Microsoft Surface Earbuds overview: comfort at a cost

Microsoft Surface Earbuds overview: comfort at a cost

Microsoft is late. the corporate’s first in reality wireless earbuds, the outside Earbuds, were latecomers after they were first introduced again in October, they usually are even later now that they are in the end available. In 2020 alone, Google has launched its second-gen Pixel Buds, Samsung made strides with the Galaxy Buds Plus, and Sennheiser debuted another set of hello-fi actually wi-fi earbuds. And as at all times, you’ve were given Apple, Sony, and Jabra within the mix. This wide box of pageant has already led Microsoft to launch them at a lower cost ($199.99) than to start with deliberate. So how does Microsoft differentiate?

the company says its Floor Earbuds were built with a watch towards unequalled convenience, a standout layout, rich sound quality, and integration with the Workplace 365 suite. They ship on several of these fronts. However the outside Earbuds additionally make industry-offs that will remind you those are Microsoft’s first pair of actually wi-fi earbuds. the problem is, everyone else is already on round two or three.

Our evaluate of Microsoft Surface Earbuds

Verge Rating 7 out of 10

Good Stuff

Extraordinarily relaxed for hours on finish Just Right microphone efficiency Long battery lifestyles

Dangerous Stuff

Too expensive for what you get No noise isolation Case lacks wi-fi charging Buy for $199.99 from Microsoft Buy for $199.99 from Absolute Best Buy

Are Compatible and finish aren’t among those trade-offs, on the other hand. The Outside Earbuds are some other instance of Microsoft’s hardware chops, with unbelievable build high quality and a design that’s not afraid to stray from the competition. You’ll either love or hate the illusion of them. it may well look like you’re dressed in mid-2000s lobe gauges or PopSockets in your ears. Google’s 2nd-gen Pixel Buds set a new standard for a refined, discreet fit, however there’s not anything understated about those. The Surface Earbuds are massive, vibrant white circles that are unabashedly present.

A close-up photo of the exterior Surface Earbuds design. A close-up photo of the Surface Earbuds mesh grill. The left and right Surface Earbuds, pictured side by side in a hand.

The Skin Buds are another exhibit of Microsoft’s hardware chops.

but if you take a look at them up shut and think about the details — the acoustic mesh grills, the foolproof way that the ear tips connect to the buds, and so forth — you’re reminded of Microsoft’s precision. The Outside Earbuds exude high quality, even if you’re now not sold on the style. They’re rated IPX4 waterproof, which means they can endure splashes from any direction. Microsoft isn’t positioning these as health earbuds, but when they suit you neatly, they’ll be up to that task.

The Skin Earbuds come in a glossy, pill-shaped charging case with the Microsoft brand at the top. (The earbuds themselves lack any branding.) My case got here a little scuffed up right out of the field, which used to be disappointing, however the light grey color hid the ones scratches well enough. There’s a USB-C port around again, a pairing button at the backside, and that’s the level of the case. Sadly, it doesn’t have wi-fi charging features. However at beneath an inch tall and less than 3 inches extensive, it’s very pocketable.

Microsoft’s Surface Earbuds pictured next to Google’s Pixel Buds. Microsoft’s Floor Earbuds pictured next to Google’s Pixel Buds.

These earbuds have an open layout — just like the original AirPods — that rests to your ear in preference to filling your ear canal. This means has a few downsides, but it does include one get advantages that you just’ll notice right away: outstanding comfort. i could put on the surface Earbuds for massive chunks of the day with none pain or internal-ear power. when they have been in, i discovered giving them a mild twist helped lock the additional lump of silicone at the again of each ear tip into my ear lobe. (Microsoft provides 3 sizes of tips in the box.) This created a secure are compatible that saved dangle for hours. They stay in rather well for probably the most section, however the outside Earbuds can come dislodged without much force, so simply pay attention while converting your shirt or placing on a jacket.

the drawback of that openness is that you simply’ll hear a ton of surrounding noise whilst wearing the outside Earbuds. it might not pose a problem even as lots of us remain at house, however you’ll need to actually crank the quantity to overcome a noisy out of doors environment or noisy train. And after we all go back to offices, you’ll have to ignore nearby conversations slicing into your song.

The Surface Earbuds pictured worn in the reviewer’s left ear. There’s not anything refined approximately the outside Earbuds.

An open layout also limits bass potential, that is always stronger by an even in-ear seal. The Surface Earbuds don’t give you that, but they sound just right regardless, with a balanced mix that felt effectively immersive as I listened via Jason Isbell’s new album Reunions. The audio is ready as complete as it may also be making an allowance for all of the air these buds let in, but the outside Earbuds don’t match the detail and richness of pricier earbuds. And should you consider booming bass a necessity, you’ll want to take a look at other options that fully seal within the ear. Microsoft helps SBC and aptX Bluetooth formats here — AAC continues to be absent — and i found the connection stability to be rock-solid all over my fleeting time outdoor each day.

The Outside Earbuds can succeed in up to eight hours of continuous battery life earlier than wanting a recharge. If left on a table idle for 10 minutes, they’ll automatically power all the way down to conserve battery. The case supplies additional refills for a total of 24 hours. you’ll display the remaining battery percentage for every earbud, however bizarrely, Microsoft doesn’t provide any way of checking the case’s closing juice. You’ll are aware of it wishes a recharge whilst the single LED within turns red, but that’s it. At a minimum, given that nothing lighting up on the earbuds after they’re dropped into place, Microsoft should’ve removed any guesswork by means of including separate lighting fixtures to show rate level for the earbuds and case. Apple’s AirPods have the same lone LED, but Google, Sony, Jabra, and other corporations have gotten this right with more than one indicator lighting.

An image depicting the equalizer settings from Microsoft’s Surface Audio app. The Skin Audio app allows you to customize the EQ for the earbuds.

Considering the large, flat floor house of the outside Earbuds, I expected their touch-delicate controls could be a snap. Not slightly. you’ll be able to faucet two times on either earbud to pause or play tune. However Microsoft splits track controls and extent between the 2 facets. You swipe ahead on the left earbud to skip a tune or back to go back to the previous one. And over on the right, you’ll swipe up or right down to keep an eye on extent. Microsoft’s gesture for mentioning Siri or Google Assistant (simply tap and dangle on both bud) can once in a while conflict with those controls. And the swipe gestures at the left earbud proved fiddly in my revel in. I had to swipe ahead or back in a diagonal course to get the observe controls to check in. I were given the cling of it, however unfortunately, you’ll’t customize the controls; the only choice Microsoft offers is disabling them altogether should you’d quite care for the whole thing on-device.

The Surface Earbuds also utterly omit features that I’ve come to be expecting, like an automobile-pause function when you briefly do away with certainly one of them. With those, there’s no ear detection, and the song simply assists in keeping going. It’s only one of these things that’s laborious to miss at $TWO HUNDRED. on the plus aspect, Microsoft comprises EQ customization in the surface Audio app for Windows, Android, and iOS. The app could also be what you’ll use to replace the earbuds’ firmware. The charging case can simplest be updated whilst plugged into a Home Windows PC, though i can’t consider you’ll wish to do that with any regularity.


Each sensible instrument now calls for you to conform to a chain of terms and conditions ahead of you’ll be able to use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It’s inconceivable for us to learn and analyze every single considered one of these agreements. However we started counting exactly what number of times you must hit “agree” to use devices once we assessment them due to the fact these are agreements the general public don’t read and positively can’t negotiate.

The Outside Earbuds can also be used over Bluetooth with out encountering any tool agreements. Then Again, you’ll want to use the surface Audio app for Home Windows 10, Android, or iOS to customize the EQ, update the firmware, and regulate settings for the Earbuds.

Upon starting the app, it’s a must to conform to Microsoft’s device license phrases, which come with binding arbitration language and a category action waiver, amongst different prerequisites. Microsoft additionally spells out the diagnostic knowledge it collects from the skin Audio app.

Required information that the surface Audio app collects can come with:

Overall quantity of time you utilize your Floor Earbuds for track and calls Version of the surface Audio app getting used Whether Or Not a pairing attempt used to be a success or now not Which device you connect in the outside Audio app Logs of whilst the surface Audio app is opened Whether Or Not firmware updates installed accurately Total amount of time you utilize your Surface Earbuds or Floor Headphones for tune and calls

Microsoft says you can provide additional, not obligatory knowledge, together with:

Which settings you utilize in the outside Audio app Logs of whilst you manufacturing facility reset your Surface Earbuds with the app

Ultimate tally: one obligatory settlement for Surface Audio app, plus required diagnostic information collection.

Microsoft has been highlighting the entire ways in which the surface Earbuds can help you be more productive with Administrative Center 365 apps. you’ll dictate textual content in apps like Phrase and Outlook. And in case your dream has always been to control PowerPoint slideshows with a swipe of your earbud, this is your moment. However actually, these Place Of Work 365 tips aren’t distinctive to the outside Earbuds. Odds are, you’ll do dictation and actual-time caption translations with no matter what earbuds you’re already the use of. What’s more disappointing for paintings existence is that the outside Earbuds are not able to pair with two gadgets concurrently, reminiscent of your phone and your laptop. this is doubly irritating due to the fact that the skin Headphones are capable of doing exactly that, but Microsoft hasn’t brought the similar multipoint functionality right here.

The case is definitely pocketable, nevertheless it lacks wireless charging.

The mics inside the skin Earbuds — two on each and every bud — at least supply superb readability for the ones Administrative Center options, and i’d positioned these neck and neck with AirPods as a few of the most efficient earbuds for making calls or videoconferencing. Technically, you’ll be able to use either earbud independently. however the left one still depends on the proper for a connection in your phone, so that you’ll at all times need to have that right earbud nearby (in or out of the case) even when using the left in mono.

The Skin Earbuds have sufficient strengths — ethereal convenience, long battery life, and good voice quality — to outweigh their downside spots. However even the adjusted $200 price feels prime. For that money, wireless charging is a sore omission, and the dearth of multipoint pairing surely stings for earbuds which can be geared toward productivity.

for those who’re get rid of via how common in-ear buds feel on your ears, these are worth a try. but when that’s now not an element, there’s not anything approximately the surface Earbuds that places them in will have to-buy territory. Microsoft is unquestionably onto something, however appearing up late has its outcomes.

Photography via Chris Welch / The Verge

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