In 2020, one witnessed so many launches of true wireless earphones (TWS), that now it has become hard to become excited for them. But when OnePlus launches a product, usually there is an element of hype around it — but this was first experienced in July when the OnePlus TWS buds came out. On the flip side, now that the OnePlus Buds Z, they have launched with a rather whimper. Despite that these still excited me. The primary reason for this was not that the earphones were unique or special, but, since I personally own the OnePlus Buds, I am very curious how the Buds Z measure up. So, can the OnePlus Buds Z win me over? For a price of ₹2,999, they look quite enticing and, believe it or not, I feel OnePlus should have introduced the OnePlus Buds Z before the original OnePlus Buds.
- The earbuds feature 10mm drivers with Bluetooth 5.0 support. This means that they can function even if your phone is far away. To be precise, for up to 10 metres of distance away from a smartphone. The earbuds also come with SBC and AAC audio codecs. In terms of real-world usage, the OnePlus Buds Z offer good sound quality and are pretty hard to distinguish from the OnePlus Buds, the more expensive offering from OnePlus. The added silicone ear tips aid in providing a seal of sorts, which also means that bass is not lacking, a common issue with true wireless options.
- In the design department, the Buds will probably not help in your style quotient. There are two colour options, grey and white, both of which appear pretty subtle. The earbuds themselves are pretty light and, after wearing them for an hour or two, you might be mistaken into thinking you were not wearing any earphones at all. That has to be a good thing dammit!
- The sound quality of the OnePlus Buds Z is in one word, surreal. Having used alternatives from Redmi, Realme and even OnePlus’s previous offering, the OnePlus Buds, I went into this review with caution and kept my expectations in check. However, as soon as I placed the earbuds in my ear, the sound quality had me shocked. Bass is adequate, but, not overpowering, the EQ itself is balanced, instead of being Bass focused, something that is quite common for other alternatives and, most importantly, I found instrument separation to be pretty good. While listening to rapper Kr$na’s song “Say My Name”, the beats were thumpy, his voice was crisp and, even when listening at 100% volume, due to a more balanced sound stage, one does not get a headache doing so.
- Another instance while listening to songs was when I was jamming to Kylie Minogue’s new album “Disco”, the song, in particular, being ‘Magic’. The initial bass moments were subtle yet not overwhelming, something that I did not find to be true when it came to OnePlus’s budget neckband, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z. Overall, the sound quality was quite impressive considering the price.
- During calls, I found the receiver’s voice to be crisp and he reported the same for me. However, according to him, noise isolation was sub-par and he could hear the air purifier’s low hum, which is not what was expected. This was reported by several others, meaning, the noise isolation during calls is not the best.
- The case too is quite portable and, considering as to how the earbuds are shaped, the case does not take up too much space and can fit into the coin pocket of your jeans. One issue with the case is the odd placement of the magnets, which means, getting the earbuds into the case is a bit of a hassle. Actually, OnePlus has followed the Huawei route with these which is not great.
- As for the usability aspect, on the exterior of the case, one can find a button which can be used to pair the OnePlus Buds Z to their phones. The OnePlus Buds Z also supports Google Fast Pair which adds to the convenience. There is a tiny LED indicator to indicate the status of charge for the case and they also light up to show the earbuds’ charge while placing them inside.
- Battery life, a strong suit for OnePlus when it comes to their audio products is still the segment best, with the Buds offering around 4 to 4.5 hours of battery life in a single charge, with combined battery life averaging around 18 hours. While this is not as good as the OnePlus Buds, the numbers still hold up well and are much better than some competitors.
- Owing to Bluetooth 5.0, users ought not to worry about call drops and signal drops, because, in our week of testing, we did not face any issues and, with the Hey Melody App (to be used with the Buds in case the user does not own a OnePlus 6T or above) the user can control some shortcuts of the Buds Z.
- During my week of testing, I faced two major issues, the first of which, is less of an issue and more of a concern. The OnePlus Buds Z case are made up of glossy plastic and, having owned white TWS cases, I can guarantee that, however carefully you handle the case, within a month or two, scratches or scrapes will definitely appear. This is a step down in comparison to the OnePlus Buds, which featured a matte case.
- The second issue that I faced was the usability aspect is sort of hampered. The OnePlus Buds Z feature support for only double taps on the buds themselves, which means you are limited to only two shortcuts, while competitors are far better equipped in this regard.
Should You Buy It?
Well, to put it bluntly, Yes. I can go as far as to say that OnePlus should have launched the OnePlus Buds Z before unveiling the original Buds because these have fewer shortcomings in comparison to the previous version.
I say so because the OnePlus Buds had two major issues, both of which were related to the design. The passive isolation was dismal, which was a result of the Airpod like design and the second issue was fit. Many users felt they were too big and were prone to falling quite easily, another con that comes with the design. The OnePlus Buds Z address both these issues, and they do not end up feeling like a toned-down version of the OnePlus Buds, which is a very good thing about these earbuds.
If someone was in the market for a reliable pair of earphones that get the job done, offer good sound quality, a subtle design and a good mic, the OnePlus Buds Z would be on top of my recommendation list and, for just ₹2,999, they would not break the bank as well.