Video review: Apple's new AirPods

Computerworld | Jan 17, 2017

The new wireless headphones do a lot of things right -- and look like two cigarettes stuck in your ears, says reviewer Michael deAgonia.

There's a lot to like about Apple's new wireless AirPods. They're super easy to set up. The small carrying case that comes with them doubles as a charger. The in-ear speakers sound good, although they could use a little more bass. And the directional mics do a good job of picking up your voice if you're talking on the phone.

For early adopters, the hard part is getting them. Although the $159 wireless headphones were unveiled in September 2016, Apple didn't start shipping them until December. And well into 2017, getting them was a hit-or-miss proposition. But once you've tried them, you'll find out why they're so useful and cool -- even if people make fun of the way they look. And someone probably will do just that when you're using them.

The AirPods use a new processor from Apple, the W1 chip. It makes connecting them to an Apple device like the iPhone 7 as easy as turning them on and holding them a couple of inches from the phone. After you've done that, they'll work all your other Apple hardware -- as long as your devices are all linked using the same iCloud account. Battery life is good: 5 hours on one charge, and you can get another 3 hours of use with just 15 minutes in the charging case.

The W1 chip is a big part of the AirPods story. It piggy-backs on the existing Bluetooth protocol, which means the AirPods are compatible with anything that can stream through Bluetooth, including Android phones. And they do sound good, with a pretty good balance of highs, lows, and mids. As I said, though, the bass could be a little stronger. That's the nature of in-ear headphones.

I have had a few audio dropouts, and the reliance on Siri for some functions can be a problem if you don't have an internet or cellular connection. But unlike some users who've complained that their AirPods fall out, most owners say they stay put. I've used them while running and lifting and even when I shake my head around, they don't move. So if you're using them to listen to your favorite tunes, feel free to bop along.