Microsoft’s new Surface Earbuds are the latest wireless in-ear headphones to compete with Apple’s AirPods.
In grey or white, these have touch-sensitive exterior surfaces that let you swipe through music tracks or control volume. Built-in microphones are also used effectively for phone calls or transcription.
I tried them out for myself and have some early impressions.
1. They’re quite big
These are a bit chunkier than AirPods. So is the recharging box them come in: it’s almost twice the size of Apple’s recharging case, although the Earbuds are claimed to have slightly longer battery life.
2. They come with rubber tips
You get a packet of them with the Earbuds. Three sizes — small, medium and large — are included. Microsoft says that this will fit the ears of 95pc of the population. In my case, they fit reasonably well, though I would hesitate before going on a run with them. (I can do that easily with the AirPods.)
3. The sound quality is good
At first in my demo, there was a problem connecting. But once they were up and running, the audio quality was decent. It’s hard to tell exactly whether it’s better or poorer than AirPods because I only got to use them for a few minutes. But they’re not tinny.
4. The transcription is a wow feature
These are clearly made with Microsoft Office users in mind, as they allow you to dictate emails and other Office work. Microphones built into the Earbuds pick up your voice and transcribe. This technology isn’t that revolutionary but Microsoft has implemented it very nicely here.
5. They’re pricey
We’re waiting on a euro price, but they’re $249 in the US, which means they’ll be between €250 and €300 in Ireland. That’s way above the €180 you pay for AirPods. At this price, Microsoft may be positioning these as work accessories rather than outright leisure accessories.