Hands-on review: Nokia Power Buds
Just about every smartphone manufacturer under the sun has had a shot at releasing wireless ear buds in recent times. Nokia is the latest to have a go.
The first impressions of the Power Buds are so-so; the chunky case that houses them does not slip into pocket as easily as others. The top lid is constructed from a thin layer of plastic that has a sharp edge and flexes a little too much in the hand.
The positive side of such a large case is the huge 3000mAh battery that Nokia claims can last for 150 hours. Although this claim has not been fully verified for this review, the unit was only charged once upon receiving it and is yet to get anywhere close to low charge after around 20 hours of usage. The battery level indicator located on the case implies that it still has around 75 per cent charge remaining. The indicator itself is a useful gauge of battery life missing from most rival devices, and which can lead to dead headphones if not careful.
Like the case, the headphones themselves are chunky and stick out of the ear canal a tad. Luckily, the sleek, black design means they’re not too noticeable and present less of a statement that many rival buds which feature a thin microphone section snaking down from the main body, such as Apple AirPods.
The battery life of the buds themselves is impressive, lasting around five hours on a single charge, longer than most rivals, but not that surprising given their chunky construction.
Sound quality is definitely above average with strong bass and treble, if a little lacking in the mids. Nokia is keen to promote its graphene infused drivers here, whether they make all the difference is hard to know but you will not be disappointed by the sound quality at this price.
Although they are not noise cancelling, the snug fit and thick build do help to block outside sounds from interfering with the audio quality.
The Power Buds also come with touch controls on each bud which unfortunately cannot be customised as they can with many rivals. While it is easy to pause and play music or podcasts with a single tap, they are less good at differentiating between more complex commands. In particular, the triple tap (to skip to the next track) can be tricky to pull off, especially when cycling or on a fast walk. Nokia should have prioritised this function over the volume controls which only require two taps and are more consistent to use.
The microphone quality is acceptable, especially considering many similar buds are less than capable due to their small size and relative distance from the mouth. Callers on the other end were able to hear my voice even with a strong wind nearby.
Possibly the worst compromise from Nokia, are the buds’ inability to function independently from each other. If you want to use just one bud, you are restricted to the right one. While commonplace in the early days of truly wireless buds, even cheap alternatives in 2020 allow you to use either bud on its own which can be particularly useful for podcasts where having stereo sound is less essential than it is for music.
Nokia’s first attempts at buds definitely come with a few downsides, the worst being their larger-than-average build and lack of independent function. They also lack active noise cancellation: a feature which is included with Honor’s similarly priced Magic Earbuds.
However, decent sound quality and exceptional battery life should appeal to those less worried about the fashion statement that headphones can make.
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