Realme Buds Air Review: The best AirPods alternative

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This year, Realme gave Xiaomi a good competition in the entry-level and mid-range smartphone segment. Having a successful year, Realme is now venturing to other markets as well. They have recently launched the Realme Buds Air, the first pair of wireless earbuds from the brand. Realme’s marketing team has been hyping the launch for long. Now that it’s finally here in India, it’s not worth the hype at all. Let me tell you why.

Tech-giant Apple has always been the major trendsetter in the smartphone market. In the past few years, Chinese smartphone manufacturers have copied the design of Apple devices and made it available to the mass market. Apple removed the headphone jack, others did it too. After the release of Apple’s AirPods, the market of wireless headphones is filled with nothing but AirPods clones. The Realme Buds Air is, unfortunately, one of them.

At a launch price of Rs.3,999, the Realme Buds Air might appeal to those who are looking forward to jumping to the wireless bandwagon without breaking the bank. Even at 1/3rd of the price of AirPods, the Realme Buds Air packs a lot of features. But is it worth the price? Check out this review of Realme Buds Air to learn more.

What’s in the box?

The Realme Buds Air comes with a mini USB-C cable and some documentation including the user manual and warranty in the box.

Design & Build Quality

  • Dimensions (Case): 51.3 x 45.3 x 25.3mm
  • Weight: 42g (4.2g per earbud)
  • Construction: Plastic
Realme Air Buds

As far as the design goes, Realme has done a great job of ripping off the design from Apple AirPods. I might sound harsh, but it took my friends more than two minutes to realize that it isn’t the AirPods. Compared to the other cheap AirPods clones in the market, Realme is far ahead in terms of build quality. It comes in three color variants– White, Black, and Yellow.

The buds itself has a striking resemblance to the AirPods. You get the same stem design with the same outer-ear fit. Even the microphone holes and the speaker grills are aligned the same as AirPods.  There isn’t any branding on the earbuds.

The unoriginal design also revolves around the charging case. However, it is significantly smaller as well as curvier around the edges. Realme’s term for it is a “full-arc design.” The bottom part of the case houses a USB Type-C port. The lid at the top of the case can be opened easily, revealing the small compartment for the earbuds. At the front, we find an LED indicator and a small button for pairing. The LED indicator at the front of the case shows three colors to indicate three levels of battery– red, yellow, and green. It’s funny how the rear portion of the case says, “Designed by Realme.”

Coming to the build quality, the earbuds feel pretty sturdy. It is IP-X5 certified for sweat and splash resistance. 

However, the same can’t be said for the charging case. It is made out of plastic, and the lid doesn’t have the same satisfying click as the AirPods case. It also feels very flimsy, so make sure you don’t open and close it too much.

If you manage to break the case or lose an earbud, Realme does offer replacements at a manageable price.

Hardware & Performance

  • Sound Driver: LCP Diaphragm / 12mm driver
  • Bluetooth version: 5.0 with GFP (Google Fast Pair Technology)
  • Microphone: Dual-array with ENC (Environment Noise Cancellation)
  • Audio Processor: R1 chip (SBC and AAC audio codec)

The Realme Buds Air provides subpar sound quality compared to wired earphones in the same price segment. The lack of noise isolation can be a deal-breaker for some people. At a normal volume, the Realme Buds Air sounds pretty decent thanks to its 12mm driver. When the volume is maxed out, the absence of bass and distortion is very noticeable. The AirPods itself doesn’t provide high-fidelity sound, but Apple’s engineering team at least managed to put a better bass driver in the AirPods. The Realme Buds Air just doesn’t pack enough punch in the sound department.

For voice calls, the Realme Buds Air does a great job. I hadn’t encountered any problems listening to voices, and the people I called were impressed by the microphone quality too. The dual-microphone array on each earbud helps to cancel out background noise for clearer voice quality.

In terms of gaming, Realme does offer a gaming-mode which reduces the latency over Bluetooth 5.0. The R1 chip, not to be confused with Apple’s W1 chip, also dynamically adjusts the sound quality to maintain low latency. I tried to play Call of Duty: Mobile and often encountered audio sync issues with a noticeable delay. If you spend most of your time playing games on your smartphone, then better spend your hard-earned cash on a decent pair of wired earphones.

Pairing & Features

Even though the sound quality is a mixed bag, the Realme Buds Air is at least covered by a simple pairing process and plenty of features.

Let’s start with the pairing process. Holding the button at the front of the charging case for a few seconds enables the pairing mode. The earbuds automatically get linked to each other and then connects to your phone over Bluetooth 5.0. The next time you want to connect to the Realme Buds Air, it is as simple as toggling on Bluetooth on your device.

Each of the earbuds consists of a touch sensor. It is utilized by a couple of gestures for executing actions. Check them out below.

  • Double-tap: Play / Pause music, accept calls.
  • Triple-tap: Play the next track.
  • Long press: Toggle Google Assistant / Siri / Alexa / Bixby, end calls.
  • Long press (both earbuds): Toggle low-latency gaming mode.

Toggling on the low-latency gaming mode makes a car engine noise, whereas piano sounds indicate that the gaming mode is toggled off.

The Realme Buds Air also integrates optical sensors, which detects if you are wearing the earbuds or not. Once you remove the earbuds from your ears while playing music, it automatically gets paused. A very useful feature for those who listen to podcasts.

Battery Life

Realme Buds Air Wireless Charging

The charging case of the Realme Buds Air comes with a 400 mAh battery. Realme claims that the earbuds (43mAh each) itself deliver 3 hours of battery life, which can be further expanded to 14 hours with the charging case.

In my testing, the day-to-day battery life is in the same ballpark of the advertised battery life. The case can be charged via the USB Type-C port at up to 10W. Surprisingly, it does have 10W Qi-standard wireless charging. Using both of the charging methods, it took roughly 40 minutes to fully charge up the case and earbuds.

Verdict

Realme Buds Air is the first pair of wireless earbuds from the brand. The design is uninteresting, and the sound quality clearly leaves a lot to be desired in this price segment. In Realme’s defense, they have launched the Buds Air at an aggressive price, making it very appealing to those who are in search of a cheaper alternative to the AirPods. But with a price tag of Rs.3,999, the Realme Buds Air is hard to recommend to audiophiles on a budget.

If you can move past the wireless territory, then the SoundMAGIC E80C, Sony MDR-XB75AP, and RHA S500 Universal wired earphones are great options at the same price segment.

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86%
Good, but could be better

Realme Buds Air True Wireless Earphones

Realme Buds Air is the first pair of wireless earbuds from the brand. The design is uninteresting, and the sound quality clearly leaves a lot to be desired in this price segment. In Realme’s defense, they have launched the Buds Air at an aggressive price, making it very appealing to those who are in search of a cheaper alternative to the AirPods. But with a price tag of Rs.3,999, the Realme Buds Air is hard to recommend to audiophiles on a budget.

  • Design
  • Build Quality
  • Sound Quality
  • Battery life
  • Performance

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