review

Realme Buds Air Review: The Budget AirPods Have Indeed Landed

Scoring on smarts, losing out on sound

by: - Last updated on: December 18th, 2019

Realme has launched its first pair of truly wireless Bluetooth earphones in the country, the AirPods… oh wait!

Scratch that.

Realme has launched its first pair of truly wireless Bluetooth earphones in the country, the Buds Air.

Those of you who have not had a chance to have a look at the Buds Air, might not understand why we confused them with the AirPods above, but a glance (or even a detailed look) at the Buds Air might give you an idea.

Realme launched the Buds Air along with the Realme X2. And in best Realme tradition, the buds are not only loaded with features but are also priced pretty competitively with a tag of Rs. 3,999. But does all that make the Buds Air a “Real”-ly sweet deal?

Look like AirPods, feel like (affordable) AirPods

Most of us have seen the AirPods (second generation) and the case they come in, right? Well, change the measurement of the AirPods and the case ever so slightly and Voila! You have what Realme calls the Buds Air. The brand brings the earbuds in three different colors– white, yellow and black. We received the white variant which only added to them AirPods feels.

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The small squoval case with the same flip-open lid; a small LED on the front that indicates connection, pairing, battery status, and charging; a port for charging (Type-C) and a circular button to pair the earbuds with your device, although this button is also present on the front of the case as opposed to being on the back on the AirPods – all suggest that the Buds Air have taken more than just inspiration from Apple’s wireless earbuds.

And the same saga continues with the buds as well. The white buds with a round-ish head have slight mouth-like ends with grilles on the inside and a long stem that branches out of the head. They have a very thin silver ring at the end of each stem with gold color connector pins on the base of the stem. The head buds also carry few black colored sensors. So, basically, they look just like the AirPods, but only slightly bigger.

Some might not even be able to tell them apart if they are not lying next to each other or unless you hold them in your hands. Hold the Buds Air, however, and you will feel the difference between them and their inspiration. The Buds Air feel waaay more affordable, almost cheap quality to a level, especially if compared to the AirPods. That said, they do come with a wayyyy cheaper price tag, too. The case and the buds are both made of plastic that does not exactly scream premium and is a smudge and dirt magnet. (Side note: if you have a dog, good luck getting the dog hair off the case and buds.)

All that said, for Rs. 3,999, the Buds Air is definitely very good looking and even the quality is pretty decent for the price.

Wireless charging, R1 Chip and more…

The Realme Buds Air might come with a really affordable price tag (we cannot stress that enough), but that has not kept the brand from throwing the features kitchen sink at it.

The buds are powered by Realme’s R1 chipset with support for Bluetooth 5.0 and come with 12 mm drivers. The earbuds also come with a number of touch controls, wear detection and what Realme terms as environment noise cancellation technology where the dual microphones on the buds filter out any background noise on calls. And the Buds Air comes with a case that supports wireless charging (YES!).

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Connecting the Buds Air with your device is pretty easy and again, very Apple. All you have to do is long-press the circular button on the chest of the case until it appears in the Bluetooth list of your device. Click on it and pair it. The process is very smooth. Once paired, you only have to open the case and the buds will get connected to the paired device. The buds connected remarkably fast whenever we opened the case and were extremely easy to use. They are also compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

Smart features, but not so smart sound

In terms of sheer sound quality, we found the Realme Buds Air to be slightly ‘Air’-y. Let us explain. The Buds Air does not produce audio that has a lot of dimensions or body as the sound is very flat. The audio produced lacks oomph. On maxed out volume, the buds may seem loud enough, but at no point will you feel overwhelmed by the quality or the volume of the audio. We never seemed to get a significant amount of bass or treble, no matter how bass-heavy the track we played was, despite the fact that they come with Dynamic Bass Boost driver. The output was clear but Buds Air could never take it to another level.

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The sound on the Buds Air is a bit like listening to FM radio in the cab. There is not a lot of depth to the audio but it is clear enough to make you stare out the window and think as if your life is a music video.

On call, the buds work very well. We could hear the voice on the other end very clearly and never had any recipient complaint about our voice output. That said, we did not feel the ENC working as it did not block out a lot of ‘environment noise’ when we were on call.

The buds come with the dual-channel transmission which makes them free of the “master-slave” relationship and allows them to operate independently. This means, there is no “one bud (master) that will get connected to the device and then will connect to the other bud (slave)” drama. Because the earbuds have wear detection feature, the audio also pauses whenever you take any bud out of your ear and starts playing again once you put them back in.

Latency was also not an issue with the Buds Air and we did not find video moving ahead of the sound or vice-versa. The earbuds also have a dedicated gaming mode, which also aims at minimizing latency and because it was not such an issue with us in the first place, the mode did not make a lot of difference to us – dedicated gamers might notice the difference though.

The touch controls on the Buds Air, although slightly elaborate, work smoothly (once you get the hang of them). Double tapping on the buds’ head will allow you to take a call, or play/pause music. Triple tap will skip to the next song while a long press on either one will allow you to disconnect a phone call or summon the virtual assistant on your phone. Long pressing the heads of both buds together will allow you to enter or exit gaming mode, reducing any latency. It all worked well generally but like touch-controlled true wireless earbuds, it just gets confusing at times: double-tapping, triple tapping, long press, all of it!

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The buds claim to give you three hours of battery life but if you use them on maxed-out volume, they can die out as early as in two hours. With the case, the brand claims you can get 17 hours of battery life, which is decent to begin with but last for a slightly shorter while in reality. If you are into using them a lot, get ready to charge the case a few times a week. The case also comes with support for wireless charging which is pretty impressive at this price point, although you would need to invest in a wireless charger to use this feature. It can be otherwise charged through the USB Type C port and takes about an hour and a half to charge fully.

AirPods on a budget, enough said!

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The Realme Buds Air brings a lot of really good features to the table, especially for the price tag. They just work. They come with an IPX2 rating, wireless charging, wear detection and touch control features. And yes, we are familiar with the design but we are also familiar with the fact that it works, for both, the case and the buds as it makes them very easy to carry. That said, those looking for a great audio experience should steer clear of them. They are not bad but they offer slightly flaky audio as opposed to their competition in the market, even at this price point (for instance, Realme’s own wireless earphones offer much better audio quality for a lower price tag, and if you are looking for better sound quality on truly wireless earphones, the Skullcandy Sesh delivers that, albeit at a slightly higher price tag and minus many of the smart functions.

At Rs 3,999, the Realme Buds Air is a terrific option for anyone looking for smart truly wireless earphones, provided they are not crazy about audio quality.

Best Buy Link for Realme Buds Air

Pros
  • Plenty of functionality
  • Fully iOS and Android compatible
  • Wireless charging
  • PRICE
Cons
  • Unremarkable audio
  • Relatively low battery life
  • Copied design
Review Overview
Looks and Design
Audio Quality
Ease of Use
Features
Price
SUMMARY

True wireless earphones seem to be the flavor of the tech audio season. And adding some spice to the mix is Realme, which has come out with its Buds Air at a surprisingly affordable price. They look very familiar, but does their sound strike the right note?

3.6

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