Skip to main content

OnePlus Buds Z review

Second time's the charm

OnePlus Buds Z
(Image: © Srivatsa Ramesh)

TechRadar Verdict

The ever exploding TWS market in India has a new budget offering from OnePlus dubbed the OnePlus Buds Z. The Buds Z are a great pair of true wireless earphones for those who are on a tight budget. They offer decent sound, good battery life and a comfortable fit. However, the limitation of the touch control and not so punchy bass may let you down. Overall though, these are the best buds for under Rs 3,000 currently.

Pros

  • +

    Comfortable fit

  • +

    Good audio for the price

  • +

    Price

  • +

    IP55 rating

Cons

  • -

    Limited touch control

  • -

    Not so punchy bass

Two-minute review

OnePlus Buds Z are the brand’s second true wireless of the year. The OnePlus Buds were the first true wireless earbuds from OnePlus which was launched a few months back. Just like the Z in the Bullets Wireless series, the Buds Z are also an affordable pair of earphones. The OnePlus  Buds Z falls in the sub Rs 3,000 segment which is what most Indians are spending, according to a recent report. 

The OnePlus Buds Z offer in-ear style design which most of us prefer here in India. The in-ear style design gives us the luxury to interchange ear-tips, which was not possible on the OnePlus Buds. Also, the OnePlus Buds Z sound better than the higher priced original OnePlus Buds. The Buds Z offer one of the best fits in the segment and are easily recommended for longer duration as well.

The sound signature on the OnePlus Buds is respectable for the price. The soundstage and the separation of the instruments are also decent. There is enough bass but it could have been punchier. The battery life on the Buds Z is also on par with others in the segment. You get about 4 hours of playback and there is also support for a quick charge.

As for the functionality, the OnePlus Buds Z offer very limited options - double tap and long press. It also brings in-ear detection and IP55 rating onboard which are rare in the segment. For the asking price, the OnePlus Buds Z gets a thumbs up from TechRadar and are recommended for anyone looking for a budget earbuds. This is also our current best TWS in the Rs 3,000 segment.

OnePlus Z price in India and availability

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

Launched alongside the OnePlus 8T in India on October 14, the OnePlus Buds Z are priced at Rs 3,190. However, on Amazon (opens in new tab), Flipkart (opens in new tab) and OnePlus.in, you can grab the OnePlus Buds Z for Rs 2,999. It comes in two colourways - White and Grey. We have used the White variant for this review. 

(opens in new tab)
OnePlus Buds Z at ...

Check out on Amazon (opens in new tab), Flipkart (opens in new tab)

Design and fit

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

Let’s start with the case first which is what you’ll see at first when you open the box. The case is made up of plastic which is of a very nice quality. OnePlus branding sits right on the top of the case. To the front, you get a LED indicator which tells you how much battery level. On the back of the case, there is a Type-C port for charging and pairing button. There is no wireless charging on the Buds Z. 

The case comes in a glossy finish which looks good but it also gets scratches easily. So make sure you maintain it right out of the box. Opening up the case reveals the OnePlus Buds Z which are magnetically attached to the charging case vertically despite having a stem. I’d have personally liked the Oppo W31-like case design but that’s not a deal-breaker in any way. The case footprint is pretty small when you look at the Buds Z. One-hand opening is hard but still possible on the Buds Z case. The case weighs around 40 grams. 

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

The earbuds themselves are in-ear style designed pair of earbuds from OnePlus. This is a straight jump from semi in-ear style or AirPods style. This is a big plus for most of the users in India, including me as we get a choice to switch between eartips until we find the secure fit. The OnePlus Buds Z come with two eartips in the box in addition to the one that’s provided in the box. The design of the Buds Z earbuds is very similar to the OnePlus Bullet Wireless 2. They have a stem design which packs in a mic, IC chip for wear detection, and other electronics are all packed into the body which weighs 4.3 grams.

The Buds Z support touch control - you get only support for double tap and long press. They are where you interact with the Buds Z carries a seamless polished CD pattern which is again as we’ve seen on the Bullet Wireless 2.

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

Most of the true wireless earbuds in this price segment struggles when it comes to fit and here I am happy to report that I have no issue with the OnePlus Buds Z. In fact, I will go ahead and tell this one as the best fit I’ve got on a budget earbuds this year. The Buds Z sit perfectly in my ear and I had no issues wearing it for a longer duration.

The OnePlus Buds Z are also IP55 rated which is rare in this price point. It is safe to use them in the gym and it can also be used while you’re on the move while it’s raining. The hydrophobic nano-coating repels water providing protection from water.

Overall, the OnePlus Buds Z offer a pretty good build, solid fit and are comfortable to wear for a longer duration. The IP55 rating makes it easy for all the outdoor and fitness enthusiasts.

Audio quality

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

While OnePlus is not a traditional audio company, the company has had a fair amount of success with its audio products like OnePlus Bullet series wired and wireless earphones. The first true wireless earphones from the company, the OnePlus Buds was not received well by the users and fans across the globe as it was pricey (when compared to the plethora of budget TWS in India) owing to subpar audio quality. The OnePlus Buds Z try to make up for the original Buds here and they do a pretty good job overall. 

The OnePlus Buds Z true wireless earbuds harness Bluetooth 5.0. They sport  10mm, dynamic drivers, with bass boost, dynamic stereo powered by Dolby Atmos and panoramic sound support. OnePlus has also integrated a noise reduction algorithm which helps to reduce the outside noise during calls. As for the code support, you get SBC and HD audio via AAC codec. There is no support for aptx HD. 

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

Pairing the OnePlus Buds Z is an extremely easy process - as soon as you take out the Buds from the case, you get a pop-up on your Android device with a connect button which gives you one tap pair option. For iOS and some older Android phones, you’ll have to manually pair. But, thanks to Google Fast Pair and OnePlus Quick Pair feature, the Fast pair should work with most of the phones. The connectivity and the range were great on the Buds Z. They were paired with multiple smartphones like OnePlus, Samsung, Xiaomi, and Realme during my testing and had no connection loss anytime. The range is limited to 10 metres which is pretty standard and I can go across the hall and to the next room without losing connection. When you move beyond the second room, you will start losing the connection.

The audio quality is what most of us look for when buying an audio product. The OnePlus Buds Z focus more on the low end of the spectrum and treble. The soundstage is good for a budget earbuds and the overall instrumentation separation is also quite good here. This is made for mass consumers who want to plug and play their playlist and get the beat going. The bass is heavy on the Buds Z but lacks the punchy bass beats which most of us like. If you are the one who prefers to listen to vocals more than anything this serves you well.

While it might not please the audiophiles, the Buds Z will serve to the audience at entry-level and for the price of Rs 2,999, there isn’t much to complain except for the fact that the bass could have been more punchy.

Microphone and features

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

Further, the Buds Z also comes with a microphone on each bud. I used the Buds Z for taking my calls, meetings and all the time I was inside my room. The results were quite impressive. No one complained about the audio from my end. Whatever I spoke was clear on the other side too. OnePlus’s noise reduction algorithms do a pretty good job here. In the indoor conditions, even with a low voice, everything was good. 

When it comes to the mic quality in the outdoors, the mic struggled to pick my voice on a few occupations which resulted in unwanted disturbance and also I had to talk louder than my normal. But, if you end up taking a call outdoors, I suggest you try and find a quiet spot to attend the call. 

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

The OnePlus Buds Z are not feature-packed earbuds when compared to its competition from Oppo and Realme. For starters, there are only two functions supported - a double tap and long press. The long-press function is a non-customizable function which is used to switch between two paired devices. It lets you quickly switch between your laptop and phone if needed with a long press. The double-tap feature allows you to play/pause, skip tracks, previous track, and activate voice assistant. There is no way to control the volume which I am personally disappointed and might be a deal-breaker if you are a person who travels on a bike. The double-tap customization is limited to OnePlus users only. However, with the Hey Melody app, all users can customize and also update the OnePlus Buds Z if there are any software updates available within the app itself.

The in-ear detection on the OnePlus Buds Z works well and handy when you are on the move. All in all, the Buds Z offer pretty good mic for calls indoors. Feature-wise, the earbuds have very limited controls and not having a way to control volume bothers me.

And, lastly, there is a gaming mode which automatically turns on for OnePlus devices in Fnatic mode only. The latency goes to 103ms in this mode which is not the best we’ve seen but gets the job done. We could not face any lag with our OnePlus Nord during the gameplay. However, with non-OnePlus devices, the lag is evidently seen and we’d not suggest this to anyone who wants to use this on a non-OnePlus device for gaming.

Battery life

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

OnePlus claims 5 hours of continuous music playback and 20 hours of overall battery life including the case. The case carries a 450mAh battery unit. In my testing, with 100% volume, the Buds Z lasted for 3 hours and 30 minutes. With 70-80% volume, the Buds Z lasted over 4 hours. A quick 10-minute charge would offer around 1.5 hours of music playback as it includes charging buds and the case. The overall battery stat was around 16 to 17 hours in my case. 

To charge the device, there is a Type-C port at the back of the case. OnePlus has also included a short Type-C cable in the box. Charging the case will take about 1 hour. The battery life on the Buds Z is pretty good. Any earbuds with around four hours of battery life should be good enough for most users. 

Verdict

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

Buy it if...

You are looking for a budget earbuds

The OnePlus Buds Z are a great pair of true wireless earbuds and for the price, you are getting - comfortable fit, good sound signature, and decent battery life.

You want a comfortable fit

Most of the wireless earbuds struggle when it comes to fit and comfort. The OnePlus Buds Z are one of the best in the segment as it comes with in-ear design with a firm fit as well. 

You are an outdoor enthusiast

The OnePlus Buds Z are IP55 rated for protection against water and dust. The OnePlus Buds Z can take a splash of water and comes in handy when you are in the gym or outdoor in a desert. 

Don't but it if...

You want to play games

The low-latency mode is only limited to OnePlus devices so, if you are looking to play games on the Buds Z and own a non OnePlus phone, you should totally avoid it. 

You want punchy bass

The bass on OnePlus definitely makes its presence but it lacks punchy bass. For those who are looking for punchy bass, look at some of the alternatives.

You want more controls

OnePlus Buds Z offers very limited control. It offers only double tap and long press functions. Also, there is no way to control the volume using the buds. 

OnePlus Buds Z Alternatives

(opens in new tab)
Oppo Enco W31

Priced at Rs 3,499, the Oppo Enco W31 offers better overall sound signature when compared to the OnePlus Buds Z. However, it offers only 15 hours of battery life. 

(opens in new tab)
Realme Buds Air Pr...

If extending your budget is not an issue, you can take a look at the Realme Buds Air Pro (opens in new tab) which offers ANC and has a dedicated application. It is priced at Rs 4,499 currently. 

Want to know about the latest happenings in tech? Follow TechRadar India on Twitter (opens in new tab)Facebook  (opens in new tab)and Instagram (opens in new tab)!

Srivatsa Ramesh
Srivatsa Ramesh

Srivatsa is a prolific writer who spearheads the core writing team on tech news, buying guides, reviews, and all gadget articles. He is passionate about technology.