OnePlus Bullets Wireless Review: Jack of all Trades, Master of Some
Building a pair of wireless earphones which tick all the essential boxes can be difficult and complex. If you’re aiming for portability, you end up sacrificing battery life. If you decide to prioritize battery life and sound quality, there’s a chance the result might be a bit bulky unless, of course, it’s not truly wireless. This conundrum is especially more complicated when you’re on a budget.
OnePlus’ new Bullets Wireless are not the earphones which rise above these stumbling boxes. But they’re close. Very close.
Like every other OnePlus product, the Bullets Wireless’ cornerstone might seem the price as well. So let’s talk about that first. In spite of what you may think, it’s not groundbreaking. At Rs 3,990, the Bullets Wireless face stiff competition especially from brands like Jabra which has been dominating this price range for years now. While the Bullets Wireless is still relatively affordable against more premium brands like Bose or Apple, their demerits won’t have the same benefit of the low-cost argument the company’s phones have held for generations.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s your definitive answer to the question of whether the OnePlus’ first wireless earphones deliver on their promises.
Wireless Earphones Which Refuse to Fall Out
The first attribute of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless which stands out is apparent as soon as you try them on. They don’t have the generic in-ear shape you’re probably used to. Their buds are made up of primarily two parts — one is the tip itself, and the other is a winglet which might seem superficial but it’s quite ingenious once you wear them. The winglet is essentially supposed to go below the curved bone (the antihelix) inside your ear which prevents the earphones to fall out no matter what you’re doing. And it does work, splendidly.
Whether I was simply walking or doing a rigorous workout, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless stayed put. They’re probably the first earphones (apart from the AirPods) I’ve employed which are able to achieve this sort of feat. The rubber tips themselves are surprisingly comfortable even for prolonged sessions which is another feature I haven’t found on any other pair of wireless earphones. The lightweight nature of the neck buds itself contributes to this trait further, and after a minute or two, I usually forget I even have the Bullets Wireless on. OnePlus bundles three sizes of both the winglets and tips, so I doubt anyone will have any problems with the fit.
One pet peeve I have with the winglet approach is that it can be way too cumbersome to wear them especially in the early days since you’ve to adjust two things instead of one. This, in fact, can become annoying especially if you’re someone who constantly takes off his or her earphones while working.
The entire neckband doesn’t have any special appearance apart from the red accented, metallic earbuds and is built out of black silicon materials. However, by not opting for a plastic base which houses all the key components and goes around your neck like the one Jabra offers, OnePlus has made the wire a little crowded. It holds two large modules for internals such as the battery and the three-button remote. Doing so has spawned a design which a lot of buyers might find cluttered and unappealing at first glance. Although I’m glad to report this doesn’t cause any issues once when you have the Bullets Wireless on. I wish OnePlus would introduce more color options in the coming weeks as it does with phones.
You should also know that the OnePlus Bullets Wireless are sweat as well as rain resistant. In our tests, the earphones managed quite well with occasional splashes of water. However, as it did with the OnePlus 6, the company is not revealing any IP ratings and doesn’t include water damage in the warranty. Therefore, I would suggest keeping the earphones dry as far as possible.
The bundled silicon case is a nice touch, but unless you fold the earphones exactly how OnePlus wants you to, it’s almost impossible to stuff the Bullets Wireless in. Still, it’s commendable the company even managed to offer this as the majority of other headsets at this price point don’t.
One of the biggest highlights of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless is the magnetic ends of the ear tips. This enables the earphones to pause whenever you stick both of them together and play once you detach them. While the feature does function well, the latter of those two is only available on a handful of recent OnePlus phones (5, 5T, and 6). It’s certainly not a unique feature and is present on a few other products but OnePlus does one thing differently — attaching the buds also turns the earphones off and vice-versa which sounds like a much bigger deal than it is in real life usage. That’s mainly because the earphones do take a few seconds to reconnect whenever you detach them from each other, so not as seamless an experience as you might think.
The pairing process is fairly straightforward as well, but there are no voice-assisted instructions. You will have to rely on various combinations of beeps to know several bits of information like whether they’re low on battery. Another minor complaint I have with the Bullets Wireless is that you cannot connect multiple devices simultaneously which I often do with my computer and phone. OnePlus is also advertising Google Assistant as one of the key features on the Bullets Wireless but it’s not the native ‘Made for Google’ integration and the long-press to invoke assistant can be done on literally every pair of earphones that has an inline remote.
Premium Sound at a Not-so-Premium Price
Obviously, none of those would matter if the OnePlus Bullets Wireless doesn’t sound good. And well, what do you know, the audio quality is outstanding. Normally, wireless earphones at this price segment tend to concentrate the output in the middle and lack a wider soundstage.
The Bullets Wireless, in comparison, not only have a wide soundstage but also a lot of depth which allows you to clearly make out all the instruments, beats, and voices. The presence of the former ensures a balanced surround sound effect and rich acoustics. They can also get exceedingly loud if you want them to, while not messing up the quality itself. Even the inbuilt mic is clear and works well for calls.
The bass could have been a tad better, but it’s certainly not a dealbreaker. Whether you listen to classic rock or Bollywood, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with the sound on the Bullets Wireless. Listening to Daft Punk’s Contact was truly a thrilling experience, something which other similarly priced headsets are unable to produce as it has an elaborate medley of ups and downs. On devices which lack support for Qualcomm AptX, the sound is marginally flat but it’s not a substantial difference.
The noise cancellation is above average too, if not perfect. They can curtail the majority of external jitter, but in scenarios like traffic, you will have to crank the volume to the maximum. There are no issues with the range, though as I could be easily in another room and still retain the connection without any distortions.
Fast Draining with Fast Charging
This brings us to the only major critical downside of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless — battery life. It’s not terrible, but in my week-long usage, they were only able to last five or six hours on a single charge which is vastly disappointing for neck buds. One can get the claimed eight hours of battery life if they listen at the recommended 50% volume levels all the time. The ones from Jabra (like the 25e) can be employed straight for twenty odd hours. So, for instance, on a travel day, you will have to juice up the Bullets Wireless at least once. Thankfully, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless is compatible with quick charging with any cable which lets you top them up to almost sixty percent in just ten minutes. Full charge, on the other hand, takes somewhere around half an hour.
But here’s the thing about that — In comparison, the Jabra Halo Smart I own last nearly a day and take one and a half hour to charge. And Jabra doesn’t even advertise quick charging as a feature. Therefore, while quick charging is a handy feature to have, I would prefer a longer lasting battery life. I do appreciate the fact that it charges through USB Type-C instead of MicroUSB.
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless offers one of the most wholesome Bluetooth earphones experience in their price segment with an impressive fit, premium audio quality, and more. But with a disappointing battery life, they’re certainly not for everyone. Therefore, if you’re someone who doesn’t travel a lot and has an AptX compatible phone, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless is undoubtedly your best bet. Otherwise, you can also check out Jabra’s Elite 25E that costs the same and has an all-day endurance.
Update: A couple of months after publishing this review, I ended up buying the OnePlus Bullets Wireless myself because apparently, no other pair of Bluetooth earphones is capable of staying in my ears during workouts. Like before, I was impressed with the balanced audio output and how well they fit. However, a few weeks later, I began noticing that the Bullets Wireless were causing a minor pain at my ear’s antihelix, the curved bone on which the earbud’s winglet relies on for extra support, on nearly every day I would extensively use them. The discomfort does evaporate in the morning but it is something to keep in mind before purchasing the OnePlus Bullets Wireless. It’s also worth noting that the Bullets Wireless can be easily worn without the winglet as well which I have started doing except for the times when I’m working out.