Battery (buds): 6hrs
Spatial Audio: Yes
Water resistance: IPX4
Apple's flagship earbuds feature active noise cancellation, and a noise-isolating in-ear fit – and the ANC is among the best you can get. The sound quality is a big step up in detail and richness over the AirPods 3 too, especially for vocals. The case can make a noise when it's lost, and your iPhone can your point you towards it, too.
- Awesome noise blocking
- Much better sound quality
- Unloseable case
- More expensive of the two
- Not everyone likes an in-ear fit
Battery (buds): 6hrs
Spatial Audio: Yes
Water resistance: IPX4
The latest version of Apple's regular AirPods keeps the outer-ear fit, which some prefer for comfort, but it does let in outside sound. They match the Airpods 3 with six hours of battery in the buds, and Spatial Audio support. But the audio quality isn't as strong, and the Find My support more basic. That's the payoff for the cheaper price.
- Cheaper of the two
- Same battery life as Pro
- Spatial Audio support
- No noise isolation
- Weaker audio quality
With the launch of the AirPods Pro 2, Apple now has a range of AirPods to choose from. But with the AirPods Max price remaining sky-high, most of us will be wondering which is the better option: the Apple AirPods 3 or the AirPods Pro 2?
The differences between the original Apple AirPods (2019) vs AirPods Pro were significant, and the same can be said for the AirPods Pro 2. The new Pro version offers noise cancellation, custom ear tips (including a new extra-small option for smaller ears), an Adaptive Transparency mode that processes ambient sound, Spatial Audio support with a new personalization feature, and a capacitive touch control to adjust volume with a quick swipe.
While none of the above features can be found on the original AirPods, the AirPods 3 added many of them, though they're generally less advanced than what you'll find with the new AirPods Pro 2.
We’ll give you a rundown of the features that can be found on both of Apple’s wireless earbuds, and compare and contrast each to provide a better sense of what you can expect. Take a look at our Apple AirPods Pro 2 review and Apple AirPods 3 review for more in-depth information about Apple's two greatest wireless earbuds.
Apple AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro 2: noise cancellation
Same as with the AirPods Pro (2019), the AirPods Pro 2 have active noise cancellation (ANC) – a feature not found on the AirPods 3. Just using any earbuds at all will give you some form of protection against noise, but ANC will effectively filter out annoyances like commuter train and bus or plane engine noise, nearby chatter, and bad music played over a gym’s house sound system.
For the AirPods Pro 2, ANC has been upgraded with a new H2 chip that delivers advanced computational audio. During our testing, we found this to be seriously impressive. In our AirPods Pro 2 review, we wrote: "The world goes quiet, and you instantly enter a soft, comfortable studio where it's just you and your music. The effect is stark and worth the cost of the headphones alone."
We also noted that the vast majority of sounds are cancelled out here, including wind, train sounds and those annoying low frequency hums of fans and air conditioning units. According to Apple, the inclusion of the H2 chip allows for twice the level of noise cancellation over what’s found in the AirPods Pro (2019).
A related benefit is an Adaptive Transparency mode that’s effective enough to have a conversation with a friend and then momentarily eliminate the sound of heavy machinery as you pass by it on your stroll to or from work.
Apple AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro 2: design and comfort
Both the AirPods 3 and the new AirPods Pro 2 sport the same protruding stick design, so you’ll need to be comfortable with that look to opt for either one.
What is different between the two models is the interchangeable eartips that come with the AirPods Pro 2, which aids in finding the best and most secure ear fit. A secure ear fit might not sound like a deal-breaker, but you’ll understand why it matters if you ever go for a run and your earbuds spill out onto the ground.
For the AirPods Pro 2, Apple has added an extra-small eartip option. In our review, we called this "a much-needed change and one that Apple should be applauded for making" because now more people can wear them.
Apple AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro 2: battery life
The AirPods 3 actually offered superior battery life to the original AirPods Pro, but the new Pro 2 buds match the AirPods 3 in delivering 6 hours of listening time and 30 total hours with help from the included charging case. And that’s when using ANC, a feature that reduces battery life.
While the AirPods 3 use a Lightning connection for charging, the Pro 2 offer a MagSafe charging option.
The charging case that comes with the AirPods Pro 2 also has a built-in speaker that provides feedback when it detects a low charge, or when seeking it out using the Find My feature in iOS. We think this is a useful upgrade, the previous method on older models was to make the buds themselves play a really loud noise, which didn't work.
Apple AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro 2: price
If you’re primarily looking to save money, the AirPods 3 are easily the better deal at $179 / £169 / AU$279. And while the $249 / £220 / AU$399 that Apple asks for the Pro 2 isn’t a huge price leap – and will be very much worth it if you require ANC – AirPods 3 are an affordable mainstream option, and will be even more so if you score them on a Black Friday or other holiday deal.
Because the AirPods Pro 2 are so new, we expect their price to stand firm for some time, making the choice between the two models even more difficult.
Which model is best for you, the AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro 2, will ultimately come down to your needs – and budget.
The active noise cancellation and Adaptive Transparency alone baked into the AirPods Pro 2 make them a superior offering to the AirPods 3, though not everyone will require those features.
While both models serve up Spatial Audio, the Pro 2 adds a personalization feature that tunes the sound based on your head and ear shape. The Pro 2 also has an upgraded case with audio feedback, and the on-earbud controls can be used to adjust volume by swiping.
The AirPods 3, while not as feature-packed, provides some of the same key functions as the Pro 2, and it’s hard to argue with its price, especially if you catch it on sale.