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AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro: Were they worth the wait?

Apple's long-awaited AirPods Pro 2 finally made their debut as the new flagship of the company's in-ear lineup. But, do they offer enough over their predecessors to justify the cost, or should you just stick with the cheaper originals? Let's find out.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer
Very big AirPods Pro 2 next to a tiny human.
ZDNET

Apple debuted its long-awaited AirPods Pro 2 after more than a year of rumors. While they didn't receive the complete physical overhaul some shoppers may have been hoping for, Apple did revamp almost every aspect of their internal components, features, and performance characteristics. Let's take a close look at what's changed and which shoppers will get the most benefit from the new AirPods Pro, or their older counterparts.

Also: 5 great AirPods deals happening now

Specifications

AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro

Dimensions and weight

Earbuds: 1.22in (30.9mm) x 0.86in (21.8mm) x 0.94in (34mm). Weight 0.19oz (5.3g) | Charging case: 1.78in (45.2mm) x 2.39in (60.6mm) x 0.85in (21.7mm). Weight: 1.79oz (50.8g)

Earbuds: 1.22in (30.9mm) x 0.86in (21.8mm) x 0.94in (34mm).  Weight 0.19oz (5.4g) | Charging case: 1.78in (45.2mm) x 2.39in (60.6mm) x 0.85in (21.7mm). Weight: 1.61oz (45.6g)

Sound processing technologies

Upgraded active noise cancellation, upgraded transparency mode

Active noise cancellation, transparency mode

Microphones

Dual beamforming microphones, inward-facing

Dual beamforming microphones, inward-facing

SensorsMotion and speech detection, accelerometers, improved force sensor with volume controlsMotion and speech detection, accelerometers, force sensor
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.0
Water resistanceSweat and water resistant (IPX4)
Sweat and water resistant (IPX4)
ChargingIncluded charging case with wireless charging and MagSafe and Qi support (also supports Apple Watch chargerIncluded charging case with wireless charging and MagSafe and Qi support

Battery life

Earbuds: Up to 6 hours (5.5 hours with Spatial Audio and Head Tracking enabled), 4.5 hours of talk time | Charging case: 30 hours of listening time, 24 hours of talk time

Earbuds: Up to 4.5 hours (5 hours with ANC and transparency off), 3.5 hours of talk time | Charging case: More than 24 hours of listening time, 18 hours of talk time

Included Accessories

Silicone ear tips (4 sizes), Lightning to USB-C cable

Silicone ear tips (3 sizes), Lightning to USB-C cable

PriceStarting at $249
Starting at $180

You should buy AirPods Pro 2 if...

AirPods Pro 2 with tech features you can see through it.
ZDNET

1. Sound quality is most important to you

Apple made several changes to improve the sound quality of the AirPods Pro 2. First, the company introduced its new H2 chip, which provides improved sound processing at multiple stages of the earbuds' operation. This is further boosted by the inclusion of new "low distortion" audio drivers, a new amplifier, and other tweaks to provide a wide sound stage than their predecessors. These features are better able to reach listeners thanks to the focus of our second entry below.

2. You want Apple's best active noise cancellation yet

Thanks to advanced computational audio, optimized microphone placement, and the aforementioned H2 chip, Apple claims the AirPods Pro 2 will be able to provide twice the active noise cancellation of its first-generation AirPods Pro. The company noted that the H2 chip, in particular, was a huge help in accomplishing this by miniaturizing the technology to a size where it could fit into truly wireless earbuds for the first time.

3. You need the best battery life

AirPods Pro 2 boast a 30% increase in battery life over the original model. Moreover, the redesigned charging case provides a new maximum of 30 hours of runtime before you'll need to top it up. When you do manage to run through that power bank, Apple also has a new charging method for you: the ability to use your Apple Watch charger to wirelessly charge the case. The earbuds also still retain support for Qi-based wireless charging and wired charging methods as well. You'll also now receive notifications for low battery and charging states through the new built-in speakers. 

More: Apple announces the release of the Apple AirPods Pro 2

You should buy the original AirPods Pro if...

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ZDNET

1. You generally only use your earbuds at home or in the office

Apple's ANC in the original AirPods Pro is already pretty great and typically more than enough to deal with any but the noisiest scenarios. Because of this, users that tend to use their earbuds in scenarios with moderate background noise, like at home or in the office, can likely skip all of the improved ANC features of the second-generation buds.

2. You're satisfied with "good enough" sound quality

Not everyone even uses their earbuds for music. For many of us, the original AirPods Pro were a must-buy simply for their adjustable fit, with their upgraded audio acting as sort of a bonus. If you fall into this camp, the audio upgrades of the AirPods Pro 2 may be lost on you. The originals are already more than enough for things like Zoom calls, basic video consumption, and much, much more. Don't feel obligated to upgrade to the latest and greatest if the new features don't actually benefit your use cases.

3. You'd like to save some cash

The AirPods Pro 2 are debuting at $250. Meanwhile, the original AirPods Pro have crept down to around $180 on most days, and sometimes go on sale for even less. This can be a huge savings for any shopper that isn't interested in the new features and tech spec upgrades seen in the AirPods Pro 2. 

Review: AirPods Pro: Noise cancellation and improved design are valuable additions

Alternatives to consider

Open to other truly wireless earbud prospects? Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices:

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