is an annoyance, but one you can live with given the excellent battery life, fit and connectivity of the buds. However, this all comes at a huge cost of £219.99. That’s considerably more than the AirPodsJabra Elite Active 75t or Jaybird Vista, which are the main competitors and cost £160-190, though the Powerbeats Pro are cheaper than the noise-cancelling AirPods Pro, which cost £249.99.

If you don’t mind having a wire between the buds there are other great options to consider, most notably the Powerbeats 4. These are startlingly similar bar the wire connecting the headphones. Accept that difference and in return you get 15 hours of battery life, the same sound quality and the same fit and you’ll save £90 on the price of the Powerbeats Pro.

Another slight disadvantage of the Powerbeats Pro is that they are only water- and sweat-resistant, with an IPX4 rating. That’s enough that you don’t need to worry when exercising outside in the rain or sweating buckets during an indoor session, but many sports headphones are fully waterproof to increase their durability.

If the Powerbeats Pro were £50 cheaper I’d have few qualms about recommending them as the best sports headphones you can get. The battery life is exceptional, and hopefully will instil some urgency in Beats’ rivals to up their game on that front, but £50 is a lot to spend for battery life if you’re not regularly listening to the headphones for more than five hours at a time. Even if you are, the Tarah Pro headphones have a bigger battery if you can accept the small wire between the buds as part of the package. The Powerbeats Pro are brilliant. I’m just not sure they’re £220 brilliant.

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.