For as long as we can remember, people have coveted the luxury and the exclusive – be that wealth or precious stones back before mass production was a twinkle in capitalism’s eye, to the current age of social media where we flaunt our technology, fashion and more, people crave designer branded products. We show them off to our friends, family and followers online as a badge of honor, sometimes even becoming loyal to a specific brand or ecosystem.
You shouldn’t take any of this as criticism. I do it myself, and this is something that I don’t see disappearing from societal norms any time soon, though I do want to highlight that you shouldn’t feel the need to buy (or at least desire) high-end stuff for the sake of it. Just because something could be considered the ‘best’ doesn’t make it the best choice for you.
I found this was especially drilled into me recently when I got the chance to try the Genshin Impact Edition Poco Buds Pro (opens in new tab). As a brand, Poco doesn’t have the same impact as Apple in the west, so even the non-Genshin-themed versions likely won’t be on the radar of folks looking to buy a pair of wireless earbuds.
Instead, Airpods have dominated since they first appeared on the market back in 2016. They’re expensive, with the current 3rd generation priced at $179 / £169 / AU$279, and many audiophiles will tell you that they don’t offer the best quality if you’re looking for an incredible audio experience. Still, they’re viewed by many as the ‘must have’ wireless earbuds thanks to Apple's huge fanbase…and yet, I had zero desire to buy a pair despite being in need of some new earphones.
My main issue was the high price tag, but I also wouldn’t consider myself to be attracted by the closed Apple ecosystem, at least not for the sake of being seen to exclusively use its products. iPhones, Macbooks, and the Apple watch have their merits, but buying them for the sake of owning a luxury item is lost on me. And If I don’t own any of the aforementioned Apple products, why would I ever buy a pair of Airpods?
I love you Apple, but you're not for me
By contrast, I fell in love with the Poco Buds Pro Genshin Impact Edition at face value because of its design. I’m not an audiophile or a social media socialite, but I am a huge dorky nerd who loves Genshin Impact (a multiplatform action RPG gacha game), and it makes me happy to see collaborations like this.
Poco isn’t the only tech brand to have released gaming-themed gadgets of course, but we are seeing an increase in video game collaborations that don’t just appeal to a hyper-masculine audience.
Razer recently released an entire collection themed around Sanrio characters, with everything from a Hello Kitty themed version of the Kraken Kitty Bluetooth gaming headset (opens in new tab), to a girly pink gaming chair that features the famous bow-wearing cat and all her friends (opens in new tab).
In a sea of bright white, matte black or muted pastel-toned gadgets, this is what appeals to someone like me, and that's okay. I’ve heard a few people describe them as ‘tacky’ or ugly and I’m happy to lean into that, though I do personally think that the red and gold color combination used for both the earbuds and the case is rather elegant.
What I'm getting at here is that it's fine to buy something because you love it at face value. As long as the audio quality is alright, I’m content, so the actual design of my headphones is what I prioritize over actual quality. You can be a materialistic person without luxury.
Not just a pretty Poco
But are the Poco Buds Pro actually any good? As I mentioned, i’m lightyears away from being an audiophile – I blast music at home using my Amazon Echo and the built-in speakers on my TV sound just fine to me – but I am pleased as punch with Poco.
The AI-controlled ambient noise-canceling was incredible while traveling around London, automatically adjusting between the noise levels in busy streets or quieter office environments. Even on the underground, which can be horrifically loud, I didn’t hear a thing.
Poco promises around six hours of use on a single charge, and that feels believable after using them on some long walks or while heading into town for errands, and the case doubles as a charging station to provide a full 28 hours of use. They’re surprisingly loud and have a healthy amount of bass too, which is plenty good enough to please the everyday consumer.
As for Genshin-specific features, the packaging is designed to look like an ornate book that features a four-leaf clover, a prominent attribute within the popular game. You also get a faux-lather case shaped like the backpack carried by Klee, one of the Pyro Catalyst characters in the game. This doubles as a keychain if you wanted to proudly display it attached to your real bag, or you could always put it on your soft toys or pet hamster.
Klee will also adorably greet you with “Tada! Klee is here” when you connect the earbuds to your device, which makes it hard to recommend to people who don’t play the game, but even after a few weeks of using them I haven't become tired of hearing it.
The biggest issue I have with them is regional availability, as I can’t find any listings for the Poco Buds Pro Genshin Edition that will ship to the US, though they’re available across Europe for €69 / £69, which is significantly more affordable than the current generation Apple Airpods. If more gaming and anime-themed tech could make its way over to the west, I’m sure it would find an audience of people who share the same sentiment I have.
I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not owning a pair of Airpods, and I feel something from our list of the best wireless earbuds on the market would be a wasted investment if I can’t truly appreciate the incredible audio quality that makes them worth the usual lofty price tag. Give me something that appeals to my nerdy hobbies though, and I’ll parade them around with a smile on my face – the heart wants what it wants.
- Poco don't just make gaming audio - check out this neat gaming phone (opens in new tab)