When the Pixel Buds Pro were first announced back at Google I/O 2022, I was a mixture of hyped and skeptical. Google’s earbuds have always been nice, but they’ve also always come with a nagging issue that has made them incapable of being my main, everyday-carry earbuds. That issue? Severe latency. When listening to anything in real time with the Pixel Buds, there has always been nearly a full second delay between what happens on screen and what you hear.
This latency is offset in video apps most of the time, basically pulling the video back a bit to auto-align with the audio, and since there’s nothing to compare it to when listening to audio-only sources, there’s a chance you could go a long time without noticing this latency issue if music and video are the only thing you use your earbuds for.
However, there’s a large category of smartphone activity where this lag issue shows up in force, and that category is gaming. With games, your phone can’t offset the images on the screen to match the latency of your earbuds, so you experience all the lag your headphones possess in its fullness. And with the Pixel Buds, Pixel Buds A-Series, and Pixel Buds Pro, that lag has been so bad that it is simply unusable.
For me – and I’m sure many others – that has been an ongoing, troubling issue. No, I don’t play games on my phone all the time, but I hop in a match at some point most days, and for those times I need my earbuds to exhibit the least amount of lag possible. No Bluetooth earbud is perfect on this front, but there is definitely a minimum latency that most earbuds hit these days, and nearly every pair I own fall into those same constraints. Except for the Pixel Buds.
A new update, a new latency
With the latest firmware update (3.14), however, Google finally seems to have turned down the latency with the Pixel Buds Pro, and I’m so excited about it. The update technically is here to deliver a new 5-band EQ and controls for left/right balance, and while I love those features and am glad to see them here, I’m far more happy about the fact that general latency has been addressed.
As I do with every single Pixel Buds update, as soon as this one happened, I jumped into the training area in Apex Legends and timed the delay between seeing an action on the screen and when I heard it in the earbuds. Where the Pixel Buds Pro used to delay things by at least a full second, all of the sudden the lag felt far more in-line with other earbuds like my Anker Soundcore, Wyze Buds Pro, and AirPods Pro.
To verify, I stayed in-game and bounced back and forth between a few earbuds, and after a few minutes, I’m now convinced that Google has made the adjustment. Again, I have to reiterate that this doesn’t mean there is “zero lag” with the Pixel Buds Pro and I’ve never claimed that for any earbuds. But the minimal lag present in most modern, wireless earbuds is now here for the Pixel Buds Pro as well, and that means they are now worth considering as full-service earbuds.
I know not everyone worries about this facet of the wireless audio experience, but I also know there are quite of few of you who care about it just as deeply as I do. For all of you, Google’s new earbuds are finally a viable option and I’ve put them back in my pocket for a bit to see how they fare as everyday carry items. With the temporary price reduction gone (for now), $199 is still a steep asking price. But with their excellent ANC and transparency modes, seamless Pixel phone integration, and generally pleasing aesthetic, perhaps this latest update makes the idea of picking up a pair of Pixel Buds Pro a more-enticing option.