If imitation be the sincerest form of flattery, one look at Honor's March-release Earbuds 3 Pro confirms that Honor had some very nice things to say about Apple's AirPods Pro when it was fashioning them.
That said, in several ways, the newer Honor earbuds have taken what was good about the Curpertino giant's AirPods Pro (which are sitting below the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, in the image above) and then bettered them – for Android device owners and the rest of us.
Draw your Honor earbuds (the update on the company's Earbuds 2 Lite) close to your Android device and open the lid of their pocketable, even more pebble-like case – we're using the new Honor Magic 4 Pro smartphone – and the earbuds present themselves for quick pairing in a way that will feel very familiar to any AirPods owner. But now, we download the Honor AI Space app (this, admittedly, is only available on Android at present) and add the earbuds as a device.
Thus, a comprehensive and intuitive in-app menu of options opens up, including a battery-check (for each earbud and for the case), noise control options (you can select an Awareness mode, or turn noise cancelling off or on – but here, you can select between 'intelligent', 'cozy', 'moderate' or 'ultra' noise cancellation profiles) and the option to dual connect – we listen to music on Tidal on our iPhone, but control the buds using the app on the Honor smartphone.
Opinion: Apple should be worried about how good Honor's Pro earbuds sound
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro boast some formidable specs. Alongside the world’s first coaxial dual-driver design with 11mm dynamic driver and piezoelectric ceramic tweeter (essentially, the individual driver units are built concentrically, tweeter inside driver, so that they radiate sound from the same point – or axis) the buds include Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity and a claimed battery life of up to 24 hours when combined with the charging case – which, handily, also offers two hours of playback from five minutes of fast-charging.
Another thing you won't get using the AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro's force stems is that you here, you can easily adjust the volume by swiping on the stem of the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro.
Any flies in the ointment? Sort of – although since it's still a feature you won't find on any AirPods, it's hardly a mark against the Honor option. Early reports claimed that the buds would boast a unique integrated temperature monitor, to help users keep tabs on their health. We weren't able to access it during our early tests, and after reaching out to Honor for an update on this, we were told that the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro will not have the temperature centre in the UK and EU markets.
All of this aside, arguably the biggest difference is how the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro sound. We streamed music from Tidal and Apple Music from our iPhone and the Honor Magic 4 Pro. The bass floor through Stormzy and Dave tracks is deeper, snappier and more impactful through the Honor earbuds. The soundstage is easily as expansive, but for us, the extra ounce of detail – the cleaner leading edges of notes, the emotive quality of vocals – made the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro the early winner. That coaxial dual driver design has certainly been integrated with surgical skill; in these early tests, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro sound more engaging, more zealous and more sparkling through the easily handled treble than their AirPods counterparts.
This is not a 'full-fat' TechRadar review (we have not tested the battery claims, for instance, so whether they actually achieve that AirPods Pro-comparable 24-hour stamina remains to be seen) but initially, at least, the AirPods-for-Android market has a new frontrunner.
In fact, Honor is so confident in its creation that it has even collaborated with Billboard to create Global Buzz – a limited-release playlist to showcase what the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro can do.
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro are available in Apple-esque white or a more distinctive gray, in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Malaysia for €199 (which is around $178 / £238 / AU$367) although we are unsure whether they'll actually become available in the US – which, for all the reasons we've discussed, is a shame indeed…
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.