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Jun 29

Amazfit PowerBuds Review Fitness-oriented TWS earbuds with iffy heart rate detection – XDA Developers

Thanks to Apples AirPods, truly wireless earbuds have exploded in popularity in the last few years. The non-Apple alternatives range from bad to good and cheap to expensive, with no correlation implied. Today, were going to talk about a mid-range set of Bluetooth TWS earbuds aimed at a different niche. The Huami Amazfit PowerBuds are priced at $100 and come with some interesting features as well as a fitness-focused gimmick. But how are they? Do they sound good? Do they fit well?

Lets find out!

Along with the Amazfit PowerBuds earbuds themselves and the charging case, theres a pack of replacement tips of various sizes, a short USB-C charging cable, and an incrediblythick user guide in the box.

Shifting focus over to the case: Its not too flashy and is easy to open and shut. On the back, theres a USB-C port for charging. On the front, theres an indicator light that tells you the charging and pairing status of the earbuds. There are also some magnets that help you seat the earbuds in the case and keep the lid closed. On the topic of the lid, there are a couple of ear hooks hiding in it. These stick to the earbuds using magnets and are useful if youre moving around a lot and want the earbuds to stay in your ears. Its certainly nice to have them as an option.

Finally, on to the Amazfit PowerBuds themselves. Theyre kind of bulky. Instead of the standard pod and tip assembly, theres an extra bit on both that makes them stick out more than other earbuds. There is a reason for this, though. The right earbud has a heart rate sensor on it, and both earbuds have sensors to detect whether theyre in your ear or not.

Regarding the software and setup process: They were anything but smooth when I first set these up. To get the Amazfit PowerBuds properly set up, you need to download the Amazfit app and use it to pair them to your device. To use the Amazfit app, you need to make an Amazfit account which is where I ran into problems. The first few days of trying, I just couldnt log in. I would press the sign-in button and the app would say something about importing data for five minutes, and then it would just give me some generic message about an error. Once I finally managed to log in, it took me about five tries before I could actually pair the earbuds to the app.

Now, its possible there was just a problem with the earbuds and they needed to be factory reset, but I dont see a way to do that unless youre signed into the Amazfit app itself. The instruction manual doesnt say anything about factory resetting, and the online support page is blank.

Of course, its possible to pair and use the Amazfit PowerBuds just like any other Bluetooth earbuds. However, the app gives you some useful features like changing what the different tap gestures do, changing the internal equalizer in the earbuds, and, of course, reading your heart-rate. Thats right, these earbuds can read your heart rate, and this feature is one of its major selling points. Well talk more about that later, though. Finally, the Amazfit PowerBuds are IP55-rated. This means that, while you shouldnt be using them underwater, a run through the rain or a super sweaty workout session wont cause any issues.

Overall, my first impressions of the Amazfit PowerBuds werent terrible, but I wouldnt say they were great, either. When a major feature of your product is almost inaccessible because of problems in your software, it really doesnt do you any favors.

Anyway, onto the controls!

The Amazfit PowerBuds are similar to plenty of other true-wireless earbuds in terms of controls. Each earbud has a capacitive touchpad on it that can be tapped in different ways to complete different actions. Unfortunately, the controls are not nearly as extensive as competing truly wireless earbuds.

At the time of writing this, the only gestures I know exist are:

Single tapping doesnt seem to do anything nor does long pressing or swiping. Interestingly, the product page for the Amazfit PowerBuds claims that the earbuds have single and double tap gestures, which as far as I can see, isnt the case. Maybe there are plans to add a single-tap gesture in a future firmware update.

By default, a double tap on either earbud will turn the Thru-Mode on or off. Thru-Mode uses the earbuds microphones to relay outside audio to you. Its a bit of a weird feature to have for earbuds that dont support active noise cancellation, though. A triple tap on either earbud will play or pause the active audio stream.

Luckily, you can customize the gestures on a per-earbud basis. You can choose from any of the following actions:

(To answer and end calls, the gesture is a hardcoded double-tap.)

Personally, I have my gestures set to play/pause on a double tap and previous/next on a triple tap, since I mainly use my earbuds for listening to music or watching videos.

Even though the existing gestures are pretty customizable, the gesture detection is frustratingly not very good. Triple taps have sometimes registered as double taps, double taps failed to be recognized at all, etc. Its not a fun experience, and Ive even seen competing (and cheaper) options offer more gestures, so its really hard to justify this. For example, the Tronsmart Spunky Beat has single, double, and triple tap gestures, along with multiple long-press actions that execute depending on the length of the press. Hopefully, Huami will issue an update allowing us to use more gestures (and to fix the current ones). Until then, this is a bit of a sore point.

The tap gestures arent the only controls here, though. Each earbud has a detection window to check if its in your ear or not. When you remove one or both of the earbuds, the pause action is sent to your device. They also will tell your device to resume playback when reinserted. This feature actually works pretty well. With the Amazfit PowerBuds paired with my Galaxy Note9, music pauses and plays almost immediately. On my Realme X3 SuperZoom, the resume feature doesnt work, but thats seemingly a ColorOS issue.

Finally, theres a button on the case itself. Positioned front and center when you open the lid, this button is used for initiating pair mode. Holding it down for three seconds causes the status light to rapidly fade in and out and lets you connect to the earbuds from a new device.

To be frank, theres some room for improvement here. The iffy gesture detection combined with the limited number of said gestures makes for a not-so-pleasant phone-free experience.

In the Controls section, I talked a little bit about the button on the case thats used for starting the pairing process: I dont like this decision. In my opinion, you shouldnt have to go find the case and put the earbuds in it just to connect to a new device. I know this is somewhat standard, but switching Bluetooth earbuds among devices is annoying enough. I dont see why I need to put the earbuds back in the case and then press a button on it before I can switch the connection. Im of the opinion that using the earbuds should only involve, well, using the earbuds.

Now for the interesting part of the Amazfit PowerBuds: the heart-rate sensor. Yes, these earbuds can tell you how fast your heart is beating (theoretically). The right earbud has an extra sensor on it for this. Open the Amazfit app, start a workout, and your heart rate will be reported to you along with things like how far youve run/walked and how long youve been going.

This is a really neat feature, but its just not reliable. In my testing, the reading jumps all over the place: from 95 to 105 bpm just by taking a step; 110 bpm after running up some stairs, and then 130 bpm three minutes later; back to 100 bpm after sitting still for a few minutes. Comparing to my Galaxy Note9s heart-rate readings (remember that feature? I didnt), the PowerBuds were reporting either way too high or way too low. This might be a useful feature for very general interpretations, but its not accurate enough for anything detailed.

In terms of comfort, the Amazfit PowerBuds are actually pretty good. I mentioned that theyre pretty bulky a few sections ago, but it honestly isnt a problem. Ive had them in my ears for over four hours straight without issues. My ears dont start hurting with them in, and they dont just fall out on their own. I dont think this is enough to outweigh the other usage problems Ive encountered, but its not all bad.

Lastly, an annoying little quirk: when connected to a Windows computer, the Amazfit PowerBuds break some audio streams. Things like game audio and Discords sound effects just dont come through. Granted, this could be a Windows interoperability issue, but it hasnt happened on any other pair of Bluetooth earbuds Ive used.

Huami claims a battery life of about 8 hours on a single charge (with the heart rate sensor on), and as far as I can tell, this is accurate. Because of the pandemic, I havent had as much opportunity to use any earbuds for very long periods of time. But Ive had no issues with the battery life on the Amazfit PowerBuds. Playing games, listening to music, whatever. I havent run into the low battery warning.

If 8 hours isnt enough for you, the charging case provides an extra two charges in it, meaning you can use the Amazfit PowerBuds for up to 24 hours total before you need to find an outlet.

In terms of charging, Huami claims a charge time of 15 minutes will get you playback time of 3 hours (with the heart rate sensor off). Unfortunately, I havent had a chance to test that, but I see no reason to doubt it. While thats not as fast as some of the competing wireless earbuds out there, its certainly not slow, and its a nice feature to see here. Huami doesnt specify a total time-till-charged, but I think its safe to say that an hours worth of charging will bring the earbuds up to 100%.

Continuing this positive trend, lets talk about sound quality.

The Amazfit PowerBuds produce good quality sound. They get loud, theres plenty of bass if you like that, and higher frequencies dont get overpowered by the bass. By default, theyre a little too heavy on the bass for my liking, but theres a pretty easy solution to that. If you use the Amazfit app, theres an equalizer you can set. This isnt just a phone-specific equalizer, either. When you save your settings, the app saves them to the earbuds themselves. Set your preferred equalization in the app, and thats what the earbuds will use no matter what you connect to. Personally, I love this feature. So many Bluetooth earbuds come with different equalizer modes for different scenarios like music or gaming. But nothing beats being able to set the audio exactly how you like it.

While the Amazfit PowerBuds dont have any sort of active noise cancellation, they do have pretty good noise isolation. These are rubber-tipped earbuds, so they make a pretty good seal inside your ears. That means you can play your music pretty loudly without annoying other people, and that what youre listening to wont have to compete too much with background noises. Of course, if you do want to properly hear the outside world, you can always turn on Thru-Mode. Thru-Mode is basically Apples Transparency Mode, which uses the microphones in the earbuds to pass outside sound through to you. On these earbuds, though, its not very good. Its artificially loud, it sounds terrible, and its delayed. Its there if you want it, but Im not a fan.

In terms of microphone quality, each earbud has its own microphone that enables the previously mentioned Thru-Mode. You can also use them for voice calls if you want, but I wouldnt recommend anything beyond a standard phone call. In a Discord voice call, I was told the microphone sounds consistently worse than my laptops internal one. Its pretty clear the microphones are really only designed for traditional phone calls, which is a little disappointing, but understandable.

If you live in the U.S., you can currently buy the Amazfit PowerBuds on Amazon for $99.

Buy the Huami Amazfit PowerBuds from Amazon |||Amazfit PowerBuds Product Page

In my view, this is a lot of money to ask for truly wireless earbuds with these features. Is it worth it?

I dont think I can recommend buying the Amazfit Powerbuds, at least not at their full price of $99.

While the sound quality and battery life are good, its possible to get earbuds with these features at much lower prices. Add to that the other issues like poor gesture recognition and the iffy onboarding process, and youve got a bit of a frustrating combination. And thats ignoring that the main gimmick of the Amazfit PowerBuds, the heart rate sensor, doesnt seem to even be accurate most of the time. These earbuds also arent the only IP55-rated options out there, so I wouldnt even consider that a saving grace.

Not all hope is lost, though. In the time Ive had them, the Amazfit PowerBuds have received two firmware updates. Im not entirely sure what they were for since theres no changelog that I can find and they didnt fix any of the issues Ive had. But if Huami is serious about supporting these earbuds, its possible well see some updates that expand on the limited gestures or improve the initial setup. That doesnt mean you should buy them, though, at least not now. It doesnt make sense to buy something for $100+ on the possibility that itll improve.

If youre still interested in giving the Amazfit PowerBuds a try, you can visit the links provided in thePricing & Availability section.

XDA XDA Full Review Amazfit PowerBuds Review Fitness-oriented TWS earbuds with iffy heart rate detection

Amazfit PowerBuds Review Fitness-oriented TWS earbuds with iffy heart rate detection - XDA Developers

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